Lemony and just a bit buttery, this Fish Piccata recipe with pan-seared trout and a lemon piccata sauce comes together in about 20 minutes. Serve with a big salad and a side of pearl couscous, lemon rice or your favorite grain for an easy weeknight dinner idea.
A quick and delicious fish dinner!
This is a riff off of my popular chicken piccata and chicken piccata meatballs recipes. I use the same ingredients for my piccata sauce and simply replacing the chicken with trout fillet (or another thin fish fillet of your choice). My friend Matt Janofsky, you'll hear his name in the video below, is one behind this brilliant idea!
The choice of fish and how you season it matters, but what takes this recipe over the top is the lemon piccata sauce, made with a base of white wine, quality olive oil, lemon juice and a little bit of unsalted butter. It's lighter and tangier than a cream-based sauce but still smooth and buttery! I relied more on extra virgin olive oil (like I did with my lemon-garlic haddock) and used less butter than you'll find in a traditional lemon piccata sauce recipe - and you can even use ghee if you prefer.
This easy pan-seared trout recipe comes together in about 20 minutes, and it is one that even my friends who aren't big on fish will enjoy.
What you'll need
This pan-seared trout with lemon piccata sauce uses basic ingredients that you may already have to create a tangy, buttery sauce you won't be able to get enough of!
- Fish fillet. I used trout fillet which is thinner and - You can substitute any other thin white fish fillet of choice. You can leave the skin on or take it off.
- Seasoning- a combination of dried oregano, paprika, and garlic powder (with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper) to coat the fish before dredging for maximum flavor.
- Flour for dredging- whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and gluten-free flour are all acceptable.
- Extra virgin olive oil - Use high-quality olive oil. I like Private Reserve for cooking.
- Unsalted butter - You can also use ghee.
- Lemon juice - You'll want to use fresh lemon juice if possible.
- White wine - You can also use chicken broth.
- Capers - Capers add a tangy and salty flavor to the piccata sauce.
- Fresh parsley - Chopped parsley makes a fresh, tasty garnish.
What kind of fish to use for fish piccata?
I chose trout fillet for this recipe for two reasons. First, trout fillets are usually pretty thin, which makes them perfect for searing on the stovetop. And as far as flavor, trout is a delicate, mild-tasting fish that plays well with the lemon piccata sauce in this recipe.
If you can't find trout, you can use another thin fish fillet such as dover sole, halibut, or grouper. If your fillets are thicker, you can still make this fish piccata recipe, it will just take to cook.
Fresh vs frozen fish
Did you know that the "fresh" fish on display at the store was often previously frozen and may sit on the ice in the cooler for a few days? Not so fresh in reality!
Packaged frozen fish, on the other hand, is caught and flash-frozen at peak freshness. It's also usually cheaper.
Of course, this depends on where you live in the United States. You may have access to high-quality, freshly caught fish. In that case, use it! But if you don't, frozen fillets work too. Just be sure to thaw before using.
How to thaw frozen fish
If cooking with a frozen fish fillet, you'll need to thaw it before cooking. You can thaw them in the fridge overnight, or just a few minutes before cooking. You'll just need an additional 15-20 minutes, maybe even less since we're working with thin fillets.
To thaw frozen fish fillets quickly:
- Leave it in the packaging or place it in a ziploc bag.
- Place the fish (in the packaging - NOT naked) in a bowl. Cover it with cold tap water. Warm or hot water will create more risk for bacterial growth and change the texture, so stick with cold water.
- After 15 minutes, check the to see if the fish is thawed. If some parts are still hard and frozen, leave it for a few more minutes and check again.
How to make fish piccata:
This might be one of the easiest fish recipes you will make, it takes a few simple steps (print-friendly recipe with measurements below this tutorial):
- Season and dredge the fish
Give the fish a quick sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper on both sides, then add oregano, paprika and garlic powder (if your left the skin on the fish, you can just add the seasoning to the flesh side). Coat each fish fillet with a bit of the flour. Give it a quick shake to remove excess flour. If you have the time, set the fish aside for 5 minutes or so.
- Pan-Sear the fish
Heat up some olive oil and a bit of the unsalted butter in a large pan. Cook the fish on both sides for 2 to 3 minutes or until the fish is firm and flaky (do not over-cook the fish). Transfer the fish to a large tray lined with paper towels to drain the oil.
- Make the piccata sauce
In the same pan, add a little more butter and turn the heat down a bit. Add the lemon juice, white wine and capers. Let the sauce simmer briefly over medium heat.
- Add the fish to the sauce
Return the fish to the pan and spoon the sauce all over. At this point, you just need a few seconds for the fish to warm through and take in the sauce, you can even turn the heat off so you don't over-cook the fish.
- Garnish and serve
I like a pop of green parsley and a pinch of red pepper flakes, but that is totally optional. You can also add a few lemon slices on top. Serve immediately.
Tips for success
The perfect fish piccata is firm, flaky and full of flavor. Here are a few suggestions for making the most out of this recipe.
- Use a large pan to cook the fish. I like to use a well-seasoned 12-inch cast iron skillet to sear the trout. This way, the fish fillets fit well and cooks evenly and quickly, gaining good color.
- Don't overcook the fish. When first frying the trout (or fish fillet of your choice) and also when you return it to the pan to soak up the sauce, take care to not overcook it. The goal is firm and flaky fish, but you don't want it to dry up from overcooking.
- Use a dry white wine for the sauce. If using wine, use a dry wine like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Sherry. Avoid sweet white wines like Moscato. If you don't cook with wine and need a substitution, a bit of low-sodium broth will work fine.
- Let the fish sit in the seasoning briefly. If you have the time, allow the fish to rest for 5 minutes or so after you add the seasoning mixture, to allow it to absorb the flavor a little more before cooking.
- Lower the heat for the sauce. When you start making the piccata sauce, lower the heat on your burner, so the sauce simmers slowly. When you add the fish, you can even turn the burner off to avoid overcooking the fish.
- Prepare your sides first. This trout recipe will cook fast, so prepare your sides and salads before the fish hits the pan.
Serve it with
I'll often serve it with a vegetable side dish too, like whole roasted cauliflower, sauteed asparagus and/or a big salad. This bright Shirazi salad is one of my favorites to pair with the lemon piccata sauce!
How to store and reheat leftovers
While I always recommend eating fish the same day it's cooked, pan-seared trout does make a flavorful lunch if there are leftovers.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days, in an airtight glass container. Reheat on the stove for best results.. Be sure to just reheat the fish and not overcook it. Top with the fresh parsley after reheating, and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Can I freeze cooked trout?
In general, cooked fish can be frozen for up to a month. That said, it does change the texture so I prefer not to do it. Most of my go-to fish recipes are so easy to make that cooking them fresh is just worth the effort.
More fish recipes:
- Baked White Fish
- Easy Fish en Papillote
- Grilled Sword Fish
- Easy Baked Fish with Garlic and Basil
- Best Moroccan Fish
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Easy Fish Piccata
- 1 pound trout fillet, or other thin white fish fillet such as sole, halibut, or grouper
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup flour for dredging, (use whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, or gluten free flour of your choice)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee divided
- 2 lemons for the juice
- ½ cup white wine or chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons capers rinsed or drained
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Mix the oregano, paprika, and garlic powder and season the flesh side of the fish.
- To dredge, coat the fish on both sides with the flour. Gently shake excess flour.
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium-high heat. Carefully add the fish and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (a total of 4 to 6 minutes), or until the fish is firm and flaky (being careful not to overcook the fish). Transfer the fish to a tray lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.
- To the same pan, add 1 more tablespoon of unsalted. Lower the heat, and add the lemon juice, white wine, and capers. Cook briefly over medium heat.
- Return the fish to the pan and spoon the sauce over the fish (give it just a few seconds to warm through in the sauce).
- Garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes, if using. Serve immediately!
- If you can't find trout, another mild-tasting white fish fillets that are thin such as dover sole, halibut, or grouper will work. If your fillets are thicker, you can still make this fish piccata recipe, it will just take to cook.
- What to serve along? For something starchy, try pearl couscous, lemon rice, or your favorite grain. Add for something green, add your favorite salad or a side of sauteed asparagus, roasted broccoli, cauliflower, or grilled zucchini salad.
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