Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish

(helpful for pre-post browned butter). A Lemon Butter Sauce with Crispy Pan-Fried Fish that would be flawlessly at domestic in a posh restaurant, but is so brief to make at domestic! Browning, the butter offers the sauce a wealthy, nutty aroma that pairs fantastically with sparkling lemon, in addition to thickening the sauce and giving it an appropriate golden shade.

Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish
Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish


Lemon Butter Sauce:

  • 60 g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and finely ground pepper

Crispy Pan-Fried Fish:

  • 2 x thin white fish fillets (120-150g / 4-5oz each), skinless boneless (I used Bream, Note 1)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp white flour
  • 2 tbsp oil (I use canola)


  • Lemon wedges
  • Finely chopped parsley, optional


Lemon Butter Sauce (see video):

  • Place the butter in a light coloured saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.
  • Melt butter then leaves on the stove, whisking/stirring every now and then. When the butter turns golden brown and it smells nutty – about 3 minutes, remove from stove immediately and pour into a small bowl. (Note 2)
  • Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir then taste when it has cooled slightly. Adjust lemon/salt to taste.
  • Set aside – it will stay pourable for 20 – 30 minutes. See Note 3 for storing.

Crispy Pan-Fried Fish:

  • Pat fish dry using paper towels. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, then flour. Use fingers to spread flour. Turn and repeat. Shake excess flour off well, slapping between hands if necessary.
  • Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering and there are faint wisps of smoke, add fish. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes until golden and crispy on the edges, then turn and cook the other side for 1 1/2 minutes (cook longer if you have thicker fillets).
  • Remove immediately onto serving plates. Drizzle each with about 1 tbsp of Sauce (avoid dark specks settled at the bottom of the bowl), garnish with parsley and serve with lemon on the side. Pictured in the post with Kale and Quinoa Salad.

 Recipe Notes:

1. I like using this sauce for thin fillets because I find you get the best sauce to flesh coverage, and also because thin fillets tend to mean less fish (the sea bream in the photos are only around 120g/4oz each) so you’re not having to pour overloads of Sauce (it is quite rich). I also love how the edges of thin fish fillets go nice and crispy! Having said that though, this sauce is suitable for almost any white fish fillet, but I’d avoid rich, oily fish like salmon and mackerel. FROZEN FISH is also fine – thaw thoroughly and pat very well with paper towels to remove excess water.2. BROWNING BUTTER: At first, it will spit a bit (water in butter cooking out), then it will bubble, then it will foam. Little brown bits will start appearing on the base of the pan – THEN you will smell the nuttiness. The smell is the most important sign – when it smells amazing, take it right off! 3. Storing Brown Butter: You’ll only need around 1 tbsp of Sauce per serving – it’s very rich – but this recipe makes slightly more because it’s hard to make a smaller quantity. Use leftovers to jazz up vegetables, mashed potato, or even spread on toast!  Refrigerate and use within 1 week, or freeze. To use as Sauce, microwave in 10-second increments.4. GENERAL NOTE: If you’re an experienced cook, you can try your hand at making the sauce in the pan after cooking the fish. First, wipe it clean (yes you lose pan flavour, but it’s nice to have a “clean” looking sauce), lower heat then make the sauce once the pan has cooled. I personally find it easier to make the Sauce first in a smaller pan – easier to control colour change. Also, I like using my black non-stick pan for the fish and you can’t see the colour of the butter in dark coloured pans.5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 1 tbsp of Sauce (it’s a rich sauce, you don’t need much) and assuming 1/2 tbsp of oil is discarded after cooking the fish (my estimation by scraping out remaining oil). The fish weight seems small but it looks larger on the plate because I used a thin fillet (bream)

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