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Salt and pepper fish is an easy dish to make at home that's healthier and tastier than take-out. Big chunks of white fish are fried to crispy perfection and served with aromatic green onions, garlic, and ginger. Dish it up with a side of rice for a simple yet flavorful meal that's ready in just 30 minutes!
This is our homemade take on Chinese salt and pepper fish; a classic Cantonese dish. If this is your first time hearing about it, it's likely because it gets overlooked on menus for not having a sauce.
We'll admit, we do love sauce, but we also love the simplicity of this dish. Each ingredient plays an important role and you can taste all of them.
One thing to remember about this recipe is to make sure your oil is hot, otherwise the fish will turn out greasy. Apart from that, this salt and pepper fish is straightforward and easy-to-make, and it uses mostly pantry ingredients!
Here's what you'll need
As with all cooking, ingredients matter. This a pretty simple dish so all the flavors play a role. We especially recommend sourcing a good quality black pepper and grinding it yourself.
Here's everything you'll need to make the salt and pepper fish:
- Fish – we recommend thicker pieces of white fish, like center-cut cod or halibut.
- High-heat cooking oil – a high-heat cooking oil such as avocado, coconut, peanut, sesame, or sunflower oil is best for frying. While one cup of oil may sound like a lot, it ensures the fish gets a nice and crispy. As long as the oil is hot, most of it is not absorbed and you'll actually be left with nearly ¾ of a cup after cooking.
- Green onions, garlic, and ginger – this simple yet aromatic blend of vegetables adds lots of flavor and color to this fish dish.
- Sugar – a granulated sugar or cane sugar will work best to add balance and a bit of sweetness to the sautéed vegetables.
- Rice vinegar – for adding a mellow sweet flavor and touch of acidity to the vegetables.
Here's what you'll need for the batter:
- Corn starch – this key batter ingredients makes the fish nice and crispy.
- Rice vinegar
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
How to make salt and pepper fish
It's easy to make salt and pepper fish in a few simple steps:
- Start by cutting the cod into bite-sized pieces and patting them dry with paper towels.
- Mix the batter ingredients in a bowl, then add the fish and toss to coat.
- Now shallow-fry the fish in hot oil until it's golden brown. Remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Leave a few tablespoons of oil in the pan, add the green onions, garlic, ginger, and sugar and sauté them for about a minute.
- Return the fish to the pan, sprinkle the rice vinegar over the top, and toss gently. Enjoy!
How long do leftovers keep?
Because the fish is fried, this dish is best eaten right away. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, but the texture won't be crisp when you reheat the fish.
Can I use flour instead of cornstarch?
We like using cornstarch for frying because it typically makes for a crispier finish. If flour is all you have, you can definitely use it but it wont' be as golden and crispy.
Ideas for serving salt and pepper fish
Salt and pepper fish with sautéed green onions, garlic, and ginger is so flavorful and simple.
Serve it with a simple side of rice (like our ginger rice shown in the picture below) for a healthy and complete dinner. It also pairs perfectly with any vegetable sides like quick garlic roasted carrots, sesame garlic miso mushrooms, or sautéed green beans with garlic.
Salt and Pepper Fish
- 1 ½ lb center-cut cod (see notes)
- 1 cup high-heat cooking oil (see notes)
- 8 green onions (chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg
- Cut the cod into bite-sized pieces and dry them well with paper towels.1 ½ lb center-cut cod
- Mix the batter ingredients in a large bowl then add the fish and mix well.2 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 large egg, ⅓ cup cornstarch
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan with high sides. When the oil is hot, shallow-fry the fish in batches until it is golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per batch. Remove the cooked fish from the pan and set it aside on a plate lined with paper towels.1 cup high-heat cooking oil
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger, and sugar and saute for about 1 minute.8 green onions, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger, 1 teaspoon sugar
- Return the fish to the pan, sprinkle the rice vinegar over the top, and toss gently.1 tablespoon rice vinegar
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.