This easy Mediterranean sea bass recipe comes together in just 15 minutes! A few simple steps give you the flakiest, most tender fish recipe. But the bold seasoning and colorful bell peppers take this simple pan-seared sea bass to the next level!
Easy sea bass recipe
This easy pan-seared sea bass recipe is a little taste of the Mediterranean in one pan! And it comes together in just 15 minutes.
First, you’ll give a few sea bass filets a quick rub with a bold seasoning of cumin, coriander, Aleppo-style pepper, and garlic. Then you’ll briefly sear the fish in some extra virgin olive oil to create the perfect thin crust that gives way to tender, perfectly flaky sea bass underneath without too much work!
To serve, hit your fish with a good splash of lemon juice and top it with my sautéed medley of bell peppers, garlic, shallots, and chopped kalamata olives. It’s not just a pretty embellishment, trust me! This delicious topping of veggies is the tastiest complement to this pan-seared fish recipe. Simply add your favorite grain or a big salad, and you’ve got dinner!
How to cook sea bass
Sea bass is a broad family of saltwater fish, and some fish with more than 400 species! This recipe uses a white sea bass, which is actually a type of fish called a drum. Not scientifically a “bass”, but delicious nevertheless.
Generally, sea bass is a mild-tasting white fish, and you can cook it in a variety of mouthwatering ways. Most people will cook sea bass in the oven. It’s great baked with a lemon-garlic dressing like I do with cod in this recipe, or smothered in basil pesto, or even wrapped in parchment with sliced veggies of your choice.
But another easy way to prepare sea bass filets is to pan-sear them in a bit of good extra virgin olive oil. This will take about 4 minutes or so on either side, depending on the thickness of your fish filets. Granted, this method might require a splatter guard, but that thin crust on the fish is so worth it!
Sea bass recipe ingredients and substitutions
This simple recipe has three components: the fish, seasoning, and the delicious topping of bell peppers and vegetables. Here are more notes on the ingredients you need to make this sea bass recipe:
Skinless sea bass or Chilean sea bass filet. You need about 1 ½ pounds cut into 4 filets. You can typically find wild-caught sea bass in the freezer section at your grocery store; you’ll just need to thaw it out properly overnight. Other mild white fish options like halibut or even cod will work here (more ideas below).
To amp up the flavor on this simple pan-seared fish recipe, I used a spice rub or seasoning with ground coriander, garlic powder, Aleppo pepper (or sweet Spanish paprika), ground cumin, and black pepper.
The sauteed bell pepper topping
Chopped bell peppers (any colors you have), with shallots, garlic, and pitted kalamata olives, all sauteed in a bit of olive oil and added on top of your fish. You can play around with this topping, adding other veggies you may have on hand. Chopped carrots, zucchini, or even chopped baby broccoli will work.
How to make pan-seared sea bass
Here are the simple steps to make this fish recipe. Remember, the print-friendly recipe with full ingredient list and measurements is just below:
- Season the sea bass. Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides of the fish (4 6-ounce sea bass fillets, each about 1 ½ inches thick). Set aside for now.
- Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl, combine the spices to make the spice mixture. (You need ½ tablespoon ground coriander, ½ tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Sweet Spanish paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.) Set the spice mix aside as well.
- Cook the vegetables. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add 1 chopped red bell pepper, 1 chopped green bell pepper, 3 chopped shallots, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Season with kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until the peppers have softened. Turn the heat to low, and stir in ½ cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives. Leave the veggies on low heat to continue cooking while you cook the fish.
- Pan-sear the sea bass. Pat the fish dry and season with the remaining spice mixture on both sides. Heat ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet (I recommend using cast-iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Once the oil is hot enough, add the fish to the pan. Manage your heat so it does not burn. Push down on the thickest part of each fillet for about 30 seconds. Then let the sea bass cook undisturbed for 4 to 6 minutes, until nicely browned. Carefully turn the fish over with a spatula and cook the other side for 3 to 4 minutes until it also browns nicely.
- Serve. Remove the fish from the heat and immediately squeeze the juice of half a lemon all over it. Spoon the vegetable medley on top and serve hot.
Important cooking tip for searing your fish
So for this pan-seared sea bass recipe, I have an important tip for perfectly flaky, never rubbery, fish. Before you turn the fish over, look for browned edges. And if parts of the fish are stuck to the skillet, carefully and gently scraping it with a spatula should be enough to loosen the fish. If the fish is entirely stuck, however, this is a sign that it is not ready to turn over. Leave it for about 30 seconds more and try again. The fish should release when ready, and it should be somewhat browned on both sides.
How can I tell if my fish is cooked?
While sea bass is easy to cook, like other fish, it is also easy to overcook. Generally, your fish is ready when the flesh turns from gray and translucent to opaque, and it should easily flake at the touch of a fork. To be sure you can use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Cooked fish is ready when its internal temperature is somewhere between 140 to 145 degrees F.
What can I use instead of sea bass in this recipe?
Any white fish with a firm texture and delicate flavor would work well in this recipe as a substitute for sea bass. Grouper, red snapper, mahi mahi, branzino, cod, and halibut are all good options if you cannot find sea bass.
What to serve along
I like serving this sea bass and pepper medley with a few lemon wedges and plain pearl couscous or bulgur wheat. And if you’re looking for something to start the meal, try panzanella or grilled zucchini salad and a side of whipped labneh with pita chips!
Leftovers and storage
Leftover pan-seared sea bass and vegetables will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. I like eating leftover fish at room temperature so it does become rubbery when heated. But you can reheat it over medium-low heat until just warmed through.
More easy pan seared fish recipes to try:
If you like this pan seared sea bass recipe, here are a few more seared fish recipes to try next
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Mediterranean Pan Seared Sea Bass Recipe with Garlic Bell Pepper Medley
- 4 pieces Sea Bass fillet, no skin (each piece about 6-0z in weight and 1 ½ inches in thickness)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Green Bell Pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 Red Bell Pepper, cored and chopped
- 3 Shallots. chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved or chopped
- ½ lemon, juice off
- Take the fish out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the spices to make the spice mixture. Set aside for now.
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking.
- Add the bell peppers, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture you prepared earlier. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes or until the peppers have softened. Turn the heat to lowest, and stir in the chopped olives. Leave on low heat as you prepare the fish.
- Pat fish dry and season with the remaining spice mixture on both sides as well.
- In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Add the fish pieces (you can reduce heat to medium, if needed). Push down on the middle (thickest part) for 30 seconds or so. Cook fish on one side, undisturbed, until nicely browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn fish over and cook on other side for 3-4 minutes until nicely browned as well. (Important Note- look for browned edges before you turn it over. If parts of the fish are stuck, you should be able to carefully scrape it with the spatula and turn. But, if the fish is entirely stuck, it's not ready to be turned over. Leave it for a little bit. It should release when ready.)
- Remove fish from heat, immediately drizzle lemon juice. Serve hot with the bell pepper medley spooned on top. Add a side of cooked pearl couscous or rice, if you like. Or add a gluten-free side of your choice. Enjoy!
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2018 and has been recently updated with new media and information for readers' benefit.