This is an easy whole-grilled fish recipe, cook in the oven or air-fryer! Perfect for those who love the taste of fresh fish but don't want to deal with the hassle of grilling.
Oven Grilled Whole Fish (Inihaw na Isda)
Back home we call this "inihaw na isda". Inihaw means grilled in Tagalog and "isda"means fish. It is a popular dish for family gatherings and outdoor barbecue and is enjoyed throughout the Philippines.
This version of whole grilled fish we're making is an easy-to-make recipe. Even if you don't have access to a barbecue grill, you can still create a perfectly grilled fish right in your oven or air-fryer. Best of all? You only need a handful of ingredients to make it.
Here's what you need to make whole grilled fish:
Type of Fish
In this recipe, I used Asian sea bass also called barramundi (Apahap in Filipino). Other fishes you can use are:
- Snapper (Maya Maya)
- Pomfret (Pampano)
- Grouper (Lapu-Lapu)
- Barammundi/Sea Bass (Apahap)
- Milkfish (boneless bangus)
- Saba Mackerel
Avoid fish with too many bones, small whole fish like sardines.
Stuffing and Seasonings
- Tomatoes and Onions - classic ingredients of grilled fish in the Philippines. You can also use fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary.
- Lemon wedges - You can also use lime. This will help lessen the "fishy-ness" of the fish.
- Salt and Pepper - Simple seasonings to make the fish tasty and delicious!
- Vegetable Oil - To keep the fish moist and prevent it from sticking to the pan.
- Green Onion - Also known as scallions for garnish and to add another layer of flavor.
How to Make It
Making whole oven grilled fish involves two parts:
Part 1: Preparation
- Use fresh fish - check the signs: eyes should be clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh should be firm and shiny and should bounce back a bit when touched, gills should be bright pink/red and wet, not slimy or dry).
- Have the fish vendor clean and de-scale the fish for convenience. Some may not trim off the fins but this can be easily done at home using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife.
- Make 2 to 3 diagonal slashes into the body of the whole fish to help cook evenly and for the seasoning to get into the flesh.
- Wash the fish and pat dry with paper towel. Drizzle the body and cavity with vegetable oil then season with salt and pepper including the inside of the fish.
- Stuff the fish with onions, tomatoes, and lemon slices. This is the secret to a flavorful and tasty grilled fish.
Part 2: Cooking
Here's how to cook whole fish in the oven:
- Pre-heat the oven at 220C / 430F for 10 minutes. To save time, you can do this while preparing the whole fish.
- Place the prepared whole fish in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top with thin slices of lemon wedges for decoration.
- Oven roast for 20 to 30 minutes until the fish reaches internal temperature of 62C/ 145F. Note that cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish.
If using an air-fryer, set the cooking temperature at 200C/400F. The cooking time is also 20 minutes.
What to serve with Oven Grilled Whole Fish
Grilled fish can be served with a variety of sides and accompaniments, depending on personal preference and the cuisine you are cooking.
Here are a few options:
- Steamed Rice: A staple for many grilled fish dishes, steamed rice pairs well with the savory and slightly salty flavor of grilled fish.
- Roasted Vegetables: Grilled fish goes well with roasted vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, and bell peppers. You can season the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice.
- Salad: A light and refreshing salad made with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pairs well with grilled fish. You can also dress the salad with a vinaigrette or a citrus-based dressing.
- Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables such as corn on the cob, eggplant, or squash can be a great side dish for grilled fish. You can brush the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs before grilling.
- Salsa - A bright and flavorful salsa made with chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime juice can be a delicious complement to grilled fish.
Serve Inihaw na Isda Filipino-style
Inihaw na isda is often served with steamed rice, ensalada or ensaladang talong with salted egg, and a dipping sauce made with calamansi (a small citrus fruit similar to a lime) and soy sauce or soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce. Yum!
Try these recipes next
- Sinigang na Salmon
- Bangus Sisig
- Pasta with Canned Tuna
- Garlic Butter Crab with Sweet Chili Sauce
- Escabeche (Filipino style Sweet and Sour Fish)
Oven Grilled Whole Fish (Inihaw na Isda)
- 700 grams whole fish (cleaned and de-scaled, note 1 and 2)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 small tomato (sliced)
- 2 stalks onion leaves
- ½ onion (slice into wedges)
- ½ lemon (slice into wedges)
- Preheat oven at 220C / 430F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Rinse the fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut two slits across the top on each side, about one inch apart. Rub the body and inside of the cavity with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper inside and out.
- Stuff the fish with slices of tomato, onion, 2 to 3 pieces of lemon and onion leaves. Layer as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with more pepper if preferred.
- Place fish in the baking tray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. To check whether its done, test with a fork at the thickest point. If the fish flake easily and no traces of raw flesh, it's cooked (note 3).
- Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Use fresh fish - check for the signs: eyes are clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh is firm and shiny (it should bounce back a bit when touched), gills should be bright pink/red and wet (not slimy or dry).
- Recommended types of fish: tilapia, red snapper, pomfret (pampano), grouper, barramundi/ sea bass, boneless milkfish (bangus).
- If you have food thermometer, the fish is cooked when it reaches internal temperature of 62C/ 145F. Note that cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish.
- Air-fryer instructions - preheat the air-fryer at 200C/ 400F for 5 minutes. Cook the fish for 20 minutes. Check doneness at 15 minutes.
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