Pan-Seared Rockfish with Brown Butter Sauce

published Jan 28, 2022
Rockfish Recipe Recipe

This light yet flavorful meal only takes 20 minutes to put together.


Prep10 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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seared Rockfish on a plate with a green salad and bread on the side.
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Rockfish is actually a catchall name for roughly 70 different species of fish. It can also be found labeled as “rock cod” or even “Pacific snapper.” Despite any mislabeling, rockfish is extremely prevalent in open waters and fish counters alike. At the lower end of the price scale when it comes to seafood, it’s a great option to reach for if you’re looking to up your fish intake. 

What Does Rockfish Taste Like?

Rockfish is a white-fleshed fish with a sweet, mild flavor. Its flaky texture is appealing to many palates and is adaptable to many recipes. Rockfish’s mild flavor profile is an excellent canvas for many applications — you can stuff it into fish tacos or batter and fry it. If you have a recipe that calls for any mild, flaky white fish, rockfish would likely be a great fit.

Here I give it a quick coating in a mixture of flour and cornstarch for a crispy finish and make a quick brown butter sauce to pour over the top. The richness of the brown butter is highlighted with nutty sherry vinegar and smoked paprika, which bring a lot of depth to this otherwise mild fish.

Credit: Meleyna Nomura

How Do I Cook Rockfish?

Rockfish is typically sold as boneless fillets, but may be sold whole, especially in Asian markets. Fillets can be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven, or fried. Whole rockfish is better fried or steamed. This recipe was developed with fillets in mind. 

The many species of rockfish also vary widely in size. Some fillets are a perfect portion for one, while others can clock in at a full pound. If you’ve got a larger piece, just cut it crosswise into a few portions. It’ll be easier to maneuver in the pan, as well as serve.

What to Serve with Rockfish

Rockfish fillets cook quickly, so sticking to simple sides means you can get this meal to the table in under 30 minutes. I like some lightly dressed arugula and crusty bread to sop up the rich sauce, but any starch and green vegetable would work well. Some ideas are as follows:

Rockfish Recipe Recipe

This light yet flavorful meal only takes 20 minutes to put together.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1

    small shallot

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 2 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 pound

    rockfish fillets

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 2 tablespoons

    sherry vinegar


  1. Cut 4 tablespoons unsalted butter into cubes. Finely chop 1 small shallot until you have 2 tablespoons shallot. Pick and finely chop the leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh parsley until you have 2 tablespoons. Measure and have ready 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.

  2. Place 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a pie plate or shallow bowl and stir to combine. Pat 1 pound rockfish fillets dry with paper towels. Cut crosswise into 4-ounce portions if needed. Season all over with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, patting off any excess. Place on a plate.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons neutral oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the fish and cook until browned on bottom and they release easily from the pan, about 3 minutes. Flip the fish and cook until cooked through and easily flaking at the thickest part, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.

  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter and stir to help butter melt evenly, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. When the butter starts to smell nutty and turn brown, after about 30 seconds, reduce the heat to low and immediately add the shallot, smoked paprika, and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the shallot softens and is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the strong vinegar scent has cooked off, 30 seconds to 1 minute.Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

  5. Pour the sauce over the fish, taking care to scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice can be substituted for the sherry vinegar.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.