The simplest way to cook white fish

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Gently poaching fish in a flavorful liquid just about guarantees a perfect outcome—juicy, tasty fillets. Bonus: you also get vegetables and a delicious sauce, all in one pan.


“Trinity” Poached White Fish

The “trinity” in classical French cooking (onions, carrots, and celery) is the foundation for dozens of stocks, soups, stews, and sauces. Here I’ve used leeks in place of onions. Be sure to rinse them well; they grow in sandy soil, and often have a bit of grit between the layers.

Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, well rinsed and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
¾ tsp. kosher salt
½ lb. small zucchini, cut into thin half moons
1½ lbs. tilapia, sea bass, snapper, or other firm white fish, skin removed and cut into chunks
1 Tbs. capers
A few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill, roughly chopped

  1. In a large deep pan over medium heat, sauté the leeks, carrots, and celery in the oil, stirring often, until they start to brown, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the wine (if using) and simmer until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the salt, zucchini, and 1 cup of water. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Push the vegetables to one side. Add the fish to the open part of the pan. Spoon the vegetables over the fish. Gently shake the pan to distribute the fish evenly. Reduce the heat to low and very gently simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 5-10 minutes.
  5. Garnish with the capers and parsley.

Per serving (6 oz. fish with vegetables & sauce):

  • Calories: 350
  • Total fat: 17 g
  • Sat fat: 3 g
  • Carbs: 12 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Total sugar: 5 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 36 g
  • Sodium: 550 mg

White Fish Poached in Miso Broth

Rich, savory miso—the fermented soybean paste that’s the base for miso soup—helps make a quick poaching liquid. Have all your ingredients prepped and your equipment (including bowls) at hand. Once you start cooking, this dish is ready in a flash.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

3 Tbs. white miso paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. finely minced or grated ginger
½ lb. baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
1½ lbs. tilapia, sea bass, snapper, or other firm white fish, skin removed and cut into chunks
4 cups spinach
3 scallions, thinly sliced

  1. In a large, deep pan over high heat, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the miso, garlic, and ginger.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bok choy and simmer until tender-crisp, about 1 minute. Remove the bok choy, divide it into four bowls, and keep warm.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the fish and very gently simmer until it flakes easily with a fork, 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish and divide it between the four bowls.
  5. Increase the heat to high and bring the broth back to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 30 seconds. Add the scallions, then ladle the broth into the bowls. 

Vegetarian option: Try soba noodles, soft tofu cubes, and a fried or boiled egg.

Optional toppings: slivers of ginger, a few pieces of toasted nori seaweed, a sprinkle of bonito flakes, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, or a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. (Nutrition information does not include optional toppings.)

Per serving (6 oz. fish with vegetables & sauce):

  • Calories: 200
  • Total fat: 3.5 g
  • Sat fat: 1 g
  • Carbs: 7 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Total sugar: 3 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 37 g
  • Sodium: 490 mg

Costa Brava Poached White Fish

The sautéed peppers, onions, and tomatoes seasoned with paprika provide a little taste of the northeastern coast of Spain.

Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1½ lbs. tilapia, sea bass, snapper, or other firm white fish, skin removed and cut into chunks
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. In a large, deep pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onions, peppers, and tomatoes in the oil, stirring often, until they soften and start to brown, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in 1 cup of water and the salt.
  4. Push the vegetables to one side. Add the fish to the open part of the pan. Spoon the vegetables over the fish. Gently shake the pan to distribute the fish evenly. Reduce the heat to low and very gently simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 5-10 minutes.
  5. Serve with the lemon.

Per serving (6 oz. fish with vegetables & sauce):

  • Calories: 330
  • Total fat: 17 g
  • Sat fat: 3 g
  • Carbs: 10 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Total sugar: 5 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 36 g
  • Sodium: 460 mg
Photos: Kate Sherwood/CSPI.

Enjoy these recipes? Salad Days!, the latest cookbook from Nutrition Action’s Healthy Cook, Kate Sherwoodwill help you expand your repertoire with imaginative combinations of greens, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and proteins. You’ll find healthy variations on classics like Chicken Caesar and Cobb, as well as more adventurous combos like Black Beans & Red Rice with Smoked Paprika Dressing and Sesame Shrimp with Caramelized Shallot Citrus Dressing.