Have you bit into a fish so velvety, buttery, and delicious that it felt like the chef was cheating? And you thought, maybe they used an absurd amount of butter? Or poached it in fat?
That could be true, but you also may have stumbled across black cod, or sablefish.
What is black cod?
Sablefish is called black cod because it looks like cod, but they are from a different family. Sablefish are a deepwater species native to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and they are an amazingly delicious way to get protein & omega-3 fatty acids [*].
Because they live in deep, cold waters, sablefish build up a lot more fat than most fish. This translates into a buttery and flaky texture that people the world over love. One of our customers even called this rare treat the “chocolate of fish”.
And, thanks to its extraordinarily high fat content, sablefish is also more “forgiving” of chef errors than other fish.
In short, sablefish is:
- Delicate but still fatty
- Buttery from its high fat content
- Popular in Japan for sushi
- Rich in Vitamin B12 and B6, Magnesium, Iron, and Calcium [*]
Quick tips for cooking black cod
Before we jump into specific recipes, here’s some general advice for cooking black cod.
- Remove the pin bones after cooking.
- Take advantage of sablefish’s versatility: broil, sear, oven bake, steam, sous vide, grill, smoke, or even fry your filet.
- Brine the fish for 15-20 minutes if you want them to get a little firmer and not flake as much.
- Cook to 145° or until it is clearly flaky and breaks away easily when you twist it with a fork.
- Baste the fish as you cook it to help the sauce incorporate into the filet.
- Don’t store fish in metal because it can absorb the taste.
- Don’t skip the famous miso marinade by Nobu Matsuhisa.
14 incredible black cod and sablefish recipes
All set to get cooking? Here are 15 recipes that feature a wide variety of cooking methods and styles. Find the one that looks good to you, pick up a wild-caught, sustainably-harvested black cod, and get going!
Why not start with the most famous version of black cod: the miso marinade from Nobu Matsuhisa. Part of what makes this recipe so special is that not only is it dangerously good, it is also stupidly easy to prepare. Serious Eats breaks it down.
For a beautiful, summer-evening-kinda dish, use this recipe from Healthy Seasonal Recipes. The double-threat acidity of ginger and lime pairs perfectly with the buttery black cod. Use fresh ginger and lime for the best results.
For a faster version of the miso marinade, try this broiled black cod recipe from Sitka Salmon. When you don’t have time to marinade in advance, a good glaze is your next best bet. This recipe only takes 20 minutes!
If you’ve got some fresh cherry tomatoes on hand, Wild For Salmon has your back. The caramelized squash and fresh lemon are such a good combo, too.
Brown butter dijon dressing. Sounds great, right? We thought so too. This recipe from Whisked Away Kitchen is an exercise in simplicity — it’s tasty and healthy!
Keeping with the brown butter trend, here’s a recipe from A Calculated Whisk that poaches the sablefish in brown butter. Meaning it takes a buttery fish and makes it more buttery. Don’t rush the butter and make sure you get that lovely nutty flavor browned butter is known for.
Out Grilling recommends oak or pecan wood, a rich butter sauce, and a sharp cucumber tomato salad when preparing grilled black cod. We can’t say we disagree! You could swap that salad out for a chimichurri or pico de gallo as well.
This recipe from Anova Culinary takes the popular miso route but combines the soft sous vide with a hard sear to build more depth of flavor. It also avoids topping the fish with too many things to allow the marinade and fish to speak for itself.
If miso isn’t your jam, try this teriyaki black cod recipe from ChampagneTastes instead. The bones are similar: just marinade for thirty minutes and toss it in the oven. Don’t forget to make enough marinade to drizzle over the fish at the end.
For a catfishy angle, try this recipe from Food.com. It’s a bit out of left field and you could also fry thin filets instead of baking them, but if this is your kind of flavor, give it a shot!
For a more sophisticated fish fry, try this Indian fish fry from Alaska Seafood. Serve this alongside rice and some mint cilantro chutney for one heck of a meal.
The secret to this recipe from The Food Network is its soy and orange sauce. It combines grapefruit, lime, orange juice, butter, and soy sauce for delicious results. It also uses a sake and maple syrup marinade. So good.
If you are more of a honey-over-maple-syrup person, use this recipe from Purple Chives. It uses a soy, honey, and balsamic glaze and a fast broil to whip up delicious sablefish in a matter of minutes.
Want to be classy but make enough for a whole group of people at once? Use this recipe from NYT Cooking. Pair it with couscous and mint for the most impressive taste and presentation.
Where to buy good black cod
One of the only providers in the country we trust is Lummi Island Wild Seafood, and that’s why we partnered with them. They specialize in premium, wild-caught, and sustainable fishing.
Sustainable fishing practices prioritize quality over quantity, which means that the fish are handled more carefully and processed more quickly. This helps to preserve flavor and texture.
And because sustainable fishing is often done on a smaller scale, the fish are often caught closer to shore and brought to market more quickly. This means that the fish spend less time in transit and are less likely to spoil or degrade in quality.
Sustainable fishing is better for the environment, too. By ensuring that fish populations are not depleted beyond their ability to replenish themselves, sustainable fisheries take steps to avoid collapsing fish populations and disrupting marine ecosystems.
Ship the best wild-caught sablefish you will ever have right to your door.
Black cod FAQ
What does sablefish taste like?
Apart from the buttery texture it’s famous for, black cod is not that fishy tasting, so if you’re someone who recoils at the thought of fishy fish, black cod is a great choice.
Can you eat the skin of sablefish?
Absolutely! Humans are no strangers to eating fish skin. As long as it has been cleaned, you are in business. We recommend cooking sablefish with the skin on.
Does sablefish have a lot of bones?
Sablefish isn’t bony compared to other fish, and their bones are larger and easier to spot and remove than salmon. The pin bones are found in the center of the filet, and the trick is to remove them after you cook the fish.
Can you overcook sablefish?
Of course! You can overcook anything! Sablefish does have a high fat content which is more forgiving, but you still need to keep an eye on it.
How do you know when sablefish is done?
Wait until the fish is flaky and pulls apart easily when twisting with a fork. Most recipes recommend 10 minutes per 1″ thickness.
Does sablefish freeze well?
Any fish with high fat content will freeze reasonably well. The longer it’s in the freezer, the less flavor you’ll have, though. Eat cooked sablefish within a few months, and use frozen sablefish in under a year for best results.
The bottom line on black cod
We’re massive fans of black cod, a.k.a. sablefish, and we know you will be too after grabbing some wild-caught black cod and giving one of these recipes a shot.
Happy cooking, and don’t rush the marinade!
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.