Is fish on regular rotation in your house? If not, it absolutely should be for many many reasons. This Pan Fried Fish is the perfect recipe to try whether you’re a fish-newbie or a seasoned fish-pro. It’s ready in under 20 minutes, absolutely delicious, low fat, low carb and nutritious.

White plate with pan fried cod topped with pineapple salsa.

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You’ve probably heard the general rule that a healthy and balanced diet should include at least 2 portions of fish a week. But why?? Because fish is an amazing low-fat protein source that contains a ton of vitamins and minerals and provides many health benefits. Basically fish is a nutritional win-win!

Well, lucky for us Molly Steven’s latest cookbook, All About Dinner, landed in my lap this week and it includes an awesome recipe for Pan Fried Fish that is not only delicious, but also quick, easy and healthy.

Pan fried fish on a white plate next to a cookbook

Molly has written many cookbooks including All About Roasting and All About Braising. Her approach is very conversational and always approachable. She wants everyone to feel comfortable in the kitchen, so she compiled her most beloved recipes in order to pass along her insight and overall love of cooking.

In addition to listing her 15 Habits of Highly Effective Cooks (which I thought was super helpful and spot-on), she compiled her favorite recipes from salads and soups to pastas, fish, poultry, snacks and sweets. She begins each recipe with a wonderful description of the ingredients, why it is one of her favorites and special cooking tips. I loved reading these paragraphs and everyone one made me want to stop what I was doing and get in the kitchen. 

For some reason I think fish gets a bum rap for being difficult to buy and cook. There are all of these questions like what kind of fish is the healthiest, what does it mean to buy sustainable fish, what’s up with mercury in fish and how do I not overcook my fish? Whew, who knew fish could be so confusing? Well, read on and I will attempt to answer all of your fishy questions and demystify the process for pan frying fish. Spoiler alert… it’s super easy and yummy!

Let’s start by chatting about why fish is healthy and why you should absolutely add it to your regular menu rotation. It is always nice to know ahead of time that what you are putting into your body will actually help you reduce the risks for many health-related issues. Who knows… this knowledge might even make the fish taste even better.

pan fried fish on a white plate

Is Pan Fried Fish Healthy

  • It is a low-fat source of protein with white fleshed fish being exceptional low in fat
  • It is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation and combat depression in addition to many other health benefits. We do not produce omega-3 fatty acids, so we must get them through the food we eat.
  • It is considered a heart healthy food because it is packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. 
  • It may boost brain function and reduce mental decline.
  • It is a good source of vitamin D which helps in the maintenance of healthy bones (over 40% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D).

What are the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Lower the risk of heart attack and strokes by lowering blood pressure 
  • Decrease the risk of depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, dementia and diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of arthritis by preventing or reducing inflammation 
  • All fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, but fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, herring and tuna contain the most
  • Omega-3s are also found in nuts and seeds like flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts, plant oil such as flaxseed, soybean and canola oil and fortified foods like eggs, yogurt, juices, milk and soy beverages

Okay, so now you know why you should be eating more fish, but how do you make sure you’re buying the right fish? 

Tips for Buying Fish

  • Buy fish from sustainable sources: Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which provides extremely helpful regional guides based on which fish is abundant and good to eat and which species are overfished and should be avoided. The guide also lists seafood that contains higher levels of mercury or PCBs (a manmade chemical that has been banned since 1979). 
  • Get to know your fishmonger: Ask them when they get their fish deliveries and try to shop on those days. The general rule is that raw fish will last 2 days if stored properly in the fridge.
  • Smell it: Yes, you heard that right. Smell that fish! It should smell like the sea. If it smells really fishy or like ammonia, skip it.
  • Whole fish: Should have clear eyes and red or pink gills. Do not buy fish with cloudy eyes and brown gills.
  • Fillets: Should be shiny, moist and plump. Stay away from fish that looks dull, dry or is starting to separate.

What is mercury and what does it have to do with fish

  • Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal that can damage the central nervous symptom and has been linked to high blood pressure and increased fish of heart attacks.. It is even more of a health concern for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children.
  • Fish and shellfish absorb mercury due to water pollution and it then becomes concentrated in their bodies.
  • Species that are higher on the food chain and therefore live longer such as marlin, tuna, shark, swordfish and king mackerel contain higher concentrations of mercury.
  • Studies have shown that eating a lot of larger species of fish is linked to higher levels of mercury in humans.
  • The health benefits of fish outweigh the risks of mercury exposure as long as you eat it in moderation and stick to the lower level species.

Before I go into the tips for pan frying fish, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite tips that Molly mentions in her book. It is to read the recipe all the way through twice. This was one of the first things I learned in culinary school and it is very important.

It’s very difficult to read something and try to cook at the same time. You will also be able to confirm you have all of the ingredients and tools that you need before you start. This is called mise en place a French culinary term meaning “everything in its place.” Basically get all of your stuff together and then you can start cooking. If you find yourself getting stressed in the kitchen, this simple strategy will be a game changer.

pan fried fish fillets on a white plate

Tips For Pan Frying Fish With Flour

  • Choose the right fish: This method works best for mild-tasting white fish like tilapia, flounder, sole, cod or haddock fillets that are no more than 1 inch thick.
  • Pat the fish dry: Removing excess moisture will help to get just a light coating of flour and ensure better more even browning.
  • Dust the fillets: Lightly dredge the fillets in rice flour or all purpose flour to create a light, crispy and golden crust. If using all purpose flour make sure and shake off all of the excess, so you don’t end up with a gummy texture.
  • Use the right skillet: A sturdy skillet, either nonstick or not, large enough to accommodate the fillets without a lot of extra room. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the skillet: Cook the fish in 2 batches if needed. Overcrowding the pan can result in soggy pale fillets.
  • Sauté the fish in butter and oil: Cook the fish in a combination of neutral-tasting oil like organic canola oil or avocado oil and butter to enhance the flavor and improve the browning of the crust.
  • Use a fish spatula: A narrow and thin fish spatula is very helpful to flip the fish. These fillets are delicate and can break apart easily when flipped. 

Now that you have all of my hopefully super helpful tips, let’s go over exactly how to pan fry those lovely fish fillets, so that you can confidently cook them to delicious perfection. It really is a very simple process that only takes a few minutes, so it is a good idea to have whatever sides you plan to serve with your fish already prepared and ready to go.

How to Pan Fry Fish

  1. Pat the fish dry and season. This is also a good time to check for bones and gently remove them with a paring knife or clean pliers.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low-heat.
  3. Meanwhile lightly dredge the fillets in rice flour or all purpose flour and shake to remove the excess. Set aside on a plate.
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the oil and butter to the skillet. Once the butter has melted swirl the skillet to combine and then add 2 fillets to the pan. 
  5. Cook until the fish is golden on one side (adjusting the heat as necessary to make sure it doesn’t start burning) approximately 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet.
  6. Carefully flip the fillet with a fish spatula and continue cooking until cooked through, about another 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Check for doneness by cutting into a fillet to make sure it is cooked to your liking. Don’t wait for the fish to flake, as that is a sign it is overcooked.
  7. Transfer the fillets to plate and lightly tent with foil to keep warm.
  8. Repeat with the remaining 2 fillets.

What to Serve With Sautéed Fish

  • Today we are serving our fish with a delicious coconut rice and wilted spinach and to keep it really easy topping the fish with a store bought pineapple salsa (Mitchel’s Pineapple Salsa is awesome). The tropical flavors pair really nicely with the mild-flavored cod. If you’re up for it you can make it from scratch using our recipe for Fruit Salsa
  • This fish would be amazing with these Roasted Carrots. 
  • Or if you have a Butternut Squash laying around make this awesome Roasted Butternut Squash.
  • These Simple Skillet Green Beans would be delicious with this pan fried fish and the caper sauce.
  • These Honey Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls would be absolutely yummy with this light dinner.

This Pan Sautéed Fish Recipe is Part of A Meal Prep Plan

This recipe is featured in a Meal Prep Plan which also includes four more make ahead dinners. In this plan, I give you the prep list, shopping list and plan to prep on the weekend, so you can have all your weeknight meals ready to go with 20 minutes (or less) of time in the kitchen! 

Here’s the complete menu:

  1. Monday: Pan Fried Fish with Pineapple Salsa and 10 Minute Coconut Rice with Spinach
  2. Tuesday: Easy Enchiladas with Mexican Slaw
  3. Wednesday: Soupe Au Pistou and Baguette
  4. Thursday: Apple & Ham Quesadillas with Spinach Salad with Mustard Salad Dressing
  5. Friday: Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili, wholesome cornbread

To get the full details, print your shopping list and get started, head over to the plan for the  Meal Prep For The Week  to check it out! 

Please come back and let me know if you try this recipe! We love to hear from you! Leave me a star rating and review! Thanks!!

Print
pan fried fish on a white plate

pan fried fish

  • Author: Stephanie Olson
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Is fish on regular rotation in your house? If not, it absolutely should be for many many reasons. This Pan Fried Fish is the perfect recipe to try whether you’re a fish-newbie or a seasoned fish-pro. It’s ready in under 20 minutes, absolutely delicious, low fat, low carb and nutritious.

 


Scale

Ingredients

4 fish fillets, such as cod or tilapia, about 5 ounces each, patted dry
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup rice flour or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons avocado oil or organic canola oil
1 cup purchased Pineapple Salsa (preferably refrigerated) or Caper Sauce (recipe below)


Instructions

Lay fish on work surface or plate. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.

Place rice flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the fish in the flour and shake to remove excess.

Melt butter in a large skillet in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and then carefully add fish fillets. Cook, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent the butter from burning. Carefully flip the fish over when it is golden on the bottom, 1 to 3 minutes.

Continue cooking until the fish is opaque all the way through, 30 seconds to 2 minutes longer, depending on thickness.

Serve immediately with pineapple salsa or transfer to a plate and tent with foil while making the caper sauce.


Notes

Pineapple salsa can be found with refrigerated tortillas and guacamole in the deli section of large supermarkets and health food stores. If you can’t find it fresh, it will be with the jarred salsas. Go with a brand that has less than 80 mg sodium per serving (like Desert Pepper Trading Company’s Pineapple Salsa) and is made without added sugar or with added sugar further down on the ingredient list. The further down it is, the less there is.

Tip: To Make Caper Sauce: Wipe out skillet but do not wash it. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons chopped shallot, and cook until the shallot is tender, about 1 minute. Add the ½ cup white wine, increase heat to high and cook until the sauce is reduced to a glaze, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon butter. Add 2 teaspoons chopped capers and two tablespoons parsley and 1 tablespoons butter and swirl the pan. Serve the fish with the sauce.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 filet fish and 2 tablespoons sauce
  • Calories: 162
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Sodium: 879 mg
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 2 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 8 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 18 g
  • Cholesterol: 79 mg

Two pictures of pan fried fish with text overlay

pan fried fish