If you like seafood, you are going to LOVE whole roasted branzino! Branzino is a flaky European whitefish with a light, sweet flavor. And don’t be intimidated to make a whole roasted fish! It’s quick to make, plus cooking a whole fish is a simple way to maximize flavor.
If you’ve never cooked a whole fish, now is the time! Leaving the bones inside the body, as well as leaving the head on the fish, increases flavor while roasting. And if you love sea bass, you are in for a treat! Branzino (also called European sea bass) is so light and fresh, especially when cooked with lemon and fresh herbs.
This recipe uses a very straightforward method to cook a whole fish. If you buy branzino from a fishmonger, ask them to scale, gut, and clean the fish and to leave the head on. They’ll do everything, so all you have to do is cook! I love to serve roasted branzino with a refreshing side dish like this broccoli apple slaw. It’s also terrific, topped with this mango cucumber salsa!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
✔️You can have it on the table in less than 30 minutes.
✔️Whole branzino has a beautiful texture and mild sweet flavor.
✔️It’s flexible to make with any citrus or herbs you like!
- Branzino - also called European or Mediterranean sea bass, is often served roasted whole with lemon and fresh herbs. Look for fish with shiny skin, clear eyes, and no odor or discoloration.
- Fresh Herbs - parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, dill, or even fennel all work well.
- Olive Oil - use any cooking oil you like. I prefer olive oil or avocado oil.
- Lemon - lime, orange, or even grapefruit are great substitutes for lemon.
- Fresh Herbs - it doesn’t really matter which herbs you choose as long as they’re fresh. You can use dried herbs, however, the flavor profile of the branzino will change.
- Branzino - this recipe also works well with other whole fish such as black sea bass, red snapper, or rainbow trout.
STEP 1 - Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set the oven rack in the center of the oven.
STEP 2 - Rinse the fish under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, make 2 to 3 slits on each side of the fish along the body. Don’t cut too deep into the fish. (This is an optional step and infuses extra flavor)
STEP 3 - Rub the outside of the entire fish with a bit of olive oil.
STEP 4 - generously season the inside cavity, slits, and both sides of the fish, with salt and pepper or a citrus salt.
STEP 5 - stuff the lemon slices and fresh herbs inside the fish cavity.
STEP 6 - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the branzino on the lined baking sheet.
STEP 7 - roast the stuffed branzino in the preheated oven and cook until the skin is crisp and the inside is opaque, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the fish to a platter and serve immediately with extra lemon wedges and more fresh herbs.
- If you like crispy skin on a whole roasted branzino, don't cook with lemon slices on top.
- Try a citrus seasoned salt like this, or this delicious salt blend by La Boite instead of regular salt.
- Make grilled branzino instead! Simply follow the recipe instructions but cook it on a hot grill instead.
- Branzino is a very bony fish. Be mindful of small bones when serving and eating.
- The skin is delicious when crispy!
- Branzino is great served with a fresh salad, pesto, or mango cucumber salsa salad.
How to Fillet Branzino
- Remove the lemon and herbs from the cavity of the fish.
- Using a knife or two spoons, remove the head and tail.
- Use a sharp knife to slice along the back of the fish (from head to tail) to remove the backbone. Be careful as it’s quite bony!
- Use a fish spatula or a spoon to gently lift the top fillet portion of the cooked fish and transfer it to a clean plate. Remove any larger bones closer to where the head was and any bones along the belly.
- Remove the spine and any remaining bones. Place the second fillet on the serving plate.
- serve with lemon wedges and fresh herbs, like cilantro or thyme sprigs
- with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkle of capers
- with a side salad of fennel, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs
- with pesto or chimichurri sauce on top
Branzino is a light, flaky whitefish native to Europe. Also called European or Mediterranean sea bass, Loup de Mer, or Lavraki. It’s a delicate fish and is terrific prepared whole or as fillets.
You can, and many people do, however, it’s really good when it’s crispy!
Branzino is a delicate fish. It is best-prepared whole, grilled, roasted, or baked. When preparing fillets, it is better to bake, steam, or poach in a sauce or liquid, infusing flavor.
More Fish Recipes
Lastly, if you try this recipe, I would love to hear about it! Be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! And if you snapped some photos, tag and share them with me on Instagram.
whole roasted branzino with lemon and fresh herbs
- 2 whole branzino (about 1-1.25lbs each), cleaned, scalled and gutted
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- citrus seasoned salt, or salt and pepper
- 1 lemon , sliced into half rounds
- 1 bunch fresh herbs , your choice of cilantro, thyme, mint, parsley, or dill
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set the oven rack in the center of the oven.
- With a sharp knife, make 2 to 3 slits or incisions along the body on each side of the fish. Make the cuts at an angle but don't cut too deep into the fish. (This is an optional step and infuses extra flavor)
- Rinse and pat dry the fish with paper towels. Rub the fish with olive oil, and generously season the cavity, slits, and both sides with salt, pepper, or swap for a citrus-flavored salt.
- Stuff the cavity with 2 to 3 lemon or lime slices and some fresh herbs, like parsley, dill, or thyme sprigs.
- Transfer the fish to a parchment-lined baking sheet, place in a preheated oven, and roast until the skin is crisp and the inside is opaque, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
- Transfer the fish to a platter and serve.
- For crispy skin, avoid putting lemon rounds / slices on top of the fish.
- You can use any kind of citrus: lemons, limes, oranges all work well.
- It doesn’t really matter which herbs you choose as long as they are fresh.
- Serve with lemon wedges
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