This haddock piccata recipe has the potential to become your new favorite way of making fish. Simple, fast and packed with bright, tangy flavor.
It features a delicious lemon butter caper sauce that perfectly complements the mild flaky haddock. Plus it gets done in less than 30 minutes!
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need for making haddock piccata. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- Butter – use unsalted butter to be able to control the saltiness. European style butter works best here.
- Garlic – mince it finely. Or use a grater or garlic press.
- Flour – some all-purpose flour for dredging the fish and for preparing roux.
- Stock/broth – chicken is preferred but veggie broth with work too. Choose low sodium/salt options.
- Salt and pepper – for seasoning the haddock and sauce both.
- Capers – piccata sauce is incomplete without these. Smaller varieties (like nonpareil) are preferred and can be used whole. Bigger ones may need to be cut/chopped. They commonly come in brine but can also be salt-packed. Opt for the brined variety and drain before use. If you're new to these, start small and adjust quantity to taste. Rinse if you want to lessen the briny taste a bit.
- Lemon juice and zest – use fresh juice, not the bottled kind – it's a key ingredient. Zest makes the piccata sauce even more vibrant. It's a little more effort but so worth it.
- Fresh parsley – use flatleaf parsley to put in the sauce and then some goes on as a garnish too.
- Haddock fillets – frozen fish is fine, as is fresh, but should be skinless. Just ensure it's completely thawed and pat dried before you begin the prep. Haddock is delicate and so cutting longer fillets into halves or thirds reduces the risk of them breaking apart during cooking.
- Ground cayenne pepper – it's barely noticeable and goes in the flour mix that's used for coating haddock.
- Garlic powder – also goes in the flour mixture. Not to be confused with garlic salt.
- Cooking oil – for pan frying haddock. I prefer olive oil but you can use any other common cooking oil too.
How to make Haddock Piccata
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare this recipe. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Step 1: Melt butter over low heat in a saucepan. Add garlic, saute 1 minute. Then add flour and stir 1 more minute. Add broth/stock and whisk until the mixture looks smooth. Bring to a simmer and let it thicken slightly while stirring frequently.
Step 2: Now add ground black pepper, salt plus capers. Bring to a simmer again, let it cook 1 more minute. Then turn the heat off.
Step 3: In a dish, combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder plus cayenne and mix well. Put haddock fillet in this mixture, press down gently to coat then flip and repeat with other side. Shake off any excess flour. Repeat for all pieces.
Step 4: In a skillet/pan (preferably non-stick), heat olive oil on medium-high heat. When hot, put the fish in – it should sizzle on contact. Cook undisturbed 2 to 3 minutes on one side. Turn carefully and then cook the other side 2 to 3 minutes. Once cooked, remove and set aside.
Step 5: Just before the haddock is fully cooked, warm up the sauce on medium heat. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest plus chopped parsley. If it looks too thick, add a splash of broth/stock and mix. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
Step 6: To serve, place the haddock piece(s) on a plate, spoon the piccata sauce over, top with extra parsley plus lemon slices and enjoy!
- Sauce too thick or thin – If it's too thick, add a little more broth/stock and stir. If too runny, simmer a bit longer.
- Overwhelming caper flavor – larger varieties of capers can sometimes taste too strong. Consider adding a splash of broth or lemon juice to balance out. If it's the first time you're trying capers, it might be a good idea to rinse before using.
- Sauce lacking depth – once you add lemon juice and parsley, taste the piccata sauce. If you find it under seasoned, add some salt or smash a few capers to release the brine.
- Fish sticking to pan – use a non stick or well-seasoned pan/skillet. The oil should be hot before you put the fish. If it sizzles upon contact, you're good. Don't move the fish a lot and don't flip too early.
- Fish breaking apart – use a thin spatula for turning. And handle with care. Haddock is a delicate fish.
- Dry-tasting fish – that's a sign of overcooked fish. Don't leave the haddock in the pan longer than recommended.
Substitutions and variations
- Fish alternatives – if you prefer another type of fish, feel free to use cod, tilapia, halibut or sole. Cooking times may vary.
- Capers replacement – capers have a distinctive taste so there isn't an exact replacement but chopped green olives may add a similar briny touch.
- Lemon juice substitute – fresh lime juice is the best second option.
- Wine infusion – replace half or all of the broth/stock with a dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. This will add more depth and is the more traditional way of making this sauce.
- Lemon slices – you can also add thinly sliced lemon rounds to the sauce, let them simmer and slightly soften for an extra burst of lemon flavor.
- Red pepper flakes – for a little touch of heat add some red pepper flakes just after you saute garlic.
- Cream addition – a splash of heavy cream added at the end (just after you add parsley) can give a creamier texture and taste.
- Buttery finish – whisk in an extra tablespoon of cold butter to the sauce just before serving – for a richer, velvety texture.
What to serve it with
- Spaghetti – thin noodles soak up the sauce like a dream.
- Steamed broccoli – a simple and healthy pairing.
- Garlic bread – because who doesn't love mopping up that delicious sauce with a slice of buttery, garlicky goodness.
- Rice – white or flavored with herbs.
- Green beans – sauteed with a bit of garlic.
- Mashed potatoes – creamy and comforting, with a dollop of butter on top.
- Coleslaw – a tangy, crunchy side for an added layer of flavor and texture.
Storage and reheating
- Storage: Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Reheating: Place the haddock (with sauce) in a skillet/pan over low heat. Gently turn a couple of times. If the sauce looks too thick, add a little splash of broth. I don't like to microwave this dish but if you must, heat it in 30-second intervals until warmed through. Add a little broth before you begin.
Just so you know
- The term "piccata" comes from Italian cooking and piccata dishes usually feature a lemon-butter-caper sauce.
- Haddock is a flaky, white fish that's relatively mild in flavor and pairs great with the bright flavors of this dish.
- Capers are edible flower buds of the caper bush. These come pickled and are frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine. Depending on the brand and preparation, their saltiness can vary.
For piccata sauce
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter - unsalted (Note A)
- 3 cloves garlic - finely minced or grated
- 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
- ¾ cup (177 ml) chicken stock/broth - low sodium (Note A), or use vegetable broth/stock
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1.5 tablespoons capers - drained (Note B)
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley - and some extra for garnish
For pan fried haddock
- 12 ounces (340 g) haddock fillets - skinless, cut longer fillets into halves or thirds (Note C)
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper - more or less to taste
- 2.5 tablespoons olive oil - or any cooking oil
- few lemon slices
Prepare the sauce
- To make piccata sauce, first melt butter over low heat in a saucepan. Then add garlic, saute 1 minute until fragrant – but not browned.
- Sprinkle in the flour, stir 1 more minute. Add broth/stock and whisk until the mixture looks smooth. Bring to a simmer and let it thicken slightly (takes around 1 to 2 minutes) – stir frequently.
- Now add ground black pepper, salt and capers. Bring to a simmer again, let it cook 1 more minute, then turn off the heat.
Prepare the haddock
- In a dish, combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder plus cayenne and mix well.
- Lay a haddock fillet in this flour mix, press down gently to coat then flip and repeat with other side. Lift and gently shake off any excess flour. Repeat for all fish pieces.
- In a skillet/pan (I prefer non-stick), heat olive oil on medium-high heat. When hot, lay the fish in – it should sizzle on contact. Don't crowd the pan. Cook undisturbed 2 to 3 minutes on one side (depending on thickness) or until the haddock looks golden brown.
- Flip, then cook another 2 to 3 minutes (internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C is the goal). Once cooked, remove from the skillet.
Finalize the piccata sauce and serve
- Just before the haddock is fully cooked, warm up the sauce on medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, add the lemon juice, lemon zest plus chopped parsley. If it looks too thick, add a splash of broth/stock. Stir well, taste and adjust salt if needed.
- To serve, place the haddock piece(s) on a plate, spoon the piccata sauce over, garnish with extra parsley plus lemon slices and enjoy!
- Step-by-step photo instructions
- Recipe troubleshooting
- Substitutions and variations
- Serving ideas
- Storage and reheating
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