Main dish

Pan Fried Cod in a Citrus Basil Butter Sauce

Looking for a delicious and easy cod recipe? Try this pan-fried cod in a citrus basil butter sauce, perfect for a healthy weeknight dinner.

To recipe
pan fried cod in a citrus basil butter sauce
Recipe insights & TIPS
pan fried cod with sauce in a pan

Cod is one of my favorite types of fish to cook with. Its mild flavor makes it the ideal base for the zesty and fragrant citrus basil sauce, and even though it looks fancy, it’s super easy to make - only taking around 30 minutes. Cod is firm and will stay together while it cooks, but it flakes perfectly once you cut into it. 

It’s important that you give the fish enough time to marinate and soak up all the good flavors of the orange and lemon. I’d leave it in for at least an hour, but the longer you can marinade it, the better. The cod will need to be seared until golden brown, so we recommend using a quality stainless steel pan that will heat it evenly. It usually takes about 3 minutes on each side. Then you can make your sauce, which is the best part! Your kitchen will smell so fresh with the bright citrus scents coupled with the sweet herbal notes of the basil. Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow (it can go from seed to harvest in as little as 3 weeks), and it can grow both inside and outside, so it’s worth investing in your own little plant so you always have it on hand. 

This dish is already very healthy and contains minimal ingredients, but a few simple swaps can be made to make it even lighter. Fish like haddock or tilapia can be used if you’re looking to lower the calorie count. Additionally, swapping out the butter and reducing the amount of olive oil can help bring down the fat content. Always make sure your cod is sustainably sourced by choosing options that carry certifications like MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council).


Can I use frozen cod in this recipe?

Absolutely! Frozen cod works great in this recipe, just make sure to thaw it properly in the fridge before cooking.

What can I serve with pan-fried cod?

This cod pairs wonderfully with sides like steamed asparagus, quinoa, or a fresh salad. Get creative!

Can I make this recipe with a different type of fish?

You can experiment with different types of white fish in this recipe. Some good options are snapper, halibut, or sea bass. 

How do I store pan-fried cod?

To store pan-fried cod, place the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate them. It's best to consume the leftover cod within 2-3 days to ensure it remains safe and retains its quality.

Can I freeze pan-fried cod?

While it's possible to freeze pan-fried cod, it may not maintain its original texture and crispiness when thawed and reheated. If you do choose to freeze it, allow the cod to cool to room temperature first, then wrap it in aluminum foil place it in an airtight container and use it within 1-2 months.

Can I make this dish vegan?

Swap out the butter for a plant-based alternative and replace the cod with a plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh, or a vegan fish substitute,

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This Pan Fried Cod in Basil and Citrus Butter Sauce is a delightful blend of succulent cod, zesty citrus, and fragrant basil, promising a flavor-packed experience that's easy to create in your own kitchen.

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 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Fresh basil

Ingredient Swaps

  • Substitute the butter for margarine or vegan butter.
  • Opt for wild-caught Pacific cod that is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested. 
  • Swap the brown sugar for maple syrup or agave.


  1. Lay the cod filets in a baking dish.
  2. Zest 1 orange and the lemon, then add to the fish. 
  3. Squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon and drizzle over the top of the fish. 
  4. Add ¼ cup of olive oil to the pan and cover. Let the fish marinate for at least one hour. 
  5. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  6. Heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil in a large, oven-safe sauté pan. 
  7. Carefully shake off excess marinade from the fish and keep it on the side. 
  8. Pop the fish into a frying pan and season with salt and pepper. 
  9. Cook over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side. 
  10. Place the pan into the oven to keep the fish warm while you prepare the sauce. 
  11. Melt 2 tbsps of butter in a pan, add in sugar and your leftover marinade. 
  12. Slice the remaining orange and add the juice into the pan, and then bring it to a boil. 
  13. Whisk the sauce until it becomes thick and reduces in volume by about half.
  14. Add about ¼ cup of shredded basil along with the remaining 1 tbsp of butter and whisk until melted. 
  15. Pull the fish out of the oven and spoon the thickened sauce over the top. 
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