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Pan fried cod is quick, easy, and restaurant-level good. This basic recipe really lets the beautiful flavor and texture of the fish shine through. Or add some of the suggested enhancements if you like. You can’t go wrong!

pan fried cod with thyme and lemon wedges in a cast iron skillet
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Why we love this recipe

Cooking fish can seem a bit fancy and intimidating at first, but here’s a hot tip. Very often, it’s one of the quickest, easiest, and most flexible ways to put together a healthful, satisfying meal. Start with great fish, and you’re already halfway there.

Pan-fried cod:

  • Is tender, flaky, and fabulous
  • Comes together in about 10 minutes
  • Pairs well with lots of classic side dishes
  • Can be as simple or enhanced as you like

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Cod loins are thick fillets cut from larger fish, typically from the main section of the fillet between the head and dorsal fin. Fillet is a more general term for a piece of fish cut vertically from the backbone to the belly. You can use whichever you’ve got in this recipe and simply adjust the cooking time based on thickness. They should be skinless, boneless, and uncomplicated to cook.
  • A combination of butter and olive oil imparts lots of great flavor. Here and virtually everywhere, I recommend a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows, which sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is widely available in U.S. supermarkets for a reasonable price.
  • All you really need is salt and pepper, but a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a few sprigs of thyme pull more than their weight in the flavor department. You can refer to the section below for additional suggestions if you want to spice things up.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a great batch of pan fried 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.

step by step
  1. Pat the fish pieces dry and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil, butter, garlic, and thyme in a cast iron or nonstick pan.
  3. Add the fish, in two batches if necessary, and leave undisturbed for two to three minutes, until lightly browned on the underside.
  4. Flip once and continue cooking until visibly flaky but still moist and tender. Serve with plenty of lemon.
pan fried cod with green beans and a and lemon wedge on a plate

Expert tips and FAQs

What is cod?

Cod is a large white-fleshed fish known for its dense, flaky mild-favored meat. In the U.S., we get two major varieties: Atlantic cod (from the cold waters of the north Atlantic ocean) and Pacific cod, which is smaller and comes from several of the Pacific coasts, including the U.S. northwest and parts of Asia. I’ve pictured Icelandic (Atlantic) cod here, but you can use either variety to make this recipe.

Cod is similar to haddock, pollack, and whiting, and you could easily substitute one of those in this recipe.

Black cod, on the other hand, is not a member of the cod family at all. It also goes by the names sablefish and butterfish. It’s fattier and lends itself to different preparations (coming soon.)

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Pan fried cod is quick and easy and at its best right after cooking, so I don’t go out of my way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and are fabulous and flexible.

Reheat gently, in the oven or toaster oven wrapped in foil, or at half power in the microwave just until warmed through. Serve as-is or flake into salads, tacos, grain bowls, and more.

Suggested additions

We love this recipe as-is, but cod has a super-flexible flavor profile that accommodates all sorts of enhancements. Try:

  • Two tablespoons of a spice blend like Old Bay, Cajun, or blackened seasoning, sprinkled evenly over the top surface before cooking
  • Adding a minced shallot and 1/4 cup capers to the pan
  • Finishing with a big handful of chopped soft herbs like flat-leaf parsley, chives, cilantro, tarragon, chervil, and/or basil
  • Adding a few anchovy fillets to the oil and butter, letting them melt into the mix
  • Dicing up some Spanish-style chorizo nice and small and frying it with the fish
  • Stirring some white beans into the mix
  • Adding chopped green, black, and/or Kalamata olives to the pan
  • Topping with a big dollop of ratatouille

Serving suggestions

Try pan fried cod with:

More favorite fish recipes

pan fried cod with thyme and lemon wedges in a cast iron skillet

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pan fried cod with thyme and lemon wedges in a cast iron skillet
4.91 from 10 votes

Pan Fried Cod

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Pan fried cod is quick, easy, and restaurant-level good. This basic recipe really lets the beautiful flavor and texture of the fish shine through. Or add some of the suggested enhancements if you like. You can't go wrong!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Total: 11 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • 4 8- ounce pieces cod loin or fillet
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 large sprig thyme
  • Plenty of lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions 

  • Pat the fish dry and sprinkle the top surface evenly with the salt and pepper.
  • In a 12-inch cast iron or nonstick skillet, warm the olive oil, butter, garlic, and thyme over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.
  • Add the cod to the pan seasoned-size down, in two batches if necessary to prevent crowding.
  • Cook without disturbing for two to three minutes, until lightly browned on the underside.
  • Flip once and continue cooking until visibly flaky but still moist and tender, a few additional minutes depending on thickness.
  • Serve with plenty of lemon.

Notes

  1. Cod loins are thick fillets cut from larger fish, typically from the main section of the fillet between the head and dorsal fin. Fillet is a more general term for a piece of fish cut vertically from the backbone to the belly. You can use whichever you've got in this recipe and simply adjust the cooking time based on thickness. They should be skinless, boneless, and uncomplicated to cook.
  2. Pan fried cod is quick and easy and at its best right after cooking, so I don't go out of my way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week and are fabulous and flexible. Reheat gently, in the oven or toaster oven wrapped in foil, or at half power in the microwave just until warmed through. Serve as-is or flake into salads, tacos, grain bowls, and more.

Suggested additions

We love this recipe as-is, but cod has a super-flexible flavor profile that accommodates all sorts of enhancements. Try:
  • Two tablespoons of a spice blend like Old Bay, Cajun, or blackened seasoning, sprinkled evenly over the top surface before cooking
  • Adding a minced shallot and 1/4 cup capers to the pan
  • Finishing with a big handful of chopped soft herbs like flat-leaf parsley, chives, cilantro, tarragon, chervil, and/or basil
  • Adding a few anchovy fillets to the oil and butter, letting them melt into the mix
  • Dicing up some Spanish-style chorizo nice and small and frying it with the fish
  • Stirring some white beans into the mix
  • Adding chopped green, black, and/or Kalamata olives to the pan
  • Topping with a big dollop of ratatouille

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 307kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 52g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 125mg, Sodium: 442mg, Fiber: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Fish + Shellfish
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.91 from 10 votes (10 ratings without comment)

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