Food, Main Dishes, Pescetarian

Salt and Pepper Crusted Sea Bass

Pepper Crusted Seabass 4


This here, my friends, was a total treat. I think sea bass is going to be giving salmon some sweet and delicious competition in this house.

Kick his ass, Seabass!

Sorry; obligatory movie quote. It seemed apropos.

If you’re thinking of cooking up some sea bass, I encourage you. It’s delicious. Just make sure it’s sustainable sea bass; I’d be a total dipshit of a pescetarian if I didn’t promote responsible fish consumptionIf you’re unsure of where the fish comes from at your local market, you can talk to your fishmonger. I buy my fish from either Whole Foods or a local butcher because they are trustworthy. They source solely from sustainable fisheries and responsible farms. What you’re looking for is European farmed sea bass caught from a recirculating system or open net pens that are GlobalGAP certified. Some fishmongers will label their fillets, but if not, ask. It’s kind of awesome to have a relationship with your fishmonger if you love seafood anyway—they’ll give you the inside scoop on what’s coming in. Who doesn’t want that kind of special treatment?

So, let’s talk about sea bass; it’s dreamy.

The flavor is pretty mild, but the texture is super buttery, rich and it flakes impeccably when struck with a fork. This is why I kept things simple and seasoned the fillet with salt and pepper. Some things are better left to shine in their natural flavors, you know?

I did create a garlicky lemon butter sauce to drizzle on top—because garlicky butter—but that’s totally optional. It certainly didn’t mask the true essence of the sea bass.

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Salt and Pepper Crusted Sea Bass


Sea bass6-7 oz fillet of sea bass, with or without skin

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce (Optional)2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 lemon zest and juice
  • 2 cloves garlic not minced or sliced—see notes, smashed


Sea bassPreheat oven to 375 degrees F.

  1. Season both sides of the fish generously with salt and pepper. (If you're keeping the skin on and plan on eating it, season the skin.)
  2. Heat canola oil in a medium-sized cast iron skillet or oven-safe saucepan over high heat for two minutes or until oil is hot. You can test the heat of the oil by throwing a few breadcrumbs into it. If the oil spits, you're good to go.
  3. Carefully place the sea bass into the skillet, skin-side up.
  4. Let it sear over high heat for 2 minutes.
  5. Do not flip the fish; transfer the skillet into the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce (Optional)In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat.

  1. Add the smashes garlic cloves and lemon zest to the butter.
  2. Bring the heat to low and simmer, infusing the butter, for approx. 5 minutes.
  3. Add the lemon juice and whisk. Continue to simmer on low for 2 minutes. Discard the garlic cloves.
  4. Plate fish and drizzle a tablespoon of the sauce over the fillet.

Recipe Notes

Garlic: Peel your cloves of garlic and, with the flat side of a chopping knife, press down on the clove to just break it open. We want to infuse the butter with the essence of garlic, but we don't want any garlic in the butter when serving.
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  • Reply Sean August 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm Hey Dana! Love your approach to this awesome piece of fish. When fish is that good, you're bang-on about letting it speak for itself. That being said, I also love the lemon sauce! It lets you control how much you're using while really amplifying and balancing the flavours. Nice. Wonderful to see what you're saying about sustainability. I know some people don't want to hear it, but it NEEDS to be said. So many fisheries have collapsed, and we just can't afford to wander blindly into this stuff any more. In addition to your recommendation, I strongly encourage everyone to find ecologically conscious fishmongers. Sadly, not every city will have one, but if you can find one they're a total godsend. Because they're so specific about their product, they'll not only help you make good choices, but they can often share a LOT of really useful information that you don't get from many of the grocery stores. But hey, I'm preaching to the choir here. :)
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 20, 2016 at 4:46 pm Thanks, Sean! And yeah. I mean, shit. Eating ethically and responsibly *sounds* like a lot of effort, but if you truly care about our planet and the wonderful critters and furries on it, you'll take the 20 minutes to Google it and see how you can make a difference. The information is easily accessible these days. But I'm happy to keep pushing it with every fish post as a reminder. Haha.
  • Reply Colleen Milne August 20, 2016 at 3:23 pm Gorgeous photo and the sea bass looks amazing. I need to get out of my fish rut and try some new ones. This would be great on the grill, I'm thinking.
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 20, 2016 at 4:43 pm Thanks, Colleen! Fish ruts can definitely be tricky to get out of. I hope this helps and I hope you love it when you try it. Let me know :)
  • Reply Justine August 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm Yay for an innovative cast iron fish recipe! I haven't tried sea bass for a long time, but I'm going to pin this recipe for the next time I make a trip to my favourite little fish market. This is SUCH a gorgeous dish Dana -- easy buy elegant, my favourite combination. Thanks for the inspiration!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm Thanks, Justine! Cast iron for life! I hope you love this when you try it. It pairs wonderfully with a nice pinot grigio ;)
  • Reply Teresa August 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm Sea Bass is truly delicious and you treat it wonderfully here. Puts me in mind of a tropical seaside dinner. Or, maybe I just need a vacation.
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm Thanks, Teresa! The first time I made sea bass I'd jazzed it up with a lime, soy and honey sauce and, though it was delicious, the delicate flavor of the fish itself had me wanting to let it shine on its own. I knew I had to try something super duper simple. And ha, don't we *all* need a vacation. I'm with you, sister. Enjoy your weekend!
  • Reply Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land August 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm So gorgeous! Love how you styled it. And yes to garlicky butter on top!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:09 pm Thanks so much, Lyndsay! That's a huge compliment coming from such a magical cake decorator. Seriously. And heck yeah. Garlicky butter all day erryday.
  • Reply julia August 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm In our house, we love sea bass. Well everyone except for my 14 year old daughter who refuses to eat any fish except for fresh tuna and shrimp. Picky! This recipe sounds delicious and I am keeping it in mind for the next time we make it . I am kind of boring, as we usually just barbecue it whole. Beautiful pictures as well!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm Thanks, Julia! Haha, I was that 14 year old once upon a time. I was all about beer-battered fish, shrimp and breaded scallops over-dunked in tartar sauce. (Still love that, but have grown up. Haha.) I really hope you love this. It's simple, but with a fish like sea bass, I think simple is good. With salmon, I tend to go bonkers.
  • Reply Alanna @ One Tough Cookie August 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm This is so beautifully styled and shot! It's not easy to make white fish look sexy, but you've definitely succeeded here. I love how quick and easy the recipe is, too, and how you really let the bass shine. Thanks for sharing!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm Thanks so much, Alanna! That means a ton coming from you. I've always found your blog and photos to be awe-inspiring. So shucks. I'm humbled!
  • Reply Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) August 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm I am not a huge fish eater but am learning to like white fish. This looks right up my alley! Bookmarked!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm I'm glad this appeals to you, Mardi! I'm always trying to convince my non-fish eating friends and fam to give certain recipes a whirl, but some people just can't handle fish. And then I'm just left here to feel sad for them. Haha. Sea bass is definitely light in flavor, so it's a great one to start with when you're just dippin' your toes into eating fish.
  • Reply Kimberley | HealthyLifeRedesign August 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm Dana, this looks amazing! I've never cooked sea bass at home but this recipe definitely encourages me to give it a try! I need to shift away from my typical salmon recipes and try something a bit more adventurous ;) Thanks for the inspiration!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 10:00 pm Thanks so much, Kim! This method of cooking sea bass is so easy and totally the way to go. I hear you on the salmon bit. I love salmon and love to get creative with it, but after a while it seems dull and I need to chill out with it. I hope you give this a whirl, and I hope you love it!
  • Reply Nicoletta @sugarlovespices August 19, 2016 at 12:37 pm We're on the same wave length, Dana, we made a whole branzino on the BBQ yesterday, and I guess branzino is sea bass in english? Loved it! And love the look of yours! Awesome recipe and beautiful pictures!
    • Reply Killing Thyme August 19, 2016 at 9:57 pm Your branzino dinner sounds fantastic! Love me some fish on the barbie. Thanks so much! <3
  • Reply Krysten July 30, 2016 at 1:49 am This looks really fantastic! I cannot wait to try it! I am so sick of hum drum fish recipes :(
    • Reply Killing Thyme July 30, 2016 at 8:23 am Thanks, Krysten! I hear you. I want to work on a compilation of fish recipes to prove that fish doesn't have to be boring—not does it always have to be spiced with dry herbs with a squirt of lemon juice. Haha. Fish is delish—it just doesn't get enough attention.

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