A mildly spicy, citrusy cherry tomato sauce with just a few ingredients turns baked fish fillets into a delicious jazzed up dinner in about 20 minutes.
I used cod fillets for this recipe – a mild white fish – but many other fish fillets are suitable. The recipe is quick and easy as you make the cherry tomato sauce while the fish is baking. I use my toaster oven to bake the fish.
The cherry tomato sauce: White fish always needs a good flavor boost because it is so mild. The zesty, mildly spicy cherry tomato sauce delivers. The tomatoes will burst to create a sauce while cooking with lemon, orange and sweet Thai chili sauce. Add some salt, smooth it out with a pad of butter, brighten it with chopped parsley. Done.
Many side dishes go well with this healthy baked white fish recipe. My all time favorite, pictured above, is lemon herb cauliflower rice stir fry. Healthy, low calorie, low fat and delicious! I added fresh chopped baby spinach for extra nutrition and color. Another great option along the same lines is cauliflower rice recipe with pesto.
Tips for baking fish fillets
How do I get rid of the fishy smell on my fish?
At what temperature should I cook my fish?
I use a higher temperature of 425F/217C to cook most fish. You can also cook it at a moderate 350F/176C temperature but it will take longer.
How long does it take to bake fish?
Most cooks use the 10 minute rule for baking fish. 10 minutes per inch (2.5cm) of thickness. So a 1 inch thick fillet will take 10 minutes at the 400-425F/217C temperature. Thicker fish will take longer.
What should the internal temperature of fish be when cooked?
The FDA says white fish should be cooked to 145F/ 62.8C. Many people nowadays, including me, prefer a more medium cook of 130-135F (266-275C) using an instant read thermometer.
How can I tell when my fish is cooked?
The fish will be cooked when it is still moist with a mother-of-pearl look and slightly transparent. It will separate easily with a knife. It should not be dry and stringy i.e. overcooked.
Can I use frozen fish fillets?
Yes, just defrost them in the fridge before baking.
Can I pan fry the fish fillets instead of baking them?
Yes, pan fry for about 4-5 minutes per side if fillets are 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
Is cod a healthy fish?
Yes. It is low in calories and fat, has excellent B12 and other minerals and is low in mercury.
Tailor To Your Taste
Fish substitutes: Instead of cod, you can use haddock, pollock, tilapia, black cod, grouper, seabass, mahi-mahi. Even salmon would be good. Just be sure to cook the fish for more or less time, depending on its thickness.
Tomato substitutes: Instead of cherry tomatoes you can chop up fresh ripe tomatoes such as plum tomatoes. Or use diced canned tomatoes in a pinch.
Herbs: I use parsley in the sauce. Basil, dill, cilantro or thyme would work well too.
Sauce: The cherry tomato sauce is flavored with lemon and orange zest and Thai sweet chili sauce. Instead, you can try a garlic-oregano combination spiced with red chili flakes. Another option is to use this Moroccan flavored spicy cherry tomato sauce – delish! In fact, you can choose the poach the fish directly in the sauce. Use as much or as little heat/spice as you like.
The sauce can be made a few days ahead of time. Don’t let the cherry tomatoes break down fully as they will do that when you are reheating the sauce before serving.
Other easy fish recipes (under 30 minute) you might like
- stuffed salmon recipe with lemon ricotta
- coconut curry salmon
- roasted salmon stuffed with herbs
- pecan crusted salmon
- maple balsamic rainbow trout
- lemon butter herb baked trout
How to make baked fish fillets with cherry tomato sauce
Baked Fish Fillets with Cherry Tomato Sauce
- 1 lb (450g) cod fillets, skinned, Note 1
- salt, pepper, thyme
- 2 tsp olive oil
Cherry Tomato Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or chopped plum tomatoes)
- 1/2 large orange (zest and juice)
- 1/2 large lemon (zest and juice)
- 2 tbsp Sweet Thai chili sauce, for mild-moderate spiciness (or more to taste)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (or 1/2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tbsp butter at the end)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- HEAT OVEN OR TOASTER OVEN to 425F/217C.
- BAKE FISH FILLETS: Line a pan with parchment or foil, sprayed with oil (for easy clean up). Rub oil over fish and generously sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. **see Tip below** Bake fish for 8-10 minutes (figure 10 minutes per inch (2.5 cm) of thickness) just until fish is cooked through, separates easily with a knife but still slightly translucent on the inside. Temperature of fish with instant thermometer should be about 130-135F for medium. ** If fish is not even thickness, cut into pieces, separating thick and thin. Cook the thicker pieces for a few minutes before adding the thinner pieces which will take less time to cook.
- MAKE THE SAUCE: While fish is baking, heat 1/2 tbsp oil on medium in a saucepan. Add all other sauce ingredients (except parsley) and cook for about 5-7 minutes just until tomatoes start to break down. Use the back of a large spoon or spatula to smash them a bit if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, a pinch of sugar, more chili sauce, etc. Stir in 1/2 tbsp butter (if desired) and the parsley.
- PLATE: Transfer fish to a plate. Spoon over cherry tomato sauce and serve.
- Cod substitutes: Instead of cod, you can use haddock, pollock, tilapia, black cod, grouper, seabass, mahi-mahi. Even salmon would be good. Just be sure to cook the fish for more or less time, depending on its thickness. If your fish has a fishy smell (most have some), squeeze some lemon on it to remove smell - or soak it in milk for 15-20 minutes.
- Other substitutes: Instead of cherry tomatoes you can chop up fresh ripe tomatoes. Or use diced canned tomatoes in a pinch. Herbs: Instead of parsley in the sauce, try basil, dill, cilantro or thyme.
- Cauliflower rice side dish (optional): If you want to serve the fish over cauliflower and spinach 'rice' as pictured - made in 10 minutes - try our recipe for lemon herb cauliflower rice stir fry. Place 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach in food processor along with the cauliflower when chopping to 'rice', then stir fry together for about 4 minutes.
- Make Ahead: The sauce can be made a few days ahead of time. Don't let the cherry tomatoes break down fully as they will finish cooking when you are reheating the sauce before serving.