The history of Jamaican Escovitch Fish

About our establishment

Escovitch Fish, a beloved Jamaican dish, has an interesting cultural and historical background. Its origins trace back to the Spanish who controlled Jamaica from 1509 until 1655, when the British took over. The word “Escovitch” is a derivative of the Spanish term “escabeche,” which refers to a method of preserving food in vinegar and then adding vegetables, especially onions and carrots.

The Spanish escabeche found its way to Jamaica through the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Many of them migrated to the New World, including Jamaica, and brought with them their traditional culinary techniques. This included escabeche, a technique they used to preserve fish, which was a staple in their diet due to dietary laws.

As with many dishes in Jamaican cuisine, Escovitch Fish evolved to incorporate local ingredients and tastes. Jamaicans adapted the Spanish escabeche to their liking, adding local ingredients such as Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme. The fish, typically a whole fish or fish fillets, is seasoned, fried until crispy, and then topped with a medley of pickled vegetables (onions, bell peppers, carrots) and a tangy vinegar sauce.

Today, Escovitch Fish is particularly popular during Easter and is often enjoyed on Good Friday, when many Jamaicans abstain from eating meat. However, it’s also a popular street food and can be enjoyed any time of the year.

The enduring popularity of Escovitch Fish is a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Jamaica, highlighting the island’s ability to blend influences from various cultures into something uniquely Jamaican.

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      • 2 whole fish or fish fillets (such as red snapper, tilapia, or sea bream)
      • Juice of 1 lime
      • Salt to taste
      • Black pepper to taste
      • 1 teaspoon allspice (pimento)
      • 1 cup flour (for dredging)
      • 1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
      • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
      • 1 bell pepper (any color), thinly sliced
      • 1 medium carrot, julienned
      • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced (adjust to your heat preference)
      • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
      • 1 cup white vinegar
      • 1 teaspoon sugar

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Clean and Season the Fish

Start by cleaning the fish with lime juice, then rinse and pat dry. Season the fish inside and out (or both sides if you’re using fillets) with salt, black pepper, and allspice. Let the fish marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Dredge and Fry the Fish

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge the fish in flour, shaking off the excess. Fry the fish in the hot oil until golden brown and crispy on both sides. This should take about 5-7 minutes per side, depending on the size and thickness of the fish. Once done, remove the fish from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Prepare the Pickled Vegetables

In the same skillet, reduce the heat to medium and add the sliced onion, bell pepper, julienned carrot, and sliced Scotch bonnet pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are softened but still vibrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs, vinegar, and sugar, and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

Assemble the Dish

Pour the hot pickled vegetables and vinegar sauce over the fried fish. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the fish to absorb some of the flavors.


Your Jamaican Escovitch Fish is ready to be served! It’s traditionally served with fried dumplings or hardo bread, but you can also serve it with your choice of side.

Please remember that Scotch bonnet peppers are very hot, so handle them with care and adjust the quantity as per your preference. Always use gloves to avoid skin irritation.

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