Flounder with Lemon Butter Sauce

This flounder with lemon butter sauce is easy, healthy, quick, elegant, family-friendly, and requires that you clean up only a single skillet. That’s to say nothing of its crisp brown crust and flaky perfection.

Two fillets of flounder in a lemon butter sauce in a skillet topped with chopped parsley

Elegant and easy, this flounder recipe with lemon butter sauce is, in the words of its creator, an easy weeknight meal to pull together without nary a hassle. We can vouch for that. So can the literally hundreds of readers who click on this recipe weekday afternoons. Although cooking fish is commonly perceived as tricky, this recipe nails it, almost effortlessly creating a crisp browned crust on the exterior and a tender, flaky interior. Any white fish fillet works in this recipe, so opt for whatever looks fresh and is priced within your means.–Renee Schettler

Why You Need To Use Fresh, Not Frozen, Fish In This Recipe

Though it may be tempting, don’t substitute frozen fish for fresh in this impressive weeknight-friendly recipe. Frozen fish, no matter how thoroughly you thaw it or pat it dry, will exude quite a lot of moisture during cooking, effectively making it impossible to attain that lovely crisp crust that otherwise forms on fish tossed into a hot skillet. So you end up with soggy steamed fish rather than those crisp edges that give way to tender fish in a way that makes your heart skip a beat. Trust us when we say it’s worth a few extra hard-earned dollars for fresh rather than freezer-case fish.

Flounder with Lemon Butter Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • (13)
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Serves 4
4.5/5 - 13 reviews
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Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Pat the fillets dry a second time just to be sure to remove all the moisture. If desired, sprinkle a little flour over both sides of the fillets and use your fingers to evenly coat both sides.

Tester tip: The key to crisp perfection is to make sure the fillets are extra dry by patting them with paper towels and dusting them with just a tiny bit of flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron or stainless steel rather than nonstick) over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers but isn’t smoking, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the fillets to the skillet and cook, without moving, for 2 minutes. Slide a thin metal spatula underneath the fillets (making sure to use a little pressure to scrape up any of the golden crust that may be sticking to the bottom) and carefully flip the fish. If it seems impossible to slip the spatula beneath the fillet and the skillet, wait 30 to 60 seconds or so and try again. The fish will release when it’s ready–and only when it’s ready.

Tester tip: You may be tempted to pull out your nonstick skillet, but to get that coveted crisp crust, you’re better off with a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan.

Place a slice of butter on top of each fish fillet and stand idly by as the butter melts and infuses the fish with flavor. Cook the fish until it springs back from light pressure, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the fish to a platter or to 4 plates.

Carefully squeeze the lemon juice into the skillet and, with the skillet still over medium-high heat, use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the fresh herbs and spoon the sauce over the fish. Originally published July 26, 2012.

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    *NOTE: How To Make This Flounder Recipe Gluten-Free

    • Although a dusting of flour does make for a swell crust on these pan-seared fish fillets, it’s not necessary. There’s an editor here at LC (ahem) who can attest that flour isn’t at all essential for a lovely sear on fish. She sizzles flounder fillets for supper quite frequently in a sturdy stainless steel skillet and they never, ever have a flour coating. It’s just not necessary. If you’re accustomed to the thin coating imparted by flour but are gluten-free, then you can use rice flour in place of all-purpose flour, as noted in the recipe above, and it will work just dandy.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    There’s nothing better than simple for dinner. This flounder recipe with lemon butter sauce is easy to prepare and delicious to eat. The preparation allows the fish to shine as the main ingredient.

    I chose not to use the flour and just used a good stainless steel pan that I’d lightly oiled. This produced a light crust without overcooking the fish. The juice of 1 large lemon was enough to make a light pan sauce and I chose fresh tarragon and parsley for the herbs. Since basa was on sale, I used that.

    A simple dish that made for a great meal. I’d certainly make this again.

    This flounder recipe makes a nice, light, quick meal. Wonderful on a hot summer day. The crust was indeed crisp and brown and the fish tender and moist.

    I used snapper instead of flounder and lightly dredged the fish with flour instead of dusting it. The pat of butter on top was a unique twist to the way I usually make fish and it added a richness not only to the finished sauce but also to the fish itself. I liked the tangy lemony sauce on its own and left out the herbs.


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    1. I followed this recipe, except for using frozen cod instead of the thin, fresh fish called for. Because of the thickness of the cod, a longer cooking time was required which resulted in a crispy crust. It’s amazing how delicious this simple recipe is. This time I used parsley and chives for the herb mixture but next time will try tarragon – my favorite with fish.

    2. So, did not see the part about having to be fresh fish. I bought frozen. If I thaw and dry off really well will this still work? Darn!

      1. This is delicious. My husband loves it. He says it is better than a restaurant. Only trouble is , whenever I cook it the fish falls apart. I’ve been using fresh flounder, cast iron pan and a metal spatula. I have to present the fish in a little mountain of fish. Good thing it taste great because it looks terrible. What am I doing wrong?

        1. Peggyann, flounder can be exceptionally tricky. I love it and have cooked it often and many of those times have been in a sorta heap, as you say. A couple tricks that you may have thought of…first, don’t nudge the fish any more than you absolutely have to with the spatula. Wait longer than you think prior to trying to flip it. And as for that metal spatula, my life changed when I invested in this ultra thin yet flexible yet sturdy OXO metal spatula. Perhaps it will help? Also, are you cooking it in as wide a skillet as you have? The extra space in the skillet allows you extra room to maneuver with the spatula. Perhaps you can cook the fish in separate skillets to provide ample space…? Kindly let me know if this helps…

    3. After buying four pieces of fresh flounder at my favorite fish market, I searched here for an easy flounder recipe that included ingredients I already had, and this recipe fit the bill. This is a quick and easy way to prepare flounder, and the lemon, butter, and mixture of herbs, gave this mild fish such a great fresh flavor. I used both chives and parsley, and added a couple of tablespoons of rinsed capers as well. I served this fish with a garden salad and some warm focaccia bread and a dipping sauce for the bread. Although the taste was not affected by my inability to properly flip the fish without breaking it, it did change the presentation a bit. I would definitely make this again, and will try the new fish turner that I just got for that purpose. Can’t wait to see if it makes a difference, and works better than a spatula.

      1. Lorna, so glad you liked the recipe but sorry you had problems turning the fish. Whenever you have skinless light-colored fillets, they tend to fall apart. I try to get skin-on fillets, which is hard in supermarkets. If I can’t, I use my fish spatula. This is my favorite.

    4. A wonderful recipe. Try this variation: lime instead of lemon. You get a different summer flavor. A little more tart on the tongue, but still a wonderful dish.

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