This moist and tender baked cod is topped with a lemony, buttery topping that doesn't overpower the delicate fish.
Ready in less than 30 minutes, it's one of the fish recipes most often requested by my family. Since it's so easy, I am happy to oblige!
While I usually prefer bold-tasting fish such as teriyaki salmon or seared tuna to white fish, this baked cod recipe is the exception. It's one of my favorite fish recipes and an excellent way to cook firm-fleshed white fish.
What makes it so good is the butter-lemon topping - it's delicious - and the short baking time, which ensures the fish remains juicy.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this baked cod recipe. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Unsalted butter: I love using creamy European butter, but any butter will work.
- Fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice tastes better than bottled.
- Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar. Both work, although I tried both and can tell you that freshly minced garlic tastes better.
- Kosher salt: I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.
- Red pepper flakes: They don't make the dish very spicy - they merely add a layer of flavor.
- Capers: You can find them in the pickles aisle. They are not optional! They greatly enhance the flavor of the sauce.
- Cod fillets: Fresh or frozen, about 1 inch thick.
- Paprika: Adds flavor as well as color.
- Sometimes, I use olive oil instead of butter. Melted ghee is another delicious option. Overall, after trying the other options, I still prefer the flavor of butter.
- You can use a teaspoon of garlic powder instead of minced garlic. However, after trying both, I have determined that freshly minced garlic tastes better.
- Other spices that go well with cod include onion powder and dried oregano. I sometimes add ½ teaspoon of each. I especially like the flavor added by onion powder.
- You can replace the paprika with smoked paprika. I enjoy the smoky flavor it adds.
Baked Cod Instructions
Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps for making this recipe:
Mix butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Stir in the capers.
Pour the mixture on top of the fish. Sprinkle them with paprika.
Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes, in a 425°F oven.
Lean white fish such as cod (or mahi mahi) can dry quickly. Basting the cod with a buttery sauce and baking it just until done ensures a tender, succulent, flavorful fish.
This recipe works well with any firm, white-fleshed fish, such as halibut, as long as it is thick (about 1 inch thick). Remember that white, mild, low-fat fish can quickly become dry and overcooked, so don't overbake them.
Yes, you can use frozen cod in this recipe. It's easier to avoid overcooking fish when you bake it frozen. Simply add about 10 minutes to the cooking time.
If using frozen cod, use olive oil instead of butter. I've learned the hard way that butter quickly hardens on a frozen fillet.
The best way is to use an instant-read thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 145°F.
Another way to check for doneness is to gently flake the top of one of the fillets with a fork. When the cod is done, the flesh is opaque, as shown in the photo below, and you can easily separate it with a fork. As long as the cod is undercooked, its flesh will resist flaking.
There's no need to cover the cod when baking it. You should leave it uncovered.
This recipe makes a lovely buttery sauce, so make sure you serve it with the sauce, spooning it on top of the fish.
As you can see in the photos, I also like to serve it with roasted asparagus, baking both in the same oven.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to three days. Reheat them gently - you don't want them to dry out. It's best to reheat them in the microwave, covered, at 50% power.
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- Nonstick spray for the pan
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of any other salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons capers drained
- 4 cod fillets 6 ounces each, 1 inch thick, fresh or frozen
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk the butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the capers.
- Place the cod fillets in the baking dish. Pour the butter mixture on top. Use a brush to evenly distribute the thick sauce on top of the fillets. Sprinkle them with paprika.
- Bake uncovered until the fish is fully cooked, opaque, and flakes easily with a fork. Depending on the thickness of your cod fillets and your oven, this should take about 15 minutes (25 minutes if using frozen fish). Serve immediately.
- This recipe works well with other firm-fleshed white fish, such as halibut, as long as the fillets are thick - about 1 inch thick. Thinner fillets will require a shorter time in the oven.
- There's no need to cover the fish. You should bake it uncovered.
- If using frozen fillets, use olive oil instead of butter, as the butter quickly hardens on a frozen fillet.
- The best way to ensure the cod is done is to use an instant-read thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 145°F. Another way to check for doneness is to use a fork to gently flake the top of one of the fillets. When the fish is done, the flesh is opaque, and you can easily separate it with a fork. As long as the fish is undercooked, its flesh will resist flaking.
- You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for up to three days. Reheat them gently - you don't want them to dry out. It's best to reheat them in the microwave, covered, at 50% power.