Simple Rock Fish Recipe | Pan-Fried with Lemon & Butter

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This rock fish recipe is not only nutritious, but it’s also mouthwateringly delicious. (say that 10 times fast)! If you can’t get ahold of rockfish, don’t worry–this recipe works for basically any white fish.

Rock Fish Recipe

What is Rock Fish?

Rockfish is a mild-flavored white fish that hails from the Pacific Ocean. It’s also known by other names, such as Striped Bass, Rock Cod, and Pacific Red Snapper.

Other names for Rockfish:

  • Striped Bass
  • Rockcod
  • Pacific Red Snapper
  • Sea bass
  • Long-spined bullhead
  • Bullfish
  • Clobberhead
  • Long-spined sea scorpion
  • Rout
  • Scorpion fish
  • Sea scorpion
  • Sea-toadfish
  • Spikey1 (wth)

Where Can I Buy Rockfish?

You can find rockfish at most large grocery stores in the seafood section. If it’s not available fresh, you can still buy it frozen. If you’re lucky enough to have a local fishmonger, they may have fresh rockfish flown in daily.

You can also try specialty food vendors to support your community. Don’t worry if you can’t find rockfish; you can use Cod or Tilapia instead. Any white fish will work well for this recipe.

What Sides Should I Serve?

We served sauteed spinach and instant pot white rice with our rockfish. Both are mild sides that help complement the savory yet gentle flavor of the lemony & buttery rockfish.

1. Pan-Sauteed Spinach

Sauteed Spinach In A Cast Iron Pan
Sauteed spinach in a cast iron pan

For the spinach, we used the same hot skillet we used to saute the rockfish. With the skillet hot, simply add 2 or 3 large handfuls of spinach and cook for 1 minute or so.

The spinach will reduce in size immensely. No need to season the spinach since you’ll be soaking up all the seasoning that’s in the pan already.

2. White Rice

For the instant pot white rice, use equal parts water and rice. Add the water and the rice to your instant pot, close the lid, and press “rice” on the instant pot.

Wait 12 minutes, and then boom, you’ve got rice. If you want more flavorful rice, use chicken or beef stock (unsalted) instead of water.

Rock Fish Recipe With Lemon Zest And Fresh Herbs

How To Make It:

For this recipe and the best overall flavor, I recommend Googling to find a specialty seafood market. Many Asian fish markets have a much wider variety of fish than your local grocery store, so I would try these locations first.

I had no luck at my local Wholefoods. I did have luck at my local Asian market, though. It’s always a good idea to call ahead.


  • 2 large, 5-ounce rockfish fillets
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 fresh lemon (Cut in half, use 1/2 for shaved lemon rind in recipe and save other 1/2 for garnish)
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 4 green onions
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Rock Fish Recipe Ingredients

Garnish Ingredients:

You don’t have to use these extra ingredients if you don’t want to, they’re just there to make the dish look pretty. But adding a squirt of lemon juice over the top can make the dish taste even better.

  • 2 green onions (1 per filet, already accounted for)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh parsley (1 per filet, already accounted for)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 per filet, already accounted for)
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges (2 wedges per filet, already accounted for)

Step 1: Zest Your Lemon

First, cut a fresh lemon in half and set one half aside. Then, using the other half, use a zester to grind fresh lemon zest off the rind. If you don’t have a zester, you can scrape the rind off using a fork.

Zesting A Lemon
Zesting a lemon

Collect the shaved lemon rind into a small bowl and set it aside. (This is an optional, time-saving step. In the actual recipe, I zest my lemon in the moment).

Step 2: Add Seasoning

Set the filets of rockfish on your cutting board. Sprinkle the garlic powder, pepper, and kosher salt over the filets. In my ingredients list, I indicated exact measurements of 1/4 teaspoon for each, but you’re welcome to eyeball it.

Step 3: Melt Butter With Olive Oil

Place your medium size skillet (we use a cast iron skillet) over medium heat and add the 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Melting Butter And Olive Oil Together

Note: Extra virgin olive oil imparts a ton of flavor to the fish. But olive oil has a low burn point. Butter, on the other hand, has a higher burn point. So when you mix the two fats/oils, the olive oil inherits the burning point of the butter.

Step 4: Cook the Rockfish

Wait until the butter is melted and the pan is hot. Place your rockfish filets, seasoning-side-down, into the skillet. Place two of each fresh herb on each filet: fresh parsley, green onions, and thyme.

Tilt your pan to the side so the melted butter pools up. Using a spoon, repeatedly scoop up the hot butter and drizzle it over the filets and herbs.

Scooping Hot Butter Over Herbs And Fish Filets

Do this with the butter for a minute or so. Doing this will impart the herb flavors deep into the fish and will also help cook the top side of the filets.

Using your tongs or a fork, remove the herbs from the fish and set to the side (in the skillet) for a moment.

Next, using a spatula, flip the rockfish over onto the other side. You’ll want to cook the filets for 3 minutes on each side.

Moving Herbs Off The Filets To The Sides Of The Pan
Flipping Over The Rock Fish Filets

Grab your lemon zester and zest your lemon directly over the rockfish.

Zesting Lemon On Rockfish Filets

Place the herbs back on the rockfish.

Place The Herbs Back On The Rockfish

Do the thing with the butter again, for about a minute, until both sides of the fish are golden brown.

Keep Scooping Butter Onto The Herbs And Fish
Fully Cooked Rock Fish Filets And Herbs In Pan

Step 4: Garnish & Plate

Using a flat metal spatula, remove the rockfish filets and set them on your serving plate. It’s okay to let them sit for a minute while you get your final garnish ingredients ready.

Grab the other half of the lemon and either cut it into lemon slices or wedges.

Place the remaining fresh herbs on the filets; green onion, thyme, and parsley. Place the lemon wedges on the filets.

Rock Fish Recipe 5

Before you take your first bite, squeeze fresh lemon juice from your garnish lemon wedge onto your fillets.

Bon Appetit! Enjoy the fruits of your labor, you wonderful home chef, you!

Rock Fish Recipe Card

Rock Fish Recipe

Lemon & Butter Pan-Fried Rock Fish Recipe

This pan-fried lemony & buttery rock fish recipe is not only incredibly nutritious, but it’s also mouthwateringly delicious. (say that 10 times fast)!
4.53 from 17 votes
Prep: 0 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Total: 8 minutes
Yield: 2 people


  • 2 5 oz Rockfish filets (any white fish'll do)
  • 4 tbsp Butter unsalted
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil extra virgin
  • ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
  • ¼ tsp Fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 lemon (half for garnish, half for zesting)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Parsley (1 for each filet)
  • 2 sprigs Green Onion (1 for each filet)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme (1 for each filet)


  • 2 sprigs Fresh Parsley (1 for each filet)
  • 2 sprigs Green Onion (1 for each filet)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme (1 for each filet)


Season the Rockfish

  • Season rockfish filets with ¼ tsp Garlic Powder, ¼ tsp Fresh ground black pepper, and ¼ tsp Kosher Salt.

Pan-Fry the Filets

  • Heat a medium skillet and add 4 tbsp Butter and 1 tbsp Olive Oil.
  • Once the pan is hot and the butter is melted, add the 2 5 oz Rockfish filets with the seasoning side down.
  • Place 2 sprigs Fresh Parsley, 2 sprigs Green Onion, and 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme on each filet.
  • Tilt the pan to the side and use a spoon to repeatedly drizzle the hot butter over the filets and herbs for a minute. This will infuse the herb flavors into the fish and help cook the top side of the filets.
  • Remove herbs from fish with tongs/fork and set aside in skillet.
  • Next, using a spatula, flip the rockfish over onto the other side.
  • Zest 1 lemon over rockfish using zester.
  • Place the herbs back on the rockfish.
  • Repeat the butter drizzling process for about a minute until both sides of the fish turn golden brown.
  • Remove fish from skillet with a spatula and place on serving plate. Let sit for a minute before garnishing.

Garnish & Plate

  • Add lemon wedges and remaining 2 sprigs Fresh Parsley, 2 sprigs Green Onion, and 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme on top of the rockfish filets.

Your Own Notes


Simple Rock Fish Recipe | Step-by-Step Tutorial


Since you’re frying the fish in a bunch of wonderful butter and oil, you’re going to have small splatters of butter on your stovetop. Keep some paper towels nearby for quick cleanup.

Nutritional Information

Serving: 2filets, Calories: 530kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 52g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 200mg, Sodium: 992mg, Potassium: 1132mg, Vitamin A: 950IU, Vitamin C: 21.2mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 0.8mg

The Golden Lamb provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietician.

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Pan-frying rockfish is an excellent cooking method because it’s simple and produces beautiful, flaky results. So if you’d like to up your pan-frying game, check out my post detailing the 5 essential tools you’ll need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is rockfish a good fish to eat?

Rockfish is a good fish to eat because it’s a good source of protein and it’s also low in fat.

What does rockfish taste like?

Rockfish has a mild, sweet, and slightly nutty flavor.

Is rockfish the same as cod?

Rockfish and cod are not the same type of fish. Although rockfish is sometimes called “rock cod,” it does not belong to the cod family.

Is rockfish better than tilapia?

The choice between rockfish and tilapia ultimately depends on personal preference since they have different nutritional and flavor profiles. Rockfish has higher protein and lower fat content than tilapia, making it a better option for my #gymfam.

Can I bake or broil fish filets after pan-frying them?

If you think the fish is undercooked, you can broil the filets on a baking sheet for up to one minute. Place the oven rack near the top and watch closely to avoid burning.

Can I grill the fish filets instead of pan-frying them?

Grilling these filets on a hot grill may cause them to fall apart on the grates. However, if the filets have skin on one side, grilling is possible by cooking them fully, rather quickly, skin-side down on the grill without flipping them over.

Can I prepare a whole fish instead of using filets?

Grilling Whole Fish

Certainly! Cooking a whole fish can enhance the flavors even more, but it requires more effort. I will write a recipe for this method soon, so stay tuned. Grilling a whole fish is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m excited to try it. I feel it will become one of my favorite ways to cook fish. Catch it fresh, gut it, remove the scales, and grill it over hot charcoal.

Can I Substitute a Different White Fish?

Yes! You’re not limited to using rockfish. You can use cod, snapper, tilapia, etc. This is one of the simplest white fish recipes, and it will work for any mild fish.

Can I Use This Recipe To Make Rockfish Tacos?

Yes! Once you’ve prepared the rockfish filet, pull it apart into bite-size pieces and use it in your favorite fish taco recipe.

What fish is similar to rockfish?

Other fish that are similar to rockfish in taste and texture include red snapper, grouper, and halibut.

What is the most unhealthy fish to eat?

Some of the most unhealthy fish to eat due to high levels of mercury and other contaminants include shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.

Is rockfish a cheap fish?

Rockfish is generally a reasonably priced fish, although its cost may fluctuate based on the area and accessibility. It may be hard to find if you don’t live near the coast. You can use cod instead of rockfish if it is not available.

Why is rockfish so smelly?

Rockfish can have a stronger odor than other fish due to their high levels of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which can break down into trimethylamine (TMA) as the fish begins to spoil.

Are rockfish bottom feeders?

Rockfish are typically found near the bottom of the ocean, but they are not considered bottom feeders as they do not scavenge for food on the sea floor.

Thank you for visiting! Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Did this recipe become your new go-to comfort food? Do you have any tips to enhance the flavor? Don’t forget to share this amazing recipe with your loved ones!

Rock Fish Recipe Pinterest

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Kelsey may not know everything about coffee, but after two decades as a barista in Seattle and Santa Barbara, he knows a thing or two. When he's not obsessing over the perfect cup, you can find him hanging out with his wife and daughter or sharing his java gems on this here blog.

15 thoughts on “Simple Rock Fish Recipe | Pan-Fried with Lemon & Butter”

  1. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and wife said it was like a restaurant meal (big compliment). I added pepitas on the top at the end which was nice too. I’ll have more spinach on hand when I make it again as it cooks way down and left us wanting lots more. Saving this one.

  2. 5 stars
    First time cooking rockfish and I was totally impressed by this recipe. I added fresh sage to the butter as well. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Excellent recipe keeping the fish tender and juicy. I saute some onions in the remaining butter and olive oil to make a topping for the fish when served. I also include some fresh oregano to enhance the herbal flavor.

  4. 5 stars
    Fabulous recipe for the fish. Thanks for the video. Love that you cooked the spinach in the remaining butter. I will do that next time. Tastes as good as it looks. Will become one of my ‘go tos’ for special dinner guest.

  5. Ok whoa this is pretty. Made it did a date night and it wowed. I made again using salmon and it was perfect. Great method!

  6. I catch a lot of rock fish, my go to is tempura, rolled in panko, deep fried in peanut oil, with special tarter sauce. I made this last night I liked it better. Didn’t have parsley or onion so I used thyme, mint, and rosemary and it was wonderful!


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