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This easy pan seared halibut recipe with lemon butter sauce will show you how to cook halibut perfectly every time! Just like baked Chilean sea bass, this pan fried halibut could pass for a special meal at a fancy restaurant — but it’s surprisingly fast and easy to make.
Cooking halibut this way tastes decadent, thanks to the butter lemon sauce for halibut, but it’s healthy, too! If you have any hesitations about fish, halibut recipes (like this one) taste mild and just might turn you into a fan. Try it out for an easy dinner to impress.
Why You’ll Love This Pan Seared Halibut Recipe
- Tender, flaky white fish texture
- Lemony, buttery flavor
- Easy to make
- Ready in just 20 minutes
- Fancy dish for a special occasion, but simple enough for a weeknight
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for cooking halibut, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Halibut – Get four 6-ounce halibut fillets, or one large 1.5-pound fillet that you can cut into four smaller ones. You can get it with or without skin. (If you get the kind with skin, cook skin side down first.)
- Spices – Garlic powder, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Oil – I used olive oil, but any heat-safe oil, such as avocado oil, will also work.
Lemon Butter Sauce:
- Butter – I used salted butter, but you can also use unsalted and add salt to taste.
- Lemon Juice – For the best flavor, I highly recommend juicing a fresh lemon rather than using bottled.
How To Cook Halibut In A Pan
This section shows how to make the best halibut recipe, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Dry. Use paper towels to pat the halibut fillets dry. This will ensure even browning, so don’t skip this step!
- Season. Sprinkle the fish generously on both sides with garlic powder, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Sear halibut fillets. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the fish in a single layer, and sear, without moving, for 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip over, and sear for another 2-4 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.
TIP: Avoid moving the fish around!
Keeping it one spot prevents tearing and helps it get a nice, browned sear.
How To Make Sauce For Halibut
Once your pan fried halibut is done cooking, it’s time to make the lemon butter sauce! You can simply remove the fish, cover to keep warm, and re-use the same pan:
- Brown butter. Reduce pan to medium-low and add the butter. Once it melts, cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 minutes, until the butter is brown, frothy, and smells nutty.
- Add lemon juice. Use the Zulay Kitchen Lemon Squeezer to squeeze all the juice from both halves of the lemon into the pan. Bring to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until volume is reduced by half.
TIP: Place the halved lemon into the squeezer open side down, then squeeze!
You can open and close again several times to get it all out.
- Plate your pan seared halibut with lemon butter sauce. Drizzle a little of the sauce for halibut over the plate, top with fish, then drizzle more sauce on top. I like to garnish with a little fresh parsley, but that’s optional.
How Long To Cook Halibut In A Pan?
Pan fried halibut takes about 5-9 minutes to cook, depending a bit on the size of your fillet and how hot your pan is. A good starting point is to cook it for 3-4 minutes on the first side, undisturbed. Carefully flip it over, and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes, until cooked through.
TIP: There are easy ways to tell when halibut is done…
- The first side is done when you see the edges are opaque, and it’s browned underneath.
- The lemon butter halibut is done when the whole fillet is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
- If you have a meat thermometer, use that for cooking halibut perfectly: The ideal internal temperature for fish is 135-140 degrees F.
- Store: For the best results, make this pan seared halibut with lemon butter sauce right before you plan on serving it. It takes just 10 minutes to cook, so it’s easy to make quickly! Fish tends to get a little rubbery when it’s reheated and it can be easy to overcook it, so I always recommend making it fresh. However, if you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Reheat: Warm up halibut gently in a hot pan over medium heat, or in the oven at 350 degrees F. Be careful not to overcook.
- Freeze: You can freeze raw halibut for up to 3 months, but I don’t recommend freezing cooked halibut recipes.
What To Serve With Halibut Recipes
This pan seared halibut recipe is pretty versatile, so it can go in many different directions. And I’ve got them all! Try it with these types of healthy side dishes:
- Vegetables – Use your oven to make roasted asparagus, green beans, whole roasted cauliflower, or roasted zucchini while you’re making pan fried halibut on the stove.
- Starches – Potatoes, pasta, or rice are classic options, but you can also do healthier veggie alternatives like roasted rutabaga, zucchini noodles, or cauliflower rice.
- Salads – Try creamy cucumber salad, tomato cucumber avocado salad, or Caprese salad.
More Easy Fish Recipes To Try
If you love fish, try these other easy fish recipes:
Tools To Make Pan Fried Halibut
- Skillet – How it’s useful or interesting or unique
- Fish Turner – This special angled spatula will help flip your pan fried halibut in butter, without it flaking apart. Worth having if you cook a lot of seafood.
- Lemon Squeezer – Fresh lemon juice makes this the best sauce for halibut and this is the citrus press I use to make it easy.
Easy Halibut Recipe
Halibut Recipe (With Lemon Butter Sauce)
Learn how to cook halibut that's perfectly flaky & tender! This easy pan seared halibut recipe with lemon butter sauce takes just 20 minutes.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Lemon butter sauce:
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Use paper towels to pat the halibut fillets completely dry – this will ensure even browning. Season the fish on both sides with garlic powder, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the fish fillets in a single layer (you can do it in batches if all the fish won't fit in a single layer). Sear, without moving, for 3-4 minutes, until the edges of the fish are opaque. Flip and cook for 2-4 minutes, until cooked through.
Remove the fish from the pan and cover tightly with foil to keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the butter to the same pan. Wait for it to melt, then heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the butter is browned and smells nutty.
TIP: If you like garlic, you can also use this lemon butter sauce recipe.
Use the Zulay Kitchen Lemon Squeezer to squeeze all the juice from both halves of the lemon into the pan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer for about 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until volume is reduced by half. The lemon butter sauce will still be thin.
Drizzle a little lemon butter sauce over each serving plate. Place the pan seared halibut fillets over the sauce, then drizzle more sauce on top.
Last Step: Leave A Rating!
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Serving size: 1 halibut fillet + 2 tablespoons lemon butter sauce
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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Never cooked halibut before. This recipe was great! Flavor of fish wonderful! Will use again!!
I didn’t watch the video until after I made the recipe and realized I had made some mistakes. I dried the fillets too much. The frying temp and temp for the sauce was too high. Other than that, I love this recipe.
Best Halibut recipe I have found. My wife and I catch Alaskan Halibut and have it portioned in 1 lb packages and sent home. We made some tonight 3/2/23 and it was delicious. Definitely use fresh lemon!
What are your thoughts about using an air fryer for this?
I’m a single empty nester, so would be making two filets at the most.
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Tammy, I have never tried halibut in the air fryer, but you could use a similar recipe to my air fryer tilapia recipe.
I actually thought I was a great cook, but I could not get the sauce. I tried 2 separate times and all it did was separate. I followed the recipe to a T and watched the heat to make sure it wasn’t too low or two high…
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Lori, Sorry this recipe didn’t turn out as expected. What exactly is separating… the sauce is only butter and lemon juice. There is a video above the recipe that might help you.
We look forward to repeating this recipe whenever halibut goes on sale at our local seafood market. It’s become a family favorite! Quick, easy, and tasty!
Very tasty. The sauce keeps the fish moist. Will cook again.
I like the simplicity of this recipe!
Just made it. Yes, this is simply wonderful! Thank you!
Way too salty. I am not sure if there are different types of sea salt. Maybe I used the wrong kind. Large crystals. We actually had to rinse off the fillets in order to eat them. The sauce was excellent. I will make this again but will omit the sea salt. May use a small amount of regular salt. Please advise.
Just use a pinch between your fingers. Otherwise it will be too salty.
I have been scrolling for a while… can’t find the recipe…
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Katie, There is a ‘jump to recipe’ button at the top of the page that you can use to get right to the recipe.
Best fish I’ve had in a while…my wife went crazy over it!
First time in a long time making Halibut and it came out just perfect! Thank you so much for the recipe and technique!
Simple and delicious! We will definitely be making this again. It was so easy to make. We used it on halibut we caught ourselves in Alaska😊
Tasty on their own, but the lemon butter sauce takes them to the next level. Seriously delicious!
This is the most tender dish!! That lemon butter sauce tastes amazing with the halibut! I can’t believe how easy it is to make!
We LOVE fish in our house!! This is such a simple recipe to make! Thanks for posting!
Is was excellent! I added chopped garlic and capers to the butter sauce…. Will definitely make again!
Was very tasty and enjoyed by the family.
I had caught 2 halibut and used this on our last few packages. Was the best and very simple recipe yet. Just got back with 15 lbs coho and will use your pan seared recipe for the salmon. Love it baked but the butter pan seared is to die for.
This is by far the best and easiest recipe E-V-E-R!!! I love cooking and I regularly prepare a number of complex recipes, but this recipe is truly awesome; easy to follow and uses easy and few ingredients for optimal results! THANK YOU!!!!!
This was easy and so delicious. I couldn’t find my paprika but proceeded without it. I cooked the fish a bit less than recommended but it was perfect. Thanks.
This worked terrifically for me. Easy (important for an unskilled cook), loved the strong lemon flavor, and the seasonings all worked for me. Thank you.
Wonderful recipe that I have made 4 times now and each time successfully with a delicious outcome.
Thank you for your details on how to pan sear halibut. I can’t thank you enough.
Elizabeth "Mimi" Baldwin0
My daughter just had a new baby and I’m with her family, helping with the 3 older siblings, so I’m in charge of meals. Made this for my granddaughters (9, 7, 2) with Sole, adjusting the cooking time since it’s much thinner fish. And I used smoked paprika since that’s all my daughter had in the spice cabinet. Then I made this with halibut for the 3 adults… My 7 year old granddaughter doesn’t really care for fish, but when she tried this recipe, she literally said”Mimi, you’ve changed my life”! So funny and what a compliment! We all enjoyed the dish and I’m planning on making it over and over again because it’s so simple and so good. I served the fish with Rice Pilaf and steamed zucchini with some parmesan and butter. Huge hit! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
I somehow completely overlooked the brown butter sauce in the recipe haha. Even though I didn’t finish the sauce the recipe was great! I am trying to eat more fish and have probably cooked it less than 5 times in my life so this was a great recipe for a newbie. Thanks!
I reviewed the feedback before choosing this recipe for some beautiful fresh (expensive) halibut. We are experienced cooks, love flavours, and cook fish regularly.
Unfortunately, we didn’t like the spice combo (at all) – the paprika ruined it (badly). In our opinion, not the right spice for this recipe, particularly with a lemon butter.
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Jan, Sorry this recipe didn’t meet expectations. Did you follow the measurements exactly because there is only 1/2 tsp of paprika in the whole spice mixture?
You did not list amounts of ingredients to use / measurements. 2 sticks or 4 onces of butter for example. Size and thickness and weight of fish.
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Rich, You can find the measurements in the recipe card which is right above where you left this comment.
Delicious!!! Cooked perfectly. My husband loves it!! Will definitely make it again
Fantastic! Company worthy! I brushed Olive oil on the top sides of the Halibut steaks in the pan, then sprinkled half the spices (mixed together) on the fish. Flip the fish and sprinkle the remaining spices. Since we were cooking thick Halibut steaks, we flipped them more than once. The fresh Halibut was light and flakey for a dense fish. Enjoy:-)
Needed an easy recipe fast, found this one, had all the ingredients on hand and it was absolutely amazing. The fish melted in our mouths and the seasoning was on point. Made it with roasted sweet potato and garlic sautéed bok choy. Totally delish. Thnx.
This may be the most delicious halibut I’ve ever had! And it was so simple. Thank you.
This is a great recipe! Delicious! We had it with jasmine rice and a spinach strawberry salad.
Excellent recipe. I served it over grits with a side salad. The only downside is spattering of oil on the stove. Cleaned up well after this great dinner.
The recipe was great. The fish was delicious. I did not have a lemon and was too lazy to go to the store so I used half an orange in the sauce and it was great. Thank yo so much for recipe.
I’m just starting to eat Alaska fish and halibut was one of the choices. This pan seared was restaurant quality. And I made it!! Which is more surprising. Will be getting other recipes for salmon, cod and rock fish. Thanks for sharing!!
Do you remove the skin from the fish before cooking?
Wholesome Yum D0
Hi Pamela, My halibut didn’t have any skin, but you can leave it on if yours has it. It’s great for flavor!
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