This Pan Fried Cod is the perfect light and healthy protein that is naturally gluten-free! Whip it up in less than 15 minutes and store it away for a healthy meal prep main dish or serve it at your dinner table with hearty side dishes for a well-rounded meal.
Cod is a type of white fish that has mild, yet firm and flaky flesh. It is a great source of lean protein, with a low calorie count and little fat. It’s a healthier choice for any meal.
The taste and texture of cod work well with bold flavors like herbs and spices. It can be cooked many ways including broiled, fried or steamed but pan-searing cod gives it an extra crispy outer layer to make it even tastier.
For this easy cod recipe, the fish is coated in a simple spice mixture made of dried thyme, salt, pepper and a touch of spicy cayenne. It’s pan-seared in hot olive oil until crispy on both sides. The cooked cod is finished with a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavors making it extra fresh.
Serve pan fried cod fillets with delicious sides like fresh garden salad, garlic mashed potatoes, brown rice, instant pot asparagus, roasted turnips and carrots, sauteed swiss chard, mango salad or roasted broccoli and cauliflower. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and used as part of a healthy lunch or dinner the next day.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- This high-protein fish is highly versatile and soaks up any seasonings you use with it.
- The pan-fried cod is fully cooked in 15 minutes or less which makes it a great option for a quick weeknight meal.
- This recipe is naturally gluten free and perfect for any lifestyle.
- You can serve the pan fried cod with any side dish you like – from pasta, rice, vegetables or potatoes.
Ingredients You Need
- Spices – This recipe combines dried thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to make a simple fish seasoning.
- Cod Fillets – Choose fresh, quality cod fillets for the best flavor and texture. You can find cod fillets at most grocery stores or fish markets.
- Olive Oil – Used to sear the fish, a good quality olive oil that has a high smoke point for best results.
- Lemon Juice – Helps to brighten the fish by adding refreshing citrus flavor right at the end of cooking.
How to Make Pan Fried Cod
- Create the spice blend: In a small bowl, whisk together the dried thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne powder.
- Prepare the cod fillets and season cod: Pat the cod dry with a paper towel on both sides. Coat the cod on both sides with the spice mixture until even.
- Cook the cod: Heat up the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the seasoned fish and cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the fish is no longer opaque and has a light golden color.
- Add the lemon juice and serve: Right before the fish is finished cooking, add the lemon juice to the pan and let the juices sear off and evaporate. Serve the fish hot with a sprinkle of fresh parsley along with your favorite side dishes.
To bake the cod in the oven instead of pan frying, bake in an oven preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes. To make the cod in an air fryer, coat an air fryer basket with cooking spray and cook for 10 to 13 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If using frozen cod fish, make sure it is thawed completely and patted completely dry before using in this recipe.
- Cook pan fried cod to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The cod is fully cooked when it has a light golden color on each side and no longer looks opaque in the center.
- Cook time may vary depending on thickness of fillets. Thick fillets will need another 1-2 minutes of cooking time per side.
- Oil should be very hot before adding fish to the pan. This will ensure a classic crispy pan-seared texture.
- For best results, use olive oil with a high smoke point so the fish does not burn.
- Use other dried herbs. You can use any type of dried herbs you like in this recipe such as rosemary, dill, thyme, or basil. A pinch of paprika or garlic powder also tastes great with the fish.
- Omit the cayenne pepper. If you don’t like spicy food, leave out the cayenne pepper or reduce it to a pinch.
- Use another type of mild white fish. If you can’t find cod, use any other mild white fish such as haddock, grouper, tilapia, halibut, or flounder.
- For a rich buttery flavor, pan sear the cod in melted butter instead of olive oil. Serve any remaining butter sauce with the fish.
- Add some fresh garlic cloves to the pan while the fish is cooking for an extra garlicky flavor.
- Make baked cod instead of pan fried cod. The cod in this recipe can also be baked instead of pan-seared. Preheat oven to 400F and bake cod for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through.
- Serve the fish in tacos to make cod fish tacos.
Cod takes approximately 4-6 minutes to pan fry. How long it will take depends on the thickness of your cod, so be sure you are checking until each side is golden brown and fully cooked through before removing from heat.
To fry cod without it falling apart, be sure to use a light coating of oil and heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot before adding the fish. Hot oil will cause a crust to form which will keep the fish together.
Cod is finished cooking when it is golden brown and flakes easily with a fork. You can also test for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish – it should read 145 degrees F when done.
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Pan Fried Cod
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 (1 1/2 pound) cod fish fillet, cut into 5-6 equal pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Stir the thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl.
- Pat the fish dry them generously season them on both sides with the spice blend.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat then cook the fish for 2-3 minutes on both sides or until both sides turn a light golden color.
- One minute before the fish is ready, pour in the lemon juice and let it cook off then serve with your favorite sides. Garnish with freshly copped parsley, if desired.