Delicious, moist and tender oven-baked cod is topped with a lemony, buttery topping that doesn't overpower the delicate fish.
Ready in less than 30 minutes, this is one of my favorite fish recipes to make for my family.
This recipe is such a great way to prepare firm-fleshed white fish. While I generally prefer bold-tasting fish such as salmon and tuna, this is actually one of my favorite fish recipes and I make it quite often.
I think it's the combination of the lemony, buttery topping - it's delicious - and the short baking time, ensuring that the fish remains juicy. (Another great recipe that makes white fish super palatable is this blackened halibut recipe.)
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 yellow European butter.
Fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed tastes better than bottled.
Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar.
Kosher salt: If using fine salt, you might want to reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Red pepper flakes: They don't make the dish very spicy - they just add an extra layer of flavor.
Capers: You can usually find them in the pickles aisle.
Cod fillets: Fresh or frozen, about 1-inch thick.
Paprika: Adds flavor as well as color to the dish.
How to bake cod in the oven? It's so easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by mixing the butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the capers.
Now, pour the mixture on top of the fish and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 15 minutes in a 425°F oven.
Lean white fish such as cod can dry out easily. Basting the fish with a tasty sauce and baking just until done ensures a tender, succulent, flavorful fish.
This recipe works well with any other firm, white-fleshed fish such as halibut, as long as they are fairly thick (about 1-inch thick). Just remember that white, mild, low-fat fish can easily become dry and overcooked, so take care not to overbake them.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! You can totally use frozen fish in this recipe. Simply adjust the baking time. So if you have frozen cod fillets in your freezer, don't bother defrosting them prior to cooking. You can absolutely bake them frozen.
It's actually easier not to overcook them when you bake them from frozen. Simply add about 10 minutes to the cooking time.
If using frozen fillets, you might want to use olive oil instead of butter, as the butter tends to quickly harden on a frozen fillet.
The best way is to use an instant-read thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 145F.
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.
There's no need to cover the fish when baking it. You can leave it uncovered.
Variations and substitutions
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- Use olive oil instead of butter. Melted ghee is another tasty option.
- You can use garlic powder instead of minced garlic. Try 1 teaspoon.
- Other spices to try include onion powder and dried oregano. You can also replace the paprika with smoked paprika.
This recipe makes some wonderful buttery sauce, so make sure you serve it with the sauce. You might want to serve the fish fillets on top of something that would absorb the sauce, such as cauliflower rice.
As you can see in the photos, I often serve this dish with a side of roasted asparagus. I simply cook both dishes in the same oven.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for up to 3 days. Reheat them very gently - you don't want them to dry out. It's best to reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power.
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Baked Cod Recipe, From Fresh or Frozen
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons capers drained
- 4 cod fillets 6 oz each, 1-inch thick, fresh or frozen
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 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 if needed to evenly distribute the thick sauce on top of the fillets. Sprinkle with the paprika.
- Bake, uncovered, until the fish is fully cooked, opaque, and flakes easily with a fork. Depending on the thickness of your fish fillets and on your oven, this should take about 15 minutes (25 minutes if using frozen fish).