Pan-Seared Monkfish


5 from 2 votes
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This pan-seared monkfish recipe is an elegant and impressive seafood dish that’s deceptively easy to prepare. The skin is crispy, the meat is tender, and it’s always a hit for weeknight dinners!

Love seafood recipes? Try my cast iron salmon, air fryer tilapia, stuffed salmon, or tuna carpaccio next.

monkfish served on a white plate.

My monkfish recipe transforms a not-so-pretty fish into a sophisticated meal. I pan-fry it to showcase the best parts of it: crispy skin, juicy meat, and a fabulous yet simple sauce. It’s so good that even non-fish lovers are obsessed!

What is monkfish?

Monkfish is a bottom-dwelling ocean fish with a meaty but tender texture and a flavor that’s similar to lobster. In fact, that’s where it gets its nickname, “poor man’s lobster”!

You can sometimes find monkfish filets (sometimes labeled as American angler, frogfish, or sea devils) in major grocery stores, but not always. This means you might need to buy it online or look for it at your local fishmonger.

Table of Contents
  1. What is monkfish?
  2. Why I love this recipe
  3. Ingredients needed
  4. How to cook monkfish
  5. Alternate cooking methods
  6. Arman’s recipe tips
  7. Storage instructions
  8. More simple white fish recipes
  9. Pan-Seared Monkfish (Recipe Card)

Why I love this recipe

  • Quick and easy. I can put this simple yet impressive dish together in 10 minutes flat!
  • Bursting with flavor. This recipe may only use a handful of ingredients, but it’s still bursting with flavor!
  • Always impressive. Impress the seafood lovers in your life by serving this show-stopping meal with the side dishes of your choice.
sliced monkfish with garlic butter sauce.

Ingredients needed

  • Monkfish filets. These mild filets are cut from the tail of the monkfish and sometimes contain a single central bone. Make sure to remove the bone with a paring knife before frying.
  • Seasonings. I seasoned the fish filets with salt, black pepper, and fresh thyme.
  • Butter and oil. Frying the fish in both olive oil and melted butter encourages browning while filling it with rich, savory flavors.
  • Garlic. Fresh sauteed garlic takes the white wine sauce to a whole new level!
  • White wine. Use a dry white wine for the pan sauce, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Not a fan of wine? Use chicken broth.
  • Lemon slices. For a pop of refreshing citrus.

How to cook monkfish

I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step 1 – Prepare the filets. Use a paper towel to pat the fish filets dry, then season both sides with salt and pepper.

seasoned raw monkfish fillets on a plate.

Step 2 – Pan fry. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the seasoned monkfish filets and fry for 3 minutes. Flip, then add the butter, wine, thyme, and lemon slices to the pan. Cook for another 3 minutes, intermittently spooning the sauce over the fish.

searing monkfish fillets in a skillet.

Step 3 – Rest and serve. Take the fish off the heat and let it rest. Serve the filets with the pan sauce drizzled on top, then enjoy!

seared monkfish with lemon and garlic.

Alternate cooking methods

While I prefer pan-frying the fish because it’s super speedy and easy to do year-round, I’ve also tested this fish in the oven and also on the grill, so there are plenty of options.

Oven-baked method: Baking can be a great option if your fish filets are particularly thick. First, fry the seasoned filets in an oiled skillet for 2 minutes per side to get a crispy exterior. Next, transfer the filets to a baking sheet and bake at 400ºF for 5 to 10 minutes. Make the pan sauce as normal, then spoon it over the filets once they’ve finished baking.

Grilled method: Brush the fish with oil and add the seasonings. Grill on a 400ºF grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Arman’s recipe tips

  • Don’t overcook the fish. Monkfish cooks fairly quickly, so keep a close eye on it to prevent chewy or tough meat.
  • You’ll know the fish is fully cooked when the meat flakes easily and feels somewhat firm. You can also use a meat thermometer to see if it’s done cooking. The fish is safe to eat when the internal temperature is between 140ºF and 145ºF.
  • Trim the membranes. Some monkfish tail filets will still have pink or grayish membranes, which can easily be removed with a paring knife before cooking.
  • Baste the fish. This fish can easily dry out in the pan, which is why it’s important to spoon the butter sauce over the filets as they cook to keep them tender and moist.
  • Crush (don’t chop) the garlic. Press the knife blade flat onto the garlic cloves to crush them. I use this method to infuse a stronger garlic flavor into the sauce.
  • Add more seasonings. This mild fish pairs well with a wide variety of seasonings. For some heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, chili powder, or cayenne pepper. You can also add more herbs to the butter sauce, like sage, rosemary, or oregano.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs. Add some fresh parsley or fresh dill on top for a pop of color and a fresh, herbal flavor.

What to serve with this

It might be easier to decide what NOT to serve with this easy dinner. I like to serve it with a kani salad, cauliflower potato salad, or green goddess salad for something light. It’s also tasty with the classics, like mashed potatoes and homemade garlic bread.

If you’d like to serve the fish with something other than the lemon butter wine sauce, I’d recommend drizzling my seafood boil sauce, eel sauce, or hot honey sauce over top.

Storage instructions

To store: The cooked and cooled monkfish will last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Wrap it in a layer of plastic or store it in an airtight container.

To freeze: You can also freeze the leftover monkfish for about 3 months. To prevent freezer burn, wrap it in aluminum foil before storing it in an airtight container. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before reheating.

To reheat: Warm the monkfish in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat or bake it in a 350ºF oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it’s warmed through. 

sliced monkfish with lemon.

More simple white fish recipes

monkfish recipe.

Pan-Seared Monkfish

5 from 2 votes
This pan-seared monkfish recipe is an elegant and impressive seafood dish that’s deceptively easy to prepare. The skin is crispy, the meat is tender, and it’s always a hit for weeknight dinners!
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 9 minutes
Total: 10 minutes


  • 4 monkfish fillets 4-5 ounces each
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth
  • 1/2 small lemon sliced


  • Pat each monkfish fillet dry with a paper towel. Season the fish with salt and pepper on all sides.
    seasoned raw monkfish fillets on a plate.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until it smokes. Place the fish and let it cook undisturbed for 3 minutes.
  • Flip the fish and add the butter, garlic, thyme, and lemon slices. Spoon the butter and pour it over the fish until the other side cooks through, about 3 minutes more.
    searing monkfish fillets in a skillet.
  • Rest the fish for 3 more minutes before serving. Pour the pan juices over the top.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 151kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 17gFat: 8gSodium: 335mgPotassium: 487mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 149IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 1mgNET CARBS: 1g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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5 from 2 votes

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Needed to google wha is monkfish. I never tried eating this fish. Thanks. I hope there is available in my groccery shops.

  2. 5 stars
    I hope you all enjoy one of my family’s favorite dishes ever- my monkfish recipe. It’s SO good and the flavors work so well.

  3. I have never seen it or heard of this fish before! True, I live inland but still nope. I will keep an eye out for it, because now I am curious