Fish in Veracruz Sauce is a delicious 30-minute, one-pan dish featuring white fish fillets simmered in a zesty tomato sauce flavored with capers, olives, and onions. It’s so simple and delicious that you’ll rush to add it to your weekly dinner rotation!
I first tried Veracruz-style fish, pescado a la Veracruzana, at a restaurant in Cancun, and I was hooked (pardon the pun). And because dining out equals research and development for me, I came home ready to recreate a paleo, Whole30 and keto version of this classic Mexican seafood dish with easy-to-find pantry staples. It took me a while to perfect this dish, but my version of Fish in Veracruz Sauce can be on the table in less than 30 minutes!
What is Veracruz sauce?
Veracruz sauce is a tomato-based sauce from the region in the Gulf Coast of Mexico that features tomatoes, capers, olives, oregano and bay leaves. If you’re thinking that this sauce is reminiscent of a Mediterranean dish, you aren’t wrong—these are definitely classic Mediterranean ingredients! The Port of Veracruz is one of the oldest in Mexico and many regional Veracruz dishes—like this sauce—incorporate Mediterranean components that were originally brought over by Spaniards.
This sauce is super flavorful but it isn’t supposed to be spicy, so it’s perfect for folks who can’t handle the heat. And because I love shortcuts to deliciousness, my version utilizes canned fire roasted diced tomatoes to add a smoky depth to the sauce without adding extra prep time!
Feel free to change up the protein!
Although this dish is traditionally cooked with whole fish or fish fillets (e.g., red snapper, tilapia, cod, sea bass, etc.), you can definitely substitute a different protein. Some tasty swaps include shrimp, scallops, and boneless and skinless chicken breast or thighs. Simply season the protein with salt and pepper before simmering in the sauce until cooked through!
- Boneless, skinless white fish fillets: Although this dish is typically made with whole red snapper, I like to use boneless and skinless white fish fillets to make a fast and simple weeknight dish. Chilean sea bass, cod, tilapia, and halibut are great choices—just make sure they’re all the same thickness to ensure even cooking.
- Fire-roasted diced canned tomatoes: I love the ease that comes with dumping in a whole can of fire-roasted diced canned tomatoes—no cutting, roasting or draining necessary!
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Yellow onion: The thinner you cut the onions, the faster they’ll soften in the skillet!
- Anaheim pepper: I add diced Anaheim pepper for flavor rather than heat—this dish isn’t traditionally spicy so an Anaheim pepper, which is just a touch spicier than a bell pepper, is perfect.
- Garlic cloves
- Green olives: I love using pitted Castelvetrano olives because they’re nice and buttery.
- Capers: Add a delightful tang and acidity that complements the fish.
- Dried oregano
- Dried bay leaf
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh cilantro
How to make fish in Veracruz sauce
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the oil.
Toss in the onion and sprinkle on some salt. Cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the peppers and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the canned tomatoes, green olives, capers, dried oregano and bay leaf.
Bring the sauce to a boil and decrease the heat to maintain a simmer.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Nestle the fish filets into the sauce and place some of the sauce on top of each filet.
Cover the skillet and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 140°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Sprinkle on some fresh cilantro…
…and serve the fish with lime wedges so you can squeeze on some fresh lime juice before taking a bite.
To keep this paleo, Whole30, and keto, you can serve this dish with cauliflower rice in lieu of white rice. It also tastes great served with my Instant Pot Crispy Potatoes!
Other Paleo Seafood Dishes
- Hash Brown Fish (page 150 in Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!)
- Ginger Scallion Fish Fillets (page 156 in Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!)
- Umami Fried Shrimp (page 164 in Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!)
- Lobster Tails with Thai Red Curry Sauce (page 170 in Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!)
- Air Fryer Fish Sticks
- Fried Calamari
- Shrimp and Avocado Salad
- Paleo Walnut Shrimp
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Fish in Veracruz Sauce (Paleo, Keto, Whole30, Gluten Free)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 Anaheim pepper seeded and finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 14.5 ounce canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
- ½ cup green olives pitted and cut in half
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 dried bay leaf
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 white fish filets (skinless and boneless) about 6 ounces each and 1-inch thick (sea bass, red snapper, halibut, cod, or tilapia)
- ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil when the pan is hot.
- Toss in the onion and sprinkle on some salt and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped pepper and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, green olives, capers, dried oregano, and bay leaf.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and decrease the heat to maintain a simmer. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if needed.
- Pat the fish filets dry with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
- Nestle the fish filets into the sauce and place some of the sauce on top of each one. Cover the skillet and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 140°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Sprinkle on some fresh cilantro and serve the fish with lime wedges so you can squeeze on some fresh lime juice on before taking a bite.
Is there a substitute for anaheim peppers that you would recommend?
Michelle Tam says
You can use a jalapeno pepper but it will be spicier! If you don’t want it too spicy, add 1/2 a bell pepper.
Inna S says
Such a great recipe! I made it several times already and my family loves it. The sauce is amazing. Thanks for another keeper of a recipe
Could you use haddock?
Michelle Tam says
This recipe was so tasty and delicious. Everyone my family really enjoyed it. This will absolutely be made again. Thanks.
This was absolutely delicious. I gave the recipe to my husband to create and now he thinks he’s finally becoming a good cook! This is definitely a good option for having company over. Thanks Michelle!
Deb Merle says
This is delicious!! If it seems not quit done in 10 minutes – don’t keep cooking it – trust the recipe!
Super tasty and easy! I left off the pepper for my spice sensitive kiddo but will try a bell pepper next time.
I would love to make this recipe when we are in Maui! What Hawaiian fish do you recommend?
Regina Chan says
Any white fish will do!
This dish looks perfect and knowing all your other recipes I have tried i am 100% sure it will turn out amazing. Can this sauce be made ahead and frozen in portion for meal preps?
Regina Chan says
I haven’t tried but I don’t see why not!
Texas Judy says
Make this often! For color I add red orange green and yellow peppers chopped small. For company taste I add a fourth cup of Sherry and mix.
It looks beautiful on the table not to mention it tastes wonderful.
We loved this recipe. Have made this before with regular diced tomatoes but the fire-roasted upped the flavor. Forgot to add the pepper until late in the game but it still came out really good. Definitely will make again soon.
Really good and easy.