Pan-seared mahi-mahi with lime and basil in a cast iron skillet

Pan-Seared Fish with Lime & Basil.

  • Author: Bet
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Total Time: 11 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


4 (4-5 oz) fish fillets (I have used mahi-mahi and grouper; see notes)

1.5 – 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil – enough to coat the pan (I use avocado oil)

2-3 Tablespoons butter (I use salted)

1/4-1/3 cup basil leaves, torn or chopped

1/2 of a large lime, or a whole small one

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Begin heating a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other large heavy skillet) over medium-low heat while you prep the fish. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Have the other ingredients ready to go: lime sliced, butter unwrapped, basil rinsed and torn.
  2. Increase the heat to high and let it get hot (at least a minute), then add the oil. Carefully swirl to coat the pan, then gently add the fish, laying them down away from you so you don’t get splashed. (I cook what I think of as the “top” first, but I really don’t know what the “top” is or if there is one…?!) Cook for 30 seconds on high, then reduce heat to medium and cook (resist the urge to move it around – let it sear!) for 2-3 minutes, until nicely browned.
  3. Flip the fillets and add the basil leaves and 2 Tablespoons of the butter (if the pan seems too dry while you’re basting, add the remaining pat, but you probably won’t need it). The butter will melt fast. Once it’s melted (it may begin to brown and smell nutty; this is a Good Thing), squeeze in the lime and tilt the pan to let the butter pool on one side. Use a spoon to baste the fish as it continues to cook. It will take 1-2 minutes more, depending on how thick the fillets are.
  4. When the fish is done it will flake/pull apart when you cut into it with a fork. I mostly go by the times on this recipe, and it’s actually very forgiving if you overcook it slightly because the butter keeps things moist!


Slightly adapted from Pan-Roasted Fish with Herb Butter from the NY Times

This recipe is pretty flexible – you can use any fish you like (I have used mahi-mahi and grouper), sub in any fresh herbs, use lemon in place of lime – we had it with lemon and cilantro recently and it was great!