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Pan-Fried Fish With Citrus Sauce

Pan-Fried Fish With Citrus Sauce

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The sauce can be made up to 24 hours ahead, kept covered and refrigerated. Mix well before using.


  • 1/2 Cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/2 Cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 Cup lime juice
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons seeded (if desired) and chopped jalapeño or serrano chile, or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Maggi sauce or soy sauce
  • Kosher or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Six 6-ounce tilapia fillets, or other mild white fish fillets, such as sea bass, grouper, red snapper, or rockfish
  • All-purpose flour, for coating the fish
  • Vegetable oil, for frying the fish
  • 12 corn tortillas, warmed


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, jalapeño, and Maggi sauce, and stir to mix well. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

Season the fish fillets with the salt and pepper, to taste. Spread some flour on a large plate and coat each fillet thoroughly on both sides.

Heat ¼-inch vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, and line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Add the fish in batches to avoid crowding, and sear until thoroughly browned on the bottom, for about 3 minutes. (Don't fiddle with the fillets; let them brown completely so they release easily from the pan.)

Turn and sear for about 3 minutes on the second side. (The fish is ready when the thickest part is cooked through and it flakes easily with a fork.) Put the fish on the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.

Transfer the fish to a platter and pour the sauce on top. (Or you can do as I do and flake the fish and serve it drizzled with the sauce, ready to make tacos.) Serve with the corn tortillas.

Nutritional Facts


Calories Per Serving690

Folate equivalent (total)21µg5%

Titus’ Quick Pan-fried Fish with Lemon Butter Sauce

Titus Seilheimer is a fisheries outreach specialist at Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Says Titus, “With a few basic ingredients and tools, you can make a great fish dinner. I use the same basic preparation for my fish, and then cook depending on what method I have available. The stovetop, oven and grill are all just different sources of heat. Simply put the fillets in there and then cook them to temperature!”


  • Rainbow trout, Wisconsin farm-raised (or try with wild-caught Lake Superior whitefish)
  • Homemade rub: 1.5 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Combine in a small bowl.
  • Use the rub to add some flavor (I begin by rubbing the fillet with some olive oil and then adding the rub. The oil will add a little flavor and help the rub stick. You can use your favorite store-bought seasoning, like Old Bay or a Cajun blend, or make the simple homemade rub noted above. Voila! Your fish is now ready to cook.)

Having some options to cook the fish can come in handy. I don’t always want to fire up the grill when it’s -20 or turn on the oven when it’s 95 degrees! And remember: fish cooks quickly, depending on thickness and type, so stay close and have that thermometer at the ready.

Pan cook: Preheat a skillet at medium-high heat. Add a little oil, then put the fish in skin-side down. Flip carefully at 5 minutes, then check the temperature at 10 minutes.

Other option–Roast: Preheat at 400 F. Put the fish in a baking pan skin side down (cooking time depends on size and number of fillets). Check temperature at 8-10 minutes.

Other option–Grill: I like to preheat the grill on high and then cook the fish on indirect heat. If you have a more delicate fish, put it on a piece of aluminum foil. For flavor, you can add some butter and onions to the foil boat. Cook just off the burner (in gas grill) or move coals to the side (with charcoal). Check after 10 minutes.

Sauce it up: Lemon Butter Sauce

This is a quick and easy sauce that you can prepare before you put the fish on the heat. It combines the rich and nutty flavor of brown butter with zippy, fresh citrus. Mastering a quick sauce will add flavor to the fish and will help those folks who don’t love fish.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and finely ground pepper

Directions for the sauce:

1. Place the butter in a light colored saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.
2. Melt butter, stirring occasionally. When the butter turns golden brown and it smells nutty (around 3 minutes), pour into small bowl.
3. Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together. When cooled, adjust lemon and salt to taste.
4. Set aside it will stay pourable for 20-30 minutes.
5. Pour 1 Tbsp over each fillet. Refrigerate extra and use within 1 week, or freeze.

Ingredients for fried fish in honey lemon sauce

1. Fried fish sticks, or fried fish fingers

For the fried fish sticks, we will need fish fillet, lemon juice, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, bread crumbs, water, and oil for deep-frying.

You can use tilapia, red snapper, cod, haddock, pollock, or other firm flesh white fish that are suitable for fish sticks.

If you don&rsquot feel like making your own fried fish sticks from scratch, you can buy fish sticks in the frozen aisle of your supermarket and follow the packaging instruction.

2. Honey lemon sauce

For the honey lemon sauce, we will need unsalted butter, onion, garlic, lemon, honey, chicken stock, salt, sugar, tapioca starch, and scallions.

This sauce is all about lemon, so be sure to use some lovely fresh lemons to get their zest and juice.

Although you can always use lemon concentrate in a pinch, I highly advise waiting until you can get some fresh lemons before trying this recipe.

Deep fried tilapia batons, marinated in lemon juice and salt, coated in all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, water,and bread crumbs.

Pan-Seared Cod Fillets with Citrus Sauce

Citrus and Fish are two ingredients that go perfect together. Like chef Robert Irvine says, "fish is no fish without a splash of lemon." Amazingly, one is low in fat (fish) and second help reduce fat (citrus). Citrus fish is most welcome any day in my home. Especially during spring-summer season, fresh and tantalizing Cod fish dinner is our favorite way to end the day, an easy way.
Just under 25 minutes, you can serve delicious fish dinner with some bread and/or salad on the side.

Cod is a lean variety of fish and cooks very quickly. I often prefer pan-seared or broiled Cod fish rather than grilled. Even though Cod fish is my personal favorite, you can use this citrus sauce over any other grilled fish too. Choose a more sturdy fish if you planning to grill like Halibut or Salmon instead of Cod. Recipe calls for 1 tsp agave syrup. Sweetness of agave balances the tangy citrus sauce, heat of chili paste, and complements the fish. However, you will not taste sweetness of agave in the sauce.
Use of agave is totally optional. In-fact, if orange you using is sweet, feel free to skip the agave. Or If cannot find agave, use regular 1 tsp white sugar or honey.

Cod with Citrus Sauce is an excellent and flavorful way to include some lean protein in family's diet. I am glad to share this easy fish recipe with you. Some steamed rice or a lite citrus salad with this lean citrus fish will make an excellent weekday dinner. If in hurry, broil the fish and in meantime ready the sauce in a pan. Serve homemade, healthy , scrumptious, and lite dinner in no time.

Eat more fish and stay healthy. Enjoy cooking the recipe. And if you like it, pin it for me :)

Pan Seared Fish

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients US Metric

  • 4 to 6 (5-ounce) fish fillets, skin on and bones out (such as halibut, snapper, flounder, salmon, or trout)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil (1 oz)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for serving
  • Chopped fresh herbs, for serving (optional)
  • Homemade Tartar Sauce (optional)


Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the skin side of each fillet with shallow incisions, being careful to cut through the skin but not through the fish. This will help prevent the skin from curling at the edges. Pat the fish completely dry.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the fat to the skillet and let it warm.

Salt both sides of the fish. Add the fish to the pan, skin side down, and let it cook undisturbed until it’s cooked about 2/3 of the way through. The exact timing will depend on the thickness of the fish fillet but figure about 3 minutes for thin fillets such as flounder and about 7 minutes for thick fillets such as salmon. You can baste the fish with the fat as it is cooking if you want but do not move the fish or else the skin will not crisp. You can tell how done the fish is by looking at the side of the fillet and watching where the fish is opaque.

Once the fish is cooked most of the way through and the skin is golden brown and crisp, flip the fish. (If you think the fish is ready to be flipped but try to coax the skin from the skillet with a slender metal spatula and the skin sticks to the pan, give it another 30 seconds or so and try it again.) After you flip the fish so it’s skin side up, cook just until the fillet is cooked through. This should only take a minute or two for thin fillets and about 4 minutes for thick fillets. Keep an eye on the fish as you cook it, as overcooked fish loses its delicate flavor and can become “fishy” tasting and dry.

Arrange the fish on plates and garnish with lemon slices and herbs, if desired. (These seemingly unnecessary garnishes go a long way in imparting flavor to the fish. They also come in handy to cover any blemishes that may have occurred when you stuck the tip of a knife into the fish to check for doneness or where the skin stuck to the skillet.)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This pan fried fish recipe is one of the easiest methods for cooking fish, and you'll get some nice flavor from a crisp skin. I used a combination of olive oil and unsalted butter to cook my halibut fillets. Scoring the skin will definitely prevent the skin from curling up. Halibut fillets are fairly thick and will take about 4 minutes on the skin side and 3 to 4 minutes more on the flesh side. When the fillet has cooked on the skin side for a few minutes, it's best to try to lift up the fish with a spatula. If it releases easily, then you can turn the fish. If not, try again in about 30 seconds. Don’t force it or you may end up with a crumbled fish fillet. For best results, your pan should be well-heated and the fat should be hot before the fish is added to the pan. If you are not sure that your fish is cooked, you can check its internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer—140°F is the correct temperature for properly cooked fish. You will get an additional 5 degrees from carryover cooking after the fish is removed from the pan. The fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork. Lemon slices are all you need to garnish. Serving the fish with the Homemade Tartar Sauce on the site is also a nice enhancement to this dish.

The fish was delish! I served it as an appetizer to guests at a dinner party, and we all agreed that it was a winner. The only reason I wouldn't give this a "10" was because of the mess. When I added the fish to the heated fat, it splattered all over the stove and countertop. With my guests ready to be seated, I didn't have time to clean it up and faced it afterward with all the dishes. I would make sure to pat the fish thoroughly dry before adding it to the hot fat. That said, I used 4- to 6-ounce salmon fillets and cooked them in coconut oil. I scored the skin of each fillet, and the skin didn't curl. The fillets were easy to turn and didn't stick to the bottom of the cast-iron skillet. My 1 1/4-inch-thick fillets took 6 to 7 minutes to cook 2/3 of the way through, then another 4 minutes after they were turned. The recipe calls for flipping the fish. I would suggest turning it carefully, as flipping it just resulted in more splatter. My fillets might have taken longer to cook than the recipe stated because they were still cold from the refrigerator. I did baste the fish with the hot oil as it was cooking. It was somewhat difficult to tell if the fish was done properly, so I had to check it with a fork a couple times to see if it flaked, but this was easily covered up with the lemon slices. Everyone loved the fish, but I noticed that no one touched the skin. I served it alongside a sauce of mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. I would highly recommend this recipe with a caveat—don't make it when you're trying to do other things at the same time. This needs your undivided attention.

This pan seared fish came out well—very moist and delicious. The lemon slices for serving seemed like such a simple addition, but the citrus enhanced the flavor of the fish in a delicate way. I used four 5-ounce rainbow trout fillets, each about 1/2 inch thick. Because of the relative thinness of the fillets, they cooked fairly quickly. I cooked them for 3 minutes on the first side and then flipped them. The skin of one fillet curled a bit during this step. They cooked 2 minutes on the other side, and one more curled. Because the skin was pretty thin, it was tricky to score only that and not cut into the flesh, so that might be the reason for the curling. The skin was not especially crisp. I think I would have had better success on the crispness front had I used a different type of fish and/or thicker fillets and a cast-iron skillet rather than a sauté pan. While my sauté pan was hot, a cast-iron skillet could have gone higher and held the heat better. And using something like salmon fillets, which are thicker, would probably have been more effective with this technique. Even so, these were good. Getting the skin to crisp would be a bonus.

Loving fish as I do, I jumped at the opportunity to test this pan fried fish recipe. I used a couple gorgeous fresh South Carolina flounder from my local fishmonger. The final taste was spectacular. Juicy and perfectly cooked. I cut each flounder into 3 slices. When scoring the skin, make sure to use a very sharp knife and be careful not to cut through to the fish. The skin did not curl up at all. Time-wise, the first side took about 7 minutes and the other side about 5 minutes. Not bad for a weeknight dinner. The fish did stick more than I expected and lost its skin. I'm not sure if this was due to ghee, as it was the first time I tried using ghee to pan-fry fish. I wonder if cooking it in the oven—first warming the cast-iron, then adding the fish, skin side down, and placing it in the oven at 450°—would be best, as this way, we wouldn't have to turn the fish, and the fillets would cook through and still have a nice crisp skin.


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  • 4 (6-oz.) tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups crushed corn tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest plus 2 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 orange)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage (1 head cabbage)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 4 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup drained dill pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Prepare the Tilapia: Sprinkle both sides of tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper. Combine flour, cumin, and coriander in a shallow dish. Place beaten eggs in a second shallow dish place crushed tortilla chips in a third shallow dish. Dredge fillets in flour mixture, dip in eggs, and dredge in tortilla chips, pressing to adhere.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Place 2 fillets in hot oil cook until golden brown on bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn fillets, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 4 minutes. Transfer fillets to a wire rack over a baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200°F oven. Repeat process with remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil and 2 fillets.

Prepare the Citrus Slaw: Stir together olive oil, vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add cabbage, scallions, and parsley toss to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.

Recipe Summary

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle fish evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 2 fillets to pan cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining fillets.

Add white wine to pan cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Combine shallots and remaining ingredients, stirring well with a whisk stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add shallot mixture to pan sauté 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates top each serving with about 3 tablespoons sauce.

Start Cooking

Prepare the Tilapia

Rinse fish in cold water and place in a bowl.

Add the juice and zest of one lemon and one orange. (Zest your citrus first, then juice!)

Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Let sit for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 minutes, in the fridge.

Heat up the olive oil in a wide pan, and add the garlic cloves. Saute just until fragrant, before they turn golden.

Carefully add the fish, skin side down, to the pan with the garlic (you will have to work in batches). Reserve the marinade on the side.

Sprinkle the flesh of the fish with chili pepper flakes. Fry for about three minutes, until the skin is crispy, flip, and fry with the flesh side down another two to three minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer the fish to a plate.

To the remaining olive oil in the pan, add the butter, marinade from the fish, honey, and juice of the remaining two oranges.

Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook until it has thickened and boiled down a bit.

Add the basil, parsley, and thyme.

Serve the fried tilapia over your choice of side, and spoon over the sauce. Enjoy!

Recipe Summary

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Four 5-ounce flounder or sole fillets
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or Meyer lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Parsley leaves, for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the milk. Spread the flour and bread crumbs in 2 separate wide, shallow bowls season with salt.

Dredge the fish in the flour, dusting off the excess. Dip the fish in the egg mixture, then dredge in the bread crumbs. Transfer to a large plate.

In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add 2 fish fillets and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crispy outside and white throughout, about 6 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with another 2 tablespoons of butter and the remaining oil and fish.

Wipe out the skillet. Whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice season with salt. Spoon the sauce over the fish, garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Tools I use

Either way you prepare them the fish is flaky, tender and super moist!

Could you live as a pescatarian? Inquiring minds want to know! Leave me a comment below!

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Enjoy! And have fun cooking!

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