This pan-seared black sea bass recipe is so simple and perfect for a weeknight meal. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen. You don’t need any complicated ingredients. And you don’t need to be a great cook.
Black sea bass is common in the Western Atlantic region. I’ve caught a lot of these on fishing trips! This little fish has delicate, lean white flesh with a light flavor. When perfectly cooked, sea bass has an amazing buttery, flaky texture. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is!
Now, the directions below may seem a little daunting because they are so long, but don’t let this scare you away. My instructions are super detailed so you can get perfectly cooked sea bass fillets. The steps are really very simple. And most of the cooking time listed in the recipe below is just the time it takes for the black rice to cook. You don’t really have to be in the kitchen during that time. This recipe really is simple and quick.
The key to pan-searing fish fillets is to keep a close watch on them. Sea bass fillets are relatively thin, so they cook quickly and it’s important not to overcook them. Since it is a lean fish, it will become dry when overcooked. The cooking time is highly variable because each fillet is likely going to be different in thickness. So it’s a bit of a guessing game, but nothing too complicated. I promise. A general guideline for sea bass fillets is about 2 minutes per side.
That being said, what is really going to tell you when they’re ready to flip and if they’re done or not is the coloring. As the fish cooks, it will turn opaque white in color. Watch the white opaque color spread/crawl up the sides of the fillets as they cook and flip according to the instructions below.
Now let’s talk about sticking and flipping: two matters of great importance here. If you’re using a non-stick pan, you don’t really need to worry too much about the sticking part. If you’re using stainless steel or cast iron though, you’ll need to take measures to prevent sticking. The keys to prevent sticking are: room temperature and dry fillets, a hot pan, plenty of oil in the pan, and not flipping too soon. As for flipping, use a thin spatula and make sure to do it very carefully since the fillets are thin. I’ll walk you through the logistics in the recipe below.
- 2 cups black rice
- 1 Tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee
- 20 oz asparagus, ends removed (about 1 large bundle or 2 small bundles)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 lbs sea bass, cut into 4 fillets
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
- lemon slices or wedges for serving
- Cook the black rice according to the package directions (usually around 40 minutes).
- Make sure to remove the sea bass fillets from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking and pat them completely dry with paper towels.
- When the rice is done cooking, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and replace the lid until you're ready to serve.
- About 15 minutes before the rice is done cooking, start cooking the asparagus.
- Melt butter or ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- When it's hot, add the asparagus, sea salt, and black pepper to the skillet.
- Cook for about 4 minutes, tossing with tongs every once and a while.
- Add in the garlic and toss well.
- Cook for about another 3 minutes or to the doneness of your liking.
- Set asparagus aside. If you want to make sure they're warm when serving, keep them in a warm oven until the sea bass is finished cooking (I usually don't bother with that though because the sea bass and rice will be nice and hot when serving).
- Pat the fillets down with a paper towel one more time before cooking to make sure they're super dry. This will ensure you get a nice sear and help prevent sticking.
- Sprinkle both sides of the fillets with sea salt and pepper.
- Heat the avocado oil in a large skillet over high heat. If using the same skillet you used to cook the asparagus, make sure there isn't any residue left because this could cause the fish to stick to the bottom. You need a nice smooth surface to cook the sea bass fillets.
- When the oil is really hot and starts to shimmer (but not smoking), carefully add the fish fillets to the pan. Make sure to leave enough room between them for flipping. You may need to cook in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
- Do not move the fillets once you get them in the skillet until you're ready to flip them. Moving them around might cause sticking.
- Once all the fillets are in the pan, shake it a tiny bit (once again, to help prevent sticking). Now start your timer and turn the heat down to medium-high.
- The cooking time really depends on the thickness of your fillets. Try cooking for 2 minutes on the first side. You want to flip the fish when it is cooked a little over halfway through. The meat will turn an opaque white color when it is cooked and you can watch the white spread up through the fillet as it cooks. When you see the white spread a little over halfway through the fillet and the edges are brown, flip it carefully using a thin spatula.
- If it's been 2 minutes and the fillets aren't cooked over halfway, let them cook for another minute and then check them again. The most important thing here is to keep an eye on the fillets, especially since sea bass fillets are usually very thin and cook relatively quickly.
- Once you've flipped the fillets, cook for about 1-2 minutes on the second side. Keep an eye on the fillets while cooking. The fillets will be done about 30 seconds to 1 minute after the sides of the fish are completely white.
- Remove the fillets to a serving dish or plate directly onto the black rice and asparagus (as shown in the pictures).
- Sprinkle with green onion slices and parsley.
- Serve immediately with lemon slices or wedges to squeeze on top.
Have a great day! Let me know what you think in the comments section below!