Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce

Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce

Seared halibut with lemon caper sauce, topped with a dollop of crab, is a sunny dish. The sauce on the halibut is a classic pan sauce, which can be used for chicken or fish of any kind.

This dish is really a showstopper and I think it’s as good as anything you will order in a fine dining restaurant. Halibut is a bit of a luxury and cooks quickly, so have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start cooking.

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Purchasing and Preparing Halibut:

You can buy your halibut in one large piece and cut it yourself into individual fillets, or if you have a good fish market, ask them to cut the halibut into fillet sizes of your choosing. Fresh halibut often comes with the skin on, and for this recipe, I recommend you remove it prior to cooking. Rinse fillets and pat dry. It’s important that they are dry so that you can get a good sear on the fish.

Halibut is a mild white fish and it lends itself well to sauces. It cooks quickly, so searing is one of the easiest ways to prepare it. Like all fish, halibut can quickly overcook, so keep a close eye on your pan.

Because halibut is mild, be sure to salt and pepper before cooking. Remove from heat while making your sauce.

How to sear fish:

Searing fish is the best way to lock in flavor. The purpose is to quickly cook at a high temperature until a browned crust has formed. Just follow these easy steps:

  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
  • Add oil and swirl until it shimmers
  • Add fish that has been patted dry. If the fish has skin, always place the skin side down first.
  • Only turn the fish once. When fish is ready to be turned it will easily lift off the pan.

How to make a Classic Pan Sauce:

This seared halibut with lemon caper sauce and crab on top involves a few steps but is relatively easy. The sauce is a classic pan sauce, so you can use it with any white fish or chicken.

For this classic pan sauce:

  • Begin by sauteeing minced shallots in butter or olive oil over medium heat.
  • I’ve added garlic because I love it, but if you prefer something milder just omit it.
  • When the shallots begin to smell fragrant add the dry white wine and reduce (cook down) until nearly evaporated.
  • Add capers and lemon juice, warm through, then turn off the heat. (This step is for this recipe and can vary for a classic pan sauce depending on your main ingredient).
  • Whisk in remaining butter bit by bit, until smooth and silky to finish your sauce.
Seared Lemon Slices

How to make seared halibut with lemon caper sauce:

  • Sear the halibut and remove it from the pan. Add lemon slices and sear briefly. Set aside with the halibut
  • Make the pan sauce
  • Add the cooked halibut back into the pan, with the sauce, to warm.
  • Remove halibut pieces to a plate, or platter, add lemon slices on top, along with a dollop of crab, just before serving
  • Spoon the lemon caper sauce over the top

This recipe includes crab meat on top of the halibut, which makes it great for a special dinner, but it’s optional.

Seared halibut with lemon caper sauce and crab atop steamed asparagus

Suggestions for wine pairing:

Your weekday wines:

  • Palmina Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara, California
  • Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse, Maconnais France (Chardonnay grape)

Your weekend wines:

  • Sauvion Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France
  • William Fevre Chablis, France

A special occasion wine:

  • Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet, France
  • Chateau Fuisse Pouilly Fuisse Le Clos, France

Some of our other favorite seafood recipes:

Seared halibut with lemon caper sauce
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Seared Halibut with Lemon Caper Sauce

A sunny lemon caper sauce pairs perfectly with seared Halibut. Top with a dollop of crab for an elegant touch.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 261kcal
Author: Cyndy Ufkes – The Art of Food and Wine


  • 1 lb Fresh halibut, skinless, Cut into 2 equal fillets
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 tbsp butter, unsalted divided
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp shallots, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay or sauvignon blanc
  • 2-3 tbsp capers, drained
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup crab meat, shredded
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


  • Pat dry and sprinkle halibut fillets with sea salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter and swirl to coat pan.
  • When the oil is shimmering add halibut fillets and sear about 5 minutes per side. Check for doneness and remove to a plate. Add lemon slices and briefly sear until softened, then set aside with fish. Wipe out the pan.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Add garlic and shallots and saute for 1 minute.
    Add wine and reduce for 2-3 minutes, until nearly evaporated.
    Add capers, and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute.
    Turn off the heat and swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to finish the sauce.
  • Put halibut fillets back into the pan, adding any juices that are on the plate. Warm for 1 minute.
  • In a small bowl add crab meat and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix to combine
  • Serve halibut on a shallow plate, top with 2 tablespoons crab mixture. Spoon lemon caper sauce over top of halibut and add a sauteed lemon slice as garnish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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