Fish & Seafood/ Jamaican/ Main Dishes & Entrées

Brown Stew Fish

November 9, 2022 (Last Updated: November 10, 2022)

Brown Stew Fish is a delicious, easy and deeply flavoursome Jamaican stewed fish recipe. It’s made by lightly seasoning snapper fish, frying until golden crisp, and simmering it down in a rich brown savoury gravy filled with onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper! Serve for dinner with rice, dumpling or ground provision like yams, potatoes and boiled banana.

jamaican brown stew fish.

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Brown Stew Fish is a delicious, easy and deeply flavoursome Jamaican stewed fish recipe. It’s made by lightly seasoning snapper fish, frying until golden crisp, and simmering it down in a rich brown savoury gravy filled with onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper! Serve for dinner with rice, dumpling or ground provision like yams, potatoes and boiled banana.

Looking for my Jamaican seafood recipes? Try my Jamaican Escovitch Fish, Honey Jerk Shrimp and my Jamaican Coconut Curried Salmon, or my Jamaican Saltfish Fritters next!

jamaican brown stew fish in dutch pot.

Brown Stew Fish (Jamaican Style)

There’s just something about brown stew recipes that’s just too hard not to love! It’s so irresistibly rich and flavoursome, and pairs well with both seafood and a variety of meats. Whether it’s my Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken or this fish recipe, you too will fall in love with the burst of island flavour this recipe provides.

The concept is pretty simple, start by lighty seasoning your snapper fish, then frying until golden and crispy and simmer in a brown savoury gravy. It comes together in about 30 minutes or less, if you prep ahead making it a delicious quick and easy weeknight recipe. So, let’s not linger any further and get into this recipe.

Here’s Why You’ll love this Recipe

  • Quick and Easy – ready in 30 minutes or less, this recipe will have you feeling full and satisfied in no time.
  • Simple and Flavourful – this recipe uses simple ingredients, yet bursts will irresistible island flavour.
  • Versatile – you can essentially use any type of firm white fish for this recipe, whether snapper, kingfish, parrot or even tilapia.
  • Pairs with Many Sides – this dish is amazing to serve alongside many side options including rice like my Jamaican Rice and Peas or ground provision.
jamaican brown stew fish in pan on wooden board.

What is Jamaican Brown Stew?

Jamaican brown stew is a type of dish common in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean where seafood or meat is first fried, seared or browned, then cooked down or simmered in a flavoursome brown gravy.

A key component is the use of either soy sauce, browning, fish and meat sauce etc. that also contributes to the rich brown colour of the gravy.

What Is Brown Stew Fish?

Brown stew fish is a Jamaican stewed fish recipe in which the fish is seasoned, fried and simmered down in a rich brown savoury gravy filled with onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper.

The name is derived from the color of the sauce which becomes a flavourful browned hue once all the ingredients are simmered down.

Brown Stew Fish vs. Escovitch Fish

Both of these dishes are very popular amongst Jamaicans, and are typically eaten for either lunch of dinner. Depending solely on preference, one my choose to enjoy one over the other. However, they are both delicious.

Escovitch Fish is a very popular fried fish dish, served on the island of Jamaican from morning until night. It is fish, often red snapper or sliced king fish fried and then marinated or pickled under a medley of vinegar, spices and vegetables.

fried snapper fish pieces on grey plate.

What Type of Fish to Use

Traditionally, whole snapper, sliced kingfish or goatfish is used. Goatfish, may be difficult to find depending on where you live. You can use whatever fish you prefer although, firmer bodied fish are ideal.

Red Snapper – is one of the most popular of all white fish, and most commonly referenced in Jamaica. It has a firm texture and a slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavour with a leaner flesh often sold whole or in fillets. It can be eaten fried, steamed, escoveitched, jerked, roasted or baked.

Sliced Kingfish – particularly enjoyed by those who don’t like to deal with fish bones, this fish can be bought in 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices. It’s popular for their firm, white, slightly oily flesh. 

Other varieties of fish that can be used are; goatfish, yellowtail snapper, lane snapper or grunt. Ideally, a white, mildly sweet fish with a firmer flesh works well.

What’s the Best Oil for Frying Fish?

The best oil for frying fish is oil that has a high smoke point and neutral flavor so it doesn’t overpower or interfere with the taste of the fish. Some options are canola, sunflower, peanut or safflower oil.

Infuse Oil When Frying Fish

Scotch Bonnet Pepper – before frying fish, add a whole scotch bonnet pepper or slices of scotch bonnet pepper with seeds removed to the pot of oil. This adds a boost of flavour and spice to the oil in which the fish will absorb while cooking.

You can also infuse or “season” your frying oil with thyme sprigs, crushed garlic and pimento seeds for added flavour.

How to Prepare Fish for Cooking

  1. Scale Fish by holding the fish by the tail and using the blade of a knife, scrape off the the scales working towards the head of the fish. 
  2. Clean Fish – cut the underbelly of the fish, and remove the intestines/guts.
  3. Cut Fins and Trim Tail – using kitchen shears, cut off all fins and trim the tail. 
  4. Wash and Pat Dry – Caribbeans typically wash their fish with lime or lemon, rinsing with water and ensuring the cavity is thoroughly cleaned. Then using paper towel or dishcloth, pat dry and set aside. 
  5. Season Fish – proceed with seasoning the fish as desired.
brown stew fish recipe ingredient flatlay.

Ingredients and Ingredient Notes

Fish Seasoning

  • Snapper Fish – this is a red exterior fish, with white flesh that has a firm texture and a slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavour.
  • All Purpose Seasoning – alternatively you can use seafood seasoning or seasoning salt.
  • Salt – ensure you season both the exterior and cavity of the fish. Salt helps the skin to crisp while cooking and prevents sticking.
  • Black Pepper – this adds flavour, along with the salt.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – this is a way to season your oil prior to frying fish and add heat (optional).
  • Lemon – in the language of my mom, lemon “cuts the rawness”.
  • Cooking Oil – use one with a high smoke point and neutral flavour. Canola, sunflower, peanut or safflower oil are great options.

Brown Stew Fish

  • Onion – chopped or julienned.
  • Garlic – minced or finely chopped.
  • Bell Peppers – or any colour (green, red, yellow, orange), chopped or julienned.
  • Tomato – chopped or julienned.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – more or less as desired.
  • Fresh Thyme – roughly chopped.
  • Escallion – green onion, finely chopped.
  • Neutral Cooking Oil – for frying fish.
  • Ketchup – used to thicken the sauce and add a hint of sweetness.
  • Hoisin Sauce – completely optional as traditionally this is not used but I love it in here, and is used to thicken the sauce and add a hint of sweetness. If you don’t have this on hand, use 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp browning.
  • Soy Sauce – this adds colour and depth of flavour to the brown stew.
  • Chicken Broth – or vegetable broth or water

Kitchen Tools Needed to Fry Fish

  • Large Heavy Bottom Pot – cast iron pots hold heat well, large pots require more oil however the temperature will be more stable and will recover more quickly, and deep pans ensure a enough oil can fit to fry the fish.
  • Fish Turner or Flipper – this is a wide spatula, that makes flipping the fish an easier effortless task.
  • Rack and Sheet Pan: place the rack placed over a sheet pan and drain the fish from the oil after it is cooked.
  • Splatter Screen – this is optional, but is helpful in keeping the mess to a minimum.
  • Thermometer – a helpful kitchen tool that reads the heat level of the oil, to ensure optimal temperature for frying.

How to Make Brown Stew Fish

Prep Fish

  1. Check to ensure fish has been properly scaled, fins removed and gutted. Then thoroughly rinse with lemon or lime and cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Season both the outside of the fish and inner cavity with salt, black pepper and all purpose seasoning, then set aside.

Brown Stew Fish

  1. Using a large, non-stick skillet, heat cooking oil over medium high heat. Add fish pieces and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Do not flip until it can freely move (a crisp exterior should have formed on the fish). Remove fish from oil and place on wire rack to drain excess oil; set aside.
  2. Discard oil, leaving about 2 (two) tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Return to stove, and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, escallion, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper and saute until for about a minute. Then add ketchup, hoisin sauce (optional, or brown sugar), soy sauce, and broth or water.
  3. Return fish to skillet by nestling gently into the sauce. Then spoon sauce overtop of fish, increase heat to medium high and cover skillet for about 2-5 minutes. Uncover and spoon sauce overtop fish again, remove from heat, serve and enjoy!

Brown Stew Fish Sauce Recipe (Gravy)

To make brown stew fish sauce or gravy, you can double up on the ingredients (with the exception of the fish) listed in the recipe card below. Then, thicken with a cornstarch slurry consisting of 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon cold water.

You may not need all the cornstarch slurry, however gradually add to sauce, and stir constantly until desired consistency is reached.

brown stew fish sauce (gravy) in pan.

Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • Veggies – try adding more veggies such as okra, a very popular addition to this dish.
  • Fish – you can essentially use any type of firm white fish for this recipe, whether snapper, kingfish, parrot or even tilapia.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – if you’re not able to get your hands on this pepper, you can substitute with habanero pepper or your preferred pepper of choice.

Serving Suggestions and Tips

Serve brown stew fish with Jamaican Rice and Peas or this Vegan Jamaican Bulgur Wheat & Peas with a side of either Jamaican Steamed Cabbage or Jamaican Callaloo.

You can also enjoy with bammy, Jamaican fried dumpling, Jamaican Festival Recipe, roasted breadfruit or hard dough bread. Alternatively, you can serve with white rice, or ground provision like potatoes and yams.

Recipe Notes and Tips for Success

  • Steaming Time – steam your fish for 2 to 5 minutes over medium high heat covered, but no longer to ensure the fish doesn’t get too soggy.
  • Amount of Liquid – you may want to add an additional tbsp or more of stock, depending on how much veggies you have and how firm/soft you want them. Adjust as needed.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – if you prefer a slight heat, leave the pepper whole. If you prefer more spice, slice the pepper and remove the seeds.
  • Frying Fish – do not flip your fish until it can freely move in the pan; this will ensure it stays whole and intact.
  • Don’t Over Fry – once the fish is cooked through (internal temp of 145° F) and has turned golden and crispy, carefully remove the fish from the oil and drain on a wire rack.
fried snapper fish on grey plate.

Can I Make this Ahead of Time?

This dish is best served fresh the day of. However, you can prep the fresh ingredients (vegetables), as well as fish (season) ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Storage Instructions

Store leftovers leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days.

Reheating Instructions

Reheat leftovers by warming in a microwave in 30-second increments until it’s warm through. If stovetop is preferred, heat a pan over medium low heat, add leftover fish and brown stew gravy, cover until warmed through.

jamaican fish stew.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you Freeze Stew Fish?

Yes. Once completely cooled, place fish and the gravy (sauce) into an airtight container and store for up to 3 months.

When do I flip my fish when frying?

Don’t flip your fish until it can freely move in the pan; this will ensure it stays whole and intact.

How to make brown stew fish?

Start by lightly seasoning your fish with salt, black pepper, all purpose seasoning and fry until golden and crisp. Then make your sauce with fresh vegetables and herbs, scotch bonnet pepper, ketchup, soy sauce and hoisin sauce (optional). Lastly, add your fish back to the sauce, cover and let steam then serve and enjoy!

Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!

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jamaican brown stew fish.

Brown Stew Fish

Brown Stew Fish is a delicious, easy and deeply flavoursome Jamaican stewed fish recipe. It's made by lightly seasoning snapper fish, frying until golden crisp, and simmering it down in a rich brown savoury gravy filled with onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper! Serve for dinner with rice, dumpling or ground provision like yams, potatoes and boiled banana.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Jamaican, Main Dishes & Entrees
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 2 servings
Calories 357 kcal

Equipment

  • Non-Stick Pan or Skillet to fry fish
  • Fish Turner or Flipper for turning fish
  • Wire Rack and Sheet Pan for draining oil from fish
  • Splatter Screen to reduce oil splatter

Ingredients
  

Fish Seasoning

  • 1 pound Whole Snapper Fish cleaned and sliced into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp All Purpose Seasoning

Brown Stew Fish

  • 1/2 small Onion chopped or julienned
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced or finely chopped
  • 1/4 Red Bell Peppers or any colour (green, red, yellow, orange), chopped or julienned
  • 1/4 Yellow Bell Pepper or any colour (green, red, yellow, orange), chopped or julienned
  • 1/2 small Tomato chopped or julienned
  • 1/4 Scotch Bonnet Pepper more or less as desired
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme roughly chopped
  • 2 stalk Escallion green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Neutral Cooking Oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp Ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Hoisin Sauce or use (1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp browning)
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Chicken Broth or vegetable broth or water

Instructions
 

Prep Fish

  • Check to ensure fish has been properly scaled, fins removed and gutted. Then thoroughly rinse with lemon or lime and cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Season both the outside of the fish and inner cavity with salt, black pepper and all purpose seasoning, then set aside.

Brown Stew Fish

  • Using a large, non-stick skillet, heat cooking oil over medium high heat. Add fish pieces and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Do not flip until it can freely move (a crisp exterior should have formed on the fish). Remove fish from oil and place on wire rack to drain excess oil; set aside.
  • Discard oil, leaving about 2 (two) tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Return to stove, and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, escallion, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper and saute until for about a minute. Then add ketchup, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and broth or water.
  • Return fish to skillet and gently spoon sauce overtop of fish. Increase heat to medium high and cover skillet for about 2-5 minutes. Uncover and spoon sauce overtop fish again, remove from heat, serve and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Hoisin Sauce – if you do not have this on hand, you can use or use 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp browning instead.
Frying Fish – do not flip your fish until it can freely move in the pan; this will ensure it stays whole and intact.
Don’t Over Fry – once the fish is cooked through (internal temp of 145° F) and has turned golden and crispy, carefully remove the fish from the oil and drain on a wire rack.
Steaming Time – steam your fish for 2 to 5 minutes over medium high heat covered, but no longer to ensure the fish doesn’t get too soggy.
Amount of Liquid – you may want to add an additional tbsp or more of stock, depending on how much veggies you have and how firm/soft you want them. Adjust as needed.
Scotch Bonnet Pepper – if you prefer a slight heat, leave the pepper whole. If you prefer more spice, slice the pepper and remove the seeds,
  •  

Nutrition

Calories: 357kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 48gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 85mgSodium: 1399mgPotassium: 1191mgFiber: 2gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 1171IUVitamin C: 62mgCalcium: 110mgIron: 1mg
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jamaican brown stew fish in pan on wooden board.

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