The 7 Best Red Snapper Substitutes For Your Recipes

If you’re a fan of fish, especially the all-white kind, red snapper is probably frequently on your table. It is widely available, so you don’t have to run around trying to find fresh red snapper.

If you’re in need of red snapper but there happens to be none at your favorite fish market, you can look for fish similar to red snapper. However, it can be challenging shopping for fish, especially if you’re used to buying only one kind. 

In our guide below, you will find a list of fish like red snapper and all the necessary info. Keep on reading. 

The best substitute for red snapper

Red snapper fish is usually quite small, although it can grow up to 35 pounds. In most fish markets and stores you should be able to find it both whole and in fillets, depending on how you prefer to make it. The red snapper you come across will normally weigh 3 to 5 pounds.

As we’ve already mentioned, shopping for fresh fish can be quite a challenge – especially if you’re not used to picking it out yourself. When it comes to red snapper, you want to look for clear, red eyes, and bright red skin (it should fade in the belly area).

When it comes to cooking red snapper, you may have some doubts and concerns. However, it is safe to say that it belongs to the category of extremely versatile fish since it can be grilled, steamed, broiled, fried, pan-fried, or baked!

If you want to enhance its beautiful flavors, even more, leave it in a marinade overnight. For your marinade, you want to combine olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, basil, garlic, salt, and any other seasoning of your choice. 

When grilling your red snapper, you want to make sure that the temperature isn’t too high; otherwise, the skin will stick to your grill. You can also try grilling it on a cedar plank to avoid it burning, as a form of indirect grilling. 

Also, when grilling the fillets, you want to make sure to buy the ones with the skin still on. Not only is the fish more flavorful this way, but grilling it without the skin can easily make it fall apart and burn. 

When it comes to the flavor profile, the red snapper is slightly sweet but mostly mild. It does have somewhat of a nutty aroma that doesn’t stand out too much. It is generally a firm fish, but it has a delicate texture that retains its moisture when properly cooked.

If you choose other forms of cooking, make sure you season the fish well. Since we’re talking about a very neutral, mild flavor, it can only be enhanced with a generous amount of salt, and herbs of your choice. 

Although red snapper is widely available, you may not always be able to find it, but there are alternatives that can work just fine. Keep on reading to find the best red snapper substitute for your personal preference. 

1. Grouper

Just like red snapper, grouper is widely available, and one of the most commonly consumed fish. Also, grouper is a great substitute when it comes to red snapper taste since it is also mild, and rather sweet.

However, there are some differences in flavor and the level of sweetness between different kinds of grouper. While red grouper is a bit sweeter, black grouper is more on the neutral side, but they both have a unique nutty aroma that you would get from the red snapper. 

There’s also a slight difference in the texture between the two grouper kinds, as the black one has somewhat firmer meat. Grouper also doesn’t have many bones, which makes it quite convenient and suitable for inexperienced fish eaters. 

2. Sea bass

Sea bass is a small fish only found in the ocean, also known as the ocean sea bass, or blackfish. It is normally black or dark grey, with a white belly – just like red snapper. It has white, firm flesh, and small flakes.

When shopping for sea bass, it is important to note some of the main quality factors. You want to look for a deep, vibrant color, clear eyes, and pink gills (if they’re brown, the fish is probably not fresh!). 

Sea bass is a great substitute for red snapper since it allows you to use pretty much any cooking technique. It can be grilled, braised, fried, deep-fried, pan-fried, steamed, or roasted. 

3. Tilapia

Tilapia is yet another mild-flavored kind of white fish, and it is available all year round, which makes it a rather convenient choice. While it is available whole, many people choose the skinless and boneless fillets, which are delicious when grilled and braised. 

Many believe that tilapia is actually one of the oldest farm-raised fish kinds in the world. It is popular for its versatility, delicate white meat, and distinctive, yet neutral flavor that pairs well with veggies sides and potato salad

If you want a quick fish dish, you should definitely try pan-seared tilapia. Season your tilapia fillets with salt and pepper, press each fillet into flour to create a thin coat, and cook it in hot oil of your choice, about 4 minutes on each side. 

4. Cod

Cod is a marine fish, and it has dark-spotted skin which can vary from green and grey, to dark brown and black. It is normally a big fish, weighing anywhere from 25 pounds to jaw-dropping 201 pounds!

When it comes to flavor, cod is generally very mild, and some would say it has a rather milky taste. However, there can be certain differences in flavor between the two kinds of cod. 

Atlantic cod, on one hand, is generally sweeter, and the meat is a bit softer. On the other hand, Pacific cod is usually firmer, and the flavor is more on the savory side. Nevertheless, the texture is mostly flaky

5. Catfish

This freshwater fish can often be found in skinless fillets since its scaleless skin can be a bit hard to remove. If you’re wondering where the name catfish comes from, it was actually inspired by the barbels on its mouth, resembling cat whiskers.

Catfish doesn’t have many bones, and the ones it has are easy to remove. This kind of structure makes it easy for this fish to be cut up into convenient fillets. 

The most popular catfish variety is the channel catfish, and it has a mildly sweet, rather neutral flavor, like most of the alternatives we’ve talked about. It is delicious fried, baked, or steamed, but you also have to try pan-fried breaded catfish.

6. Queen snapper 

The queen snapper has recognizable silver scales, bright red skin, and bright yellow eyes. It is quite similar to the red snapper, but its meat is pale pink rather than white. However, you’ll get the same mildness and sweetness. 

If cooked properly, the flesh of the queen snapper remains moist and soft. You can deep-fry, fry, pan-fry, broil, pan-fry, grill, or bake this fish the same way you would any kind of white fish. It pairs beautifully with garlic and lemon juice.

Queen snapper is generally a small fish, that doesn’t get much bigger than 26 inches in length, which is why many people prefer to prepare it whole as opposed to cutting it up into thin fillets. 

7. Haddock

This red snapper alternative is quite similar to cod, and all cod lovers will definitely enjoy it. However, as opposed to red snapper and cod, haddock has a more intense, fishy flavor and aroma, and it isn’t as neutral as the other options we’ve talked about.

Also, when it comes to cooking, haddock is a bit more soft and tender, so you don’t want to overcook it – especially if you choose to use fillets. Red snapper, on the other hand, is much more firm, so that is a significant difference between the two. 

Haddock is also a sweeter option, and it is ideal for baking, deep-frying, broiling, and even smoking. It’s also the preferred choice for the famous fish and chips. However, it may not be the best solution for grilling, given its soft texture. 

How to choose a red snapper substitute

The vast majority of the red snapper substitutes we talked about offering great versatility in cooking, and most of them have that mild, bright, neutral flavor that is one of the main characteristics of red snapper. 

Grouper, sea bass, tilapia, and queen snapper are certainly the best options when it comes to substituting red snapper. They have delicate white meat and a neutral flavor that goes well with all kinds of sides, including rice, potatoes, and broccoli. 

Cod, catfish, and especially haddock have a more complex, fishy flavor, although they would still be categorized as mild and neutral. However, with these options, you may get a bit more richness and that unique fishy aroma. 

All of the mentioned substitutes, except for haddock which is more on the tender side and shouldn’t be grilled, can be prepared the same way as red snapper, so you won’t have to experiment with new cooking techniques.

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