Whole Grilled Fish

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Average: 5 (2 votes)
Serves 4

Having grown up on an island on the coast of Kenya, fish was always a big part of our meal menu-plan. We'd have it fried, or curried or baked or steamed. However my favourite by far is the grilled version. Seeing a platter with a whole fish, perfectly grilled and surrounded with slices of fried potatoes, tomatoes and slices of giant green lemons would have our tummies rumbling in anticipation! One thing that takes this dish from it's basic simplicity to a more amazing level is when it is smothered with a rich and creamy coconut-tamarind sauce, like it is in THIS recipe.

whole fish, around 1 to 2 kg
(I used Red Snapper, but any good firm fish that doesn't fall apart on the grill will do, like King fish, Salmon, Parrot fish, etc.)
3 tsp
red chilli powder
2 tsp
1/2 tsp
turmeric powder
1/2 tsp
cumin powder
1/2 tsp
garlic paste
1 tsp
tandoori masala
enough lemon juice to make this into a spreadable paste, not too thick.
2 tbsp

First, make sure your fish is de-scaled and gutted and the gills removed. Also, trim the fins on the sides of the head. You can trim the tail a little bit if it is too big. Wash the fish thoroughly with water mixed with a bit of salt and vinegar or lemon. You can even immerse the fish in this salty vinegar/lemon water for about half an hour, it reduces any fishy smell. Drain and pat the fish dry. Make 2-3 slits on the fleshy part of the fish, on both sides at 2-3 inch intervals. This helps make sure your fish will get cooked properly all the way through.

Mix the salt, chilli powder, garlic, turmeric, cumin, tandoori and lemon juice to form a paste. Slather this marinade on both sides of the fish, making sure the marinade goes all the way into the flesh through the slits. Also rub the marinade inside the fish. Set the fish to marinate for about an hour which will allow the flavours to infuse into the fish.

Turn the grill on high. If you're using an oven, have it at 220 C. You can also use a charcoal grill for this. Whilst the bbq grill or oven is pre-heating, brush the 2 tbsp of oil on both sides of the fish, making sure a thin layer of oil covers every part of the fish. This will prevent the fish from sticking to the grill and also will help it to achieve a good colour during grilling.

Once the bbq grill is ready, wipe oil on it using a kitchen towel, then place the fish on it.

If you're baking in the oven, use the grill-like tray for this, brush it with oil and make sure to place something under it to catch the drippings that will fall as the fish bakes.

Give the fish 12-15 minutes, then gently slide a spatula under the fish and pry it loose if it is stuck. Be very gentle as fish has a tendency to stick to the grill, so do this patiently and gently. Then, using two spatulas, slowly turn the fish over and bake/grill again for another 12-15 minutes. Rule of thumb when grilling fish is it takes 10 minutes per inch of thickness overall. So if the fish is 2 inches thick, it will take a total of 20 minutes (10 per side). If it is thicker than 2 inches, adjust the time accordingly.

When done, remove the fish and again gently pry it off the grill and place on your serving platter. Garnish with slices of lemon or lime and potatoes, tomatoes, whatever you like. Tastes great with roast potatoes or gravy potatoes.

Enjoy! :)


usually i use microwave to grill my fish but somehow the raw garlic flavor remains.what can be done?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Use less garlic. Do you use freshly crushed garlic? Make sure it is a proper paste and not chunky.

Hhmm luks like is going to be tasty. Thnx fauzia

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

My favourites are parrot fish, king fish and red snapper. You can also ask for tilapia or salmon, but the first three are what I normally go for.

What are names of fish that we eat in Kenya? Find it difficult here in US to find fish that look like island fish. I may not know the names in English

Assalamualaikoum, should we cook the fish at 220 C or should we change the degree?

and thanks for the detailed and explicit recipes. Amazing.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, yes it should be on 220 C. Thanks! :)

Sister fawzia, I try the grilled fish today, but it didn't turn out like yours(in the pic), the taste was good, but the size of the flesh decreased/shrank, and it was dry also.

I did marinate it for 1 hrs, then after 15 mins I turned it, but when I turned it the side down wasn't cooked, but neverthyless I turned it, I thought while cooking the side up(which now would be the side down, after I turned it), it would cooked, because by now all is half cooked, and then I timed the oven to 15 mins again, but after 15 mins ,when I checked it, the part which was initially side down, hasn't been cooked (by cooked I meant it should be a little brown isn't it- but it tasted like boiled fish) yet, I then put it for 15 mins again, then it became contracted,and dry and the skins were like melt:(.. how can I rectify this? thanks sis

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

How was the heat please when cooking? Fish normally needs to be cooked on high heat and for a short time. Overcooking it on lower heat will make it dry for sure. If the fish was about 1kg then 15 minutes should have been ample time (mine takes about 12-13 mins), but since you say it was not yet cooked I will assume that the heat was not very high as it should have been. And aside from cooking it for 15 minutes on each side you again baked it for another 15 minutes, that is a long time to cook fish. Please try to ensure you use high heat next time as mentioned in the recipe. :)

also I want to bake chicken cut into large pieces in oven, please do give me the recipe name if there is any specific one, or just tell me with wat to marinate the pieces , for hw many mins, and then how should I bake it in the oven. thanks a lot sister:)

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Will be posting a 'cut-up' roast chicken recipe soon inshaAllah.

Hello, sis fawzia, can you tell me after how many hours does the admin post a comment after approval, because I have sent a comment but it hasn't appear upto now. thanks

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Comments are approved by me when I am free to come online. It does not appear until I have approved and responded.

Sorry for late response, well it was at 220 degrees.. does preheating a role in it? coz I did preheat at 220 for let 15 mins only. my oven is the mini one.. my highest degree is 230.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Preheating is a must, the fish needs to go into a very hot oven so the outside gets sealed and the inside flesh retains its moisture as it cooks. 15 mins is normal for preheating to 180 C. There should be an indicator to let you know when the oven is preheated to the right temp. Doesn't yours have that option? I think 220 C would take closer to 20-25 minutes to reach.

Salaams Fauzia my question is:is the marinade measurements enough for just the one fish or its just a standard measurement? Like you we buy many kilos of fish which we freeze in batches and i find it a nuisance to have to add extra seasonings to it after it defrosts....with thanks

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

It's my standard measurement, I make and slather it on the fish then freeze until needed. No need for more seasonings later.

Aswk.is it ok if we double thr qty of fish with
Same timing fr grilling or shud wr extend our timing.
Also plz let me kne if u hav shrimps masals recipe.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

No you won't need to double the cooking time. Please check for prawns masala recipe in this same seafood folder.


Rizzi's picture

Assalamu alaikum sis. The highest temperature in my oven is 250 degrees celcius. Do i hav to pre-heat and grill at that temp.?

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, preheat at 220 C and then grill once the oven is hot. :)

I would like to know whether the fish has to b baked in oven or grilled under the grill. (In the oven). I am confused coz the receipt says oven has to b set at 220 C,the grill doesn't have temperature control in digits.Thank you.

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

It has to be grilled under the oven grill. My oven has temp control even when turning on the grill. Basically the oven needs to be very hot but there needs to be that intense grill heat to quickly cook the fish.

Aslmu alkm
I want a recipie for grilled sheri fish prefrably butterfly opened and grilled.
Thanks fr ur recipies : )

Need by 1 day pls. Tks

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

W/Salaam, sorry I do not have that recipe at the moment.

Hi fauzia please let me know how we can bake fish in oven ?i mean we have to preheat the oven and use only grill or we have to use both grill and oven

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

Hi, use only the grill and yes make sure the oven is hot and preheated before the fish goes in.

Thanks for quick replying but my oven is gas oven with open flame can i use that?pls let me know because i have already marinated the fish with your recipe

Fauzia's Kitchen Fun's picture

It should be fine, just keep an eye on the fish so that it does not burn.