This pan-seared cod with bourbon features flaky white cod topped with a sweet bourbon sauce. And it’s ready in about 15 minutes!
Years ago, long before I happily devoured seafood day after day, I ordered a bourbon-glazed fish at a restaurant… and was AMAZED.
That happy day, I discovered that bourbon and seafood are a fantabulously delicious combination, and I wanted more!
This Kentucky Bourbon Pan-Seared Cod is perfect for a fancy-schmancy date night and bourbon-filled Derby Day parties, but is so quick, easy, and delicious that you could make it for a weeknight dinner too!
Is All Cod Sustainably Sourced?
When I originally published this post in 2017, I recommended purchasing wild Alaska cod.
Since then, Alaska cod is becoming scarce (due to climate change), to the point that the Alaska Cod Fishery officially closed the 2020 season. If you want to eat cod, look the Marine Steward Councilship label.
If, however, you notice the price of cod rising, that it’s becoming harder to find, or you simply want to look for a more sustainable option, try swapping the cod in this recipe for halibut or salmon.
How to Make a Gastrique Sauce to go with Pan-Seared Cod
For this decadent Kentucky Bourbon Pan-Seared Cod, you’re going to need bourbon, honey, balsamic vinegar, a little butter and olive oil, and a few fresh herbs.
Oh, and cod. Don’t forget the cod!
Fist, gather all the ingredients for your “gastrique.”
Gastrique is a French word that means… ‘extra super-duper-fancy-pants sauce,’ — I believe that’s a direct translation.
Don’t quote me.
Combine the bourbon and balsamic, and set it aside (but within arm’s reach).
Pour the honey into a small saucepan over medium heat, and it should start bubbling within 1-2 minutes. Once the bubbles start, stir it with a wooden spoon until the honey turns a dark amber color.
As soon as– and I do mean AS SOON AS– the honey darkens, grab the bourbon-balsamic mixture and, standing as far back from the pan as possible to avoid getting splashed, pour the mixture in.
Continue stirring for another couple of minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.
Does it Matter What Kind of Pan I Use?
Ideally, use a heavy pan to pan-sear.
A heavy pan will help evenly distribute the heat.
Make Pan-Seared Cod
Since cod takes a little longer to sear than a thinner fish would, I like to use both butter and olive oil when I’m searing it.
That way, the butter doesn’t brown as quickly and the oil doesn’t start smoking. Heat your butter and oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat.
Once the pan is hot, add the fish, and leave it alone! Let it cook for about four minutes, and then flip and let it finish cooking!
Need more help? Check out this tutorial on How to Pan-Sear Fish.
Drizzle the seared cod with your bourbon gastrique, and top everything off with some fresh herbs.
Serve it right away, and savor each bite of this decadently rich fish dinner!
Want more BOURBON recipe ideas? Try these:
- Bourbon Salmon with Pecans
- Pan-Seared Halibut with Kentucky Bourbon
- Kentucky Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
Pan-Seared Cod with Kentucky Bourbon
- 2 cod fillets (~4 oz each)
- 1 TB butter
- 1/2 TB olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup honey OR sorghum syrup
- diced green onion, parsley, and or basil to serve (optional)
- Pat cod dry, and then pat it dry again. Allow it to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, pour balsamic vinegar and bourbon together and set aside. Keep the balsamic-bourbon mixture within arm’s reach, so that you can grab it quickly when the honey is ready.
- Pour honey into a small, heavy bottom pot and turn heat to medium. In about 1-2 minutes, the honey should start to bubble. Stir it with a wooden spoon until the honey darkens in color and turns amber (about 3 more minutes). (*Note- The caramelizing honey will be EXTREMELY hot. Do not touch it or attempt to taste it at this point.)
- Carefully, standing back from the pot in case of splash-back, pour the balsamic and bourbon mixture into the pot with the honey. Stir, and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Take sauce off the heat, and set aside. (*Note- If the sauce cools and thickens too much while the fish is cooking, simply set it back on the heat for about a minute, or until it heats up again.)
- Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat.
- Salt both sides of the cod.
- Set cod in hot pan, and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Set a timer for 4 minutes, and don’t touch the cod until the timer goes off. (If your butter smokes a little, lower the heat slightly.)
- Next, use a thin metal spatula to flip the cod. If it sticks to the pan, wait another 30 seconds. The fish will release when it’s done cooking. Cook for another 4 minutes, and transfer to plates.
- Serve fish immediately with bourbon sauce, along with fresh herbs (optional).