Colombian Fried Fish

Last week I posted the recipe for coconut rice which comes from the northern coast of Colombia. This week we’ll be making the ever so popular whole fried fish which is usually served with coconut rice and patacones (fried green plantain chips). In fact, those three ingredients make up what we call the “bandeja costeña” or “coastal platter”.


One of the most popular fish used in Colombia for this recipe is called “mojarra”, a small, tropical fish that is found in the Caribbean and South America and very similar in taste to tilapia, which is what I usually use here in the US. Many times I will have to buy it frozen because finding fresh tilapia does not happen every day, at least not where I live.

Making this recipe is super easy and it’s packed with flavor even though you season it with very few ingredients. But in all honesty I don’t make it often for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s always deep fried and we rarely eat fried food at home. And secondly, having to be extra careful with the fish bones while eating is a big pain in the neck, I’m not going to lie. But, when I do make it, my family gets really excited, especially my mom and my husband who are big fans of fried fish.

¡Buen Provecho!

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Colombian Fried Whole Fish

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 3.9 from 130 reviews
  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 4 whole small tilapias or mojarras, cleaned and scaled (you can also use red snapper)
  • 2 medium sized limes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Oil for frying (vegetable, canola, corn)


  1. Rinse the fish and dry well with paper towels. With a sharp knife make 3-4 diagonal cuts on both sides of the fish.
  2. Squeeze the juice of ½ lime on each fish. Season with garlic and salt. Make sure the juice and the garlic and salt go inside the cuts you made, as well as inside the cavity. Let the fish rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat about 1 inch (2.54 cm) of oil in a large pan over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 350ºF (180ºC).
  4. Dredge both sides of each fish with the flour, shake off the excess and add them to the hot oil. Pan fry for about 5-7 minutes per side or until golden brown. You may have to do this in batches. Drain over paper towels and serve immediately with Colombian coconut rice, patacones (fried green plantain chips) and a side salad.

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  1. This is a very popular Colombian recipe, mainly in the Colombian Caribbean coast and it's usually made with a fish called "mojarra", which can be primarily found in Central and South America. My only option here in the US would be tilapia, so that's why I used it for this recipe. You can search "Colombian mojarra" or "mojarra colombiana" to find more recipes like this one. =)

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