Pan-Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce

published Mar 12, 2023
Halibut Recipe
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Halibut in skillet.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton

Sweet, flaky halibut is a true dinnertime luxury. Because the white fish doesn’t come cheap, I like to save it for special occasions. When I do splurge, I want the halibut to be the star. In this recipe, I simply dress pan-seared fillets with a warm lemon caper butter sauce — it’s understated elegance that tastes like a fancy restaurant meal.

What Flavors Go Well with Halibut?

Halibut is a mild white fish, which means it’s quite versatile and pairs well with most flavors. I like to let its pleasant sweetness take center stage, so I generally steer away from overwhelming it with strong spices. Lemon is a classic pairing for all fish, and it’s no different with halibut. Capers, garlic, and butter are also happy matches, and all of these ingredients are featured here.

How Long Does Halibut Need to Be Cooked For?

The time it takes to cook halibut depends on how thick the fillets are. To sear the fish, you’ll place it in a hot pan on one side first for four to five minutes until the underside is golden-brown and the fillets are cooked halfway up the sides. Then, you’ll flip the fillets and continue to cook for three to five minutes more until the fish flakes easily.

What to Serve Halibut With

If you’d like to keep dinner light, serve this halibut with a simple green salad. You can also round out the meal with a few other sides.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Micah Morton

Halibut Recipe

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    small lemon

  • 2 cloves


  • 1 tablespoon


  • 4 tablespoons

    cold unsalted butter

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • 4

    (4 to 6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Finely grate the zest of 1 small lemon (about 1 teaspoon). Juice the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons. Mince 2 garlic cloves. Rinse 1 tablespoon capers well under cold running water, if salt-packed, to remove salt.

  2. Cut 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter into 4 pieces. Coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems of 2 fresh parsley sprigs (about 1 tablespoon). Pat 4 (4 to 6-ounce) skinless halibut fillets dry with paper towels. Season all over with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the halibut and sear undisturbed until well browned on the bottom and the sides are cooked just past halfway up the fillets, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, flip the fillets, and cook until just cooked through and the flesh flakes easily, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates.

  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice mixture and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is almost completely melted before adding the next.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Pour over the halibut and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.