Main dish

Pan Fried Cod in a Citrus Basil Butter Sauce

An easy and tasty spring time meal of pan fried cod in a light citrus butter sauce and fresh basil. Check out how easy this is to make!

To recipe
pan fried cod in a citrus basil butter sauce
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A light springtime dish with flaky white pan fried cod in a citrus butter sauce. Add some fresh basil to brighten up the color and pack another flavor punch.

Main dish
35 minutes
Total TIME:
50 minutes
15 minutes


  • 2 8 oz white cod filets
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Fresh basil

Ingredient Swaps


  1. Lay the cod filets in a shallow pan or baking dish.
  2. Zest 1 orange and 1 lemon and add zest to the fish.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon you just zested and add to the top of the fish.
  4. Add ¼ cup of the olive oil. Cover and let marinate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  6. In a large oven safe saute pan heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil until hot.
  7. Carefully shake the excess marinade from the fish, saving it, and drop the fish into the pan.
  8. Season the fish with some salt and black pepper.
  9. Cook over a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes and then flip and repeat on the other side.
  10. Place the fish into the oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.
  11. In another smaller pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter and add the sugar and remaining leftover marinade from the fish.
  12. Slice the remaining orange in half and squeeze the juice into the pan.
  13. Bring to a boil whisking regularly until the sauce has thickened slightly and reduced by almost half.
  14. Pass the sauce through a sieve and return to the pan.
  15. Add about ¼ cup of finely shredded basil leaves to the sauce and the remaining 1 tbsp of butter whisking until the butter melts.
  16. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  17. Bring the fish from the oven and place on your plate. Spoon some of the thickened sauce over it.
  18. Add more basil if desired and serve with rice or quinoa o the side.
Recipe insights & TIPS

Pan Fried Cod in a basil and citrus butter sauce. This is so easy to make, and it's perfect for a special dinner or even a quick and light lunch. Chunks of pan fried cod are cooked in a citrus butter basil sauce!

pan fried cod with sauce in a pan

This recipe has been updated since it's original post date

Cod is one of my favorite fish, next to salmon and this pan fried cod is perfect for dinner. It looks fancy but It's super easy to make and only takes about twenty five minutes. Cod is especially perfect for this recipe because of its firmness and ability to stay whole as it cooks.

The first step is to make the marinade and let the cod soak in it for a while. This is where that fresh citrus flavor comes from. The longer you marinade the better the flavor, so I suggest at least an hour. To cook the cod, you'll need a good non-stick pan. Sear the cod on each side for about 3 minutes and then place it into a warm oven while you make the sauce.

FAQ's about making pan fried cod

Can I use any other fish for this recipe? This is a really simple recipe with only a few fresh ingredients to hunt down. If you can't find cod, you could use any firm white fish such as halibut, monkfish, rockfish or sea bass. Salmon, my favorite fish of all time would work well too but just make sure it's Copper River Salmon for the best quality! Cod is also a great fish for any occasion and makes the best fish and chips! If you haven't cooked cod before see my post about how easy it is to cook cod.

Should I use salted or unsalted butter for my pan fried cod? I always tend to use salted butter just because of the added flavor, but if you're watching your salt intake go with unsalted.

Can I use dried basil instead of fresh basil? You could but the results will be nowhere near as good if you skip the fresh basil!

Why is cod such a good fish for this recipe? Cod is a firm fleshed fish meaning it won't break apart like other thinner fish like tilapia or dover sole. That's why cod make the best fish and chips and makes it easy for the batter to stick to the fish. Cod also flakes really well and is very easy to cook

pan fried cod in a basil butter sauce in a bowl
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