When trying to get more protein into my diet, I immediately start thinking about eating more fish. Fish is practically a superfood. Not only is it high in protein and low in calories, but medical studies have suggested that eating fish can help prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and even acne. This panko crusted cod recipe is a great way to get more fish into your diet. Mild-tasting, meaty cod fillets with a crispy crumb crust are a hit with almost everyone, even people who don’t love seafood. Add a bright, citrusy lemon aioli, and you’ve got a family favorite recipe you’ll return to again and again.
This recipe calls for panko cod fillets to be fried in oil, which does add fat and calories to the dish. Choose a heart-healthy oil like corn oil or light olive oil. I measured the oil used in this recipe before and after frying, and I found that each serving contains about one tablespoon.
Start this recipe by making the lemon aioli. Making the lemon aioli is absolutely simple – just whisk all the ingredients together to combine thoroughly. Set the sauce aside so the flavors can blend while you prep and cook the cod fillets.
This lemon aioli recipe uses both lemon juice and lemon zest for a powerful punch of lemon flavor. For me, the best way to zest a citrus fruit is with a microplane. You might want to watch this quick video to learn the best way to zest lemons using a microplane.
The most important thing to keep in mind when zesting citrus with a microplane is to be careful not to cut yourself, because microplane graters are sharp! Another important tip is that you don’t want to press the fruit into the microplane. This is because you only want the outer yellow layer of the lemon peel, not the inner white layer. The white layer tastes bitter, and you don’t want that in your recipe. Another good way to zest lemons is using a box grater.
Lemon aioli is a versatile “everything sauce,” and you’ll probably end up serving it with more than just fish. I love to serve it with vegetables or roasted chicken.
For this panko crusted cod recipe, I used frozen cod fillets from Costco. If fresh cod is available where you live, that’s even better. The cod fillets I had were between five and eight ounces each. Some of the larger ones seemed to naturally come apart into two pieces. If your fish fillets are different sizes, try to cook the same size pieces together, because smaller pieces will tend to cook faster.
If your cod fillets are wet, pat them dry with paper towels. This will keep the breading from getting too thick or soggy.
The process for making this panko crusted cod will seem familiar if you’ve made any type of crumb-crusted fried recipe. Sprinkle the cod fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Cod is a mild tasting fish, so you’ll want to build up layers of flavor and seasoning.
Each piece of seasoned cod is dipped first in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then panko breadcrumbs. Here are the coated cod fillets, ready to be cooked:
I fried my panko crusted cod using my T-fal self-cleaning deep fryer, which I got for Christmas, because my family knows I love cooking gadgets! I use my deep fryer only once or twice a month, but I love it. I’ve seen the same model used on “Master Chef” and “The Great British Baking Show.” An electric fryer keeps the oil at the exact right temperature, so the crumb coating turns out light and crispy, not greasy.
The thing I love about this deep fryer is that when you’re done frying, the oil passes through a filter and into a storage tank so you can use it again. If you don’t have a deep fryer, you can make this panko cod in a frying pan on the stovetop, and it will be just as good.
Cook your panko crusted cod at a temperature of 370 degrees F in the deep fryer for about five minutes, until the fillets are medium brown and cooked through. With my fryer, I was able to do three at a time.
If cooking the fillets on the stovetop, cook on medium-high heat for about three minutes on each side.
Cod fillets should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. I use a food thermometer to make sure the fish is done inside, and also to check the temperature of the frying oil.
My absolute favorite food thermometer is the Thermoworks Thermapen MK4. This is the best, most accurate and most durable pen-style food thermometer you can buy. It’s waterproof, with a rotating, backlit display. Another good choice is the Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo. If you want a less expensive but very accurate food thermometer, I recommend the cute little Thermoworks Thermopop.
These light, crispy panko cod fillets truly are a family favorite. The lemon aioli adds a bright, fresh flavor that takes this dish over the top. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Panko Crusted Cod with Lemon Aioli
For the lemon aioli:
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the panko crusted cod:
- 6 cod filets 4-5 ounces each
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional for seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional for seasoning
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- Oil for frying canola, corn, vegetable or light olive oil
- Make the lemon aioli by mixing all ingredients together thoroughly. Set aside for the flavors to blend.
- Pat the cod fillets dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Place the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a pie pan or shallow dish, and stir to combine. Place the egg in another pie pan or shallow dish and beat together with the water. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a third dish.
- Dip each cod fillet first in flour, then in egg mixture, then in panko breadcrumbs, pressing to make sure the breadcrumbs stick to the surface of the fish.
- Deep fryer cooking method: Heat oil in the deep fryer to 370 degrees F. Fry cod fillets, 2-3 at a time, for about 5 minutes until medium golden brown and cooked through. Cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate to cool and drain away any excess oil.
- Stovetop cooking method: Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil to a depth of about 1/3 inch, and heat over medium-high heat. Fry the cod fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until medium brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel covered plate.
- Serve panko crusted cod with lemon aioli.