Parchment Baked Fish and Vegetables with Chermoula

This easy weeknight baked fish and vegetable recipe is loaded with fresh herbal flavors from Chermoula, a North African sauce made of parsley, cilantro, garlic, and preserved lemons.

Parchment Baked Fish with North African Chermoula on a plate with a blue and white striped linen underneath.
Sally Vargas

This super easy, all-in-one barramundi fish parchment bake with bell peppers, zucchini, onion, and asparagus gets an herb-forward finish from chermoula, a North African sauce made with cilantro, parsley, and a blend of spices.

This healthy, aromatic dish is low in fat and carbs, but big on flavor. The best part is that this delicious dinner requires little clean up and can be on the table 30 minutes start to finish.

Once you master the parchment wrapping technique for this recipe you can apply it to any variety of protein and vegetable combinations.

The same is true for Chermoula, the sauce comes together in minutes, and provides a solid punch of flavor for this hands-off dinner recipe, but it also makes a delicious dressing, dip, marinade, or topping for grilled vegetables and chicken.

The Fish

Fish fillets, fish steaks, and crustaceans all work for this recipe. I’ve chosen barramundi for its moderate texture and mild flavor.

Make sure to use a fish of similar thickness, such as tilapia, trout, sole or small crustaceans like shrimp or bay scallops. If you’d like to use a thicker cut fish like salmon, halibut or crustaceans like diver scallops, just add five minutes to the cooking time.

You’ll know the fish is done when you touch the parchment from the outside and your finger doesn’t sink fully in—the fish will have some firmness to it. It doesn't need to be completely firm to the touch because it will continue cooking for several additional minutes before you open the packet. Leaving the fish in the oven longer than the suggested cook time might result in an overcooked fillet.

This recipe serves two. You can use either one large 8-ounce fillet cooked in a single packet or use two smaller 4-ounce pieces of fish baked in a single packet. This recipe can be easily doubled; the cook time will remain the same.

What is Chermoula?

This recipe’s flavors rely on a Moroccan sauce called chermoula. Fresh parsley and cilantro are blended with spices, lemon, and olive oil. You’ll have more chermoula than needed for this recipe, so you can use the leftovers on anything from grilled cheese to roast chicken or veggies. It keeps well in the fridge for up to one week and can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Fish en Papillote

The technique of creating a parchment packet is called en papillote and it’s one that you can carry forth to other recipes once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Chicken, vegetables, and seafood can all be wrapped in parchment—it’s great for sealing in flavors and juices and provides your recipe with a beautiful presentation. It also works well for low-fat recipes that rely on fresh herbs for flavor.

Aromatics when working with parchment are key because parchment baking is basically oven steaming, meaning the tightly folded package will bathe the ingredients in whatever you flavor them with.

If you don’t have parchment on hand, you can use aluminum foil. Don’t use wax paper, which would melt in the oven.

To make a parchment paper pouch big enough for this recipe, follow these steps:

  1. Cut off a piece of parchment about 16 inches long. Lay it down on a cookie sheet.
  2. Fold the paper in half lengthwise (short side to short side) pressing to make a crease, then reopen. Place your ingredients on one side of the parchment, putting thinly cut vegetables down first, the fish atop them, and drizzle the chermoula all over.
  3. Fold the other half of the parchment over the ingredients and begin securing the paper down by starting in one corner and folding over in half inch segments, starting each new fold right after the one before ends. You can staple these segments down so that they have no risk of coming undone, especially if it’s your first time doing this. Tuck your final fold underneath the opposite corner of the parchment.
Parchment Baked Fish with North African Chermoula on a plate with a blue and white striped linen underneath.
Sally Vargas

Can You Make Fish en Papillote Ahead of Time?

This dish is best served fresh from the oven but can easily be prepped ahead of time. Fill your parchment with your fish, veggies, and sauce, then refrigerate until ready to bake.

Because we’re working with raw fish, you don’t want to keep this unbaked in the fridge for more than one to two days before baking. Bring the parchment filled fish to room temperature before putting it in the oven so that it bakes evenly.

Best Side Dishes for Parchment Fish and Veggies

This dish is mostly protein and vegetables, so it will go great with a starchy side. I love serving it over couscous, rice, a mashed root veggie, a mixed grain pilaf or orzo.

More Flaky and Fragrant Fish Recipes

Parchment Baked Fish and Vegetables with Chermoula

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 2 servings

Before you get started whip together the chermoula. It only takes a few minutes in the food processor or blender. If you don’t mind a little elbow grease, a large mortar and pestle will also do the trick.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chermoula
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup zucchini, sliced in 1/4-inch-thick semi circles or coins
  • 1/4 cup onion, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 2 (4-ounce) barramundi fish fillets

Method

  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat the oven to 425°F and make the chermoula recipe (It only takes a few minutes).

  2. Make the parchment packets:

    Cut off a piece of parchment about 16 inches long. Lay it down on a cookie sheet. Fold the paper in half lengthwise (short side to short side). Press the fold to make a crease, then reopen.

    Parchment paper with a crease down the middle to make Baked Fish Packet with Chermoula.
    Sally Vargas
  3. Place the ingredients on the parchment paper:

    Place the bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and onion on one half of the parchment paper. Leave enough room around the edges to fold the parchment together later. Add the fish on top of the vegetables and spread 3 tablespoons of chermoula all over.

    Sliced vegetables on half of a piece of parchment paper to make Baked Fish Packet with Chermoula.
    Sally Vargas
    A filet of fish set over a bed of vegetables on parchment paper to make Baked Fish Packet with Chermoula.
    Sally Vargas
    Chermoula sauce spread over fish filet for Baked Fish Packet with Chermoula.
    Sally Vargas
  4. Seal the fish and vegetables in parchment:

    Fold the top piece of parchment over the fish and vegetables. You are going to fold, crease and press the top and the bottom pieces of parchment together to seal the food in the parchment.

    Start at one end and fold the two pieces of parchment together pressing down to seal the folds while working your way around to the other side. Tuck your final fold underneath the parchment so the steam won’t escape while the fish is baking. If you’re finding it difficult to keep the parchment together you can staple it or use aluminum foil, especially if it’s your first time doing this.

    Though there is no twisting involved, the overall appearance will be slightly rolled or twisted looking.

    Folded parchment with fish and vegetables set on a baking sheet to make Barramundi En Papillote.
    Sally Vargas
    Folding parchment on a baking sheet to make Barramundi En Papillote.
    Sally Vargas
    Making a parchment packet for Barramundi En Papillote.
    Sally Vargas
    Barramundi En Papillote on a baking sheet and ready to be baked.
    Sally Vargas
  5. Bake the fish:

    Place the baking sheet with the parchment enrobed fish into the oven and bake the fish until it is feels fairly firm to the touch when you press on the outside of the parchment paper, about 15 minutes.

    You should be able to press your thumb into the fish and your finger and be unable to push fully into it and create a dent; it should instead have a little bit of spring back. Remove from oven.

  6. Let the fish rest and cool slightly:

    Let the fish rest and cool slightly, about 5 minutes. The fish will continue to cook while it rests.

    Baked Barramundi En Papillote in the parchment.
    Sally Vargas
  7. Serve:

    Once the fish has rested use scissors to slice through the parchment paper and transfer the fish and veggies onto a plate.

    Note that hot steam will escape when opening the parchment packet—that’s why it’s imperative to let it cool for a few minutes, so that the steam doesn’t burn you.

    Parchment Baked Fish with North African Chermoula opened with the packet underneath it.
    Sally Vargas