Nobu miso black cod may not be as trendy as it once was, but rest assured that it was popular for a reason. This buttery, super-savory, gently sweet dish hits all the right notes, and it's truly easy to make. Don't miss it.
Why we love this recipe
The Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa introduced miso black cod to American diners way back in the 1980s at his Beverly Hills restaurant Matsuhisa. This dish became synonymous with the chef and helped launch his storied career and restaurant empire, while easing Americans into familiarity with Japanese cuisine.
Matsuhisa didn't invent this dish from scratch. Preserving fish in a combination of miso and sake lees (the pulp left over from pressing sake) is a traditional method in Japan. But his sweeter, milder version was just right for the American palate.
This recipe, adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook:
- Starts with mild, buttery black cod (a.k.a. sablefish)
- Cures it lightly it in a simple, easy-to-make marinade
- Cooks quickly and easily in a pan, on the grill, or under the broiler
- Leaves you with the better part of a bottle of sake to enjoy with the meal
It takes a bit of advance planning, but it's a super-easy and much-loved choice for a dinner party. Here's how to make it great.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Black cod isn't actually a variety of cod at all, and it's quite different. Also called sablefish and butterfish, it's a deep-sea fish from the northern Pacific Ocean. The mild-flavored flesh is white, buttery, and tender. It's high in "good" fats (long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA, which make it both great to eat and nutritionally popular. You'll use fillets with the skin on for this recipe. Black cod usually has lots of bones, which you can remove with tweezers or just carefully avoid while eating.
- Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine that's pervasive in cooking and in dipping sauces. It's pretty easy to find in grocery stores these days, but you can also buy it here.
- For this recipe, I tend to use a good-quality Junmai or Junmai Gingo sake that I enjoy drinking. (Junmai means there's no no distilled alcohol added, and gingo has to do with the percentage that the rice is polished before brewing.) Bringing the marinade to a boil means that there won't be an appreciable amount of alcohol in the recipe, so it's totally appropriate for your umami-loving kiddos. Got leftover sake? Make ramen eggs, try this fabulous cocktail, or sip it straight.
- White miso paste is made from fermented soybeans. It has a salty, sweet, and savory vibe and is among the most mellow of the miso varieties. Buy it here.
- Safflower oil is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting vegetable oil of choice. You can substitute another oil that has similar properties, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or vegetable oil blend.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make Nobu miso black cod. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Twenty-four to 48 hours in advance, you'll make the easy marinade by boiling the sake and mirin together and then adding the miso and sugar.
- Pour into a baking dish or other shallow container and let cool to room temperature. Add the fish and let it marinate in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
- Pat any excess marinade from the fish and sear it on both sides.
- Transfer to the oven to finish cooking. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
This is a flexible recipe. You can marinate for anywhere between 24 and 72 hours and end up with a fabulous result. Longer marination will result in a bit of a denser flesh, since more curing will occur. The fish in the photos here was in the fridge for about 36 hours, which is plenty of time to create great flavor and a bit of a shellacked exterior.
Yes. You can double the quantity of fish and still use the same amount of marinade. If cooking in pans, use two or cook in batches to prevent crowding while searing.
You'll need to start the process in advance to give the fish time to marinate. I don't recommend cooking it in advance — it only takes a few minutes, and the dish will be at its best shortly after cooking.
That said, leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and are delicious reheated (in the oven, toaster oven, or at half power in the microwave) or served cold.
More favorite easy but special fish recipes
- 4 pieces black cod fillet ( about 6 ounces/170 grams each), skin on
- ½ cup (120 ml) dry sake
- ½ cup (120 ml) mirin
- ½ cup (120 grams) white miso paste
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) safflower oil
- Pat fillets dry with paper towels.
- Combine sake and mirin in a small pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 seconds to cook off alcohol.
- Off the heat, whisk in miso paste and sugar.
- Return pot to medium heat and simmer, whisking constantly, for one minute.
- Pour marinade into a large baking dish and cool to room temperature.
- Place fish, skin-side up, into baking dish with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat on the stovetop.
- Gently wipe off any excess marinade clinging to the fish.
- Carefully pour the oil into the pan.
- Arrange the fish fillets skin-side-up in an uncrowded single layer.
- Cook until the bottom of the fish browns and blackens in spots, about 3 minutes.
- Flip and continue cooking until the skin side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Remove any pin bones from the fish with tweezers before serving (they'll be running in a line down the center of the fillet).
- I like to include the crispy skin in this dish, but you can start with skinless fillets if that's what you can find.
- This is a flexible recipe. You can marinate for anywhere between 24 and 72 hours and end up with a fabulous result. Longer marination will result in a bit of a denser flesh, since more curing will occur. The fish in the photos here was in the fridge for about 36 hours, which is plenty of time to create great flavor and a bit of a shellacked exterior.
- You can double the quantity of fish and still use the same amount of marinade. If cooking in pans, use two or cook in batches to prevent crowding while searing.
- I don't recommend cooking this recipe in advance — it only takes a few minutes, and the dish will be at its best shortly after cooking. That said, leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and are delicious reheated (in the oven, toaster oven, or at half power in the microwave) or served cold.
- Alternative cooking methods: If you prefer, you can broil or grill the fish. To broil, preheat your oven broiler (on high, if there's a choice) with a rack 6 inches below. Broil, flipping halfway through, until fish is browned on top and bottom and just opaque and flaky throughout. Or preheat a well-oiled grill to high. Place fillets skin-side down and cook for about four minutes, then flip carefully with a fish spatula (or two) and continue cooking until top side is browned and fish is just opaque and flaky throughout. Carefully remove from grill and serve skin-side down. At the risk of giving you too many options, one final method is to skip the searing step and simply bake the fish. You can do this on a parchment-lined sheet pan or in a cast iron skillet. Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes.
Adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 220mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 41g