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Sous Vide Cod (With Bechamel Sauce Your Way)

How about guaranteed melt in your mouth cod every single time you cook it? That’s what you get with sous vide cod. No more stressing about dry, rubbery and over cooked.

We finished the dish with a creamy bechamel that you can flavor the way you like and some crunchy panko bread crumbs. Simple, tasty and luxurious.

cod in bechamel sauce topped with panko with salad on plate

Cod is a mild delicate white fish that is relatively inexpensive compared to salmon, sea bass and halibut. It does have a few challenges though.

Because cod so mild (ok, bland, truth be told), it really needs added flavor. Because it’s such a delicate fish, it easily falls apart if cooked at the 130F/54C temperature I prefer. And, as with most fish, it’s easy to over cook accidentally!

Why choose this recipe

Apart from the fact that it’s delish, the recipe as prepared takes care of cod challenges as follows:

close up of chunks of sous vide cod in dish
  • Cooked perfectly: The sous vide method ensures a succulent, flaky texture every time. Much harder to achieve with other cooking methods.
  • Lots of flavor: The velvety bechamel sauce flavored with Dijon, parsley and green onions, topped with buttery panko crumbs adds a ton of flavor and deliciousness.
  • Hides the flaws: The fish falling apart makes no difference when it’s nestled in a sauce.
  • Bonus – this dish does not required the extra searing step in a frying pan that most sous vide recipes require. The whole thing comes together in 35 minutes.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

cod fillets, milk, panko, dijon, butter, green onion, seasoning, flour, parsley

Cod: Buy cod fillets without skin (or slip off the skin after cooking). Try to get them the same thickness for even cooking, but if you can’t, don’t stress – this dish is forgiving. Frozen cod is fine too. Or substitute halibut if you like.

Bechamel sauce: A basic bechamel sauce (also called a white sauce) is made with flour, butter and milk. You can then transform the sauce into many other sauces with variations:

  • mustard sauce (the one I use) – add Dijon mustard, green onions and parsley. The flavors pair beautifully with white fish.
  • mornay sauce – add 1/2 cup/56 grams grated cheese e.g. gruyere, parmesan and a touch of mustard.
  • herb sauce – add 2-3 teaspoons chopped dill, tarragon or thyme (or a teaspoon dried herbs)
  • curry sauce – add 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) of curry powder.
  • dairy-free bechamel – replace the butter with olive oil and the milk with soy or another plant-based milk. Add whatever seasonings you like.
  • If you prefer, you can make a white wine sauce for this cod dish.

Seasonings: salt, black pepper or white pepper are the basics. Dried or fresh thyme and nutmeg are great options too.

Panko bread crumbs: These are used to make a crispy garnish, adding texture. I simply toast them with butter and a touch of garlic powder in a dry pan. Instead, you can try sprinkling on chopped herbs, lemon zest or crushed crackers.

Tips

  1. Firm up the fish by salting it all over and letting it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. This is optional if you don’t mind the fish broken into chunks for this dish. My view is ‘who cares’ if you’re covering it with a sauce.
  2. Start with hot tap water to heat the sous vide water bath more quickly.
  3. Bagging: It’s better to use the water displacement method with a ziploc for the cod. A vacuum sealer with a sous vide bag tends to squish it too much.
  4. Limit handling of the cooked fish if you want to prevent it from falling apart. The best way to do this is to cut the fish into portions before bagging.

Time and temperature

As always, you need to experiment with the sous vide method to find your sweet spot for how you like your cod done.

I use 130F/54.4C if I broil the fish with the sauce and crumbs afterward. Or 132F/55.5C if I don’t. This temp will give you flaky fish just past the translucent stage, very moist and tender. My preferred temps.

If you prefer your fish more cooked, try 135F/57C. A higher temperature of 140F/60C is bordering on dryer, firmer and more rubbery.

Cooking time is 30-45 minutes depending on thickness. And a bit more if frozen. See recipe notes.

How to make the recipe

Season and bag the cod fillets.

bagged cod in pot with sous vide circulator

Cook the cod sous vide to your desired temperature. About 30 minutes.

Make the bechamel sauce. See flavor variations. I use Dijon, green onions and parsley.

panko crumbs browning in pan

Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan until golden brown. Or check recipe notes for a quicker alternative.

chunks of sous vide cod in casserole dish

Remove the cod from the bag with a spatula to a serving dish. Pat some of the moisture with a paper towel so the sauce doesn’t get watery.

cooked cod topped with bechamel sauce in casserole dish

Spoon sauce over fish.

cooked cod topped with white sauce and panko crumbs in casserole dish

Add panko breadcrumbs over the top.

cod in bechamel sauce topped with panko with salad on plate

Shortcut

Skip the toasted panko breadcrumbs and just sprinkle with fresh herbs (like sprigs of fresh dill) or crushed crackers.

Make ahead

This sous vide cod recipe is best eaten fresh, but you can find a few suggestions for make ahead in the recipe notes. The sauce and panko topping can definitely be made ahead.

Recipe FAQ

What is sous vide?

Sous vide is a method of cooking where food is immersed into a water bath in a sealed bag and cooked to the precise temperature you choose. There is no chance of over cooking if you follow time guidelines and you can achieve exceptional results with zero stress.

What kind of milk can I use to make a bechamel sauce?

Any kind of milk can be used, even fat free or plant based milk such as soy milk or almond milk. The higher the fat content in the milk, the richer the sauce will be. I use 2% milk to keep the calories down with a splash of half and half or heavy cream for added richness.

Can I use cod loins instead of cod fillets?

Absolutely. Cod loins are thicker (cut from the fattest part of the cod) and considered the prime cut. You will have to add extra sous vide time for cod loins if they are 2 inches/5cm or more.

What is the difference between cod and halibut?

Cod is typically firmer and thicker. Halibut is more delicate and flavorful – some find it “fishier”. Halibut is actually a bit healthier than cod because it contains more omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B and D. Both are considered high protein, lower fat fish. You can sous vide halibut or cod for this recipe.

What to serve with cod sous vide

cod in bechamel sauce topped with panko with salad behind it  on plate

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Recipe

cod in bechamel sauce topped with panko with salad on plate
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Sous Vide Cod (With Bechamel Sauce Your Way)

How about guaranteed melt in your mouth cod every single time you cook it? That's what you get with sous vide cod. No more stressing about dry, rubbery and over cooked.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 3 (or 2 larger portions)
Author: Cheryl

Equipment

  • Sous Vide equipment immersion circulator and container or pot

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cod fillets or cod loins similar thickness if possible
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

Mustard Bechamel sauce, Note 1 for variations

  • 2 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk, Note 2
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon start with less and add to your taste
  • kosher salt and black or white pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped, Note 3
  • optional: pinch of nutmeg

Panko topping (optional)

  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (or 1/3 cup bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or a bit more
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  • OPTIONAL DRY BRINING: To firm up the cod texture and add flavor, sprinkle fillets all over with kosher salt. Place in fridge uncovered for 30 minutes. Do NOT rinse when done. Continue with recipe.
  • PREPARE SOUS VIDE BATH: Fill container or pot with water. Set the temperature to 130F/54.4C – 132F/55.5C  (for very moist and tender) and allow water to heat to that temperature. Tip: start with hot tap water instead of cold water to reduce heating time. Note 4 for other temperatures.
  • PREPARE COD and SOUS VIDE: Coat cod fillets with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper (and a pinch of thyme if you like). Place in ziploc sous vide bag. Lower bag into water bath just until top of bag is just above water (water will push air out), then seal bag. Cook for 30 minutes. Note 5 for timing. Sealing with a vacuum bag is not recommended for this recipe.
  • MAKE BECHAMEL SAUCE: While cod is cooking, make sauce. Heat butter in medium saucepan to medium heat. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes just until roux is starting to darken. Add milk and whisk cream sauce until smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes until thickened and bubbly (it will thicken more as it sits around). If too thick, add more milk.
    For creamy mustard sauce, stir in Dijon, salt, pepper, parsley and green onions (optional – pinch of nutmeg). Taste and adjust seasonings. Note 1 for other variations.
  • MAKE PANKO TOPPING: Heat small pan to medium heat. Add butter, panko, garlic powder. Stir for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Note 6 for alternative.
  • ASSEMBLE: Remove cod from bag and transfer to serving dish (if you are going to warm it under the broiler, make sure it is an oven proof shallow baking dish). Pat dry a little with a paper towel so it doesn't water down the sauce. Break into chunks. Pour sauce over fish. Sprinkle toasted bread crumbs on top. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Bechamel sauce variations
    • mornay sauce – add 1/2 cup/56 grams grated cheese e.g. gruyere, parmesan and a touch of mustard.
    • herb sauce – add 2-3 teaspoons chopped dill, tarragon or thyme (or a teaspoon dried herbs)
    • curry sauce – add 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) of curry powder.
    • dairy-free bechamel – replace the butter with olive oil and the milk with soy or another plant-based milk. Add whatever seasonings you like.
    • or instead, use this white wine sauce
  2. Milk options – I use 2% milk and sometimes a splash of cream. Use any kind you like from fat free to whole, or plant-based. 
  3. Herb options: parsley, cilantro, dill, thyme, tarragon.
  4. Sous vide temperature options:
    • 130F/54.4C – 132F/55.5C. These low temperatures will give you flaky fish just past the translucent stage, very moist and tender. My preferred temps.
    • 135F/57C – fish is firmer.
    • Higher temperatures like 140F/60C or more is bordering on dryer, firmer and more rubbery.
  5. Sous vide cooking time
    • 30 minutes if 1 inch/2.5 cm thick or less
    • 45 minutes if 2 inch/5 cm thick
    • 45 minutes if  1 inch/2.5 cm thick or less and frozen
    • 60 minutes if 2 inch/5 cm and frozen. 
  6. Toasting panko alternative: Instead of toasting in a dry pan, melt butter in a cup in microwave, add panko and garlic powder. Combine well. Sprinkle on top of cod with sauce, then broil for 2 minutes close to heat until brown. Watch it doesn’t burn!
  7. Make ahead
    • bechamel sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and warmed on stove.
    • panko crumb topping can be made 4-5 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature. 
    • store leftovers fish casserole in airtight container and reheat gently for 45-60 seconds in microwave. Add more time in small increments if needed. Leftovers can be frozen for several months. Defrost and reheat in a low heat oven or microwave. 
Nutrition values are estimates and include 2% milk. 

Nutrition

Calories: 347kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 931mg | Potassium: 803mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 952IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 2mg
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