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Pan Fried Swordfish Steaks with Salmoriglio Sauce

Flavorful and juicy pan- fried swordfish steaks are easy to make and delicious! Topped with a bright salmoriglio sauce, pair the fish with a vegetable side dish for a light and filling meal. I love the flavor of baked chicken thighs with salmoriglio sauce, but these swordfish steaks have even more flavor – perfect for a date night in.

Fried swordfish on a plate with parsley.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • The pan- fried swordfish cooks in a hot pan with olive oil and butter, creating a beautiful sear. If that’s not flavorful enough, we coat the fish in a bright salmoriglio sauce.
  • I always thought cooking swordfish looked complicated, but they are easy to make and perfect as a quick weeknight meal.
  • The mild flavor of the swordfish is one of the best ways to introduce people to seafood. 
  • Even though this is a lighter meal, the fish is filling and satisfying – it is called the steak of the sea. 

    What is Salmoriglio Sauce?

    Served with swordfish most of the time, salmoriglio (Salmor ELL ee yo) sauce pairs well with vegetables and other meat like chicken or pork chops and seafood. The lemon-rich sauce from Calabria and Sicily regions of Southern Italy gets its name from the word salamoia, which means salty. The traditional condiment, used as a marinade and dressing, features extra-virgin olive oil, freshly–squeezed lemon juice, and flavorful herbs.

    What You Need to Make this Recipe

    • Swordfish Steaks: Use fresh or frozen fish – whatever you have available. I usually buy frozen steaks at Wegmans or Whole Foods
    • Salt and Pepper: Prepare the fried swordfish with kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper before searing them in the pan.
    • Olive Oil: Sear the steaks in olive oil and use it to prepare the sauce. For the most authentic flavor, prioritize extra virgin olive oil if possible.
    • Butter: Butter isn’t necessary, but I love using it to sear the fish until golden brown and to flavor the salmoriglio sauce.
    • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice and lemon zest brighten the salmoriglio sauce, but the flavor won’t be the same if you use bottled lemon juice.
    • Garlic: I use two fresh garlic cloves to flavor the salmoriglio sauce, but measure with your heart.
    • Parsley: Garnish the fish with finely chopped fresh parsley or oregano leaves.

    Additions and Substitutions

    • Fresh Herbs: Try using other herbs such as oregano leaves, dill, or tarragon.
    • Spices: Because I finish the steaks with salmoriglio sauce, I flavor the fish with kosher salt and black pepper, but you can use other spice blends like blackened seasoning, lemon pepper, or homemade Slap Ya Mama Seasoning.

    Tools Used to Make this Recipe

    All you need to make the fried swordfish is a frying pan. I prefer using something with a heavy bottom to disperse the heat more evenly, like a cast iron pan, some non-stick skillets (many of them won’t give the same sear), or a stainless steel skillet, as long as you heat the pan before adding oil or butter to create a non-stick seal.

    How to Make Fried Swordfish

    The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

    Step 1: Pat the swordfish fillets dry with paper towels and generously season them with kosher salt and black pepper.

    Swordfish seasoned with salt and pepper.

    Step 2: Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet with a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the steaks to the pan away from you.

    Swordfish searing in a pan.

    Step 3: Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Repeat this process until the fish reaches 135℉ (57℃). Transfer the fish to a cutting board and let them rest for 10 minutes.

    Swordfish searing in a pan.

    Step 4: While the steaks rest, warm one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in the same pan over medium heat, scraping up any stuck-on bits from cooking the fish. Then, add the garlic and cook for one minute.

    Butter and garlic cooking in a pan.

    Step 5: Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest.

    Lemon juice added to the salmoriglio sauce.

    Step 6: Prick the steaks gently with a toothpick or fork, then pour the mixture over the swordfish steaks and garnish with chopped parsley to serve.

    Salmoriglio sauce poured over the fish.

    Expert Tips for Pan Frying Swordfish To Perfection

    • Run your fingers over the swordfish and use a pair of food tweezers to remove any bones from the fish.
    • Pat the steaks dry with a towel. Removing the excess moisture helps the steaks sear and become golden brown.
    • Sear one to two swordfish steaks at a time so you don’t overcrowd the pan. If the pan is too crowded, the fish will boil instead of sear.
    • For thicker steaks, I recommend using an America’s Test Kitchen technique, which has you flipping the swordfish every 2 minutes until the fillets come to temperature.
    • If you’re feeling fancy, baste the tops of the steaks with butter and oil during the last minute of cooking.
    • Remove the steaks from the pan and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving. Resting the fish redistributes the juice and allows the steaks to come to the proper cooking temperature.

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    Fried swordfish on a plate with parsley.

    Serving Suggestions

    What to do With the Leftovers

    • Refrigerate  Cover the leftover steaks in foil or plastic wrap and store them in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How is swordfish supposed to be cooked?

    You can cook swordfish on the grill, broiler, or a skillet. Whatever method you use, you will sear both sides of the swordfish steak over medium-high heat.

    It is easy to overcook swordfish, leaving the fish dry and flavorless. The most accurate way to cook the fish is to use a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak and wait for it to read 135℉ (57℃), since it will continue to rise in temperature as it rests. The safe internal temperature for swordfish is 145℉ (67℃).

    For thicker steaks, I recommend using an America’s Test Kitchen technique, which has you flipping the swordfish every 2 minutes until the fillets come to temperature.

    Can I use frozen fish instead of fresh?

    If you have access, fresh fish is the best, but frozen swordfish works. When buying fresh swordfish, look for white cuts and avoid using steaks with a strong fishy smell. Depending on how the butcher or fishmonger cuts the fish, the steaks may have a red or dark brown streak, which is muscle; it is safe to eat but has a strong taste.

    Can I make this recipe on the grill?

    Prepare your gas grill to 400℉ (204℃). Coat the swordfish fillets with oil, salt, and pepper. Sear the fish for 3-4 minutes. Flip, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

    More Italian Recipes:

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    Fried swordfish on a plate with parsley.

    Pan Fried Swordfish Steaks with Salmoriglio Sauce

    Tressa Jamil
    Flavorful pan-fried swordfish steaks with bright salmoriglio sauce and a tasty vegetable side dish make a light and delicious meal.
    5 from 1 vote
    Prep Time 4 minutes
    Cook Time 16 minutes
    Total Time 20 minutes
    Course Dinner, Main Course
    Cuisine Italian
    Servings 4 Steaks
    Calories 360 kcal
    Equipment
    Ingredients
      
    • 4 swordfish steaks, 1 to 1½-inch
    • kosher salt, to taste
    • black pepper, to taste
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened, divided
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • ½ lemon, juice (plus, 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
    • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
    Instructions
     
    • Pat the swordfish fillets dry with paper towels and generously season them with kosher salt and black pepper.
    • Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet with a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the steaks to the pan away from you.
    • Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Repeat this process until the fish reaches 135℉ (57℃). Transfer the fish to a cutting board and let them rest for 10 minutes.
    • While the steaks rest, warm one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in the same pan over medium heat, scraping up any stuck-on bits from cooking the fish. Then, add the garlic and cook for one minute.
    • Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest.
    • Prick the steaks gently with a toothpick or fork, then pour the mixture over the swordfish steaks and garnish with chopped parsley to serve.
    Notes
    Expert Tips: 
    • Run your fingers over the swordfish and use a pair of food tweezers to remove any bones from the fish.
    • Pat the steaks dry with a towel. Removing the excess moisture helps the steaks sear and become golden brown.
    • Sear one to two swordfish steaks at a time so you don’t overcrowd the pan. If the pan is too crowded, the fish will boil instead of sear.
    • For thicker steaks, I recommend using an America’s Test Kitchen technique, which has you flipping the swordfish every 2 minutes until the fillets come to temperature.
    • If you’re feeling fancy, baste the tops of the steaks with butter and oil during the last minute of cooking.
    • Remove the steaks from the pan and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving. Resting the fish redistributes the juice and allows the steaks to come to the proper cooking temperature.
    Nutrition Disclosure:
    • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
    Nutrition
    Serving: 1 Steak | Calories: 360 kcal | Carbohydrates: 1 g | Protein: 34 g | Fat: 24 g | Saturated Fat: 7 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12 g | Trans Fat: 0.3 g | Cholesterol: 127 mg | Sodium: 186 mg | Potassium: 742 mg | Fiber: 0.3 g | Sugar: 0.1 g | Vitamin A: 696 IU | Vitamin C: 6 mg | Calcium: 19 mg | Iron: 1 mg
    Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
    Recipe Rating