Red snapper is a popular white fish with a mild flavor and is commonly used for seafood dishes. It can be grilled, fried, or added to a stew. Its mild taste enables this fish to blend in easily with different herbs and spices.
Red snapper is commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and along the Atlantic coast. So, if you live far from these regions, you may find it difficult to lay your hands on this lean and mildly tasting seafood.
But do not worry; you can simply use other red snapper substitutes, such as grouper, haddock, vermilion snapper, sea bass, queen snapper, tilapia, cod, catfish, and lane snapper, to replicate the similar flavor and texture you would get with red snapper.
What Is Red Snapper?
Red snapper is a white fish also known as Lutjanus campechanus. It is readily available in the western Atlantic Ocean; this is tasty seafood that is also used for recreational purposes by game fishers.
Other snapper varieties include dog snapper, mutton snapper, mangrove snapper, and the lane snapper; they all share similar characteristics and shape with red snapper.
Snapper fish typically have laterally compressed bodies, sloped bodies, medium to large scales, and spiny dorsal fine.
Due to their high demand, many supermarkets label other less expensive fishes, such as blackfin snapper, rockfish, and lane snapper, like red snapper.
How Does Red Snapper Taste?
Red snapper has a mild flavor with a lean and firm flesh texture. Its nutty flavor and sweet taste can make it hard for someone eating fish for the first time to realize they are eating fish.
Their mild flavor enables them to blend perfectly with any seasoning it is cooked with, and you can serve red snapper with almost any dish of your choice.
However, to achieve your desired result when cooking red snapper, you need to follow the right method of preparation. You can cook red snapper by baking the whole snapper, roasting its fillets, sautéing fillets, and deep-frying the fillets.
See Also: Rockfish Vs Red Snapper
Best Red Snapper Substitutes
Grouper is also readily available like red snapper and is commonly used in different cuisines.
There are two different varieties of grouper, which also have a mild and rather sweet taste like red snapper. Still, there are some varying differences in flavor and the level of sweetness between the different varieties.
The red grouper has a bit sweeter taste, while the black grouper is milder and slightly neutral-tasting, but they both can replicate the 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; the black variety has tougher and firm meat, unlike the red. This fish isn’t excessively bony, so it’s easy to eat without fear of choking, especially for inexperienced fish eaters.
2. Sea Bass
Sea bass can only be found in the oceanic habitat; it is a small fish known as ocean sea bass or blackfish. It typically has a black or dark grey color, with a white belly – just like red snapper. It is a white fish that has firm flesh and small flakes.
To ensure you get the best quality of sea bass, look out for some main quality factors such as deep, vibrant color, clear eyes, and pink gills, sea bass with a brownish hue, is definitely not fresh!
Sea bass makes a great replacement for red snapper, and it can be prepared using various cooking techniques such as grilling, braising, frying, steaming, or roasting.
Tilapia is believed to be one of the oldest farm-raised fish kinds worldwide. It is yet another white fish with a mild flavor, and it is readily available all year round; this makes it a rather quick and substitute choice.
You can opt for the whole tilapia or choose the skinless and boneless fillets, which can be grilled and braised for a delicious crunch and flavor.
Tilapia is one of the most popular fish for its versatility; it can be used for basically any dish. Its delicate white meat has a neutral flavor that complements any flavor, seasoning, and side dish it is paired with.
Codfish is typically found in marine habitats; it has dark-spotted skin with colors ranging from green and grey to dark brown and black. It is quite large and weighs anywhere from 25 pounds to 201 pounds!
Cod also has a mild flavor with a somewhat milky taste. However, there are two types of cod that can have certain differences in flavor.
Atlantic cod has a generally sweeter taste, with soft meat, unlike the pacific cod, with firmer flesh and a savorier flavor. Generally, cod typically has a flaky texture.
Catfish is a freshwater fish; its scaleless skin can be a bit hard to remove, so they are usually sold as skinless fillets. This fish got its name for having barbels on its mouth, resembling cat whiskers.
Catfish contains only a few bones which are very easy to remove. This makes it easy to slice up the fish into desirable fillets sizes.
There are different varieties of catfish, but the most common variety is the channel catfish; it has a mildly sweet and somewhat neutral flavor, just like red snapper. Catfish can be fried, baked, or steamed, depending on your preference.
6. Queen Snapper
The queen snapper has a similar appearance to the red snapper. It has silver scales, bright red skin, and bright yellow eyes but has pale pink meat rather than white. Nonetheless, they still offer the same mild flavor and sweetness as you would get with their red relative.
Queen snapper meat remains moist and tender as long as it is cooked properly. It can be deep-fried, broiled, grilled, or baked, just as you would any kind of white fish. It can be paired with garlic and lemon juice and usually prepared whole.
Queen snapper is generally a small fish, and its biggest size is no more than 26 inches in length, so it might be quite difficult to cut it up into thin fillets.
Haddock is a red snapper substitute that is quite similar to cod, so if you can’t get cod, you can also use this to replace the red snapper.
However, haddock has a more intense, fishy flavor and aroma compared to red snapper and cod, it isn’t as neutral as the other fish types, so it may be unsuitable for certain dishes.
Haddock also has a bit more soft and tender flesh, so you need to pay close attention to it so it doesn’t overcook, especially when sliced into thin fillets.
This is quite different from the red snapper, which has much firmer flesh. Another significant difference between the two types of fish is their taste.
Haddock is sweeter than red snapper, and it can be baked, deep-fried, broiled, and even smoked but cannot be grilled due to its soft texture.
8. Lane Snapper
This is another fish that also belongs to the snapper (Lutjanidae) family. They are quite small in size with an average length of 20 inches, and weigh around 2-4 pounds.
Lane snapper has many distinctive yellowish stripes running through its silvery skin and a somewhat pinkish-red color tail. This unique appearance makes them very easy to spot.
Lane snapper typically feeds on small shrimp and crabs, giving them a firm, lean flesh with an extra sweet flavor, so they can serve as a close substitute for red snapper in baking, grilling, frying, or frying pan-searing dishes.
This fish promotes the health of your digestive system as it contains nutrients that aid food absorption and fight against inflammation and stomach upset.
9. Vermilion Snapper
Vermilion snappers are also known as beeline or Mingo and are commonly found in the warm waters of Cape Hatteras and southeastern brazil.
This is another substitute option from the Lutjanidae family and can be regarded as the miniature version of the queen snapper and red snapper.
Vermilion snapper usually has a bright red color with a pale and silvery belly, but it is much smaller than the others, with an average size of about 14 inches.
Though these fish are very similar to red snapper in terms of physical features, they don’t come first in the substitution ranking.
Vermilion snapper has a somewhat milder and less sweet taste that you can use in any recipe that calls for red snapper. They can be steamed, baked, and sautéd.
Vermilion snapper contains up to 70% of the recommended daily intake of selenium for adults. This is a great antioxidant that supports the formation of white blood cells and the stable function of your thyroid gland.