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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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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!
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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