A simple baked cod recipe + a list of easy pan sauces to drizzle over the fish fillets if you are in the mood for a more decadent presentation.
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You will find this baked cod recipe easy to execute and commit to memory to use again and again. It delivers mildly flavored, flaky fish fillets you can serve with a simple salad as a very healthy option or smother with a cream or butter based sauce and serve over pasta or rice when you feel like indulging.
The simple method of preparation is well suited for other types of white fish such as pollock or tilapia (with shortened cooking time, due to it being significantly thinner). You can vary the seasonings to impart flavors different than the lemon thyme suggested here and enjoy baked fish in numerous delicious variants.
You Will Need
- Cod fillets. Preferably about 1 inch thick and cut into more or less uniform pieces so that they baked evenly.
- Olive oil. We recommend extra virgin as it is more flavorful.
- Lemon. For its juice and also the zest (optional, see note below). Or use preserved lemons.
- Seasonings. Salt and pepper as well as some garlic powder. Feel free to vary these – Old Bay or Cajun seasonings work great here.
- Thyme. Use fresh, a few sprigs. For its delicate herbal flavor that pairs so well with lemon. Save a few fresh sprigs for garnish.
- A non-stick baking dish. If you do not have a dedicated ceramic dish for baking fish you can also bake the fish in an oven safe non-stick pan or simply in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Fish spatula & zester. The flexible fish spatula makes it very easy to serve the fillets. Use a microplane zester or the fine side of a box grater for the (optional) lemon zest in the marinade.
Baked Cod – Step by Step
- Prep. Mix a marinade and slice the lemon to place underneath the cod fillets (an old fishermen’s tip – it will prevent the fish sticking to the bottom and some of the flavor will seep into the flesh).
- Marinate. Coat the fillets liberally with the marinade. If you have a bit of time let them sit covered in it for 15-20 minutes.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 375 F and place the lemon slices onto an oiled baking dish or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the cod fillets on top and bake.
Baked Fish Fillet with Sauce
While the cod fillets are in the oven you have the opportunity to make one of the easy pan sauces below. Just be sure to plan for the sauce beforehand, in the sense that you have all the ingredients ready to go and you can finish it while the fish is cooking. If the fish is done first – no worries, cover it loosely with foil and keep it warm on the stove top or in the warm oven until ready to serve.
- Shrimp cream sauce – pictured above, and prepared with precooked small/medium shrimp (fast work). Full recipe here.
- Lemon cream sauce – follow this recipe and if you have chicken base use it instead of chicken stock to shorten the cooking time. Full recipe here.
- Garlic butter sauce – will add a lot of richness and tantalizing garlic flavor with balancing acidity from lemon. Full recipe here.
- Blender Hollandaise sauce – use this simple recipe for a decadent butter and egg yolks based sauce which goes superbly with baked cod fillets.
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- 3 cod fillets, about 1 inch thick
- 1 large lemon (or 2 small lemons)*
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more to brush baking dish
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a bowl combine 1 tsp lemon zest (optional), garlic powder, salt and pepper and olive oil. Slice the lemon(s) and set aside the largest slices. Squeeze out about 1 tbsp lemon juice from the ends of the lemon(s) into the bowl with the marinade.
- Mix the marinade and coat the fillets in it. Brush a baking dish with olive oil or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the lemon slices as needed and place the marinade coated cod fillets on top. Scatter thyme sprigs around the fish.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cod flakes easily with a fork and is completely opaque, with internal temperature measured at the center of each fillet at 145 F or just a tad above. Serve garnished with fresh thyme or with pan sauce (ideas below).
Lemon zest has a strong citrus flavor and typically low bitterness. Once in a while however the pith of the lemon is so bitter that even if you scrape a miniscule amount of it as you zest the lemon skin it will impart a bitter flavor. To avoid this, taste the zest obtained from your lemon first and then decide if you want to leave it out.
Alternatively you can use preserved lemons in the marinade and underneath the fillets - the lemon flavor of the baked cod will be off the charts without a hint of bitterness.
PAN SAUCE IDEAS FOR BAKED COD:
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 917mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 42g