This Pan Seared Sea Bass is drizzled with a buttery Lemon Pepper Sauce and adorned with a Fennel Stir-Fry. Together, these elements make for a beautiful presentation. Quick and easy, this healthy main course is perfect for casual entertaining and also great on busy weeknights.
Pan Seared Sea Bass only takes about 4 minutes to cook. And with a quick lemon pepper sauce and fennel stir fry, all made in the same pan, it's an incredibly satisfying and delicious dish.
Recipes with sea bass are a great choice for a group with varying palates because it's a mild fish that most people love. And this particular recipe is always a hit!
- sea bass fillets - Always buy the freshest fish possible. If you have a specialty fish market near you, that's probably your best bet. Pan seared Sea Bass is great with the skin left on for ultimate crispiness.
- olive oil - Regular or extra virgin.
- lemon - Use Meyer lemons if they're in season.
- unsalted butter - It's a good idea to cook (and bake) with unsalted butter, so you can control the amount of salt in a recipe.
- fennel bulb - It's great if you can get them with the stems attached with their leaves (feathery fronds), then you can use them in the stir fry and/or for garnish.
- red bell pepper - A good pepper should be firm, deeply colored and slightly shiny.
- onion - Choose firm onions that are heavy for their size, and without bruises.
- Kosher salt - I cook with Kosher salt. I prefer it for a few reasons: its larger flake size, it's less refined and usually doesn't contain additives, and it does a great job enhancing the flavor of foods without making them taste salty.
- black pepper - Freshly ground if possible.
(See recipe card for quantities.)
- It's imperative the pan be very hot when the fish hits it. That's the key to searing, as it almost instantly begins to caramelize and form a "crust." If you don't hear a strong sizzling sound when the fish hits the pan, it's not hot enough yet.
- Do not crowd the pan. If you do, you won't get the browning and caramelization we want. In my 12-inch cast iron skillet, I can sear two average-sized sea bass fillets at a time. (Each fillet is about 6-ounces.)
- Do not cook the fish ahead of time. It'll only take a few minutes and is best right out of the pan.
- The stir-fry is on the crunchy side. If you prefer it softer, cook it for another few minutes.
- If you choose not to eat the skin, once cooked, it can very easily be removed.
- The fish is delicious even without the vegetables -- with just a drizzle of the lemon pepper sauce.
- If you can't get Sea Bass, Cod and Grouper are both excellent substitutes.
- You can use kohlrabi, broccoli or zucchini instead of fennel, if you prefer.
- In addition to the red, yellow and orange bell peppers would also be pretty, or any combination thereof.
- If you're not a big lemon-pepper fan, a creamy garlic butter is also fantastic with sea bass. Just mix roasted garlic with softened butter, and melt it over the fish.
How to Make It
- Prep the vegetables and set aside.
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium to high heat — ideally a cast iron skillet.
- Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper.
- Skin side down, gently lay the fillets in the pan. As they hit the pan, you should hear a strong sizzling sound. If you don’t, wait until you do.
- After about 3 minutes, the skin side should be golden and crispy. Cooking fish is almost always very quick!
- Turn the heat to medium, flip the fillets over to finish the cooking for about 1 minute, with the skin side up.
- Remove the fillets from the pan and set them aside on a serving platter and cover lightly with foil.
- With the heat still at medium, add the butter, lemon juice, pepper, and a sprinkle of salt to the pan. Let the butter melt and swirl the pan. Brown the butter by cooking it for another couple minutes. Spoon a bit of this lemon pepper sauce on each fillet, leaving about half of it in the pan. If you don't want the fennel stir fry, drizzle all of the lemon pepper sauce over the fish and you're done.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the onion, peppers and fennel to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, spoon it over the fish and serve with lemon slices.
(More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
- This is a year-round main course that can be served with an array of other dishes, and it's also a great stand alone dish.
- The fennel stir fry with red peppers is a side dish in and of itself, and it's a beautiful topping for the fish.
- While potatoes are more commonly paired with meat and poultry, pan seared sea bass is incredibly delicious with a serving of mashed potatoes beneath it.
- It's also fantastic with rice dishes and all sorts of salads.
- And sometimes the addition of a warm crusty loaf of bread is all we need.
Other Delicious Fish Dinner Recipes
- Lake Whitefish with Citrus Avocado Salsa
- Broiled Black Cod with Bok Choy
- Mexican Blackened Salmon
- Tomato Fish Stew
- 30-Minute Sole Puttanesca
- Chilean Sea Bass with Red Pepper Sauce
Making it Ahead
The seared Sea Bass dish is best when it's made as close to serving time as possible. That's when it'll be the most flaky and succulent.
The lemon pepper sauce and the fennel stir fry are both made in the same pan as soon as the fish is removed.
Sea Bass has a mild, delicate flavor that’s subtly sweet. It’s light and flaky with a bit of a meaty consistency.
Fresh fennel bulb has a mild anise or licorice-like flavor with notes of celery. Raw, it's quite crunchy, and when it's cooked, it becomes soft, the flavor mellows a bit, and becomes slightly sweet.
I hope you enjoy this sea bass recipe as much as my family and I do!
Pan Seared Sea Bass Recipe
- 4 (approximately 6-ounce) sea bass fillets, skin on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
- ½ cup small dice fennel bulb washed, dried
- ½ cup small dice red bell pepper washed, dried
- Kosher salt to taste
Sear the fish
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet (ideally cast iron), and preheat it over high heat on the stove. (If you can't comfortably fit all 4 fillets with space between them, do two at a time.)2 tablespoons olive oil
- Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper. Skin side down, gently lay the fillets in the pan. As they start to hit the pan, you should hear a strong sizzling sound. If you don’t, let the pan get hotter. If the pan isn't hot enough, the skin won't brown and become crisp.4 (approximately 6-ounce) sea bass fillets,
- After about 3 minutes, the skin side should be golden and crispy. Turn the heat to medium, flip the fillets over to finish the cooking for about 1 minute, with the skin side up.
- Remove the fillets from the pan and set them aside on a serving platter and cover lightly with foil. (If your pan only fits 2 fillets, add the second two right away, while the pan is still very hot.)
Make the sauce and vegetables
- With the heat still at medium, add the butter, lemon juice, pepper, and a sprinkle of salt to the pan. Let the butter melt and brown it by cooking it for another couple minutes. Spoon a bit of this lemon pepper sauce of each fillet, leaving about half of it in the pan. If you don't want the fennel stir fry, drizzle all of the lemon pepper sauce over the fish and you're done.2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the onion, peppers and fennel to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Season with salt and pepper to taste, spoon it over the fish and serve.½ cup finely chopped yellow onion, ½ cup small dice fennel bulb, ½ cup small dice red bell pepper