Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

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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.

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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.
Pin Print Review
4.95 from 237 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time40 mins
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.

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Nutrition Facts
Pan Seared Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 637 Calories from Fat 360
% Daily Value*
Fat 40g62%
Saturated Fat 23g115%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 160mg53%
Sodium 126mg5%
Potassium 1259mg36%
Carbohydrates 10g3%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 43g86%
Vitamin A 3700IU74%
Vitamin C 34.7mg42%
Calcium 150mg15%
Iron 4.1mg23%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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Reader Interactions

127 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Fiona Clark says

    Delicious recipe. I didn’t have shallots but used green onion and sweet onion … will use shallots next time!
    Thank you!

  2. Anne says

    This dish was amazing. I got fresh rockfish and looked on pinterest for a recipe and I thought this would work. It was so wonderful. I just couldn’t get the sear like the picture. Mine stuck to the pan. I used olive oil and a stainless steel pan. I subbed dried dill for fresh. It was still amazing. since I made it for two of us, I halved the sauce recipe, but next time I will just make the full amount. I will definitely make this again. It was quick and easy and I had all of the ingredients. I am excited to check out some of your other recipes.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback! Were the pan and oil hot enough when you add the rockfish! I make sure the fish is dry, lightly press on the surface, and don’t move the fish to create a nice golden crust.

  3. anne says

    Reading through the comments, I think that perhaps I didn’t get the pan hot enough. Not sure what a shimmer is, so I guess my oil was not shimmering. Therefore no sear.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Anne- The pan has to be hot first to create a nonstick surface, then add the oil until it’s hot, looks like it’s starting to just ripple or shimmer on the surface but not smoke, then add the fish, press down, and don’t move. This helps get a golden crust.

  4. Michael Ridgley says

    I was anxious to try one of your recipes last evening so I decided to cook the pan seared halibut and I must say, I was pretty disappointed. The surface of the flesh was so tough I could hardly cut through it with a knife. I have cooked fish many times and never had it turn out like that.

  5. Paula says

    Amazing!!! I was so worried about messing up an expensive cut of fish. It turned out prefect.

  6. Floyd Olden says

    I tried the recipe before, and it was good, so we had it again tonight. For whatever reason, it was even better. I used less oil (just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet) and let the aluminum skillet heat up first. The first side browned beautifully, flipped it over and waited and it was great also. But the best part of this whole recipe is the lemon-dill sauce ! Oh my goodness ! What I used was from a week ago and it was even more flavorful from it’s marinating ! Apologies for the long post, but this is some goood fish recipe ! We get our halibut from Sitka Salmon Shares in Alaska, but for a recipe this good, you want the best !

    Good Eating

  7. Josh says

    I would recommend making your buerre blanc when the fish is cooking. This will ensure that the sauce does not separate before you are ready to plate.

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