If You Can't Find Branzino, These Fish Options Make A Perfect Substitute

Popular in Mediterranean dishes hailing from Italy and Greece, branzino is also known as European sea bass or the Wolf of the Sea. You'll usually find it served roasted whole, meaning it arrives on your plate with the eyes and bones intact. The skin crisps up nicely, the meat is soft and moist, and it's really not so hard to keep the bones out of your mouth if you know what you're doing.

If you're craving branzino but having trouble finding it at the store, start by looking for it labeled as European sea bass. If it's not there, you'll need to think of a substitute based on what you're trying to make. If you're planning on roasting the fish whole you should choose a mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish that's not too meaty, especially if you've never roasted whole fish before as they're going to be the most forgiving. Options include red snapper, sea bass, or mahi mahi.

Branzino can also be cooked as a filet. If you aren't planning on roasting the whole fish, your options are less limited, but you still want to choose flavors that will pair well with your recipe. Since branzino is a firm, mild white fish, it would make sense to pick another firm, mild white fish. Any of the fish mentioned for the whole roasted version will work for this as well. We gathered this information from the websites of several global seafood distributors.

A deeper dive

If we were to recommend a single substitute, red snapper would probably be our pick. It's widely available all over the world and is fantastic whole or as a filet. Mahi mahi is a close second because it is equally versatile and widely available. Both of these options are white fish with a similarly sweet flavor profile to branzino, so you won't need to shift your recipe around very much if at all. 

If you live in the United States and are attempting to eat close to home, it's worth noting that Red Snapper is harvested from the Gulf of Mexico and along the Southeastern coastline. Mahi mahi is caught primarily around Hawaii, but a significant number are caught off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well. Sea bass is another mild white fish that is great roasted whole. When you're at the store looking for a whole fish, you have the benefit of having more visual cues that give away how fresh the fish is. If you're lucky enough to be shopping at a store with fishmonger, you can also ask them what's fresh.