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What Does Red Snapper Taste Like?

Red snapper taste

The red snapper is a popular fish among recreational anglers and is often found in restaurants as the main dish. It lives in waters all around the world but is commonly found in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic Coast.

Are you wondering what does red snapper taste like? In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the its flavor profile, uses in cooking, pairing suggestions, and more.

What do red snappers taste like?

Red snapper is a mild, slightly sweet fish with a subtle nutty taste. Its meat is lean and moist with a firm texture, making it a versatile ingredient in cooking. Red snappers don’t taste “fishy” compared to many other fish varieties, making them ideal for kids and people who prefer mild-flavored food.

Fishiness: Mild, sweet flavor with low levels of fishy taste.
Oiliness: A light fish with low oil content.
Texture: Elastic flesh that is firm yet delicate and moist.

Red Snapper Taste Infographic

What flavors complement snapper?

GarlicSteamed vegetablesRose
Sea saltPastaPinot Noir
PaprikaRoast potatoesMerlot

Comparison of common fish flavors

Red snapper vs yellowtail snapper

Red snappers and yellowtail snappers are both a part of the Lutjanidae family. They’re also both a type of fish that is commonly caught in warm waters around the world.

The red snapper has a reddish pink color on its body with white stripes. Yellowtail snappers have a similar pattern to them, but they also have yellow scales on their back. These two types of fish can be easily distinguished from one another by their coloring patterns.

The yellowtail snapper has a milder flavor than the red snapper and they can’t be cooked as long as they have less oil content.

Red snapper vs vermilion snapper

The vermilion snapper and red snapper are very similar in appearance although the red variety is the larger species. They both have a pinkish-red color, but the difference between them is in their flavor profile. Both types of fish are mild tasting with a sweet, nutty taste to them when they are fresh. However, the vermilion snapper contains more fat content than the red snapper does which makes it richer and a little more forgiving when kept on the heat too long.

Red snapper vs Redfish

A redfish has a similar texture to the red snapper and they both have mild, sweet, nutty flavored meat.

Red snapper vs mackerel

There is a big difference in taste between red snapper and mackerel. Red snapper has a buttery, mild, sweet flavor while Mackerel has a stronger, sharper flavor with higher oil content.

Red snapper vs salmon

Red snapper is often butterier and flakier than salmon, and it also has a stronger taste of saltwater. These two fish can be cooked in similar ways but do not always make for good substitutes in recipes.

Red snapper vs grouper

The difference between snapper and grouper is that grouper has the most pronounced flavor and tends to be saltier. Snapper is also leaner and less oily which makes for healthier eating.

Whole red snapper on a chopping board
Fresh red snapper ready to be prepared.

How to choose the best snapper

  • Find a trusted fish seller and verify you’re buying Lutjanus campechanus rather than cheaper look-alikes such as West Coast rockfish.
  • Buy fish with the skin on to help identify the correct fish – it should have red skin.
  • Clear, bright eyes are a sign of fresh fish. The backbone should also be bright in color.
  • Fillets shouldn’t be browning and if you poke the fish it should bounce back.

How to clean a snapper

In some parts of the world, it’s not common to see a whole red snapper for sale. For those of you who have never cleaned one, here are the steps.

  1. Start by rinsing off your red snapper with water. If there is any blood on the fish, use a paper towel to clean it up first. Rinse again until all blood has been removed then pat dry with another paper towel or cloth napkin.
  2. Scale the fish by using a fish scaler. They can be quite sharp so use caution to avoid cutting your fingers. If you don’t have a scaler then scrape the fish with a fork or the back of a knife. Also run your knife along the belly of the fish, scraping away any remaining scales.
  3. Cut off the hard fins on the side of the fish with a sharp knife. Whether you remove the soft fins comes down to personal preference.
  4. Slice open the belly of the fish with a sharp knife then chop off the head. The guts should come out with it. Check to make sure all the insides have been removed then rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry with paper towels.

The fish fillets should now be ready to slice up for raw sushi, sashimi, ceviche, or cook with them.

Tip: snapper is delicious used to make sushi for pick eaters.

Red Snapper

How to cook snapper

Whether you serve up tender snapper fillets or impress the table with a whole fish on the plate, most will love your choice of seafood.

The red snapper is a fish that can be enjoyed in many ways. It does well with spicy chili peppers or more subtle flavors making it a versatile fish to cook for dinner.

There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking methods: bake, steam, broil, grill (barbecue) or saute your fish. Here’s a delicious recipe for baked snapper.

Lemon Herb Snapper Recipe


  • 2 lemons
  • 4 red snapper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a baking tray with aluminum foil, lightly sprayed with oil.
  2. Slice one of the lemons into eight pieces and place them on the baking tray grouped in pairs.
  3. Take the second lemon and grate the zest into a small bowl. Combine with butter and parsley and set aside.
  4. Carefully place a snapper fillet on top of each pair of lemon slices.
  5. Combine seasoning and sprinkle over the fish.
  6. Bake the fish for 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through.
  7. Serve fish with lemon slices and topped with parsley butter.

Tip: You can use fresh lime as a great alternative to lemons.

A whole snapper on a board
The secret to cooking red snapper is getting the temperature just right. Too cold and you will get tough fish; too hot and you will burn it. If done correctly, your dish should turn out perfect every time.

Interesting reading:
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What does a red snapper look like?

Given the opportunity, red snapper can reach 35 pounds. At markets, they are usually only 5 pounds. As the fish ages, their skin changes from metallic pink to pinkish-red. The skin and eyes redden once they grow to four pounds in size.

Snapper gets its name from teeth that are large and spikey. Thankfully, they have no interest in humans. 

Holding a red snapper on the boat
Red snapper grows to a large size.

Frequently asked questions

Is red snapper a nutritious fish?

Red snapper is a lean white fish that contains various health benefits. It has useful levels of Vitamin A and Omega-3 acids which play an important role in maintaining healthy bones and cell reproduction. The fish also contains iron, calcium, and protein while being low in calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol.

Red snapper can be harmful if eaten in high amounts due to the high levels of mercury. Nutritionists recommend eating this fish in moderation.

Is the red snapper known by any other name?

Alternative names for the red snapper include Caribbean Red Snapper, American Red Snapper, and Mexican Snapper.

How do I store a snapper?

You can store red snappers in the fridge for 1-2 days in their original packaging (if bought from a store) or in an airtight container. Freeze snapper in plastic wrap or foil for up to 8 months.

If you’ve cooked the snapper, store it in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Red snapper being filleted
Buying fresh snapper from the market is a good option.

Related reading: If you love fish then check out our flavor guides on sea bass, mahi mahi, or flounder.

Final words

Red snapper is a sweet and slightly nutty-tasting fish with a firm texture. For people that enjoy mild-flavored seafood, red snapper is an excellent choice.

A snapper offers versatility in the kitchen. Its meat is delicious, whether it is seasoned with a complex spice blend or slapped onto a pan with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Battered or crumbed, these fillets make for a tasty main course.

If you’re considering other mild seafood varieties then scallops, octopus, or salmon are all excellent choices. Geoducks are a unique ingredient, but they can be difficult to find in store.