Red Lentil-Crusted Fried Fish

This red lentil-crusted fried fish is an easy, healthy, gluten-free weeknight dinner made with firm white fish, ground red lentils and spices, and a citrus sauce.

Six pieces of red lentil-crusted fish on a metal surface.

Crusting fish or other seafood in lentils is a fun and easy way to add complexity, crunch, and delicious flavor. I discovered the technique for this red lentil-crusted fried fish recipe while experimenting with making flours from different grains. This lentil crust not only adds texture but a layer of flavor, too. The curry spices seem a fitting accompaniment as does the bright citrus and saag, a traditional curried spinach.–Eric Skokan

LC Far From Penance Note

One taste of this red lentil-crusted fried fish recipe and you’ll understand why we consider it to be far, far from penance to swap out a steak every once in a while for this fish dish.

Red Lentil-Crusted Fried Fish

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4
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  • For the saag or curried spinach (optional)
  • For the citrus sauce
  • For the red lentil-crusted fried fish


Make the saag or curried spinach (optional)

In a large sauté pan over high heat, combine the onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, and oil. Cook until the onion begins to color, about 4 minutes. Mix in the spinach and cook just until it wilts, about 5 minutes. Drain any liquid in the pan through a colander. Return the mixture to the pan and stir in the yogurt. Season with salt and set the saag aside.

Make the citrus sauce

Transfer the zests to a blender. Add the sugar, lemon juice to taste, and oil. Purée on high speed until very smooth, about 3 minutes. With the motor running, add the water and blend until the citrus mixture is emulsified. Taste and adjust the amounts of juice and salt accordingly.

Make the red lentil-crusted fried fish

Combine the lentils, spices, and 2 teaspoons salt in a spice blender, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle and process until the lentils are reduced to a powder. Transfer to a shallow dish.

Season the fish on both sides with salt, then dredge the fish through the lentil mixture, turning to coat all sides and shaking off any excess.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the fish and cook until crisp on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. You may need to reduce the heat to medium to prevent the outside of the fish from blackening before the inside of the fish is cooked through.

Divvy the fish among 4 dinner plates. Place several spoonfuls citrus sauce and the curried spinach, if using, alongside. Garnish with the citrus segments and cilantro. Serve immediately.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This red lentil-crusted fried fish recipe was perfect. Everything worked like a charm and was wonderfully tasty. I made the saag as well, and it really brought the dish together. I just added some rice on the side. The saag was very easy to make. I used a somewhat spicy curry, but the heat was lovely when tamed by the yogurt (I used full-fat Greek yogurt). For the citrus sauce, I skipped the blanching of the zest. I used a microplane to zest the fruits, so not much of the bitter pith was added. I used the juice of 1/2 lemon and added just a pinch salt. I used my immersion blender for the blending, and it worked great. I used fresh rock cod and cut a 2/3 pound fillet into 4 pieces for 2 people. I fried the pieces for 8 minutes total on medium-high, and the fish turned out perfect—moist inside and crisp outside. My total time for the whole dish was 35 minutes—rather quick, which I liked. There was some leftover red lentil coating. I will try it with chicken. This recipe is a keeper, and I will make it again.

A solid supper. The unique and bright citrus sauce was a great complement to the fragrant fried fish, and the spicy saag tied it all together. I'm not convinced that the tiny mustard seeds were powdered successfully in the food processor, and next time I make this red lentil-crusted fried fish recipe, I might give them a pounding with the mortar and pestle. I was also tempted to throw in some fennel seeds. For the citrus sauce, I used 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice. We ran out of the citrus sauce before finishing the fish, so that part of the recipe could stand to be increased. (I wish we had made 1 1/2 times the sauce.) But ultimately, this seemed like a more-creative-than-usual dinner that wasn't all that time- or energy-intensive. While pureeing the sauce, it took about 30 seconds after adding the water for the sauce to be emulsified. I used Pacific cod, which was lovely. For frying the fish, 4 minutes per side over medium-high heat was perfect. I decided to use the orange segments, which were so delicious with this dish! They should definitely be included if you're making the saag as they nicely tempered the heavily garlicked and gingered greens.


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