This Moroccan Paprika Fish is flavorful, healthy, and couldn’t be easier to make. Slowly steamed with aromatic herbs and spices, then drizzled in a rich red paprika sauce, it’s an impressive dish that requires very little effort. Whether you’re cooking an easy weeknight dinner or a special holiday meal, you can’t go wrong with this Moroccan-inspired fish recipe.
There are many variations on red paprika-sauced fish in Moroccan cuisine. I like this particular preparation because it’s very easy, light and flavorful. The combination of garlic cloves, sweet red bell peppers and cilantro create an aromatic bed on which the fish steams. Dried chili peppers give it a touch of heat; the end result is fairly mild, but you can up the spice quotient by adding red pepper flakes or a touch of cayenne pepper. The spiced fish is liberally doused in deep red paprika-spiced oil, giving it a wonderful flavor and a very pretty red color.
I originally learned this recipe from Sharone, a family member who is Sephardic Jewish with Moroccan ancestry. It is customary in many Sephardic families to eat fish every Friday night as part of the Shabbat meal. Sharone’s little girl nicknamed this recipe “Maman’s Fish”—Maman is what she calls her grandmother, Sharone’s mom. I like this name, so I have taken to calling it that as well.
You can use any firm white fish fillet for this recipe. We enjoy it with halibut or sustainable sea bass. You want fillets that are thick and firm enough to stand up to a longer simmer; part of what makes the recipe so flavorful is the low and slow cooking process, which allows the fish time to soak up all of the flavors. I think this recipe would be fabulous as the centerpiece of a healthy Seder meal, or for any day of the year. Enjoy!
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Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
- 4 fillets white fish, 8 ounces each (best if you use a firm, dense fish like halibut, sea bass or snapper)
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, cut into large pieces (you may substitute fresh parsley or basil if you prefer)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into long thin strips
- 5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 3 large dried red chili peppers
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp paprika (heaping)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For this recipe, you will need a sauté pan, it’s like a wide, deep skillet with higher sides. Before you start cooking, reserve a few pieces of the cilantro for garnish.Place cilantro, bell pepper slices, garlic and chili peppers in the bottom of the pan to create a “bed” for the fish.Place fish fillets on top of the other ingredients. Season fillets generously with salt and pepper, then sprinkle turmeric evenly across fillets.
- Add 1 ½ cups of water to the pan. Cover pan, turn flame on high, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to medium and uncover the pan. Mixture should be simmering lightly at this point. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, basting fillets periodically, until the water reduces by half and turns yellow.
- In a small bowl, mix together olive oil and paprika with a fork. Pour red oil mixture over the fish fillets, coating them evenly. Let the fish simmer uncovered for 20 minutes more, basting frequently. Fish is done when liquid is reduced to about a quarter of what it was originally, and the fish has turned a rich red color.
- Serve fish and bell peppers together with the grain and/or vegetable of your choice. I like to serve it with a starch like mashed potatoes (or couscous, if it’s not Passover); the red sauce from the pan can be poured over the top of the fish and the potatoes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.