Huachinango a la Veracruzana

It’s the 2nd birthday {weekend} of The Triangle Plate! I spent it eating great food at the Pueblo Chile Festival, storing up roasted chiles for winter and remembering my cooking “roots.” My Grandma Salazar laid a foundation for what delicious is, my mom followed suit by cooking up a whole childhood full of nourishing and happy food memories for us kids, and then when I ventured out on my own, the culinary world became my oyster. In honor of nostalgia, I’m sharing a favorite recipe that takes me back to those early days of learning my way around Salsa Madres and food exploration in Mexico.

This past week I did my usual slow stroll past the fish counter. Whole, gorgeous fish caught me eye. When things like this happen, I immediately scrap whatever plan I may have had for dinner, and the meal takes a turn devoted to whole fish. This time, it was red snapper on sale and looking lovely.   

Snapper inevitably makes me think of my student days in Oaxaca, Mexico. I was enrolled at La Universidad Mesoamericana taking typical college classes: history, literature, etc. Oh, and a cooking class that was offered too FOR CREDIT. Hey, my kind of school. Every Wednesday was devoted to shopping/exploring in the market, then we would gather in the big industrial kitchen and Chef Armando would instruct us on how to make all sorts of memorable and delicious food. Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Red Snapper, Veracruz-style) was one of the recipes we learned to make. I have never made it with the whole fish, just filets, and I was also short on specialty Mexican chiles (the original recipe calls for chile morron verde, and chiles güeros) so I did a bit of adjusting for the cooking and ingredients. Even so, it tasted like I remembered and my whole fish fetish has been satisfied. For now.

Huachinango a la Veracruzana

Recipe from “Chef Armando,” La Universidad Mesoamericana, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1999. Adapted by Stephanie Kunstle. Whole fish preparation from Timing Is Everything by Jack Piccolo.

Note: This feeds 4 adults (each gets a half fish). It can be made with snapper filets, so whole fish isn’t a requirement. Just sauté the filets in a bit of regular olive oil with salt and pepper before topping with the sauce.


  • 2 whole red snapper (a pound or so each)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. regular olive oil, plus extra for fish
  • 28 oz. canned whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
  • 2 small onions, or 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup olives (I used Spanish green and ripened olives that had been soaking in a red chile brine, but regular unseasoned green olives would work just fine)
  • 1/4 cup capers, previously drained
  • 1-2 serrano chiles (I chopped both, but the heat is pretty intense, so I opted to just use one so it was too overpowering), chopped fine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • jasmine rice, cooked while fish is roasting (I use about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked grains)


  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add the chopped tomato, tomato juice, bay leaves, and water and bring to simmer and cook down for about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the sugar, chicken stock, olives, capers, and serrano chiles. Let the sauce simmer over medium-low heat for an additional 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450° F and score the fish with several 2-inch slashes on both sides. Rub the lemon juice all over both fish and then rub them with with regular olive oil. Sprinkle both sides generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast in a well-oiled roasting pan, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes (fish will be opaque and firm, yet still very moist).
  3. Present the fish in a large serving platter, and spoon some of the sauce over the fish, allowing the heads and tails to show (yes, I like to look at them and let them look at me!).
  4. To serve individually, use a fork and large spoon to remove the fish scales and pull the meat off the bone. Lay the fish over the jasmine rice and spoon additional sauce over the top of each portion.


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7 Responses to Huachinango a la Veracruzana

  1. Congratulations, 2 years is a big blogging milestone. I’ve enjoyed every post. The Pueblo chile festival sounds like something I’d enjoy!

  2. Em says:

    Wow! Delish! You really do get a whole fish craving once a year. I tried the recipe from last year’s craving and it was so perfect. Will have to try this one now.

  3. rita says:

    Didn’t you prepare this for us once? I think you did but maybe you could refresh my memory and make it for us again! Looks beautiful!

  4. Stephanie says:

    Sally — thank you so much for your encouraging words. And yes, the Chile Festival is really something to experience one day!
    Em — you will love this. Takes you straight back to Mexico!
    Rita — yep! I made this years ago! Good memory though it probably does need refreshing ;-).
    Tio — that’s right!

  5. MB says:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… extraordinary and delicious smelling it in my head and tasting it tomorrow for dinner…

  6. Stephanie says:

    MB — If you make this, I must hear about it…

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