Make restaurant-quality pan-seared Chilean sea bass in under 20 minutes. It’s crisp outside, tender, juicy, and flaky in the middle, and served with rich lemon butter sauce!
If you’re looking for a dish that’s sophisticated enough for a dinner party, impressive enough for date night, but also super quick and simple to prepare, this quick pan-seared Chilean sea bass is a must-try. It’s so tender, juicy, and flavorful it practically melts in the mouth – especially when served with this 4-ingredient lemon butter sauce.
Plus, you can have it from the kitchen to the table in under 20 minutes, there’s minimal prep or clean-up, and it’s diet-friendly too – gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo, keto, low-carb, and whole30! It is the best Chilean sea bass recipe!
What Is Chilean Sea Bass?
Chilean seabass isn’t a type of sea bass or even always caught in Chilean waters. Instead, this is just the (more appealing) culinary name for “The Patagonian toothfish” and sometimes “Antarctic toothfish” – a deep sub-Antarctic cold water species of notothen fish found in the Pacific, southern Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
It’s high in protein, low in carbs, and famously known for its rich yet delicate, almost buttery flavor (not overly fishy!) and tender, flaky texture. It’s often likened to black cod but even softer and slightly sweeter. It’s considered a premium quality fish, fairly hard to overcook, and very versatile, perfect for enjoying with all sorts of seasonings, sauces, and sides.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Chilean Sea Bass?
It probably comes as no surprise that I think pan-searing the fish is one of the best ways to enjoy this fish. The pan-searing provides the fish with a wonderful crust and crispy skin to die for, unlike the baked version. Not to mention it cooks in under 10 minutes!
Best of all, you only need a handful of simple and inexpensive ingredients to help this delicate fish’s buttery, sweet flavor shine. For this pan-seared Chilean sea bass recipe, I’ve combined the juicy, flaky skin with a simple but super moreish lemon butter sauce that will pair perfectly with mashed potato, rice, pasta, or your sides of choice.
Ingredients for Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass
- Chilean sea bass filets: You can use fresh or frozen (thawed first) fillets, though the latter don’t sear quite as well.
How to shop for Chilean sea bass? I like to purchase mine fresh as skin-on, bones removed fillets of a similar size and, especially, thickness (for even cooking). Make sure there are no discolored spots, and it smells clean and fresh with a mild ocean smell rather than super fishy.
- Olive oil and butter: Using a combination of both helps create really rich and buttery dish. Ghee would work in place of butter and avocado oil would work in place of olive oil if preferred.
- Sea salt & black pepper: To season the fillets. Sea salt/kosher salt works best.
- Fresh parsley: (Optional) Fresh herbs are a great garnish for the fish.
- Lemon butter sauce: I paired the fish with a simple, bright homemade lemon butter sauce combining butter, fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Add a little garlic if preferred, but it’s not necessary.
How to Cook Chilean Sea Bass
First, pat the sea bass fillets dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Next, heat the butter and oil in a large skillet/frying pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat.
Once hot, add the fillets skin-side-down and pan-sear for 3-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness). For very thick fillets over an inch, it can take 5 minutes per side.
If it sticks when you try to flip it, it’s not ready. Leave it for a further 10-15 seconds and try again.
To ensure the Chilean sea bass fillets are properly cooked, use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 140-145ºF/60-63ºC.
Meanwhile, while the fish cooks (or beforehand), prepare the simple lemon sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until lightly browned. Then mix in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
When everything is ready, spoon the lemon butter sauce over the seared sea bass, and enjoy!
What to Serve with Chilean Sea Bass?
- Potatoes: This pan-seared sea bass pairs particularly well with creamy mashed potato but is also great with au gratin, roasted, or smashed potatoes.
- Grains: Pair the fish with quinoa or rice – like brown rice or basmati dill rice. Low-carb cauliflower rice would also work.
- Pasta: Like garlic olive oil pasta, garlic lemon pasta, gnocchi, orzo, or couscous. Low-carb zucchini noodles would taste great, too.
- Cooked vegetables: Creamed corn, sautéed spinach, asparagus, green beans, or zucchini, roasted Brussels sprouts, 5-minute sugar snap peas, etc.
- Salads: Like simple arugula salad, Fattoush salad, etc.
- Make “fish and chips“: with a side of baked fries or sweet potato fries.
Chilean sea bass isn’t a type of sea bass at all. It’s a Patagonian toothfish and tastes closer to black cod. However, both Chilean and regular sea bass have a mild, sweet flavor that isn’t overly fishy, with lean, firm meat. Chilean sea bass is more buttery, though. Read more about the differences here.
When pan-searing, the skin becomes wonderfully crispy-crunchy and delicious. But if you’d prefer not to eat the skin, that’s fine. However, only remove it after cooking the fillets since it will help keep the fish nice and juicy while cooking.
If you don’t have a thermometer, using a fork or knife is the easiest way to tell if the fish is cooked. Press the utensil, at an angle, against the fillet. When cooked, it should flake easily, without resistance. Alternatively, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature reaches 140-145ºF/60-63ºC.
Black cod (also called sablefish) works particularly well as a substitute for both taste and texture. However, you can also substitute it with other delicate white fish, such as regular sea bass, haddock, tilapia, etc.
More Seafood Recipes
- Easy Air Fryer Cod
- Honey Glazed Salmon Recipe
- How to Cook Cod
- The Best Lox Bagel
- Garlic Butter Shrimp
If you try this easy pan-seared Chilean sea bass recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass Recipe
- Food Thermometer optional
- Pat the sea bass fillets dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet/frying pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the fillets skin-side-down and pan-sear for 3-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness). Very thick fillets over an inch can take 5 minutes per side.If it sticks when you try to flip it, it's not ready. Leave it for a further 10-15 seconds and try again.To ensure the fillets are properly cooked, use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 140-145ºF/60-63ºC.
- Meanwhile, while the fish cooks (or beforehand), prepare the simple lemon sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until lightly browned. Then mix in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- When everything is ready, spoon the lemon butter sauce over the seared sea bass, and enjoy!
- Make ahead: You can prepare the sauce several days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge, ready to reheat as needed. Store: Allow the fish to cool and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Freeze: Freeze the cooked fish without the sauce. Allow it to cool, transfer it to a freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air, and store for up to 2 months. Then leave to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.Reheat: To avoid dry fish, I recommend reheating the leftovers on the stovetop over medium-low heat with a splash of water and the lid on.
- Bring the fish to room temperature: Remove it from the fridge 20-30 minutes before cooking so it cooks more evenly throughout.
- Always pat it dry: Otherwise, the fish will steam rather than sear.
- Make sure the pan is HOT: That way, it will create a beautiful golden crust.
- Use skin-on fillets: Even if you don’t want to eat the skin, it helps hold the fish together and stops drying.
- Cooking time may vary: If you’re using over an inch thick fillets, increase the time to about 5 minutes per side. They’re ready when the fish easily flakes.
- Don’t flip too early: If the fish struggles to unstick from the pan, it’s not ready to flip. Leave it a little longer and try again, gently lifting just one corner to begin.
- To add more flavor: Add garlic (and/or onion) powder to season the fillets, add capers to the lemon butter sauce, or even garnish them with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for heat.
- Substitute the lemon sauce: This fish will also pair well with chimichurri sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic butter, or some homemade pesto.