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It’s the Perfect Time of Year to Try this Pepper-Crusted Cod Recipe

A classic Asian condiment, sambal, brings a little heat to this sautéed cod dish.

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Sambal is a classic Asian ground chile sauce with a deep smoky flavor, which is highlighted with a touch of fish sauce and dry herbs in this healthy cod recipe. It’s a super-versatile sauce with medium-high heat. While it’s a little fussy to remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles, it’s well worth the effort. Cod is in peak season in May, so it’s the ideal time time to try this mild white fish and up the seafood into your diet. We like this pan-seared cod served with the simple tossed greens and some coconut rice.

Pepper-Crusted Cod with Sambal

  • Serves: 4


  • 2 pounds cod steaks or any thick white fish
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Zest from half a lemon, divided
  • 1 tablespoon whole or coarsely ground peppercorns, divided
  • 2 cups mixed bitter baby greens (arugula, watercress, spinach, or kale)
  • Juice from half a lemon


  • 2 ounces dried guajillo or ancho chiles (5–7 chiles)
  • ¼ cup dried hot Asian red chiles
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus more if needed
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon dry cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Make the Sambal

  1. Step 1

    Soak the chiles in very hot water for 10 minutes, drain, then remove the stems, skins, and seeds. Combine the chiles with the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. 

Make the Cod

  1. Step 1

    Lightly dust the cod with the mixture of the flour, salt, and pepper. Gently shake off excess. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat, add the cod, and cook for 3–4 minutes. Sprinkle with half the lemon zest and whole or coarsely ground peppercorns before flipping. Cook an additional 2–3 minutes and sprinkle with remaining lemon zest and peppercorns.

  2. Step 2

    Toss the greens with the lemon juice just before serving. Top with cod and drizzle with the olive oil/peppercorn mixture from the pan. Add a generous spoonful of Sambal to each portion or serve it on the side.

  3. Step 3

    The Sambal will keep in the fridge for at least 1 week.

Per serving:
Pepper-Crusted Cod – Calories 278, Protein 42 g, Carbs 7 g, Fat 8 g, Fiber 1 g, Sodium 712 mg
Sambal (2 tbsp.) – Calories 46, Protein 2 g, Carbs 8 g, Fat 2 g, Fiber 2 g, Sodium 394 mg

Adapted from Feed Zone Table: Family-Style Meals to Nourish Life and Sport by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim, with permission of VeloPress.