Pescado Zarandeado – Nayarit Style Grilled Fish

We only have a few more weeks of perfect weather left for grilling outdoors here in Canada; while looking for ideas for a weekend barbecue at home, I found myself reminiscing about one of the last outings my sister and I enjoyed with our mother; It was last year, at “El Zarandeado” restaurant, in Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa (No. 3 810, La Lima, 80040 Culiacán Rosales, Sin., Mexico):

The restaurant specializes in seafood, and the fish decorations on display (natural and artificial), served as supporting characters to the seaside hut décor and theme: 

With my late mother, inside El Zarandeado restaurant (April 2019)

Their menu offered a nice variety of fish and other seafood, and the place was named after their specialty, a traditional Mexican grilled fish called pescado zarandeado.   Zarandeado means “shaken” or “disarranged”, and the dish was probably given that name because during grilling, the fish is flipped back and forth several times over a wood fire or hot coals.

We started with octopus tacos, and a platter of fish carnitas, served on a bed of rice and greens:

Our main dish was, of course, the house specialty, a large zarandeado grouper. Opened in a butterfly style to expose the flesh, and grilled to charred perfection, we ordered half simple, and half covered with the classic Sinaloa style fried onions and sweet peppers; it was served with tortillas, a side of pico de gallo salsa, and the soy-sauce-based house condiment:

Platter of zarandeado fish 
My Slice of Mexico

I will probably write more about the appetizers in future posts, but going back to finding inspiration for a weekend barbecue, the grilled fish Zarandeado was just perfect. Several regions in Sinaloa and the neighbouring state of Nayarit claim the conception of pescado zarandeado as their own; although the dish was probably developed in parallel, I am partial to Nayarit.  One of my brothers lived there when I was a teenager, in the small town of San Blas, and that is where I first tried the dish, by the seashore, cooked over an open wood fire. Zarandeado fish is always opened in a butterfly style way, with the spine left intact; the fish is speared with skewers, or placed in a grilling basket before cooking over direct heat on the charcoal grill or a wood fire. In Nayarit, the fish is coated with a special wet rub; I found several Youtube videos with different ingredient lists, but mustard, lime juice and Huichol™, a local bottled red sauce, are the common denominator.  Huichol™ sauce is elusive outside Nayarit, but Valentina™ may serve as a tasty substitution without any loss of flavour, and other bottled red sauces will do in a pinch (Cholula™, Frank’s Red Hot™, etc.) 

Nayarit Style Grilled Fish – Pescado Zarandeado


1 whole white-fleshed fish (around 2 lb, 908 g), such as seabass, snapper, grouper, etc.
1 tbsp Huichol™ sauce, or other bottled red sauce, such as Valentina™, Cholula™, etc.
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp yellow mustard
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp dry oregano, or marjoram
Salt, to taste
Limes, juice from one, plus more, to serve
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
Warm corn tortillas
Shredded cabbage (optional)

First, prepare wet rub by placing hot sauce (I had Valentina™), mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder, black pepper, and oregano in a bowl (photo below, left); mix until well incorporated, then add the juice from one lime, approximately two tablespoons (photo below, right):

Season with salt, to taste (I did not add any), mix thoroughly, and set aside.  

For the fish, I had a seabass a little under one and a half pounds (600 g):

Pat the fish with a paper towel, then prop it on its belly, and hold on to the dorsal fin (at the top); the spine will be exactly below this fin.  With a very sharp knife, slice to one side of the fin (and spine) and all along of it, starting at the base of the head:

Continue the cut all the way to the tail. Be careful to separate the flesh from the spine, but with a pause near the belly, so the two halves remain attached; open the fish butterfly style.  Remove guts, and removing the head is optional (I did):

Discard guts and head (if removed).  Brush both sides of the fish with vegetable oil, then place, skin side down, on rack of a grilling basket; season flesh side with salt, to taste, and spread about 2/3 of the reserved wet rub (photo below, left).  Place rack in the grilling basket, and close (photo below, right):

Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to the remaining wet rub, and mix until a uniform sauce is obtained:

Bring grilling basket and bowl to the cooking area.  For this recipe, set the grill for direct high heat.  Place the fish in the grilling basket in the middle of the grill, with the flesh side down; cook for three minutes, then flip to the skin side down; spread the reserved sauce from the bowl on the meat (photo below, left).  After three minutes, flip to flesh side down again; with the drippings from the added oily sauce, there will be some smoking (photo below, right), which will impart the fish even more flavour: 

Allow to cook on that side just until the sauce has dried and the flesh looks charred.  As seen above, in this case the skin is charred and crispy, but if needed, the fish may be turned one last time, to finish the skin to taste.

Transfer fish to a serving plate, and arrange lime wedges around:

Zarandeado fish
My Slice of Mexico

The fish is tender, juicy and flaky, so the whole spine and bones may be removed easily at this point:

Serve with a pile of warm corn tortillas and shredded cabbage (optional) on the side, and set the bottled red hot sauce on the table, to add to each taco, to taste:

Zarandeado fish taco
My Slice of Mexico

This size was enough for my husband and me, but we would have had more for sure, if the fish had been larger.

*Sigh* It seems like yesterday when I visited my late brother, enjoying delicious pescado zarandeado  and the seashore views in little San Blas, Nayarit:

With my late brother, at his workplace, the School of Aquaculture, San Blas Nayarit, Mexico (May 1978)
By the seashore in San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico (May 1978)

For your convenience, click on the images below, for products available on Amazon™.  DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you:

I am joining What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #267 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.

I am sharing my recipe at Over the Moon #239, graciously hosted by Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, and Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats.  I was thrilled to see my Garibaldi cupcakes featured both at Bev’s party and Marilyn’s party.

I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #499 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am also sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #454 with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.

I am sharing my recipe at Fiesta Friday #343 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, this week co-hosting with Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.

35 thoughts on “Pescado Zarandeado – Nayarit Style Grilled Fish

  1. Looks delicious! I’ve never seen a fish basket like that but what a handy gadget for grilling fish. I also appreciate the guidance on how to prepare a whole fish for grilling.


    1. The basket is handy, with settings for different thicknesses. I always thought the fish were opened from the belly up, not from the dorsal fin down, but this is a good way to locate the spine and not end up detaching the bones.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never tried that. The only whole fish I’ve ever cooked was trout. Looks yummy. Nice family photos and memories. I want to visit San Blas someday – my 2nd great-grandfather had to spend 6 weeks there in 1852, on his way to California in the gold rush.


      1. From Indiana, through New Orleans to Cuba to Panama. Then he got in a sailing ship that didn’t know how to get to California. It was a horrendous journey. I really wonder what it was like for them in San Blas, though they likely slept on the ship at least some of the time.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so sorry about the death of your mother. This is a difficult time to lose a loved one. Thank you for the family photos.

    I really like this way of grilling fish. We have grilled whole fish and fillets but never one butterflied in this way. Definitely will be on my to-cook list. Thank you for bringing it to Fiesta Friday.


  5. I can almost taste the grilled fish, it looks amazing! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday,499 and hope you have a great week!
    Miz Helen

    Liked by 2 people

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