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Black Cod San Sebastian - How to cook Black Cod

February 26, 2020

Black Cod San Sebastian

Black Cod Sebastian

Every Christmas, my cousin sends me a gift basket of homemade treats. My cousin lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and every year she and her family dip net for salmon. We anxiously await her Christmas box every year because it inevitably contains her homemade smoked salmon. There is truly nothing better than homemade wild-caught smoked salmon. That statement was true up until this year when her gift box arrived with something a little different inside. 

Inside our Christmas goodie box from my cousin, was a little mason jar labeled "smoked black cod." We were a bit confused because we didn't think that cod was a smoking fish. Being adventurous eaters, we tried it right away! 


The smoked black cod melted in our mouths and tastes like smoked butter. The smoked blackfish was a truly unique treat for us. Ever since we moved away from the east coast, we've craved seafood and jumped at any opportunity to have seafood. 

My cousin's time zone is 6 hours ahead of us, and I couldn't call her right away to ask her a million questions about this mysterious smoked black cod that she sent us. So, I went to work and looked up the fish on my own. Don't worry, I still called her later to thank her for the fish. 

What is Black Cod?

Black cod is a pacific fish whose actual name is the sablefish. So, is it cod or not? 

What is Sablefish? 

Sablefish, otherwise known as black cod, is a fish that comes from the deep waters off of the Pacific Coast. Sablefish are referred to as Black Cod for a few reasons:

Sablefish are a long slender fish that resemble a member of the cod family, but they are not related to cod. 

Sablefish are a long slender fish with small black scales on the top half of their bodies. These black scales are soft and feel almost like fur to the touch. 

The combination of the black scales and being a cod look-alike is how the sablefish got its nickname of black cod. 


Alaskan Sablefish come from the deep water off the pacific coast. Black cod are a highly migratory fish and swim anywhere along the pacific coast. They are most common in the cold waters off of Alaska. 

Sablefish black cod live on the ocean floors most commonly around 650ft deep, but they can live at depths of almost 10,000 feet deep. Black cod fish are caught and available year-round, but their numbers do slowdown in the wintertime while they are spawning. 

How big are Alaskan Sablefish (Black Cod)?

Alaskan sablefish average about ten pounds per fish, but some can grow as large as 100 pounds. Black cod sablefish are a long-lived fish that can reach up to 90 years old. Black cod typically reach maturity by the ages of 3-5 years old. 

Sablefish are not a member of the cod family. Now it made more sense as to why we got a jar full of smoked "black cod." We were right about cod not being a common fish for smoking but sablefish is delicious when smoked!  


Pacific Cod Vs. Black Cod: 

Both fishes live in the deep cold waters off of the pacific coast. They also look very similar to one another. The differences between the two types of fish are most evident when eating cod and sablefish. 

Black cod or sablefish has a rich buttery flavor. Black cod sablefish are high in oils, which creates a smoothness in their meat. Pacific cod by contrast is a much leaner fish with a slightly firmer texture. Sablefish tastes moist and rich, and they are often also called a butterfish. Pacific cod has a mild white fish taste, but the taste and texture of black cod is much more luxurious. Black cod fillets would not be an adequate substitute for cod recipes. 

Why is Black Cod So Expensive? 

Black Cod is a highly sought-after fish. The black cod price per pound can vary between $14.99 and $19.99 per pound. You can often find black cod online for lower prices because online venders source their black cod locally from west coast fisheries and ship frozen black cod in bulk all over the country. 

Sablefish Nutrition: 

One 3oz sablefish fillet has approximately 212 calories. The higher black cod calories come from their high oil content. Black cod fish are high in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. While not a lean fish, the sablefish is high in several minerals that are beneficial to your health. 

Black Cod Nutrition Information: (In 1 3oz fillet)

Calories: 212 

Fat: 17 grams of fat

Carbs: 0 grams

Protein: 15 grams

Black cod contains 100% of your daily value of selenium and 39% of your daily value of Niacin. 

Selenium in black cod sablefish helps support your thyroid function. Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant and can help boost your immune system. Including sablefish in your diet alongside salmon and other healthy seafood choices can benefit your health, even with the higher oil content in black cod. 

Black Cod Mercury Levels:

For a fish that lives as long as a black cod does and gets as large as a black cod does, it's relatively low in mercury making it a safe and healthy fish to eat.

What Does Black Cod Taste Like?

Sablefish has a smooth texture with large flakes. It's fish that's difficult to dry out because of its high oil content. Sablefish has a buttery flavor and is often called the butterfish. The higher oil content in black cod sablefish lends itself to harsher cooking methods such as smoking or grilling since the fish won't dry out as much as other types of fish could. Black cod makes an excellent substitute for Chilean Sea Bass in recipes. 

Alaskan Black Cod Recipes: 

Alaskan black cod is not a delicate fish, and it can be cooking used a variety of cooking methods. Sablefish is so versatile that it's a popular fish in Japan for sushi while at the same time an excellent fish for smoking on the BBQ. The flavor and versatility of black cod makes it a favorite for many sablefish recipes

How to Cook Black Cod Fillets: (How to Cook Sablefish) 

  • Baked Sablefish
  • Grilled Sablefish
  • Poached Sablefish
  • Broiled Sablefish
  • Pan-fried Sablefish 
  • Whole Roasted Sablefish
  • Smoked Sablefish

Smoking sablefish is a wonderful way to preserve a healthy snack for a long road trip or to share with friends around the holidays. I hope my Alaska cousins continue to send us smoke black cod each year!

Recipes for Black Cod Fish: 

  • Nobu Miso black cod recipe
  • Tomato Stew with Black Cod
  • Olive Oil Poached Black Cod with Lemons and Capers
  • Alaska Black Cod San Sebastian

There are many recipes for black cod. Black cod serves as a good fish substitute in many wild salmon and sea bass recipes. Black cod isn't the best substitute in some cod or other lean white fish recipes. Black cod pan-fried recipes are famous for their easy directions and quick cooking times but don't be afraid to be a little adventurous with this delicious seafood delicacy. 

Where to Buy Black Cod? (Sablefish Price)

Sometimes specialty seafood markets have black cod flown in daily, especially Sushi markets. Unless you live on the west coast, or in a larger city, it could be challenging to find sablefish or black cod locally. You can buy black cod whole or in fillets. If you see Black Cod at a local market, they can show you how to fillet black cod. Black cod does have some pin bones that they might miss at the market.

Why go through all that hassle when you can order black cod online? 

Black Cod fillets are available to order online. When ordering seafood online, you know the fillets are frozen quickly to preserve the flavor and texture. Your order is shipped to you over dry ice, so it’s guaranteed to arrive at your door still frozen. Don't wait for the next trip to the west coast to enjoy sablefish at home. 

The Best Way to Cook Black Cod

The beautiful thing about this fantastic fish is that is can be cooked in a variety of ways. There is no one best way to cook sablefish. One of my favorite ways to cook sablefish or black cod is in a sablefish recipe called Black Cod San Sebastian. The combination of buttery black cod with the freshness of littleneck clams creates a brothy seafood dish that goes perfectly with some crusty rustic bread for dipping. Alternating between bites of crusty bread and bites of succulent seafood makes for a meal that you'll want to share with your most quiet friends. You will be so involved in this meal. You won't have time for a conversation. 


Black Cod San Sebastian


  • 4 Alaska Black Cod fillets (8 oz each)
  • ¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Cups of Sofrito (See recipe below)
  • 1 ½ cups of Chicken stock
  • 1 Cup of Chorizo (cubed)
  • 20 Little Neck Clams
  • 1 cup of cooked white beans. 
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Herbs for garnish (we recommend parsley or lemon thyme) 


  • 4 Tablespoons of EVOO
  • 1 Large yellow onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 Medium red pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 Medium tomato (finely chopped)
  • 5 Cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 Tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste

Directions for Sofrito:

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. 
  • Stir in onion and red pepper. 
  • Sauté for 10 minutes frequently stirring until the onions are cooked down and transparent.
  • Add in garlic and cook for one more minute. 
  • Stir in paprika, cayenne, and tomato paste and remove from heat. 
  • Set aside

Directions for Black Cod Sebastian 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Season both sides of sablefish (black cod) fillets with salt and pepper. 
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a medium-sized oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sear black cod fillets for one minute on each side. Be careful to avoid any hot oil splashing out of the pan. 
  • Place skillet with black cod fillets in the preheated oven and bake for 7 minutes. 
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. 
  • Add chorizo and sofrito to the chicken stock and simmer for five minutes over medium-high heat. 
  • Add clams to the sofrito broth and simmer over medium heat until all of the clams open up. Discard any clams that do not open up. 
  • Stir in the cooked white beans. 
  • Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in butter.  

To Serve:

  • Divide the Sofrito broth with clams among 4 large serving bowls. 
  • Top the Sofrito with cod fillet and drizzle with EVOO. 
  • Garnish with herbs
  • Serve with toast points or crusty rustic bread for dipping. 

Black cod (sablefish) is a delicious and buttery fish that goes well in many recipes. This saucy seafood dish is a perfect dish to warm up your belly and satisfy those seafood cravings. Learning how to cook black cod is not complicated. This dish looks complicated, but it's easy to make and will impress your dinner guests. Cooking sablefish is as easy as cooking salmon or other types of oily fish. Try this recipe out the next time you buy sablefish

How have you had black cod? 

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