Pescado Zarandeado – This classic Mexican fish recipe features delicious red snapper coated with a bold, savory and spicy chile marinade, then quickly grilled to flaky perfection.

Grilled red snapper on a plate with rice and black beans.

Why We Love this Fish Recipe

Pescado Zarandeado is a brilliantly spiced grilled fish recipe, a dish we came across on our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The cooking method is said to be a 500-year-old grilling technique from the Nayarit state in western Mexico. 

Although most home cooks don’t own a specialized Mexican grilling basket to prepare this dish in its most traditional way, the fish can be prepared similarly on a low-heat grill or smoker.

A thick, spicy, and vibrant marinade is brushed over the surface of the fish to create a tantalizing flavor and aroma. The most traditional recipes suggest making Zarandeado with whole fish, but I find it’s easiest to prepare and enjoy by purchasing large white fish fillets. Snapper is traditional, but you can use any fresh fish you like.

Believe it or not, the base of this authentic Mexican dish starts with mayonnaise, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. However, lime juice and dried chilies are added to increase the irresistible flavor.

From start to finish, this dish takes just slightly over 30 minutes to prepare. So although it is an impressive dish with layers of bold flavors, it’s actually super easy to make.

Pescado Zarandeado top down on a plate with beans and rice.

Ingredients You Need

  • Red snapper – or other preferred white fish fillets
  • Mayonnaise – regular or low calorie
  • Mustard – Dijon is best
  • Worcestershire sauce – for a deep smoky, savory flavor
  • Soy sauce – low sodium, or coconut aminos
  • Tomato paste – for a thick, vibrant marinade
  • Lime – zested and juiced
  • Guajillo chile – a moderately hot pepper, similar to jalapeno
  • Arbol chilequite spicy and several times hotter than a jalapeno
  • Garlic – minced
  • Slat and pepper – to taste
Arbol and guajillo chiles.

How to Make Pescado Zarandeado

First, prepare the dried chiles: Heat 2 cups of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. Place the dried chiles in a bowl and pour the boiling water over the top to soften the chiles.

Pro Tip: Make sure the chiles are fully submerged in the water. Place a plate over the top, if needed, to push them down.

Allow them to soak for 10 minutes to soften. Once softened, carefully remove the chiles from the hot water. Pop off the stems and shake out most of the seeds.

Soaking the chiles in hot water.

Next, rinse the snapper fillet(s) in cold water, then place them on a large baking sheet. Use paper towels to gently press the top of the fish to remove as much moisture as possible.

Then cut shallow slits, 1 inch apart, over the surface of the fish fillet, to score the top. This will help the marinade get deep into the meat, without needing to marinate for a long period of time.

Note: Be careful to not cut so deeply into the fish that you cut the fillet into pieces.

Scoring the snapper fillets with sharp knife.

Sprinkle the top generously with salt. Set aside.

Hand sprinkling salt over the raw fillets.

Move the softened chiles to the blender. Add in mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, lime zest and juice, garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.

Blender with marinade ingredients.

Cover the jar and purée until smooth.

Get the Complete (Printable) Pescado Zarandeado Recipe + VIDEO Below. Enjoy!

Blended Mexican grilled fish marinade in a blender jar.

Use a basting brush to coat the surface of the fish fillet with the Zarandeado fish marinade.

Hand with basting brush, coating raw fish fillets with marinade.

Once the fish is evenly coated, preheat the grill or smoker to 200°F.

Two large fish fillets with Pescado Zarandeado marinade.

Move the fish fillet onto the grates. Brush additional marinade onto the fish to make sure it is very well-coated.

Grill or smoke the red snapper for approximately 20 minutes. Check the thickest part of the fish at 18 minutes to make sure it is just barely firm, but not hard.

If grilling smaller fillets, check at the 12 minute mark, and continue to cook if needed. Then carefully remove the entire fillet from the grill.

Pro Tip: Fish is best when it’s just cooked through, so the interior is still moist, but flaky.

Grilled Mexican fish resting on a baking sheet.

Serving Suggestions for Mexican Grilled Red Snapper

Serve Pescado Zarandeado with your favorite Mexican sides, like:

Mexican Pescado Zarandeado (grilled fish) plated with beans and rice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Mexican grilled red snapper spicy?

Yes, this dish does pack some heat! The arbol chiles are quite spicy – easily 2 to 3 times spicier than jalapeno peppers. But it’s that good kind of super spicy that has a deliciously savory taste with a tingle.

To cut the spice level you can opt to leave out the arbol chiles.

What type of fish is best to grill?

The traditional Mexican fish recipe calls for red snapper. However, any flaky white fish will do! Try with cod, grouper, bass, or tilapia.

What other proteins can you cook with this recipe?

This marinade is fabulous on white fish, but that’s not all! It’s also delicious on grilled shrimp, chicken, pork chops, or steak!

How long will leftovers keep in the refrigerator?

Grilled snapper or other zarandeado fish will keep well for a day or two in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

To reheat, place the fish on a covered baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes. You want the fish to just be heated through, and not actually cook further.

Grilled red snapper fish with beans and rice on a plate.

Looking for More Easy Fish Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

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Pescado Zarandeado (Mexican Grilled Red Snapper)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
This classic Mexican fish recipe features delicious red snapper coated with a bold, savory and spicy chile marinade, then quickly grilled to flaky perfection.
Servings: 6 pieces

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat 2 cups of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. Place the dried chiles in a bowl and pour the boiling water over the top to soften the chiles. Make sure the chiles are fully submerged in the water. Place a plate over the top, if needed, to push them down. Allow them to soak for 10 minutes to soften. Once softened, carefully remove the chiles from the hot water. Pop off the stems and shake out most of the seeds.
  • Rinse the snapper fillet(s) in cold water, then place on a large baking sheet. Use paper towels to gently press the top of the fish to remove as much moisture as possible. Then cut shallow slits, 1 inch apart, over the surface of the fish fillet, to score the top. Be careful not to cut so deeply into the fish that you cut the fillet into pieces. Sprinkle the top generously with salt. Set aside.
  • Move the softened chiles to the blender. Add in mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, lime zest and juice, garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cover the jar and purée until smooth.
  • Use a basting brush to coat the surface of the fish fillet with marinade.
  • Preheat the grill or smoker to 200°F. (The extra time allows the fish to marinade a few minutes before cooking.)
  • Move the fish fillet onto the grates. Brush additional marinade onto the fish to make sure it is very well-coated. Grill or smoke the fish for approximately 20 minutes. Check the thickest part of the fish at 18 minutes to make sure it is just barely firm, but not hard. If grilling smaller fillets, check at the 12 minute mark, and continue to cook if needed. (Fish is best when it’s just cooked through, so the interior is still moist, but flaky.) Carefully remove the entire fillet from the grill. Cut and serve warm.

Video

Notes

Serve with your favorite Mexican sides including refried beans or stewed beans, Spanish rice, yellow rice, or green rice, fresh salsa, fried plantains, calabacitas, etc.
This marinade is fabulous on fish, but it’s also delicious on chicken, pork chops, or steak!

Nutrition

Serving: 1pc, Calories: 220kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 58mg, Sodium: 654mg, Potassium: 753mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 396IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 68mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Main, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Sommer Collier
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