Branzino al sale (salt baked sea bass)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Categories: gluten-free, dairy-free, quick and easy
Baking food in a salt crust uses the same principle as the earth oven but is infinitely more convenient. The vast quantities of salt required leave a sense of uneasiness in even the least health conscious cook and spark fears of inedible, overly salted food in even the most accomplished cook. Fear not, the salt creates a crust but does not overly permeate the skin of the fish. The salt acts as an insulation, so it cooks gently but up to a third faster than simply baking.
You can use most types of fish for this, big and small, just adjust the salt and the baking time. The most traditional fish used in Italy are dentex, gilthead bream, striped red mullet, plaice, and sole. The skin of the fish is not used in this case so is peeled off along with the salt casing. The general ratio is 1 kilo of fish to 1.5 kilos of salt, so adjust accordingly. The baking time is 10 minutes for every 2 cm of thickness of the fish.
Recipe type: Main Course (Secondo)
Cuisine: Inter-regional
Serves: 6
  • 1.5 kilos coarse grain sea salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 kilo sea bass, gutted and washed well, can be scaled or not (can use most fish but I prefer to not use flat fish)
  • Aromatics (optional) such as sliced lemon, lemon zest, fennel fronds, fennel seeds, and herbs such as basil, parsley, or dill
  • 60 mls extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  1. Mix the salt with the egg white.
  2. If you like you can add some aromatics to the salt and/or stuff the fish cavity with them.
  3. Otherwise get a baking pan large enough to hold your fish with 2 cms of space surrounding the fish. Put half of the salt in the bottom of the pan so that there are 2 cm of salt surrounding the fish, put the fish on top.
  4. Add the remaining salt, ensuring even cover and that the fish is completely covered.
  5. Bake 20 minutes (or 10 minutes per 2 cms of thickness of the fish). To check if the fish is done, poke a metal skewer or a knife tip through the salt through the thickest part where the head joins the body. Remove and touch it to your lips, if it is hot then the fish is ready.
  6. Bring the whole fish to the table and crack open the salt seal so that everyone can enjoy the perfume.
  7. Remove the salt in chunks and brush off the rest, peel off the skin and remove the meat with a palette knife to a serving plate, remove the bones and with the palette knife remove the rest of the meat to the serving plate. Drizzle with really nice extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve immediately.
Recipe by Living a Life in Colour at