Suya Snapper Tacos

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

A former Top Chef contestant and author of the award-winning Notes from a Young Black Chef, Kwame Onwuachi describes grilled fish tacos as his favorite taste of summer. His version uses fresh snapper seasoned with a West African spice blend known as suya. Peanut powder is increasingly available in grocery stores and easily found online, but if you want to make your own, you can pulse dry roasted peanuts in a blender until they form a powder, being careful to stop before the peanuts become oily and turn into peanut butter. Place the ground peanuts between paper towels and weigh them down with a heavy object for about 30 minutes to extract the oils and dry out the powder. Originating in West Africa, grains of paradise are aromatic seeds with woodsy notes of nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, ginger and pepper, but you can substitute black pepper if you like. Tart gooseberries are difficult to find out of season—they’re usually available from June to August—but tomatillos make a fine substitute.


For the pico:

  • 2 Tbs. roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 8 gooseberries, quartered, or 4 small tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into 1/8-inch (3-mm) dice
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 serrano chile, finely chopped (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt

For the cabbage slaw:

  • 1 cup (3 oz./90 g) shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup (3 oz./90 g) shredded green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt

For the avocado crema:

  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) sour cream
  • 3 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt

For the suya:  

  • 2 Tbs. peanut powder
  • 1 to 3 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. grains of paradise, ground, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Maggi seasoning cube or chicken bouillon cube, crushed to a fine powder
  • 2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

  • 4 snapper fillets or other white fish, each 5 to 6 oz. (155 to 185 g)
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil as needed
  • 8 small flour tortillas, 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) in diameter
  • Lime wedges for serving


To make the pico, in a bowl, stir together the peanuts, gooseberries, onion, tomatoes, cilantro, honey, serrano chile, lime juice and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or cover and refrigerate up to overnight. Just before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

To make the cabbage slaw, in a large nonreactive bowl, combine the red and green cabbage, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and 2 tsp. salt. Toss until the cabbage is evenly coated. Let stand, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Just before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

To make the avocado crema, prepare a hot fire in a grill, or preheat a grill pan over high heat. Place the avocado halves on the grill and cook, turning once, until lightly charred on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a food processor or blender and add the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice and garlic. Pulse until blended and smooth. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the suya, in a small bowl, stir together the peanut powder, cayenne (using 1 to 3 tsp., according to your preference for spiciness), the grains of paradise, Maggi seasoning, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and ginger.

Season the fish generously on both sides with salt and sprinkle with the suya. Place the fish on a plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill, or preheat a grill pan over high heat. Gently coat the fish with oil to prevent sticking, then place on the grill at a 45-degree angle to the grill grates. Cook for 1 minute, then rotate the fish 90 degrees and cook for 1 minute more. Flip the fish over and repeat until cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and break into large bite-size pieces.

Place the tortillas on the grill and cook, turning once, until lightly charred, about 1 minute per side.

To assemble the tacos, place 2 tortillas on each plate. Arrange the fish in the center of the tortillas, dividing evenly. Top each with about 2 Tbs. cabbage slaw, 1 Tbs. peanut gooseberry pico and 1 Tbs. avocado crema. Serve the tacos with lime wedges alongside. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Kwame Onwuachi