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Easy Lemon Butter Fish in 20 Minutes

This Easy Lemon Butter Fish only takes 20 minutes and a handful of simple ingredients. It’s a delicious and nutritious fish recipe using firm white fish fillets. Pair with rice and vegetables for a healthy weeknight dinner.

Lemon Butter Fish on white plate with fork
This easy fish recipe calls for firm white fish fillets in a simple lemon butter sauce.

Easy Lemon Butter Fish Recipe

A dish like Lemon Butter Fish may be more frequently ordered at restaurants rather than made at home, as it’s not what people tend to think of as Tuesday night fare. But an easy fish recipe can be, and absolutely is a fabulous weeknight dinner. This easy fish recipe with lemon butter sauce goes from stovetop to table top in just 20 minutes, just like our Seared Halibut, Fish with Fruit Salsa, and Perfect Barramundi.

What You’ll Love about This Simple, Healthy Fish Recipe

  • It’s much healthier than most busy weeknight dinners. You’ll feel fantastic about feeding your family an easy cod recipe instead of pizza (though there’s definitely a time and place for good pizza).
  • This is one fish recipe that’s unbelievably quick, coming together in just 20 minutes.
  • You’ll have a delicious fish dinner on the table using simple pantry ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen.
  • You can use a number of firm white fish, including cod, halibut, mahi mahi, bass, or snapper.
  • There’s zero frying involved. Your family will be amazed at your ability to make the best fish recipe without any greasy breading.
Fish in Lemon Butter Sauce in a plate with lemon slices
Your family will love this healthy fish recipe, with BIG flavor and no messy frying involved.

What Fish is Easiest to Cook?

This lemon butter fish recipe is fabulous with any tender, flaky, mild flavored white fish. Any firm white fish such as cod, halibut, snapper, or mahi mahi would work beautifully.

You’ll want four generous pieces of firm white fish fillets that are about 6 inches in length and 1 inch thick. Definitely look for that 1-inch thickness, as thinner fish fillets won’t cook up as nicely and tend to fall apart easily. Also look for fish fillets with the same thickness throughout, so your fish cooks evenly.

Video: Watch Us Make This Recipe

How to Make Fish With Lemon Butter Sauce

Simple Equipment:

Basic Pantry Ingredients:

  • Melted butter (I use salted, but unsalted is fine) – real butter makes a huge difference in flavor, so skip the butter substitutes.
  • Juice and zest of lemon — avoid bottled lemon juice. If your lemon is on the larger size, use less of it.
  • Kosher salt, plus extra to taste – Here’s why we always, always use kosher salt in our cooking.
  • Paprika, for a bit of smoky flavor and natural color
  • Garlic powder; it serves as your weeknight time-saving aromatic. Note that while freshly minced garlic is fantastic for marinades, it can burn easily in the skillet.
  • Onion powder, for the same reasons as above. 
  • Freshly ground black pepper – we always use fresh peppercorns, with whole black tellicherry as our favorite. Use a pepper grinder to grind your black pepper fresh. It makes a huge flavor difference. 
  • Olive oil; we use olive oil for most of our cooking, which is healthier and works really well with most recipes. We even use it in chocolate cake — ridiculously moist, with no trace of olive flavor.  
  • Freshly chopped basil or parsley leaves, for garnish and flavor
  • Lemon slices for serving – fish always looks prettier with freshly sliced lemon slivers on top.
lemon butter fish fillets on white plate
Serve pan fried fish with your choice of grains and vegetables, for a fast and healthy meal.

Easy Lemon Butter Fish Recipe
Commonly Asked Questions

Is this fish recipe healthy?

Firm white fish fillets such as cod, halibut, and snapper are full of lean protein and a great source of omega-3’s and minerals. You can serve the lemon butter sauce on the side, to keep it super low in fat.

What is the healthiest fish to eat?

Tuna and salmon rank high on the list of healthiest fish to eat, but fish like cod and halibut are packed with nutrients as well.

What is the best tasting fish for this recipe?

Almost any firm white fish fillets that are 1-inch thick will taste fabulous using the cooking method below. Cod has a very mild flavor with flaky texture.
Halibut has a mildly sweet flavor and is a bit more robust in texture, which works wonderfully for this recipe. Sea Bass also has a very mild, delicate flavor, with a matching texture.

How long should I cook fish fillets?

Actual cook time will vary, depending on starting temperature of the fish fillets themselves and thickness of the fish. We recommend starting with 2 minutes per side, to avoid over-cooking, as you never want to over-cook fish.

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easy fish recipes

Easy Lemon Butter Fish in 20 Minutes

4.75 from 193 ratings
This Easy Lemon Butter Fish only takes 20 minutes and a handful of ingredients. It's a delicious and nutritious weeknight meal the entire family will devour (even non-fish eaters!)
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 19 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

  • 4 firm white fish fillets, about 6 inches long, 1-inch thickness throughout (cod, halibut, or mahi mahi are great )
  • 3 TB melted butter
  • Juice and zest from 1 medium lemon
  • ½ tsp kosher salt, plus extra to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • freshly chopped basil or parsley leaves, for garnish and flavor
  • extra lemon slices for serving

Instructions

  • Use paper towels to thoroughly pat-dry excess moisture from fish fillets. This step is crucial for fish to brown nicely in pan – otherwise, it will steam instead of brown. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, combine melted butter, lemon juice and zest, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Stir to combine well. Taste and add a bit more kosher salt, if desired.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 tsp kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Evenly press spice mixture onto all sides of fish fillets.
  • In a large, heavy pan over medium high heat, heat up the olive oil until hot. Once your oil is sizzling,  Cook 2 fish fillets at a time to avoid overcrowding (allows for even browning). Cook each side just until fish becomes opaque, feels somewhat firm in the center, and is browned, about 2-3 minutes per side; lightly drizzle some of the lemon butter sauce as you cook, reserving the rest for serving. Take care not to over-cook, as that will result in a tougher texture. Season with extra kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • Serve fish with with remaining lemon butter sauce, basil or parsley, and lemon wedges.

Notes

*Be sure to use coarse kosher salt, not fine table salt. Learn more about kosher salt!
*Actual cook time varies, depending on type, cut, and starting temp of fish. I typically cook 2-3 minutes per side for cold fish fillets that are 1-inch in thickness.
*Check for doneness by lightly pressing fillet centers for firmness. Once it feels somewhat firm, it’s usually done. The key to tender, flaky fish is to not overcook. 
*A large splatter guard helps a ton against random oil splattering during cooking.
*Serve with Perfect Instant Pot Brown Rice or Best Easy Roasted Vegetables Recipe for a healthy meal that happens to be gluten-free.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ♡

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 302kcal | Carbohydrates: 9.9g | Protein: 25.7g | Fat: 19.8g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 88.1mg | Sodium: 158.1mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 3.2g
Course: Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Vegetarian
Method: Skillet
4.75 from 193 votes (142 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




139 comments

    • Susan
    • 5 stars

    Made it tonight and my husband who isn’t a fish lover devoured it!! I loved it too! Excellent easy recipe. Thank you!

      • Amy Dong

      That makes me so happy, Susan 🙂

        • Susan
        • 5 stars

        You’re not going to believe this! When I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner tonight he said he’d like the cod again!! So we had it TWO nights in a row! We both LOVE this recipe. Finally we can have a fish night with NO complaints! THANK YOU!!!!

    • hay
    • 5 stars

    yummy

    • Michael
    • 5 stars

    I combine it with oven baked broccoli flowers (also lots of lemon zest + parmesan), works very well!
    Might add tagliatelle instead of rice next time (solution if your fish falls apart like it did in my case ).
    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Colleen Richardson
    • 5 stars

    It was very good. My stovetop is the pits, so I will make it again as I loved the flavor!

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