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Recipe: Chargrilled Red Snapper

Cooking 15 min Preparation 30 min 2 easy
Recipe type: Fish Cuisine: Portuguese

Recipe: Chargrilled Red Snapper

As grilling season is just around the corner, I can already taste the juicy, sweet flavors of a perfectly grilled red snapper (pargo grelhado na brasa), sardines and bass. The mouthwatering aromas evoke lively memories from massive immigrant get togethers as temperatures climb above freezing. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, in large part, because it reminds me of home, of Portugal.

Our secret weapon is Piri-Piri, one of the ingredients that distinguish our cooking from other Mediterranean-based cuisines. The mildly hot and sweet concoction is a co-invention of the Portuguese and its former colony Mozambique using birds-eye chili peppers. 

Our other secret is the way in which we butterfly the fish, a skill that comes second nature to a Portuguese. It’s in our blood! And if you’re not familiar with the technique, here’s a quick 101 lesson on doing it at home. If you are a master, feel free to jump down the recipe – an easy mid week meal that permits you time to chill out over warm embers as the sun slowly sets in the west.

If you have any questions about Portuguese fish, or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask below!

Sonia Nolasco

(photo by Pen Waggener)


  1. Before you fire it up: Hot embers produced by a coal burning grill is ideal for this recipe, but you can try it on a gas grill, too, by starting out on high heat for charring and then transferring to medium/low heat for the remainder of the cooking. Until you get the hang of it, use a grilling basket to avoid the fish from falling apart on the grill.
  2. Let the fire burn high and then wait until the coals die down to create a bed of hot embers.
  3. Start boiling the potatoes (skin on) with the bay leaves. Cut the lettuce, slice the onions and tomatoes and set aside.
  4. Sprinkle both sides of your butterflied fish with coarse salt (to taste). Tip: think of how you would salt a steak, because essentially that’s what butterflying is allowing you to do, to cook the fish evenly like a portion of meat or fish. Brush both sides of the fish with a light olive oil.
  5. Once the embers are ready, place your bell pepper on it and keep it on there for the entire time the fish is grilling, or until blackened throughout.
  6. Lay down the fish skin side down and let it char for about 8 minutes, or once the skin is crispy. Turn the fish and let it cook through, about another 8 minutes (depends on the fish size), or until the meat turns opaque.
  7. In the meantime, lightly sauté minced garlic in a pan with olive oil and drizzle over the boiled potatoes with a sprinkle of dried oregano.
  8. Remove the bell pepper and run through cold water, so you can peel it (discard the skin). Cut into strips and add it to the salad bowl and garnish with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, coarse salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
  9. Transfer the fish onto a tray, give it a splash of lemon, garnish with the freshly-chopped parsley/cilantro, and serve with the potatoes and salad.