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7 Black Sea Bass Recipes

Seafood Recipes

If you’ve never tried black sea bass before, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Among those who know it well, it is highly regarded as one of the finest eating whitefish around. The 7 black sea bass recipes below are meant to encourage those who are new to preparing and cooking black sea bass. From cooking them whole to cooking their fillets, or even using them in soups, black sea bass recipes are varied, versatile, and absolutely delicious!

Besides its flavor, it’s also an environmentally-friendly fish. Black sea bass is highly regulated, abundant, wild, and sustainable here on the east coast. We really need to be buying more fish from our native US fisheries that support our local fishermen and fewer fish from overseas. Black sea bass is a great alternative to fish like tilapia, Chilean sea bass, and Atlantic salmon, all of which are part of the global seafood trade that weakens local fishing economies and incurs a heavy carbon footprint.

This post is also part of a 6-month collaborative program called the Massachusetts Seafood AmBASSadors and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Woods Hole Sea Grant Education Research Center. Funding is provided by the proud commercial fishermen of Massachusetts from permit fees at no additional cost to the fishermen via DMF’s Seafood Marketing Grant program. It’s also in conjunction with Eating with the Ecosystem, a New England-based non-profit working to expand awareness of and access to local New England seafood.

Post Contents

Background Info

How to Cook Black Sea Bass

What Does Black Sea Bass Look Like?

whole black sea bass

Despite their name, black sea bass are in the grouper family. The majority range from 1 to 3 pounds. Their skin is a spotted black or dark brown color. Some have striking hints of dark purple and blue along their sides, and around the head and dorsal fin. Though you can’t see it well in my picture, they also have a large banded and spiny dorsal fin. I think they’re incredibly beautiful!

You’re more likely to find them sold as fillets in markets as opposed to whole with the head and tail still attached. You can easily identify them by their spotted skin, like so…

3 black sea bass fillets

What Does Black Sea Bass Taste Like?

Black sea bass have a tender but firm texture with a mild but subtly sweet flavor that is distinct, and, in my opinion, superior to both cod and haddock. Unlike bluefish, black sea bass has a widespread reputation for its fantastic flavor, especially with chefs. They are not oily fish which means they’re not as strongly flavored as, say, bluefish or salmon.

When and Where to Find Black Sea Bass

The bulk of their habitat formerly ranged from North Carolina to southern New England but warming waters have pushed their populations north and now they’re an important species throughout all of New England. They are bottom-feeding fish and migrate to coastal New England waters from about May to October which is when they’re in season and when you’ll find them in local fish markets.

If you’re in my neck of the woods in the Northampton-Easthampton-Southampton region of western Massachusetts, there are three locations where I’ve found black sea bass in the past.

River Valley Market Co-op in both Northampton and Easthampton
Northshore Seafood in Northampton
Big Y Supermarket in Southampton and Northampton

The majority of the time you’ll find them in fillet form but because they are relatively small fish, some markets, especially those along the coast, will sell them whole. I would actually HIGHLY recommend seeking them out in whole form.

Why You Should Buy WHOLE Black Sea Bass

First, they’re a lot cheaper than fillets! I recently paid $10.99 per pound for 2 whole black sea bass. As fillets, they typically cost upwards of $20 per pound. Yes, the labor cost of filleting the fish is built into the price.

Second, when you buy them whole in fish markets, they’ll already be prepared for cooking them whole. That means they’ll be gutted, cleaned, and de-scaled for you.

And that means that third, you can easily make some epic whole black sea bass recipes! Yes, I know cooking whole fish is not second nature to most people, but it’s a really simple and utterly delicious way to cook fish. As an example, see the first two recipes below.

Fourth, you can make an epic fish broth for some amazing seafood soups. As an example, see the last 3 black sea recipes below.

How to Prepare Whole Black Sea Bass

Make sure your whole black sea bass are gutted, cleaned, and descaled. Again, if you buy them at fish markets, this will more than likely be done for you.

If you’re going to roast, bake, or grill whole black sea bass, cut three to four slits, down to the bone, on each side. Like so…

scored with four slits per side for roasting or grilling

This helps the fish cook quicker and more evenly.

Depending on the recipe, you’ll then add seasonings and marinades to the outside of the fish, into the slits, and into the cavity.

How to Fillet Black Sea Bass

If you buy them whole, you still might choose to fillet them. Here’s a nice video detailing how to do it:

How to Cook Black Sea Bass

Whether you buy them whole and fillet them or just buy the fillets themselves, there are unlimited ways to cook black sea bass. Here are 7 simple black sea bass recipes to choose from:

1. Whole Roasted Black Sea Bass

whole roasted black sea bass recipe

Ah, the fish barbecues at night on the beaches of Thailand. They are a most wondrous thing to experience amidst brilliant sunsets, tables in the sand, and the sound of the ocean.

Whole fish, of all shapes, colors, and sizes are grilled over hot coals and served with a variety of Thai marinades and sauces. My favorite is a spicy green seafood sauce made with lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, and a little sugar. My version uses jalapenos instead of the fiery hot Thai green chiles. It’s quite mild but if you love hot and spicy, by all means, substitute hotter chiles.

And if a Thai seafood sauce is not your thing, substitute the simple sauce in the next recipe below for a grilled whole black sea bass. Or try your own. There are a million different simple marinades and sauces for whole fish recipes.

That said, if you’ve never had a Thai seafood sauce, give it a shot. It is quite delicious. How delicious, you ask?

This delicious…

picked clean after eating

And that’s another good thing about cooking black sea bass whole. It doesn’t have a complex bone structure so the meat easily pulls away from and even falls off the bones. And there’s plenty of it!

Whole Roasted Black Sea Bass with a Thai Seafood Sauce

This recipe for a whole roasted black sea bass features a famous Thai sauce that combines jalapenos, fish sauce, lime juice, and coconut sugar.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Thai
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 1 1-2 pound whole black sea bass gutted and descaled

For the Thai seafood sauce:

  • 4 TBSPs fish sauce
  • 5 TBSPs lime juice
  • 2 TBSPs coconut sugar or organic cane sugar
  • 1 TBSP olive oil or sesame oil
  • 2 jalapenos, de-seeded sub Thai green chilies for a spicier version
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Thai basil sub Italian basil if you can't find Thai basil

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees

  2. Combine all the Thai seafood sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings. I will typically add a little more lime juice.

  3. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Score the fish. Use a sharp knife to cut 3-4 slits on each side, about an inch apart and about a half-inch deep.

  4. Divide the Thai seafood sauce in half. Rub one all over the fish, especially into the slits and the cavity. Reserve the other half for a dipping sauce.

  5. Place the fish into a roasting pan. Roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, or until the eyes turn white and the flesh flakes easily.

  6. Serve with the reserved sauce, on the side.

2. Whole Grilled Black Sea Bass

whole grilled black sea bass recipe

As far as I’m concerned, this is the best way to cook black sea bass because nothing beats the smoky flavor of a whole grilled fish. This recipe is about as simple as it gets and yet, the flavor is still incredible.

One thing to know about grilling fish is that the skin can easily stick to the grill. Many people wrap their fish in foil to prevent this but the flavor won’t be the same. To prevent sticking, pat your fish dry and make sure to oil both the fish and the grates. Also, make sure the grill is really hot before you place the fish on the grates.

That said, if you use a gas grill, as I did, your fish may still stick even if you take the above steps. As you can see in my photo, I could not prevent some of the skin from sticking. And that crispy skin is where so much juicy flavor lies. No matter, it was still wonderfully flavorful.

Whole Grilled Black Sea Bass

The smoky flavor of the grill combined with simple seasonings creates a wonderful flavor in this whole black sea bass recipe.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 people
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 1 1-2 pound whole black sea bass gutted and de-scaled
  • 1-2 TBSPs olive oil
  • 1-2 TBSPs lemon juice
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a grill to high.

  2. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Score the fish. Use a sharp knife to cut 3-4 slits on each side, about an inch apart and about a half-inch deep.

  3. Brush the fish all over including the cavity with olive oil and then lemon juice.

  4. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

  5. Stuff the cavity with herbs and garlic.

  6. Brush the grate with a paper towel dipped in olive oil. Use tongs to hold the paper towel, if necessary.

  7. Grill the fish, covered, for about 5 minutes per side. Larger fish may need 10 minutes per side. Flip the fish when it pulls away easily from the grates. Grill another 5-10 minutes or until the flesh turns white and flakes easily with a fork.

  8. Remove to a platter and let it sit for at least 5 minutes.

  9. Serve and garnish with additional olive oil, lemon wedges, herbs, and salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Grilled Black Sea Bass Fillets with Garden Salsa

grilled black sea bass fillets with a garden salsa

Here’s a fantastic recipe from Jenny Shea Rawn, a Registered Dietitian, seafood blogger, and food photographer who lives on Cape Cod. This is one of the best recipes for black sea bass fillets. Seriously, how amazing does that photo look? It’s making me hungry just looking at it!

It can be made in less than 20 minutes and features a cumin and garlic-spiced salsa made with fresh tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. It’s the perfect recipe for summer when both black sea bass and fresh garden tomatoes are in season. Click the link to see the recipe on Jenny’s blog:

Grilled Black Sea Bass with Garden Salsa

4. Black Sea Bass Piccata

black sea bass piccata

One of my favorite Italian dishes is chicken piccata. I just love that classic combination of butter, lemon, and capers. It’s a great fit for whitefish as well and black sea bass is an almost ideal choice because of its firm texture. The fillets stand up well to pan-frying in oil and really absorb the ultra-flavorful sauce.

Jenny’s black sea bass fillet recipe may be my favorite, but this one is a close second!

Black Sea Bass Piccata

The classic piccata sauce of lemon, butter, wine, and capers pairs well with most whitefish but black sea bass is truly a great choice for its firm texture and nuanced flavor.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 1 pound black sea bass fillets
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 TBSPs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 TBSPs butter, or more
  • 3 TBSPs freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron pan.

  2. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge the fillets thoroughly on both sides. Shake off any excess flour.

  3. Saute the fillets in the oil for about 2-3 minutes until browned. Flip and repeat until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  4. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan for about 30 seconds.

  5. Add the butter, lemon juice, and capers. Mix together until the butter is melted. Taste. Add more butter and lemon juice, if desired. It should have a nice balance of fat and acid flavors.

  6. Pour the lemon-butter sauce over the fish and garnish with fresh parsley.

5. Black Sea Bass Chowder

Classic New England Fish Chowder
Photo by Lynne Graves Photography

Aww yeah, a black sea bass chowder! When was the last time you saw that on a restaurant menu? New England fish chowders almost universally use haddock or cod. But there’s nothing wrong with other types of fish and black sea bass makes an exquisite chowder, especially if you make your own fish stock.

Made with real fish stock and with real ingredients, a classic New England fish chowder can truly rival a classic New England clam chowder.

Check out this recipe for a New England Fish Chowder and simply use black sea bass as your choice of fish.

6. Lemony Black Sea Bass Soup

lemony black sea bass soup

Funny story with this recipe. This recipe is included in my cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea. I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to include it initially. Personally, I loved it. But I wanted second opinions. So I decided to make it for a group of people who, generally speaking, are not fans of seafood.

I’m talking about my family, but especially my father.

I think testing seafood recipes on people who don’t like seafood is a great way to gauge if your recipe is a good one or not. Because if you do a good job, and your recipe is made with fresh and flavorful ingredients, even non-seafoodies can be convinced. And when non-seafoodies love a seafood recipe, I know true seafoodies will love it even more.

I’ll always remember my father’s first taste. He immediately loved it and groaned with pleasure. That was the moment I knew this recipe would make the final cut for the cookbook.

Besides lemon, it also features the anise flavor of fennel and tarragon, aromatic spices, and a little cream that melds everything together into a magical elixir of seafood soup heaven.

Lemony Black Sea Bass Soup

This recipe features the flavors of black sea bass, lemon juice, fennel, and tarragon in a fish stock with a little cream for a light, brothy, but highly aromatic and flavorful soup!

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSPs olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 bulb fennel core removed, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2-3 cloves garlic diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 quart fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch saffron threads (about 20)
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half or slightly more
  • 1 1/2 pounds black sea bass fillets cut into 3 to 4-inch chunks
  • 1 cup tarragon leaves loosely packed, or more to taste
  • 2 TBSPs lemon juice or more, to taste
  • salt to taste

Optional Seasonings, to taste

  • pinch paprika or cayenne
  • hot sauce of your choice
  • Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning blend
  • fresh parsley chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium stockpot.

  2. Saute the onions and fennel for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic in the last minute.

  3. Add the fish stock, bay leaf, saffron, and allspice and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on.

  4. Add 1 cup of cream and stir in. Taste and add another 1/2 cup cream, if desired.

  5. Add the black sea bass and simmer very gently for a few minutes, or until it's cooked through.

  6. Add the tarragon leaves and stir in.

  7. Turn the heat off and then add 2 tablespoons lemon juice slowly, stirring it well, to prevent the cream from curdling. Taste and add more lemon juice or tarragon leaves to taste.

  8. Add salt to taste.

  9. Ladle into individual bowls and add optional seasonings to taste.

7. Zuppa di Pesce with Black Sea Bass

Zuppa di Pesce

Zuppa di Pesce is a famous tomato-based Italian fish soup and features a simple but delicious combination of garlic, tomatoes, white wine, fish stock, fresh fish, shellfish, and herbs. It’s really more like a stew than a soup. Regardless, if make your own fish stock, it will stand out from the millions of recipes that do not. Choosing a fish other than cod or haddock, such as black sea bass, will make it that much more unique! This recipe is also included in my cookbook, along with 9 other classic New England seafood stews, but you can also find it on my blog right here.

I hope you make one of these black sea bass recipes. Please share in the comments if you make one. and please share any other black sea bass recipes that you’ve made and enjoyed!

More Sustainable Fish Recipes to Try

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7 Black Sea Bass Recipes
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About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

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