Dinner In 15 Minutes: Fish in Brown Butter Sauce (Sole Meunière)

French cuisine is one of those types of cooking that brings me straight back to my grandmother’s kitchen.

Horizontal image of a plateful of fish, broccoli florets, and lemon wedges, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Whenever people ask me to describe my grandmother, I can’t help but characterize as our family’s very own Julia Child.

She studied cooking in Paris, she had that big bubbling laugh like Julia did, and she cooked the most amazing food in the entire world.

My grandmother loved seafood, and she would often take me around the city, searching for the freshest fish she could find. I used to hate fish, but whenever my grandmother made it, I actually enjoyed it.

One of her favorite dishes was Sole Meunière, also known as fish with brown butter sauce. The classic dish that Julia Child also loved couldn’t be easier to make, and yet, it tastes like a total indulgence.

Vertical image of two plates with seasoned sole, broccoli florets, and lemon wedges on a blue napkin.

You start by dredging the fillets in a light coating of salt, pepper, and flour. Then you add it to a hot mixture of oil and butter, and cook it until the exterior is nice and crisp.

The crisp exterior is light and heavenly. To me, the ethereal results that you’ll get when you make this don’t feel like a traditional fried fish recipe in any way.

Then you make a simple and extremely flavorful brown butter sauce that is enhanced with lemon and parsley. Despite the straightforward nature of this dish, it’s packed with flavor.

It’s a light and tasty entree that you can pair with any seasonal vegetable. My personal favorite pairing is broccoli, but asparagus, peas, or green beans will work as well.

It’s also a healthier dish than other fried options (yes, even with the butter), so you don’t have to feel guilty as the seafood melts in your mouth with every bite.

One of the things I am constantly saying to my husband is that we should eat more fish. Of course, he automatically associates seafood with a complicated recipe.

Vertical image of a hand squeezing lemon over a seafood dish next to broccoli.

But when it comes to this recipe, he couldn’t be more wrong (sorry, hubby).

It’s nice to come home to a meal like this, especially when you can get it on the table in just 15 minutes. While I love to slow cook, braise, and marinate on a regular basis, it’s pretty nice when you don’t have to worry about that extra step, and the time involved.

I know that fresh sole can sometimes be a little difficult to find, so it’s totally acceptable to use frozen fillets here if you need to. Simply be sure to note the instructions for thawing that I’ve outlined in the Cooking by the Numbers section of this article below – keep reading for all of the details that you’ll need!

No matter what, you will feel like you are sitting in a classic Parisian bistro when your meal is set on the table. The subtle flavor of the sole with the butter, lemon, and fresh parsley is a combination that you’re sure to fall in love with, if you haven’t already.

Vertical top-down image of a fork taking a piece of seasoned fish on a plate with broccoli and lemon wedges.

It’ll become a family favorite in no time.

As someone who used to be very picky about fish, I can say this with complete honesty:

This is one of those approachable seafood recipes that even the most picky child (or adult) will not be able to resist.

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Horizontal image of a plate with cooked sole with herbs on a plate with broccoli and lemons, with a blue napkin and fork.

Fish in Brown Butter Sauce (Sole Meunière)


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x

Description

For a fast dinner, try Sole Meunière, a classic French fish dish cooked in a rich brown butter sauce. It only takes 15 minutes to make.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Fish:

  • 4 boneless, skinless sole fillets (3-4 oz each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Pat fish dry. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge in flour, and knock off excess. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil and butter for the fish in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add fish and cook, turning halfway through, until browned and cooked through. This will take about 2-3 minutes total. Do not overcook.
  3. Transfer fish to a plate. Discard fat from skillet and reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Add butter, and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. 
  5. Pour sauce over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.

  • Category: Fish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients

Horizontal image of fresh herbs, a whole lemon, and butter.

Remove the stems and chop enough flat leaf Italian parsley so you have 2 1/2 tablespoons total.

Zest one medium lemon until you have 1 teaspoon total. A microplane comes in handy for this.

Juice the lemon that you zested, remove any seeds, and measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons total of juice.

Horizontal image of uncooked fish fillets on a black plate next to seasonings in glass bowls.

If you bought your sole frozen instead of fresh, the best way to thaw it is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight the day before you plan to make this recipe. That way, the fish can thaw slowly at a safe temperature.

If you are pressed for time, you can place the frozen sole in a resealable plastic bag, remove any air and seal it well. Submerge the bag in a pot of cold water for an hour before proceeding with the recipe.

Step 2 – Season and Dredge

Horizontal image of uncooked fish fillets seasoned with salt and pepper.

Use paper towels to pat the fillets dry. Season them evenly on both sides with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Horizontal image of dredged fish on a black plate.

Place the flour on a small, flat plate. Dredge the fillets in flour, and gently shake them to knock off the excess. Set aside.

Step 3 – Cook

Horizontal image of cooked sole on a black plate.

In a 12-inch heavy skillet, combine the unsalted butter and vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook until the foam subsides after the butter is melted.

Add the fish and cook, turning once halfway through. If you have a fish spatula, get it out now, because it really is the perfect tool for this task.

Each fillet should take about 2-3 minutes total to cook, and they should be browned and cooked through when you remove them from the pan. Be careful not to overcook the sole.

Transfer to a plate or serving platter and set aside. Pour any excess fat from the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.

Step 4 – Make Sauce

Horizontal image of brown butter in a pan.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter for the sauce. Cook until the butter is browned, about 3-5 minutes. For more detailed instructions and other suggestions for using brown butter in your cooking, you can read more about it here.

Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Horizontal image of brown butter with fresh herbs.

Pour the sauce over the cooked sole and serve warm with lemon wedges.

Make Your Fish to Order

I know there are several different dishes that you can make ahead and keep warm for dinnertime, but this is not one of them. Honestly, this dish is best served immediately after you make it.

Of course, it’s so easy to make, that’s not too much of a problem.

Horizontal image of a plate with cooked sole with herbs on a plate with broccoli and lemons, with a blue napkin and fork.

Just note that if you are planning to serve it for a dinner party, make sure all the other elements of the meal are ready to go before you start cooking the fish. You can keep vegetables and starches warm for the 15 minutes it takes to cook this recipe up.

Do you want to eat more fish? Here are some treasured favorites that you should try next:

What’s your favorite kind of fish to cook at home? Tell us in the comments below. Once you try the recipe, be sure to come back to give it a rating and let other readers know how much you enjoyed it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on May 9, 2010. Last updated: October 24, 2019 at 9:41 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

5 thoughts on “Dinner In 15 Minutes: Fish in Brown Butter Sauce (Sole Meunière)”

  1. That sounds lovely, I never make fish because the boyfriend doesn’t eat it, but I need to start doing it on nights when there’s something else for him to eat. Fish is fantastic, and you described the feeling after eating it perfectly.

  2. I made this for dinner today and was so happy because it’s so fast and tasty! Got tons of compliments as if I’d been working in the kitchen for three hours….brown butter + lemon = happiness!

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