Pan Seared Red Snapper is a delicious and healthy meal that’s ready in 10 minutes! Learn how to quickly cook red snapper with lemon butter caper sauce. If you’re nervous about cooking fish, this recipe for red snapper fillets is a great place to start.
Quick Notes: This post was originally published in May 2020. It was updated in December 2020 to include a few new photos and additional information. It may also contain Amazon affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement for details. Thank you.
Welcome to My Kitchen Serenity! I’m excited to share with you this delicious seafood recipe for two. We use fresh red snapper fillets, butter, capers, lemon, and simple seasonings to create a special weeknight meal. This simple recipe is ready in no time and the flavor is truly amazing.
This recipe is special to me because it was given to me by my sister, Leesa. We were on a family group call when everyone was talking about what they made for supper. She said she made pan-fried snapper with butter, capers, and lemon. It sounded so delicious that I told her I wanted to share it on my blog. She said yes! I made it, and my husband and I loved it!
Why You Should Try This Red Snapper Recipe
I know plenty of people who are averse to cooking fish at home, even if they love seafood. For some reason, fish seems to be one of those dishes that scare the socks off of home cooks. I’m here to help you overcome your fear with this super simple red snapper recipe.
Red snapper is a firm white fish that is delicate and mild in flavor. Once it’s cooked, it’s topped with a flavorful and simple lemon butter caper sauce. The nutty browned butter pairs perfectly with the tangy lemon and briny capers, and it highlights the mild sweetness of the red snapper.
This recipe is also great because of how healthy it is. One serving is under 450 calories (yes, even with butter!), and red snapper is a variety that has all nine amino acids and a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. So what are you waiting for?? Make this delicious pan fried Red Snapper with Lemon Butter Caper Sauce tonight!
What You’ll Need for This Red Snapper and Lemon Butter Caper Sauce
please refer to the printable recipe card for detailed ingredient information.
There are only 9 ingredients for this recipe, most of which you already have on hand: red snapper fillets, butter, capers, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley flakes. The only items I usually have to go shopping for are the fish, capers, and fresh lemon.
How to Cook Red Snapper Fillets
First, pat both sides of the fillets with a paper towel. This will help reduce splatter while cooking.
Next, lightly sprinkle each side with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. I honestly don’t use measurements here because they don’t make measuring spoons for such small amounts! Literally, just a light sprinkle is all you need.
Now, melt butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble a bit, add the fillets, SKIN SIDE UP, and slow simmer for 3-4 minutes. Flip fish over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
TIP: When pan cooking fish, use medium heat, not high heat. You don’t want the fish to be sizzling too hot or the butter will burn.
Remove the fish from the pan and set aside. Now it’s time to make the sauce! Add the remaining butter, lemon juice, capers (drained), and parsley flakes.
TIP: Want to ensure your lemon is nice and juicy? To get the most juice from a lemon, roll a whole lemon around on your countertop with the palm of your hand while using firm pressure. This will help break up the flesh of the lemon, causing more juice to be expelled. Then, slice the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice.
Slow simmer for about 30 seconds, then return the fish to the pan. Spoon the sauce over fish and heat just until hot – about 30 seconds. Transfer fish to a plate and serve with your favorite side dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Red Snapper a sustainable seafood choice?
I’m so glad that you asked! Eating sustainable seafood is an important choice to make, especially if you love fish like I do. The more sustainable the fish, the more likely we’ll be able to eat it for generations to come.
I love to check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website whenever I’m unsure about a new kind of fish. They are widely accepted as THE authority on whether or not seafood is considered sustainable.
According to the site, “most snapper caught in the U.S. is ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative.’ However, take a pass on red snapper caught in the U.S. Atlantic and lane snapper caught in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.”
As a best practice, look for fish that has the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) seal. If it does, you know that it is sustainable!
Should I remove the skin from the snapper fillets?
There is no need to remove the skin before cooking the snapper. The skin is edible and actually crisps up nicely. However, if you want to remove the skin, it’s easier to do after the fish is cooked.
What are capers?
Capers are tiny, immature flower buds from Capparis shrubs that grow in the Mediterranean (Spain, Italy and Morocco), Asia and Australia. Once capers are picked (usually by hand!), they are often placed into jars and pickled. They can also be semi-dried and packed in salt.
Brined capers are easy to find in your grocery store – next to the olives and pickles. These are the capers that I usually use, but if you happen to have salt packed capers on hand, be sure to give them a good rinse under cool water prior to using them.
Capers have a flavor akin to green olives, though they have a more pronounced lemony flavor. If you need a substitute, feel free to finely dice green olives or use pickled nasturtiums instead.
How long do I have to cook my fish?
Fresh fish is best cooked the day it is purchased. However, it will keep for two days in the refrigerator as long as it’s stored in an air-tight container or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. If it is wrapped in paper, then wrap with plastic over the paper.
If you opt for frozen snapper fillets, be sure to remove packaging prior to defrosting in the refrigerator overnight. Once defrosted, it is best cooked within a day.
Whenever you’re working with seafood, you should always give it a good whiff – fresh seafood should smell, well… like the sea. Salty and briny is what you’re aiming for. If the fish smells very fishy, it isn’t long for the world. And if the fish smells like ammonia, GET RID OF IT. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
How long will the leftovers keep?
If you have leftovers, store covered in the refrigerator and eat the very next day for best results. That said, leftovers will keep for up to three days.
Just as a heads up, potent smells like fish can invade other items like eggs and butter, so it’s best to keep your leftovers in a sealed container. I prefer to use BPA-free glass containers with locking lids. Check out this 18-piece set of glass food storage containers with locking lids from Bayco, available now on Amazon.
Do you have any good serving suggestions?
This easy red snapper recipe goes well with a variety of sides. Lemon caper butter sauce is a natural pair for simple carbs like pasta or potatoes. My sister serves her red snapper with an orzo, spinach, and pine nut mixture, which sounds divine. See her picture below (thanks, Leesa, for sharing your photo!).
If you prefer grains, you can opt for seasoned wild rice, brown rice, or rice pilaf.
If you’re looking to up your veggie intake, I also like to serve this fish with a cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot mixture. Sautéed spinach or kale would also be yummy! Pictured below is another favorite of mine: mixed vegetable cauliflower rice (be sure to drizzle that pan sauce on top of your side dish, too!).
For a lighter side dish, I also love Southern Plate’s Greek Salad. It’s a great simple, healthy side dish for any meal, especially during the summer. You can find her recipe here.
Okay, dinner is set. Now, what should I serve for dessert?
Since this meal isn’t too heavy, you’ll have plenty of room for dessert! At the moment, I’m obsessed with my Strawberry Cream Pie. It’s frozen and tastes like ice cream!
Any fruit forward desserts would go well, especially something kind of tart. My Luscious Lemon Chess Pie would be also an excellent choice!
Want more delicious fish inspiration? Check out these other fish and seafood recipes:
- Easy Miso Ginger Salmon
- Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
- Easy Cod with Herb Butter
- Southern Shrimp and Rice Casserole
- Grilled BBQ Salmon
Did you try this yummy Red Snapper with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce? Let me know how the recipe turned out for you by commenting and rating it below. Leesa will be thrilled to hear about your adventures!
Leesa's Red Snapper Fillets with Lemon Caper SaucePrint Pin For Later Rate
- 2 red snapper fillets
- 4 tbsp butter (divided)
- 2 tbsp capers (drained)
- 1 lemon
- light sprinkling of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
- light sprinkling of parsley flakes
- Pat fish fillets with paper towel. Lightly sprinkle each side with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Exact measurements are not given as you only want to lightly sprinkle these seasonings on each side of the fish.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the fillets, SKIN SIDE UP, and slow simmer for 3-4 minutes. Flip fish over and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Use medium heat, not high heat. You don't want the fish to be sizzling too hot or the butter will burn.
- Remove the fish from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining butter, juice of one lemon, capers, and parsley flakes. Slow simmer for about 30 seconds, then return the fish to the pan. Spoon the sauce over fish and heat just until hot - about 30 seconds. Transfer fish to a plate and serve with your favorite side dish.
Storing Fresh Fish
Storing Leftover FishIf you have leftovers, store covered in the refrigerator and eat the very next day!
Nutritional data is based on the brands that I used. Other brands may cause the data to differ.