Whole Grilled Snapper in Pipian Sauce

Steven Raichlen shares his recipe for grilled whole snapper topped with traditional pipian sauce all prepared on the Big Green Egg.




  • whole snappers, cleaned, preferably with heads-on, each about 2 lbs (0.9 kg) 
  •  Coarse salt, kosher or sea 
  •  Freshly ground black pepper 
  •  Lime, halved, for serving 
  • sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • sprigs fresh cilantro 
  • poblano chile (green or red), seeded and thinly sliced 
  •  Extra virgin olive oil 

Pipian Sauce

  • fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed 
  • poblano pepper 
  • serrano chiles 
  • 1/2 small onion 
  • cloves garlic, peeled and skewered on a toothpick 
  • scallions, trimmed 
  • romaine lettuce leaves, cut into 1 inch (3 cm) slices 
  • 1 cup (240 ml) hulled pumpkin seeds 
  • 1/2 cups (120 ml) fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 teaspoons (2.5 ml) ground cumin 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lime juice, or more to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water, or more as needed 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
  •  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 



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Step 1

Set the EGG for indirect cooking with a convEGGtor at 450°F/232°C with wood chunks or chips.

Step 2

Generously season the cavities of the fish with salt and pepper, then stuff with the onion, garlic, cilantro, and chile. Pin the cavities shut with toothpicks.

Step 3

Brush the outside of the fish with olive oil, then make three diagonal, parallel slashes on the top side of each to facilitate even cooking.

Step 4

Arrange the stuffed fish on the grill grate, slashed sides up.

Step 5

Grill the fish until it is tender and the internal temperature is at least 145°F/62°C, 30 to 40 minutes, or as needed. Carefully transfer the fish to a platter using a wide spatula.

Pipian Sauce

Step 1

Set the EGG for direct cooking at 500°F/260°C.

Step 2

Brush and oil the grill grate. Grill the tomatillos, poblano, serranos, onion, garlic, scallions, and lettuce leaves until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board to cool to room temperature, then cut into 1 inch (3 cm) pieces.

Step 3

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry cast iron skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until they begin to brown and pop, 3 minutes. Shake the pan as the seeds cook; do not let them burn. Transfer the seeds to a shallow bowl to cool.

Step 4

Set 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of seeds aside for a garnish, then grind the remaining seeds to a fine powder in a food processor, running the machine in short bursts. Work in 1/2 cups (120 ml) of water.

Step 5

Place the grilled vegetables in a food processor and puree. Work in the cilantro, parsley, cumin, and lime juice. Work in an additional 1 cup (240 ml) water, adding more as needed to obtain a thick but pourable sauce.

Step 6

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and cook until dark, thick, and fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent splattering or scorching.

Step 7

Stir in the tomatillo mixture and continue cooking the sauce until thick and richly flavored, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove the sauce from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt to taste and/or more lime juice; the sauce should be highly seasoned. Set the sauce aside and keep it warm.

Step 8

Spoon the Pipian Sauce over or under the fish. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds reserved from the sauce recipe. Serve with grilled limes halves for squeezing.

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