Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

4.93 from 245 votes
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Tender halibut filets are pan-seared and served golden with a sweet French lemon-dill beurre blanc sauce.

Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

When I was in culinary school, I remember seeing a flyer that displayed a perfectly cooked and plated piece of halibut fillet. I remember thinking that I wanted to be able to execute something so beautiful in the kitchen by the time I graduate.

I finally got the chance to learn how to properly pan-sear fish during my Art Culinaire class, where we studied the cuisines of top chefs from around the world. I learned that a hot pan, sizzling oil, dry surface on the fish, and a little bit of patience and attention helped create the beautiful pan-seared crust on any fish.

I want to share this pan-seared halibut with a lemon dill sauce recipe with you because it really is very simple to make!

Golden crust halibut with garnish on top

Whenever I see halibut featured on a menu, I get excited because it’s such an elegant fish. Halibut has a pretty firm flesh, so it can stand up to heat very well, which makes it easy to achieve a beautiful golden-brown crust. I love how the contrast of the ivory-colored flesh looks against the crisp golden crust on the surface of the halibut.

The flavor of halibut is very mild, which is great because you can create a flavorful sauce to really enhance the taste of the fish. Halibut may seem like a difficult fish to master in the saute pan. However, it really is super easy, just a little practice on the searing technique and you will impress your friends and family without breaking a sweat.

I bought my first set of All-Clad stainless steel pans when I graduated from culinary school, and I find them to be perfect for pan searing all of my fish, meat and poultry dishes.

Fork and knife cutting into halibut fillet

The sauce is based on the beurre blanc technique, which uses a white wine that has been concentrated down and made into a luscious sauce by gradually adding pieces of cubed butter, creating the perfect emulsion.

Adding fresh herbs like dill or tarragon really makes the sauce memorable and balances the rich texture of the butter sauce. This pan-seared halibut with lemon dill sauce combines classic flavors for the sauce with the fish so you really can’t go wrong!

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What is a Buerre Blanc sauce?

If you’re looking to create a flavorful sauce and don’t have much time, a buerre blanc or buerre rouge sauce is the way to go. These are emulsified butter-based sauces (beurre) that either uses white (blanc) or red (rouge) wine as one of the base ingredients. The three main ingredients for a butter sauce are shallots, white or red wine, and lots of butter. The texture is smooth and slightly thicker than heavy cream. The most important thing to remember when making this sauce is not to overheat! Once the sauce hits 136°F, proteins in the butter that help emulsify the sauce begins to break down and release the butterfat that is being suspended in the emulsion. Simply put, your sauce separates and you have a broken sauce on your plate.

Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

Golden seared halibut with a creamy lemon dill sauce. Tender halibut filets are sauteed and served with a sweet French lemon dill beurre blanc sauce.
4.93 from 245 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine French

Ingredients  

Pan Seared Halibut

  • 16 ounces halibut fillets, two 8-oz pieces, about 2-inch thick
  • kosher salt, to season fillets
  • black pepper, to season fillets
  • grapeseed oil, enough for cooking the halibut

Lemon Dill Sauce

  • 1 cup dry white wine, chardonnay recommended
  • cup shallots, minced
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons dill, chopped fresh
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • kosher salt, to taste

Instructions 

Lemon Dill Sauce

  • In a small saucepan, heat wine and shallots over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 12-15 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat. Gradually add each cube of butter into the reduction, whisking each piece to create a thicker emulsified sauce.
  • Add the chopped dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice into the sauce, whisking to combine. Taste and season with salt as needed. Set aside.

Pan-Seared Halibut

  • Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes. Dry the surface very well in between two paper towels.
  • Right before cooking, season each side of the halibut fillets generously with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat a large stainless steel pan over high heat. Add enough grapeseed oil until it reaches about ⅛-inch of the side of the pan. Heat until oil starts to shimmer.
  • Carefully add each halibut fillet to the pan presentation-side down, press the flesh with a spatula to create direct contact with the oil to create a golden crust.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 4-5 minutes. When the bottom of the fish is golden brown, carefully flip to the other side.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and heat until cooked through, making sure not to overcook the fillets, about 2-4 minutes.
  • Transfer to plate with a paper towel to remove any excess cooking oil.
  • Gently reheat the lemon dill sauce, whisking to combine making sure not to overheat as this will cause the sauce to separate. Serve each fillet with a ¼ cup of sauce.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 2 servings
Calories 637kcal (32%)Carbohydrates 10g (3%)Protein 43g (86%)Fat 40g (62%)Saturated Fat 23g (115%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 160mg (53%)Sodium 126mg (5%)Potassium 1259mg (36%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 3700IU (74%)Vitamin C 34.7mg (42%)Calcium 150mg (15%)Iron 4.1mg (23%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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133 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Christy says

    This was great! I probably didn’t let the wine cook down enough, so it looked a bit thin after adding the butter. So, I *dusted* flour into the saucepan, whisking until it looked a bit thicker. It didn’t impact the flavor at all, thankfully.
    The fish was beautiful – it didn’t sear quite as well as I’d hoped but I’ll go hotter on my next attempt. I had really thick halibut filets, so I cooked them a lot longer than the recipe suggests.

    I roasted some fingerling potatoes, shallots and carrots and the beurre blanc was delicious with them as well!

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