What Does Red Snapper Taste Like?

Considered the most popular of the white fish, snapper is found all over the world. While some use the term red snapper to refer to a similar type of fish, such as the West Coast rockfish, or even any fish that is just red, proper red snapper is its own unique entity. The FDA a prohibits the labeling of any fish other than lutjanus campechanus as red snapper. Doing so is considered a misbranding in violation of the federal food, drug, and cosmetic act. That should give you an idea of how seriously this fish is taken.

With such a strong stipulation placed on this delicacy, you might be wondering what sets it apart from other types of white fish. Importantly, you might be wondering what it tastes like when compared to other white fish.

Red snapper has a sweet, nutty flavor. It is considered more sweet than fishy, and it has a nice firm texture. It is often served with hot chilies or herbs. It can also be pan-fried, grilled, sauteed, or baked. 

What Does Red Snapper Taste Like? 


The flavor of red snapper is described as being pleasantly sweet and mild. There is a subtle nuttiness that runs through the lean, moist flesh of this coveted catch. Fans of red snapper will also note that the fish has a pleasant, buttery taste.

Surprisingly, red snapper is a hit among people who don’t actually like fish. That is because it doesn’t have a particularly fishy taste. The mild flavor is also why it is a popular choice for higher end sushi.

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When compared to other fish, such as salmon, tasters will note that red snapper is usually more buttery and flaky than salmon. While the fish can be cooked in similar ways, they don’t make good substitutes for each other in recipes. Red snapper is much saltier than salmon.


The texture of red snapper flesh is that of a slightly elastic flesh, that has a firm bite to it. The flesh is delicate, and will ideally be rather moist.

When cooked, red snapper has a flaky texture, similar to other white fish.

While red snappers in the wild can become as large as 35 lb, most of the species that you will buy at your grocery store or fishery are quite a bit smaller. You will commonly find them sold as fillets, but they are possible to get your hands on whole as well. 

Preparation Methods

As with most fish, the way that red snapper tastes once it is prepared as a meal will depend on what flavors, spices, and coatings are applied to it. However, no matter how it is cooked, red snapper will retain the mild, sweet buttery taste that it is known for.


One of the most popular ways to make red snapper is to grill it. In some parts of the world you will find that grilled snapper is made on a wet banana leaf or cedar plank.

These methods impart a special flavor to the snapper. When grilled on a wet banana leaf, there is a certain, fresh grassiness to the taste, that pairs excellently with the sweetness of the fish’s flesh. When in conjunction with a variety of delicious herbs and spices, those flavors are highlighted and brought to the forefront of your taste buds.

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You will often find red snapper stuffed, the body cavity filled with slices of tart lemons, spicy chili peppers, and plenty of herbs, butter, and spices. Once it is stuffed, it is grilled until the skin is crispy.


Sauteing red snapper is similar to grilling. As long as you keep the flesh on the fish, you will help seal in all of those delicious, mildly sweet and nutty flavors. It pairs excellently with a simple sauce of lemon, butter, and fresh herbs.


A baked crunchy coating can go a long way on a filet of red snapper. The crunchy, crispy outside, pairs excellently with the buttery, flaky inside. The salty, oiliness from the frying process will make for a savory, succulent meal.

What is the difference between red snapper and white fish?

As mentioned above, a lot of white fish is sometimes mislabeled, or referred to colloquially, as red snapper. This was caused by the initial rise in popularity of this delicious fish, leading to the name becoming a sort of generic term for white fish. High demand led to high prices, and even to “fish fraud.”

You will notice the difference between real red snapper, and any other white fish that has been labeled incorrectly as red snapper. Red snapper will have a flakier, more buttery texture. It will have a less fishy taste than other types of white fish.

When you are shopping for a good cut of whole red snapper, keep your eyes open for the distinctive red scales and eyes of a genuine, authentic red snapper.

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While there are a lot of guidelines and stipulations as to what the FDA will correctly label red snapper, all of that precaution is definitely worth it. Real red snapper has a taste that is very sweet and not terribly fishy. That makes it perfect for kids or for people who are not fond of fish.

The firm, slightly elastic flesh, has a faint nutty taste, and a buttery texture when cooked. It is a very versatile fish, and can be prepared any number of ways.