Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Become a master of Mexican seafood with these delicious Puerto Vallarta-style recipes

Puerto Vallarta is probably my favorite place in the world. When I close my eyes and think of it, several images come to mind: the lush jungle, the clear beaches of the Pacific coast and the enchanting town. Most importantly, the flavor of traditional Puerto Vallarta seafood recipes is an essential part of my childhood, and something I won’t easily forget.

The resort city on the Mexican Pacific coast has been my family’s vacationing spot for decades. While we’ve witnessed the city’s growth thanks to tourism and the expat community, there are two things that Puerto Vallarta has managed to preserve: the small-town feeling and its traditional and delicious food. 

Despite massive growth in recent years, Puerto Vallarta still feels like a charming fishing village – and has the seafood to match. (Alonso Reyes/Unsplash)

Thanks to its great location, Puerto Vallarta enjoys an amazing array of seafood all year round. The local catch in Puerto Vallarta includes shrimp, sailfish, swordfish, marlin, bream, sawfish, snapper, and many more.

While most of these delicacies can be found along Mexico’s Pacific coast, each region has its own recipes. That is why all seafood restaurants in non-coastal cities in Mexico specify what type of seafood they prepare (i.e. seafood Sinaloa style or Cabo style). 

Today, I’m going to share two staple Puerto Vallarta style seafood recipes (also known as Nayarit style, despite the fact Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco). If you read through the end, you’ll find bonus alcoholic beverage recipes to pair with these delicious dishes.

Zarandeado Fish

Pescado Zarandeado
Pescado Zarandeado, a Puerto Vallarta classic. (Gobierno de Nayarit)

Serves 6-8

Pescado zarandeado is hands down the most famous dish in Puerto Vallarta and the wider Bahía de Banderas region. Its name comes from the zaranda, a pit made of wood used to grill the fish. The secret of this grilled fish lies in the marinade, which is made up of several spices that blend to turn the fish a vivid red. If you don’t have a grill, you can cook this dish in an oven.


1 whole red snapper, opened, scaled and cleaned

50 grams of achiote 

3 chiles de árbol, crushed

¼ onion

1 garlic clove, finely grated

Juice of 1 orange 

Juice of 1 lime (limón verde)

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup water

1 tsp oregano 

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

100g butter 

Corn tortillas 


Warm grill to medium heat or preheat oven to 180 Celsius (350F). 

For the adobo marinade, mix the achiote with chiles, lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, garlic, onion, water, oregano, salt and pepper. Season both sides of the fish fillets with salt and pepper, then brush the top side with melted butter. Place the fish fillet in a container and add the adobo sauce on the flesh side, making sure it covers the entire fish. Leave a little adobo on the side. 

Grill the fish with the skin side down until it is charred (about 8 to 12 minutes). Turn the fish and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes or until charred and the flesh can be easily removed. Add the remaining adobo to the flesh and turn to cook again for about 1 minute. 

If you cook it in the oven, cook it for 8-10 minutes or until the flesh can be easily removed. 

To serve, place the fish on a platter with the flesh upwards. Decorate with sliced onions and serve with tortillas to make tacos. Add your favorite salsa, serve with guacamole and squeeze lime on top. 

The adobo is also ideal for shrimp. 

Pickled Marlin Tacos or Tostadas 

Tostadas de Marlin
Tostadas de Marlin are another staple of my childhood visits to Vallarta. (Nutrioli)

6-7 tostadas  

Marlin tacos and tostadas are very popular in Puerto Vallarta — and extremely easy to prepare. They’re usually served as an appetizer before a pescado zarandeado or main dish. This recipe uses smoked marlin which you can easily find in any supermarket. 


400g smoked marlin, shredded

2 onions, finely sliced

1/4 piece cabbage, finely sliced 

2 cloves garlic finely grated 

2 peeled carrots, shredded

3 bay leaves

1 chipotle chili

2 pickled jalapeño chiles and carrots with 2 tablespoons of pickled juice

Salt and pepper to taste 

Olive oil

Corn tortillas and tostadas 


Place a pan over medium heat and sauté the onion slices until crystalized. Add coarse salt to taste to avoid the onions turning yellow. Once the onion is ready, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes making sure the garlic doesn’t get burned.  

Add smoked marlin and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add bay leaves, season with pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and cabbage, cook for 2-3 minutes, and add pickled chiles, carrots and juice. Sauté for 2-3 minutes and serve.  

Serve on a crispy tostada or on a tortilla to prepare a taco. You can add one pickled chili to each tostada and taco if you like it spicy. 


Bonus cocktail recipes

These marisco dishes pair perfectly with an iced-cold michelada or paloma.


Wash your seafood down with a perfect michelada. (T. Tseng/Flickr)

The michelada is made up of two main ingredients: beer and clamato (tomato and clam)  juice.  

You’ll first need to frost the rim of your glass with lime and salt. Then, add 1 cup of Clamato and the juice of 2 lemons. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste, black seasoning sauce (salsa Maggi), Valentina and salt and pepper. I also like to add Tajin

Mix all the ingredients well. Add ice and beer and enjoy! 


The name of this tequila cocktail is apparently inspired by the mariachi song Paloma, which was traditionally sung in the cantinas where customers drank tequila with mineral water and grapefruit juice. 

Just as with the michelada, frost the rim of your glass with lime and salt. Add a shot of tequila (1-2 oz.) to a glass and mix with the juice of half a lime and a pinch of salt. Add ice and equal parts of pink grapefruit soda and mineral water. Mix well and enjoy.  


Gabriela Solis is a Mexican lawyer turned full-time writer. She was born and raised in Guadalajara and covers business, culture, lifestyle and travel for Mexico News Daily. You can follow her lifestyle blog Dunas y Palmeras.


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