How to Cook a Whole Fish Jamaican Style

by Viola Horne

Jamaican-style fish is usually baked with the head on.

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Because fish is plentiful in the salt and fresh waters in and around Jamaica, fish recipes abound. Jamaican fish recipes are influenced by a number of cuisines, including African, Chinese, European and Mexican. Slaves and hired workers brought their influences to the cooking styles of the islands, as exhibited by the wide variety of spices and ingredients used. Cooking whole fish Jamaican-style requires few ingredients and little preparation.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease the baking dish with the oil.

Rub the lemon juice into fish, and allow the fish to sit for 20 minutes.

Combine the chopped onion, thyme, salt, pepper and butter, and rub the mixture onto fish.

Place the fish in greased baking dish, and cover it with the coconut milk.

Sprinkle the fish with bread crumbs, cover it with aluminum foil, and bake it for 15 minutes.

Uncover the dish and bake the fish until bread crumbs are browned and the fish is flaky -- about five more minutes.


  • While snapper is the most common fish baked whole, you can use almost any type of medium-sized fish in this recipe. Other popular options include turbot and doctorfish.

    Jamaican jerk fish, a traditional spicy-hot dish, can be made by seasoning fish with allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers and thyme. Some recipes include additional spices such as garlic, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. Jerk fish is typically made using cut-up fish pieces rather than whole fish.

    Other Jamaican recipes for cooking whole fish include deep frying smaller fish, such as sprat, and stuffing larger fish before cooking.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.