This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure policy.

Learn how to cook monkfish and enjoy its sweet and mild taste! Monkfish is a versatile seafood that is lean and protein-rich with a meaty texture. Since it does not flake or fall apart like more delicate fish, it’s great for pan-frying, grilling or baking in the oven!

A serving of pan-seared monkfish with lemon and parsley

Monkfish is revered for its tenderness and mild, slightly sweet flavor. As a budget friendly option, it has earned the nickname “poor man’s lobster.” Here we are making my favorite monkfish recipe using a simple lemon butter sauce.

What Is Monkfish

Monkfish looks like a bit of a monster in its natural habitat. In fact, some people call these fish sea devils or frog fish. A variety of predatory anglerfish belonging to the Lophius genus, these bottom feeders live on the seafloor and prey on smaller fish.

But beneath its scary exterior lies lean, white flesh with a robust texture that won’t fall apart during cooking, making it especially easy to prepare.

What Does Monkfish Taste Like

Monkfish has a mild and slightly sweet taste that pairs well with many sauces. The flesh is firm and does not flake apart when cooked. Its dense, meaty texture is often compared to that of lobster or scallops, with many referring to monkfish as the “poor man’s lobster.”

Where Is Monkfish Caught

Most U.S. monkfish is wild-caught in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and is considered a fairly sustainable seafood choice by NOAA and Fish Choice. Mercury levels are also lower than larger fish like marlin or tuna.

Back in 2007 there was a scare when a shipment of monkfish from Asia was mislabelled as the poisonous pufferfish, which looks similar! However, there has been a thriving Atlantic fishery for years now, so it’s safe to enjoy.

Ingredients for cooking monkfish

Ingredients

Here is what you’ll need to make this monkfish recipe:

  • Monkfish: The ideal is very fresh monkfish fillets with skin removed and of a similar thickness. Frozen will also work when completely thawed first.
  • Olive oil: You can use extra virgin olive oil or refined olive oil as you like.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is ideal, but you can use salted to get more of a brown butter taste.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice: Droplet of fresh lemon juice really enhance the flavor of this dish.
  • Parsley (optional): Freshly minced parsley makes for an attractive serving presentation.

How to Buy Monkfish

You can buy monkfish at grocery stores and fish markets. The tail meat is the only edible part of this fish, and you can buy it whole or filleted. Note that some sections can several inches thick.

The flesh should be off-white and blood is a sign of a freshness. I usually ask the fishmonger to remove gray veins membranes, which while harmless can be chewy. Avoid any fish that appears discolored or has an unpleasant smell. If you are buying frozen, always thaw completely before use.

How to Cook Monkfish

There are two easy ways to prepare this fish:

Cooking seasoned monkfish in olive oil and butter in an ovenproof skillet
Pan frying monkfish in olive oil and butter

Pan Fried Monkfish: Swirl some olive oil and butter together in a hot skillet before adding seasoned monkfish. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side depending on thickness, spooning pan juices on top. Sprinkle with lemon juice and fresh parsley before serving.

Baked Monkfish: This is a great option especially for thicker fillets that can be difficult to cook evenly on the stove. Add olive oil and butter to a hot ovenproof skillet on the stovetop. Fry the fish for 2 minutes per side in olive and butter. Then transfer to a 400°F oven for another 5-10 minutes until tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice and fresh parsley before serving.

Monkfish in an ovenproof pan before and after the oven finish
Monkfish before and after baking

Grilled Monkfish at 400°F is another option. Just be sure to oil the grates thoroughly to minimize sticking.

When Is It Done?

Monkfish cooks quickly and can get rubbery when overcooked, so be sure to watch it carefully. While a 1-inch thick fillet will take just 6 to 7 minutes of cooking time, a thicker 3-inch fillet may easily take 15 minutes or more.

When done, the surface should feel firm and slightly springy, but there are better ways to check doneness! Try inserting a knife tip into the thickest part of the fillet for a moment and if it comes out hot to the touch, the fish is done. For more precision, insert an instant-read thermometer and look for a reading of 145°F.

Closeup of perfectly cooked monkfish showing the firm texture

Serving Ideas and Variations

This fish pairs beautifully with so many side dishes:

For the fish itself, there are some great variations beyond lemon butter sauce. You can sprinkle with cajun seasoning for a bit of heat. Or dress it up with capers and olives plus lemon and garlic. There are endless possibilities, so enjoy!

More Seafood Recipes:

View all fish and seafood recipes

A serving of baked monkfish with lemon wedges and parsley
Print
0 from 0 votes

Monkfish with Lemon Butter Sauce

This pan-seared monkfish with lemon butter sauce is a healthy and budget-friendly main course that's ready in minutes. Enjoy the mild, slightly sweet taste of this "poor man's lobster."
Prep Time: 8 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds monkfish, skinned and boned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted recommended
  • half lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, minced, optional garnish

Instructions 

Pan Fried Monkfish

  • Remove the monkfish from the refrigerator (or thaw completely if frozen). Pat dry with paper towels and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place a heavy skillet oven medium-high heat. When hot, add the remaining olive oil and butter to the pan and swirl the pan to coat.
  • Add the monkfish and fry undisturbed for 5 minutes. Using a fish spatula or kitchen tongs, flip the fillets and cook several minutes more, spooning pan juices on top from time to time. Note that 1-inch thick fillets will take 6-7 minutes in total, while 2-3 inch thick fillets could take 15 minutes or more.
  • To check doneness, insert a knife tip into the thickest section for a moment. If it comes out hot to the touch, then the fish is done. You can also insert and instant-read thermometer and look for a reading of 145°F.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and optional fresh parsley onto the monkfish. Transfer to serving plates immediately and drizzle pan juices on top.

Baked Monkfish

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Set aside a large ovenproof skillet.
  • Remove the monkfish from the refrigerator. Pat dry with paper towels and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place a heavy skillet oven medium-high heat. When hot, add the remaining olive oil and butter to the pan and swirl the pan to coat.
  • Add the monkfish and fry for 2 minutes. Then flip and fry for two minutes more.
  • Using oven mitts, transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes for thinner fillets or 10-12 minutes for thick fillets. To check doneness, insert a knife tip into the thickest section for a moment. If it comes out hot to the touch, then the fish is done. You can also insert and instant-read thermometer and look for a reading of 145°F.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and optional fresh parsley onto the monkfish. Transfer to serving plates immediately and drizzle pan juices on top.

Notes

  • Baked Monkfish: Note you can also cook the monkfish from start to finish in the oven if you prefer. Make sure the oven rack is in the upper-middle position and your forced air/convection fan is turned on if available.
  • Grilled Monkfish: Follow the same steps as above using a 400°F grill. Make sure to oil the grill grates thoroughly to avoid sticking.
  • Doneness: If you are cooking thick and thin fillets together at the same time, remove the thin fillet first and tent with foil to keep warm while the remaining fillets continue cooking.
Nutrition Facts
Monkfish with Lemon Butter Sauce
Amount Per Serving (6 oz)
Calories 240 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 57mg19%
Sodium 43mg2%
Potassium 939mg27%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 33g66%
Vitamin A 91IU2%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 22mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Please read our nutrition disclaimer.

Author: TipBuzz
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: World
Keyword: how to cook monkfish, monkfish
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below!
Monkfish is a delicious seafood choice that you can have on your dinner table in just 20 minutes! #monkfish