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Fish Escabeche

Andrew Chase
At Toronto's huge summer Caribana festival, trays upon trays of Jamaican escabeche, usually made with small whole red snapper, are enjoyed by the crowds. Every Caribbean island has its own escabeche, and this dish, originally Spanish, even made its way to the Philippines. In warm climates the vinegar in the sauce (essentially a pickling sauce) safely preserves the fresh flavour of the fish without refrigeration. This personal hybrid recipe mixes the flavours of Puerto Rico and other Hispanic Caribbean islands with the heat of the Scotch bonnet peppers so prized by Jamaicans, and the mellowing Filipino touch of ripe tomatoes. A good Canadian white-fleshed fish like Pacific halibut adds Canadian content to this truly international dish. If your white wine vinegar is 6° acidity, rather than the more common 5°, reduce the amount in the recipe by 1 tbsp/15 mL.


  • 2-1/2 lb  (1.25 kg)  fish fillet
  • 1/4 cup  (60 mL)  lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp  (4 mL)  salt
  • 2/3 cup  (150 mL)  all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp  (45 mL)  (approx) olive oil
  • Escabeche Sauce:
  • 2 tbsp  (30 mL)  olive oil
  • 1 Spanish or large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp  (5 mL)  ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp  (2 mL)  salt
  • 1/4 tsp  (1 mL)  black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups  (375 mL)  fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup  (150 mL)  sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 2 tbsp  (30 mL)  drained capers
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1 tsp  (5 mL)  dried oregano
  • 2/3 cup  (150 mL)  white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup  (125 mL)  water


Cut fish into 10 pieces, each about 4 oz/125 g, and place in shallow dish; sprinkle with lime juice and 1/2 tsp/2 mL of the salt, then turn to coat. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Escabeche Sauce: Meanwhile, in skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion, garlic and bay leaves and fry, stirring, until onion is softened but not browning, about 3 minutes. Stir in cumin, salt and pepper and fry for 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes, olives, capers, Scotch bonnet peppers and oregano; reducing heat when mixture reaches simmer, cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and water; bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

Set aside. Drain fish.

In bowl, mix flour with remaining salt; dredge fish in flour mixture to coat. In skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; in batches, fry fish until golden brown, adding more oil to pan, if necessary.

Drain fish; arrange single layer in baking dish. Bring Escabeche Sauce to boil; pour over fish. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove bay leaves; serve at room temperature.

Makes 10 servings.

If dealing with a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity or special dietary needs for a medical condition, always check the label of processed foods (including spices and condiments) to ensure that they’re free of potentially harmful ingredients. If you have any doubt about a product’s ingredients, contact the manufacturer.