Chilean Sea Bass Recipe with Basil Pesto

It takes only 7 ingredients and 20 minutes to make this perfectly ender, flaky, and flavorful baked Chilean sea bass recipe! A perfect weeknight dinner that is fit for company! Note: If you do not have access to quality wild-caught Chilean sea bass or from a sustainable source, you can use another white fish (I’ve included options).

Baked sea bass topped with pesto and grape tomato halves

Eating fish weekly is part of my Mediterranean lifestyle, but truthfully one of the reasons I cook fish so frequently is because it’s almost always quick and easy. This oven baked Chilean sea bass with pesto, for example, comes together in just 20 minutes. Perfect for busy weeknights! Not to mention, there are only 7 ingredients in this recipe!

With the basil pesto on top, there’s no need for many other ingredients or added flavors. A squeeze of freshly grilled lemon brings out the mild flavor of the sea bass while a pinch of Aleppo pepper adds a subtle heat and sweetness. I also like to add a few grape tomatoes for a pop of color.

Sea Bass vs. Chilean Sea Bass

If you’re not familiar, “sea bass” refers to a large family of white fish with more than 400 species, including black sea bass, stripped sea bass, and grouper. Generally, sea bass is a mild fish with a delicate flavor, so if you don’t love a strong “fishy” taste, this fish is great option! And in my earlier pan seared sea bass recipe, I used what is known as “white sea bass” which is a type of fish called a Drum–scientifically not a “bass,” but also delicious.

Chilean sea bass, on the other hand, is a Patagonian Toothfish from the waters around South America and the Antarctic. Because of its high fat content, this fish is rich, tender, and has a buttery texture that flakes easily. Cooked properly, Chilean sea bass is sinfully delicious and will melt in your mouth! It is also a good source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. (Important Note: There are about 6 Chilean sea bass fisheries which are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and one of them is near us in South Georgia. If you do not have access to quality wild-caught Chilean sea bass or from a sustainable source, opt for a different white fish).

You can cook this fish any number of ways: pan-fried, grilled, or baked in the oven. And because of it is already tasty, I kept the seasoning to a minimum and finished the baked fish with a splash of lemon juice and bit of my homemade basil pesto.

A sea bass fillet on a cutting board, a bowl of grape tomatoes, lemon halves and seasonings

What you’ll need

This baked sea bass dinner comes together with just 7 ingredients. With ingredients that offer bold flavors like pesto, pepper flakes and lemon, a little goes a long way to create a mouth-watering dish.

  • Fish – You can Chilean sea bass (if you have access to quality wild-caught fish or via an MSC certified sustainable fishery), sea bass, or another white fish of your choice such as haddock, halibut, or cod (see tips just below).
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes. I used Aleppo pepper, which has just enough kick with a subtle sweetness.
  • Lemons – I love to grill a few lemon halves to squeeze on the baked fish as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  • Basil Pesto – I like to use homemade basil pesto but you can use a quality store-bought pesto as well.
  • Grape tomatoes – These are optional but add a nice touch and pop of color to the dish.

Buying the best white fish

Like I said earlier, a white fish fillet of your choice may work here if you do not have access to quality Chilean sea bass from a sustainable source. Keep these tips in mind when buying white fish. And it’s always a good thing to ask a fishmonger for recommendations.

  • Color. The color of your fish should be white to light pink, depending on the kind of fish, and it should be firm-fleshed.
  • Smell. Your fish should not have a strong “fishy” odor. One of the great things about white fish is the mild flavor and a strong smell is a giveaway that the fish isn’t fresh.
  • Frozen fish. It’s perfectly acceptable to purchase frozen fish. It should be wild caught, frozen solid and free of additives. Since fish is flash frozen when it’s fresh, it can sometimes be even fresher than what you find in the counter.

How to cook Chilean sea bass

In this easy no-fuss recipe, you will bake the fish in a high-heated oven at 425 degrees F for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily. Then as soon as you take it out of the oven, add fresh lemon juice and basil pesto. Here is how it goes step-by-step:

  • Bake the fish At 425 degrees F with a rack in the middle position. Place the fillet in a lightly oiled baking pan, then drizzle with olive oil and season. Cover and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll know the fish is done when it flakes easily. Internal temperature of your cooked fish should read close to 145 degrees F.

    A sea bass fillet in a black pan

    A sea bass fillet in a black pan

  • Add lemon and basil pesto. Immediately as you pull the fish out of the oven, squeeze some grilled lemon all over, then spread the pesto on top. If adding grape tomatoes, toss them with salt and olive oil then top the fish.

    A baked sea bass fillet topped with pesto and grape tomatoes

    A baked sea bass fillet topped with pesto and grape tomatoes

  • Serve. Serve the fish immediately with extra lemon wedges to squeeze.

Tips for success

Whether this is your first time cooking sea bass or you’re just looking to perfect your skills, keep these tips in mind.

  • Don’t overcook the fish. Sea bass and Chilean sea bass cook quickly and baking it too long can dry it out. The fish is ready when the flesh flakes easily. Internal temperature of cooked fish should register somewhere around 145 degrees F. And remember that the fish will continue to cook for a bit after you take it out of the oven.
  • Prepare the sides first. Since you’re looking at just 15 minutes or less of bake time for the fish, I do recommend preparing any side dishes ahead of time. This fish is best when enjoyed right out of the oven, so everything else should be ready at the same time or before the fish.
  • Make your own pesto. While you can use store bought pesto in this recipe, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to make your own. Here’s an easy recipe for my favorite homemade basil pesto. It only takes a few minutes!
Close-up of a baked sea bass fillet with basil pesto and grape tomato halves

Serve it with

I like to serve this baked sea bass with a few simple sides, like lemon rice or couscous and either a big, fresh salad or vegetables. You can never go wrong with a Greek salad or shirazi salad, but you can do a more filling salad like farro salad or pearl couscous salad. For vegetables, I love this quick sauteed asparagus, grilled vegetable skewers, or roasted cauliflower.

How to store cooked fish

Sea bass, like most white fish, is best when eaten the day it’s cooked. There’s nothing like tender, buttery and flaky sea bass straight out of the oven!

That said, leftover cooked fish can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Generally, it’s best not to reheat cooked fish; you can serve it cold or at room temperature over a salad of your choice. If you must reheat the fish, do it quickly on the stovetop or in a medium-heated oven until the fish is just warmed through. Reheat quickly and just until the fish is heated to avoid drying it out.

More easy fish recipes:

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Baked sea bass with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and grilled lemon halves

Chilean Sea Bass with Basil Pesto

Suzy Karadsheh

Tender and flaky with bold flavors, this Chilean Sea Bass Recipe with Basil Pesto is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. It’s made with just 7 ingredients and comes together in 20 minutes! If you do not have access to quality wild-caught Chilean sea bass or from a sustainable source, opt for another white fish fillet.

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Prep Time 5 mins

Cook Time 15 mins

Total Time 20 mins

Course Main Course

Cuisine Mediterranean

Servings 6 people (up to)

Calories 187.6 kcal

Ingredients  

  • 2 lb wild-caught Chilean sea bass, or another white fish fillet of your choice (see note), thawed if perviously frozen
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes, (I used 2 tsp Aleppo Pepper, which is milder)
  • ¼ cup basil pesto, try this homemade basil pesto or quality store bought pesto, more to your liking
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and position a rack in the middle.

  • Put the fish in a large lightly oiled baking pan. Drizzle the top of the fish with extra virgin olive oil and season with kosher salt, black pepper, and Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes). Cover the baking pan tightly with foil.

  • Bake, covered, in the heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily.

  • Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and add the halved lemons, flesh side down. Grill briefly until the lemons soften and char a bit (about 2 minutes or so). Remove from heat and set aside.

  • When the fish is ready, remove it from the oven and uncover. Immediately squeeze one of the grilled lemons all over the fish then spread the basil pesto on top.

  • If using, toss the grape tomatoes with a dash of salt and some extra virgin olive oil and arrange over the fish as a garnish. Serve immediately with the remaining lemon.

Notes

  • Sustainability Note: There are about 6 Chilean sea bass fisheries which are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and one of them is near us in South Georgia. If you do not have access to quality wild-caught Chilean sea bass (which is often in the freezer section) or from a sustainable resource, opt for another white fish fillet.   
  • Other white fish options to use in this recipe include: stripped sea bass, halibut, haddock, or cod. 
  • How do you know if the fish is fully cooked? The fish is ready when it flakes easily. Its internal temperature should register at around 145 degrees F. Remember that the fish will continue to cook for a little while after you take it out of the oven. 
  • Leftovers & Storage: store leftover cooked fish in a tightly closed container for up to 2 days. It’s best not to reheat the fish and simply serve it cold or at room temperature over a salad of your choice (you can use the example of this salmon salad recipe). 
  • Homemade basil pesto can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. 
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 187.6kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 27.3gSaturated Fat: 1.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 121.8mgSodium: 400.2mgPotassium: 393.6mgFiber: 0.3gVitamin A: 443.2IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 40.5mgIron: 1.4mg

Keyword Chilean sea bass recipe, oven baked sea bass

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