What Is Branzino, Exactly?

Grilled Whole Branzino with Chermoula

Light, flaky and utterly delicious, branzino is a wildly underrated fish. But what exactly is branzino—and what do you do with it?  

What Is Branzino? 

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

Branzino in ice Getty 5/19/20

Branzino, or European bass, is a type of white fish. Native to the waters off Europe's western and southern coasts, as well as the northern African coast, it’s quite popular in Italian cuisine. 

What Does Branzino Taste Like? 

Mild, flaky, and slightly sweet. Branzino tastes remarkably similar to other types of sea bass and halibut. Typically, it’s served whole with lemons.

Is Branzino Always Served Whole? 

Fried branzino Getty 5/19/20

Though it’s most frequently whole-roasted and accompanied by fresh citrus, branzino can also be grilled, steamed, or baked. 

Not into whole fish? Branzino’s flaky texture makes it easy to incorporate into pastas, soups, stews, and casseroles. 

Get the recipes: 

  • Whole Roasted Branzino
  • Grilled Whole Branzino with Chermoula
  • Lemon-Stuffed Grilled Branzino

Branzino vs. Sea Bass

Seared Sea Bass with Lemon-Olive White Beans

“Sea bass” is not a specific type of fish—it’s a generic term that encompasses many different types of fish. Most of these types aren’t actually bass at all. 

For example: Chilean sea bass, a buttery, thick, and meaty catch, is actually Patagonian toothfish. Blue spotted sea bass and giant sea bass, meanwhile, are grouper. 

Black sea bass, found on the coast of the Southeastern U.S., is, like branzino, a true bass. 

Branzino is distinctive for its light, flaky texture and mild flavor.  

Branzino Substitute

Branzino on plate Getty 5/19/20

If you must find a substitute for branzino, look for a fish that is similarly white, lean, and flaky.  Perfectly acceptable options include:  Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), and whiting.

Where to Buy Branzino in the U.S.

Branzino at market Getty 5/19/20

Depending on where you live, branzino may be available at your local grocery store or fish shop. It’s farmed in regions all over the world, including New England (particularly Connecticut).

If you’re having trouble finding it,remember that it may be sold under the name “European sea bass.”

How to Cook Branzino

Branzino on cutting board Getty 5/19/20

Again, the most common way to cook branzino is to roast or grill it whole. This is because it keeps the flesh moist, while the skin crisps up nicely. 

Our recipe for Lemon-Stuffed Grilled Branzino couldn’t be simpler (granted, you’ll need to know how to scale, gut, and stuff a fish properly—read our fish prep guide here). All you have to do is grill the prepared and stuffed branzino for about seven minutes on each side. 

To roast branzino, just bake at 400° for about four minutes on each side. Switch your oven to broil, then cook the fish for about five more minutes. When it’s skin blisters, you’ll know you’re done. 

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