This Easy Chilean Sea Bass Recipe is insanely delicious and puts the spotlight on the buttery sweet taste of this delicious deep water fish. A simple sauce of melted butter, lemon and thyme, complements the meaty, succulent flesh perfectly, without masking any of its subtle flavors. Its ready in just 30 minutes, so you can make it no matter how hectic your day is. It really is that easy.
What is Chilean Sea Bass?
Chilean Sea Bass is a saltwater fish which, when cooked, has unusually tasty, flakey, white flesh.
Fun Fact: This fish is not part of the bass family - its actual name is Patagonian Toothfish. The name "Chilean Sea Bass" was invented by a fish wholesaler called Lee Lantz in 1977 to make the fish more attractive to the US market.
Chilean Sea Bass first became more widely known in the 1990s when it started appearing on the menus of high end restaurants like Nobu and the Four Seasons. A name drop in the movie Jurassic Park, lead to a further boost in popularity but within a decade, interest in Chilean Sea Bass waned due to over-fishing. At almost $34 dollars a pound, Chilean Sea Bass is pricier but its rich, melt-in-your-mouth taste makes it one of the tastiest fish available.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Unusually tasty fish - Chilean Sea Bass has a unique buttery taste and melt-in-your mouth tender, flaky, white meat. As a result, it is absolutely delicious on its own. Breading, complex spices or marinades only mask that glorious taste.
- Ready in 30 minutes - a very quick and simple recipe making it perfect choice for a special gourmet meal on busy weeknights.
- Easy - its baked not fried - baking makes for easy clean up and helps all the flesh stay tender and moist. No need to deal with hot oil, splatters or over-frying.
- Hard to overcook - a deep water fish, Chilean sea bass has a high oil content as it lives in very frigid waters.
- That "WOW" factor - forever associated with fine dining, this white fish never fails to impress. Its one of my favorite fish recipes because you can make it at home for far less that the price charged at a high end restaurant! No special techniques or exotic ingredients needed - just pick up this fish from your local fish market. The oven does most of the work. Perfect for special occasions!
- Fresh Chilean Sea Bass can be easily purchased from your local fish market or specialty supermarkets like Whole Foods. It can also be purchased frozen at Costco and other wholesale supermarkets. Frozen fillets should be fully defrosted, dried with a paper towel and at room temperature before cooking. Alternative fish choices include fresh sea bass, cod and branzino. Chilean Sea Bass is not usually found in grocery stores.
- Salt and black pepper is used to season the fish. I prefer to use table salt as opposed to kosher salt or sea salt so that I don't get too much salt in a one bite.
- I brush the fish with olive oil to keep the fish moist while baking.
Spinach & Lemon Butter Sauce
Given the delicious subtle flavor of this deep water fish, I do not cook or serve Chilean Sea Bass with spices, marinades or sides which mask the taste. For this recipe, I deliberately choose ingredients that simply act as a canvas to this fish.
- Unsalted butter is the base of the sauce. You can also use olive oil if you prefer.
- The lemon juice adds a refreshing touch of acid which brightens the flavor of the fish. Lime juice is the closest substitute.
- Salt and thyme is used to season the sauce.
- I added some red serrano chili and yellow and orange sweet peppers for some texture and visual interest. Sliced green onion (Scallion) or parsley would also work.
- Fresh baby spinach. You can substitute the fresh baby spinach with frozen spinach, bok choy, green beans or asparagus. When choosing sides for Chilean Sea Bass, good options include neutral sides like risotto or mashed potatoes that do not compete with the delicate flavor of the fish.
- I like using olive oil when sautéing spinach. You can also use butter or any vegetable oil of your preference like canola, corn, avocado or coconut.
Step by Step Instructions
Bake the Fish
Chilean Sea Bass shines when it is baked because the high fat content of this oily fish slowly renders during the baking process resulting in very tender, succulent flesh. I prefer baking to grilling or pan frying because while these cooking techniques result in deliciously crispy skin, the flesh near the sides of the fish which is closer to the heat, tends to overcook and be drier that that in the middle.
Step One: Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Step Two: Place the fillets on a baking dish or baking sheet. Brush the fillets with olive oil, then season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the fillets skin side down on the baking dish.
Step Three: Bake the fillets for about 20-25 minutes until done. Fillets are done when the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork or the internal temperature reaches about 145°F when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the fillet. Remove from oven. Cover the filets with aluminum foil until ready to plate (no more than 10 minutes).
Sauté the spinach (while the fish bakes)
Heat a pan over medium heat. I prefer using a cast iron skillet because it retains heat more evenly. Add some olive oil. Add the baby spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté the spinach in the hot pan until just wilted. Place half the spinach on each serving plate.
Make the sauce (while the fish bakes)
In the same pan as the spinach, add the butter and heat over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the lemon juice, sliced chili, sweet pepper, thyme and salt. Sauté for about 1 minute, then set aside.
Plate the Chilean Sea Bass
Put a fillet on top of the spinach on the serving plates. Drizzle with the lemon butter sauce. Serve immediately.
The best way to heat this fish is by steaming. Do not microwave fish as it may overcook and explode.
Oven - best for large portions: Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the fish in a lightly greased oven proof dish or baking pan. Drizzle about a teaspoon of water over the fish then cover tightly with aluminum foil. Transfer the fish to the hot oven once it reaches the target temperature. The fish should be ready in about 10 minutes or when the internal temperature is about 125°F.
Stovetop - best for individual or small portions: Add about 2 teaspoons of water and half a teaspoon of oil or butter to a saucepan and heat on medium heat until the water begins to boil. Add the fish, put the lid on tightly and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the fish to steam for a few minutes until heated through. While it is ok to gently nudge the fish a little during the steaming process to see if the fish is heated through, be careful of over stirring as the fillets may break apart.
Side Dish Suggestions
Chilean Sea Bass goes with a number of sides including lightly sautéed spinach, bok choy and broccolini. One of my favorite sides is a simple tomato and red onion salad with a lemon-olive oil dressing. Chilean Sea Bass also goes very well with mashed potatoes, risotto and steamed seasonal vegetables.
Each serving of this Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass has about 604 calories, 39.4g of fat and 16.4g of carbohydrates (12.3g of net carbs).
This recipe yields approximately 2 servings. The nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe nutrition calculator and is intended for informational purposes only and should be used as a general guideline. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should independently verify it using your preferred tool.
This recipe can be made with any type of fish e.g., branzino, grouper and cod, which is available at your local grocery store or fish market. You can also serve it with a variety of side dishes from a salad and asparagus to mashed potatoes and risotto.
An easy way to add a distinctively Asian taste to this dish is by drizzling it with Nuoc Cham - Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce instead of the garlic butter.
Chilean Sea Bass can also be pan fried or grilled. Below are some tips and instructions.
To grill Chilean Sea Bass, lightly oil the grill grates. Grill the fish for about 6-8 minutes on each side while brushing with a little melted butter. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Add a splash of lemon juice before serving.
To pan fry Chilean Sea Bass and get crispy skin, heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat until almost smoking hot. Add a little vegetable oil and swirl.
Place the dry, seasoned fillets on the hot skillet, skin down. Wait until the skin side is golden brown about 3-4 minutes. The skin is crisp when the fish no longer sticks but easily moves when nudged. Fry the other sides of the fish - about 6 more minutes.
TIPS FOR PERFECTLY FRIED, CRISPY SKIN
Make sure the fish is completely dry. If there is any moisture it will steam and not sear. If you are using defrosted fish fillets, make sure the fish is completely defrosted and at room temperature. Always pat the fillets with a paper towel before frying.
Scoring the skin helps the fish stay flat and not curl up when frying.
Always fry the fish skin down first because the top of the fish will curl slightly - this step helps get an evenly brown, crispy skin. Use a splatter guard.
Do not touch the fish once it is in the pan until it is ready to be flipped over. Give the fish a gentle nudge - if it sticks to the pan it is not ready to be flipped.
Preheat the pan before adding oil. The fish should sizzle as you place it face down on the pan.
Avoid covering the pan as it will steam the fish and destroy the crispy skin. If the outside of the fish is golden brown but still looks undercooked put it into the oven at 450°F for a few minutes.
Use a splatter guard.
Chilean Sea Bass is a meaty and flaky fish with a distinctly buttery taste due to a naturally high fat content. Chilean Sea Bass pairs very well with a variety of spices and because it is very firm, it can easily be grilled, broiled, basked or cooked on a skillet.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Chilean Sea Bass has about 0.354 PPM (parts per mille or thousand) which is higher than salmon (0.022 PPM) and about the same as as Albacore Tuna (0.358 PPM). King Mackerel and Swordfish has much higher levels of mercury at 0.73 and 0.995 PPM respectively.
Chilean Sea Bass can be bought at large supermarkets like Whole Foods and at your local fish market. Costco sells Chilean Sea Bass fillets frozen in bulk.
Cooked fish should really be eaten as soon as possible. Thant being said, if you have leftovers, they should last in the fridge for about 2-3 days, if cooked while still fresh.
Easy Chilean Sea Bass Recipe With Lemon Butter Sauce
For the Fish
- 2 Chilean Sea Bass Filets about 6 ounces each
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- salt, fresh ground black pepper a pinch
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt, pepper a pinch
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice to taste
- 3 sweet peppers julienned
- 1 sprig thyme
- ½ red serrano chili sliced
- salt a pinch
Bake the Fish
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Place the fillets on a baking dish or baking sheet. Brush the fillets with olive oil, then season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the fillets skin side down on the baking dish.
- Bake the fish for about 20-25 minutes until done. Fillets are done when the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork or the thickest part of the fillets has an internal temperature of about 145°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from oven. Cover the filets with aluminum foil until ready to plate (no more than 10 minutes).
Sauté the spinach (while the fish bakes)
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Add some olive oil. Add the baby spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté the spinach in the hot pan until just wilted. Place half the spinach on each serving plate.
Make the sauce (while the fish bakes)
- In the same pan as the spinach, add the butter and heat over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the lemon juice, sliced chili, sweet pepper, thyme and salt. Saute for about 1 minute. Set aside.
Plate the Chilean Sea Bass
- Put a fillet on top of the spinach on the serving plates. Drizzle with the lemon butter sauce. Serve immediately.
- This recipe yields approximately 2 servings. The nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe nutrition calculator and is intended for informational purposes only and should be used as a general guideline. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should independently verify it using your preferred tool.