Grilled Whole Fish with Chile and Lime


"I've been fishing since I was about five," says star chef Tom Colicchio. "I release almost everything I catch. When I do occasionally kill a fish, it's usually a bass, and I like to cook it whole." Here, he grills this show-stopping whole sea bass with Asian flavors like cilantro, lime and hot chile sauce. 

Grilled Whole Fish with Chile and Lime
Photo: © Michael Turek
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
8 to 10


  • One 6-pound cleaned sea bass or other firm white-fleshed fish (see Note)

  • 1/3 cup sambal oelek or other Asian chile sauce

  • Salt

  • 15 cilantro sprigs

  • 5 large basil sprigs

  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • 4 Thai or serrano chiles, halved lengthwise

  • 1 lime, thinly sliced crosswise, plus lime wedges, for serving


  1. Light a charcoal grill. Set the fish on 2 large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Rub the sambal oelek inside and all over the fish. Season with salt. Stuff the fish with the cilantro, basil, garlic, chiles and lime slices. Wrap the foil around the fish and seal to form a packet.

  2. Grill the fish over indirect heat for about 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the fish registers 135°. If using a gas grill, cover and grill the fish over low heat for about 50 minutes, turning once. Carefully transfer the fish to a baking sheet and let rest for about 5 minutes. Open the packet and fillet the fish. Serve with lime wedges.


Alternatively, use eight to ten 6-ounce fish fillets. Set them on individual squares of heavy-duty foil and season as above. Seal the packets and grill (or roast in a 400° oven) for 10 to 12 minutes.

Suggested Pairing

A full-bodied blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling from Long Island is perfect with this flavorful fish. A limey Australian Riesling would also work.

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