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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 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.

Watch This Recipe in Action

15-Minute Lemon Butter Fish ⭐️

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.

More to Cook and Eat

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

easy fish recipes

Easy Lemon Butter Fish in 20 Minutes

4.70 from 164 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


  • 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


  • 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.


*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

Add a comment

Recipe Rating


    • Christina Munce

    Heading to the market now for the ingredients. This is dinner tonight. Trying to find healthier meals. I can not wait to try this

    • Jane White

    Hi, is there anything I can use to substitute butter?

    • Carol

    I have looked for a fish recipe that reminds me of one I used to have at a wonderful restaurant in a very tiny town. The chef was amazing but alas the restaurant closed. I have missed her seafood dishes tremendously. This recipe has been amazing and I feel that it at least gives me a glimpse of the freshness and flavor that brings me back to that restaurant. Even though this is certainly a simple preparation, the flavor always delivers. I have made this numerous times using halibut, but can imagine that it would work well with other thick flaky fish. Tonight I am preparing it again and will serve over freshly sautéed spinach and orzo. I will make extra sauce to pour over the orzo and spinach. I already know this will be amazing! Thank you.

      • Krid
      • 5 stars

      The recipe was easy and simple. The taste was absolutely delicious. It reminded me of being at a fancy restaurant.k

    • Mary Porter

    Hi Amy!

    This recipe looks amazing. I will definitely give it a try. I hesitate cooking fish in anything but non-stick cookware. I always have issues with fish browning too quickly even at a lower heat. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

    • Carol
    • 5 stars

    As simple as this recipe is, my husband and I who are both very picky about our fish recipes really enjoyed this dish. Easy, simple ingredients, yet very tasty. I used a piece of fresh haddock that had a nice thickness and the flavor and consistency was excellent. The combination of lemon, butter and other seasonings gave just the right level of flavor to make this a dish we will make repeatedly. Thank you!

      • Amy Dong

      So happy you guys enjoyed the flavors!

    • Greg Divine
    • 5 stars

    This recipe was outstanding! I’m a big fish fan to begin with and the seasoning was spot on. The entire family loved it , even my picky eater who thought he didn’t like fish . Cod is a wonderful mild white fish that even those who think they don’t like fish should try . Like my Son , they just may change their tune . It’s all about the seasoning and this recipe has it going on . Thanks for sharing the recipe with us.

      • Amy Dong

      I love when non-fish-eaters taste really great fish and become converted! So happy they loved it, Greg 🙂

    • Beck and Bulow
    • 5 stars

    Wow! Best fish I’ve ever had. Smoked about 5 pounds and the family put the hurt on it! Maybe a pound leftover after dinner.

    • Sonia Naz
    • 5 stars

    My mouth really watered to see your recipe. I’ll try it myself tomorrow. Is it really tasty in real?

    • Shane Murphy
    • 4 stars

    Great recipe however: Iodised Salt, it has an almost undetectable taste. But people it was added for a reason. Goiter and its attendant thyroid problems. How quickly we all forget and easily seduced by the natural is always better nonsense. I use iodised salt for this reason as I am old enough to remember the consequences of iodine deficiency.

    • Janet

    Just a question, I was thinking about making this for Christmas Eve dinner, but will have 15 people, can this be baked in the oven? If so how long would you bake it for, I wouldn’t be able to pan fry and serve that many people….

      • chewoutloud

      Pan fry vs. oven-baked will yield a difference in overall flavor/texture, as you probably know. That said, you can definitely bake these: try 375F on middle rack (do not crowd the baking sheet)…give it 12-15 minutes or just until center is cooked through. Actual cook time depends on thickness of cod fillets. Important: fully dry fillets of excess moisture prior to baking. Pour sauce on finished fillets.

    • Kelly
    • 5 stars

    Great recipe! I made it tonight and will definitely add this to my weekly dinner plan. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • François

    Thanks, for your recipe. Tonight, was my night to create dinner, and it was delightful due to this dish. Bright with lemon. My wife loved it too.

      • chewoutloud

      What a fun idea to take turns creating new dishes. So glad everyone liked this!

    • May
    • 2 stars

    wasn’t working out for me, i’m amateur at cooking fish already and I can’t actually eat it, so i thought it’d be an easy start and that there’d still be hope to at least keep making fish for them, but i couldn’t pull it off. I used cod and it kept falling apart into pieces even when i was as careful as i could be. IDK if that’s just cuz i cut 2 long filets in half to make 4 portions instead of leaving them intact, but also husband said it was very salty, daughter complained about the lemon. I also think there might be too much paprika in it. Also medium high heat was way too high for it as well. THanks though.

      • chewoutloud

      So sorry about that, May – that sounds frustrating for sure. If your cod was falling apart into pieces, my guess is that you’ll have much better luck with cod fillets that are thicker and good quality (either super fresh or flash-frozen.) I love the frozen cod fillets from Costco. If you cut 2 long fillets in half, that means your fillets were on the thinner side, which would contribute to them being too salty/overly seasoned, as they need to be thick fillets for this to work. Same for the medium-high heat. If your fillets are thin, they’ll overcook quickly. Hope that helps, and best of luck with cooking fish again – it’s worth another try 🙂


    Making this for dinner this weekend. I have a question I downloaded this recipe to Carb manager & they came up with the carbs, fat & protein etc. for me. I am confused according to them the serving size is 1.2 oz or 35.39 grams. 1.2 oz? That can’t be. What is the size in ounces you are using to come up with the nutritional value. Thank you Lillian ( Sorry I left this comment under the salmon recipe by mistake )

      • chewoutloud

      It should be for a roughly 6-inch long, 1-inch thick fillet. Each fillet is going to vary in actual ounces. Hope that helps!

    • SeafoamJade

    I have some ocean perch that I want to use. Would that work? And if so, how long is the cooking time?
    Also, can I bake it in the oven? (And if so, how long and at what temp?) TIA!

      • chewoutloud

      As long as the fillets are about 1-inch thick, you should get good results in oven with 350F, about 8-10 minutes.

    • Kathy
    • 5 stars

    Easy and yummy! Husband loved it!! I don’t particularly enjoy cooking fish so happy to have a quick and easy go-to recipe!

      • chewoutloud

      Super awesome, Kathy!

    • Maggiep
    • 5 stars

    My son made this for me and OMG! Found myself craving it all the time and I am making it again tonight. My favorite❤️

      • chewoutloud

      Yay, that’s amazing, Maggie!

    • Pam

    The picture on the Pin says Sea Bass with Citrus Salsa but recipe is for Easy Lemon Butter Fish.

      • chewoutloud

      Pam, was that from Pinterest website, or from our website here?

    • Charry

    Can I use ling,basa,or barramundi fillets? So hard to find cod fillets.

      • chewoutloud

      Charry, you can use either basa or barramundi fillets 🙂 Enjoy!

    • Imani Johnson
    • 5 stars

    Use it to meal prep all the time ! Love and highly recommend

      • chewoutloud

      Yay!! 🙂

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