Best Jamaican Escoveitch Fish Recipe

Dear Escoveitch Fish, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways!  This is real Jamaican comfort food. It says everything about Jamaica in one dish: spicy, salty, island, coastal, tangy,  fresh, shelf-life,  inexpensive  and bang for buck and bite.   This may remind you of a ceviche, which is where it gets its Spanish roots.  You see, Jamaica was first colonized by the Spanish when Christopher Columbus happened upon our native American “Taino” Indians in 1493 in his “discovery” of the New World, making our country the landmark stop in the West Indies.  Ceviche, is a natural preservative and the acid in it cooks the food.  A little zealous for fire-cooked food, our people had to “Jamaicanize it” by  cooking it on the stove and then ‘cooking it’ again with the vinegary escoveitch… you know, to make certain the fish is really dead!

This dish is very popular during easter in Jamaica as many stay away from meat and chicken during Lent, but it is available year-round at the popular Hellshire Fishing Village in St. Catherine and in many Jamaican homes.  Some like it served hot out of the pot and others like it the day after when the escoveitch sauce takes on a new note after having soaked in the fish overnight.  Please try it and tell us how you like it. Here’s how you should do it.

Fried Fish

Ingredients: 1kg / 2lbs Fresh snapper or parrot fish (we mean fish so fresh you could almost see it swimming and cook it the same day you buy it), 1tbsp salt, 1tbsp peper, 1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice/Jamaican peppercorns/pimento, 1 scotch bonnet pepper whole, frying oil

Method: In a large wok or frying pan, heat some high oleic sunflower, avocado or soybean  frying oil.

Combine salt and pepper in a small plate along with ground allspice and rub into fish. We like to slash the fish on the sides so the rub can penetrate nicely.

When the oil gets hot, stick a tiny hole into the hole scotch bonnet and put in the pan.

If it is wet, or frozen, this will happen so be careful.

Take out the pepper when it it browned and use tongs to place fish in hot oil.

Fry until lightly coloured and turn.

Escoveitch Sauce:

Ingredients: 1 scotch bonnet pepper, sliced thinly, 10 whole ground allspice berries /Jamaican peppercorns/pimento berries, 1 large whole brown onion, 1/2 medium carrot, chopped, about 1 to 1  1/2 cups vinegar (or as much as needed to cover the ingredients).

While the fish is frying, slice onion rings, julienne carrots (long thin sticks) and slice scotch bonnet by holding it with fork as shown. Failure to do this may result in serious bodily harm, just joking, but seriously, you don’t want to accidentally rub your face or eyes with a hand that has been messing with these peppers!

Method: Combine and cover in an air tight  jar.  Will last forever in the fridge, just use as needed.


  1. Complete Foodie says

    Looks amazing , will have to try this receipe! Used to be a big fan of Caribbean food when I was in the UK! Makes me want to make some Jerk chicken rice & peas – though I use the paste :(

    • says

      Ahhh now yuh talking! I made jerk seasoning from scratch last night! What a way to spend Valentine’s! I will do a rice and peas post as soon as we get our new stove because we are limited with our cooktop now.

    • says

      Maria, I believe you do. When you go to the spice souk in Mumbai, ask for “Jamaican Pepper.” It looks similar to black peppercorns but upon close inspection of both side by side, the “Jamaican peppercorns” are less wrinkly and are more brownish. Re: the scotch bonnet peppers, you can get fresh habaneros at Trikaya in Crawford Market. Bottled ones may also be available at the other shops that sell imported condiments. Yep, we did the research with our Bombay friends!

  2. says

    My husband loves Caribbean food and RUM! He’s never made Escoveitch, though. Yours looks so good. He’s making Ceviche tomorrow, in fact. We are a blogging couple, he’s the chef, and I’m the baker for the most part. We love to cook together kitchen! Looking forward to reading your posts.

  3. says

    I am intimidated by handling whole fish and choosing the freshest of fresh … thank you for the excellent tutorial … the tart pickle topping looks wonderful … spicy hot!

  4. says

    jamacian me crazy with those lovely fish! what a beautiful presentation too, I have been trying to ear more fish, this would be a perfect addition if I can find them


    I am here in Bahrain and would love to have some of this authentic Jamaican food right now…….. Congratulations on the blog, I will make it a regular place to visit.

  6. says

    Oh this looks incredible! I love that the fish is cooked first, and then “cooked” again! Definitely going to have to try this very soon =)

  7. says

    My fish eatin’ days are over but with a description like, “spicy, salty, coastal, tangy, fresh, shelf-life, inexpensive and bang for buck and bite…” you are making me want a bite of this fish! I hope you both are well! HUGS!

  8. says

    I love escoveitch and haven’t had it since a Jamaican friend took me to a tiny, humble place on Staten Island that served ridiculously good food…divine. And I’ve never tried to make it but I will now. Thanks for the reminder and the recipe!

  9. says

    I like the fact that you put the scotch bonnet pepper in the hot oil. It brings out the beautiful flavor and I am sure adds a nice touch of spice to the escoveitched fish. This reminds me of a Sunday out at Hellshire. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. says

    I love escoveitch fish – the sauce is delicious. I’ll have to try flavouring the hot oil with the scotch bonnet pepper next time.

  11. Lovely Pantry says

    I escoveitched Halibut for Easter :-) Hellshire will be the first place on my list to visit when I go home, since the fried fish is like no other! :-) I love how you did your fish… beautiful!

  12. Carl says

    Best fish recipie ive ever tried , fantastic flavour and spiciness to die for ..

    Every dinner party I pull out this dish ( proper party pleaser )

    Thanks a lot now I have a rep as a good chef !! lol


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