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White Fish and Couscous with Cilantro Lemon Sauce

You can use any mild white fish to make this simple, healthy seafood dinner served with couscous and a dreamy cilantro lemon sauce.

White Fish with Couscous in Cilantro Lemon Sauce from

On my life’s bucket list, a weekend-long fishing trip extravaganza is at the very, very bottom. Maybe if medical science advances enough that I live 150 years, I’ll make time for it. Otherwise, going fishing is not high on my list of life experiences.

It’s probably a shame I’m not more of a fishergirl, because my parents, especially my dad, seemed to have quite a fondness for it back in the day. Long before I burst onto the scene, my parents planned fishing trips (or what they called “vacations”). I don’t know exactly what these trips involved other than a road trip to Canada and a whole lot of time spent on the lake, but apparently the fish caught on these trips was legendary. My dad tells me there’s nothing quite like eating a fish you caught just hours earlier, scaled with your own knife, then cooked over an open fire.

While I imagine that’s absolutely true, I’m not quite ready to head to the wilderness with my fishing pole and fillet knife. For now, I’ll enjoy my grocery store fish, which, while not caught with my own hands, does come without eyes staring back at me, a quality I tend to appreciate in my food.

White Fish with Couscous in Cilantro Lemon Sauce via NeighborFood |

This fish dinner is a quick and healthy meal that’s just perfect for spring. The first time I made it I used halibut, which I’d never cooked before, and it was absolutely divine. The fish is seasoned simply with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, served on a bed of couscous and cherry tomatoes, then finished with a bright lemony cilantro sauce that makes the whole plate sing.

When I went to make this a second time, I nearly gawked in the aisle as I looked at the price of halibut. It must have been on sale the first time around or I was in too much of a rush to check the price tag, but it seems halibut is, ahem, rather expensive. I couldn’t justify the cost for a simple weeknight meal, so I bought perch on a whim and prayed it would work.

White Fish with Couscous in Cilantro Lemon Sauce via NeighborFood

Luckily, it was just fine. The perch is significantly thinner and less “meaty” than halibut, which actually made the flavors more concentrated. And while both of these options were great, I think any mild fish, including tilapia and cod, would work wonderfully for this recipe. Turns out, you don’t need to break your budget or your schedule to get a tasty, fresh fish meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Halibut and Couscous with Cilantro Lemon Sauce

Prep Time 10 minsPrep Time
Cook Time 20 minsCook Time
Total Time 30 mins Total Time
Yields 4


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons garlic
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pearl couscous (replace with quinoa if gluten free)
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 halibut or perch fillets
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and Pepper

For the sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in cherry tomatoes. Keep warm.
  2. Heat the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the fish filets evenly with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Add them to the skillet and cook until fish is golden on both sides and flakes easily with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, cilantro, lemon zest, juice, and salt and pepper.
  4. Plate the fish and couscous and drizzle the cilantro mixture over all. Serve immediately.


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Everything Bagel Crusted Salmon from Foxes Love Lemons

Grilled Fish Tacos with Spicy Pickled Onions from Healthy Delicious

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  • wearenotmartha April 21, 2015, 8:04 PM

    A fishing trip is not my idea of fun either (unless it involves a nice warm hotel room and a ton of beach time), but I do love eating fish!! This dish looks so flavorful and delicious!


  • Katie Rowland May 29, 2018, 4:48 PM

    I have many happy memories of fishing with my Grandpa on a lake in Michigan. Fortunately, he did all the cleaning of our catch so I was spared from the yucky stuff. Eating fish has always been high on my list but preparing it is where I am challenged. This recipe looks fantastic and easy. I’m gonna take the plunge and try it. If it comes out as good as your recipe for the fish with the bursting cherry tomato sauce I will be a very happy camper. Thanks for posting another easy fish recipe Courtney.

    • Courtney May 30, 2018, 4:13 PM

      I hope you enjoy it as much as the other one! I agree, fish can be tough, but I have a few standard recipes I come back to now!

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