Pan Seared Snapper with Spicy Tomato and Herb Sauce

Pan fried snapper cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with olives, citrus and lots of herbs. Jump to the Snapper Recipe with a Spicy Tomato, Citrus and Herb Sauce or read on to see our tips for making it.

Pan Seared Snapper with Spicy Tomato and Herb Sauce

I love how fresh, light and zesty this fish recipe is. Oh and it’s all made in one pan, which is always a win in our book.

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We keep the fish simple and leave the flavor bomb up to the spicy tomato sauce. The trick is to season the fish well with salt and pepper then pan fry until it is almost done. I say almost, because we actually remove the fish then make the sauce in the same pan. When the sauce is done, we nestle the fish back into the pan with sauce and allow it to finish cooking. This keeps the fish moist and gives it a chance to soak up all the flavors from the sauce before serving.

The sauce is actually quite simple and calls for some of my favorite ingredients. The base is made with onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. It’s the red pepper flakes that gives some spice so use as much or as little as you like. When the onions and garlic are softened and fragrant, we pour in a can of tomatoes with all the juice. Then we stir in a handful of briny olives, lemon and orange zest and a generous amount of fresh herbs. When it comes to the herbs, I really don’t think you can over do it. Seriously. They add so much flavor, just go for it.

Snapper Recipe with Spicy Tomato and Herb Sauce

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Recipe updated, originally posted April 2010. Since posting this in 2010, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Pan Seared Snapper with Spicy Tomato and Herb Sauce

  • PREP
  • COOK

In our recipe we call for snapper, but this recipe can be made with any firm white fish. Pacific Halibut is excellent or look for Pacific Cod, Black Cod or Sablefish. Adam and I are pretty serious when it comes to buying the best choice when it comes to sustainability and seafood. I love checking in with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to make sure we are making the right choice. (It’s really easy, just enter the fish you are buying and they share the best choices for where it should come from).

Makes 4 servings

You Will Need

1 pound snapper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you want the sauce

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons orange zest

1/3 cup kalamata olives

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

Lemon wedges for serving


    1Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat. Season both sides of the snapper with salt and pepper then carefully place into the olive oil. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, but leave the fish slightly undercooked, about 5 minutes. Transfer the snapper to a plate.

    2Turn down the heat to medium, add the onions and cook until softened (add a little more olive oil if the pan is dry). Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes then cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon and orange zest, olives and the can of diced tomatoes with juices.

    3Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any pieces of fish stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer then cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs, taste then season with additional salt or pepper if needed.

    4Nestle the fish into the sauce, allowing the sauce to come up and over the sides. Continue to cook until the fish easily flakes with a fork. Serve family style with fresh lemon wedges and more fresh herbs for scattering on top.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

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AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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4 comments… Leave a Review
  • Jenny May 5, 2010, 12:56 pm

    I stumbled across your blog through other blogs, and I made this recipe for my parents one night.
    Let me tell you what… they LOVED it… so did I!!!
    I’ve made it 3 times since.
    I did make a few adjustments though:
    I used salmon instead of snapper (it was on sale at the grocery store.) And, I threw in some cooked shrimp as well.

    We made a pot of couscous, and used that as a “bed” to put the fish and tomato mixture on top of. YUM!!!

    Keep the good recipes coming! 🙂

    • inspiredtaste May 5, 2010, 1:42 pm

      Jenny, We are SO glad you enjoyed it! My mother just made it for the first time two nights ago and had some leftover, she then ate the rest last night and said it tasted even better.

      Thanks so much for commenting, we truly appreciate the feedback! Oh, and salmon instead of the snapper would be wonderful!

  • Megan May 4, 2010, 9:33 am

    Just wondering what type of Snapper you used? Red Snapper is severely overfished so you should stick with something like Yellowtail Snapper.

    • inspiredtaste May 4, 2010, 10:07 am

      Megan, thank you so much for your comment! After reading it, we researched what you had mentioned about Red Snapper in particular (a HUGE reason why we love comments on our blog – we get to learn so much from readers!)

      We bought our snapper from our local store in Alexandria (Balduccis). I have always had the impression and trusted that they sell sustainable produce, seafood, meats, etc… so I am unsure if what we bought was Red Snapper in particular…. I took a look at their website for more information, but no luck yet. Either way, you (rightly so) reminded us how important is it to really understand what we are buying no matter who we are buying it from. Alternatives to Snapper in this dish are as follows: Halibut (Pacific), Pacific Cod, Pacific Black Cod (Sablefish) and even Striped Bass.

      Here is a bit of info from our research:
      “The Gulf and South Atlantic red snapper populations are currently at very low levels (overfished), and both red snapper populations are being harvested at too high a rate (overfishing)….NOAA Fisheries Service also recently announced a temporary regulation to prohibit fishing for red snapper in the South Atlantic for six months beginning in January 2010.” (National Marine Fisheries Service) — Thanks again!


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