Baked Alaskan Black Cod with Braised Tomatoes

Emma Frisch - food blogger extraordinaire, cookbook author, mama, and co-founder of Firelight Camps - joins us again to share her connection to Alaska, provide a few excellent cooking tips, and share a fabulous recipe.


When wild salmon drew me to Alaska in 2015, I hadn’t expected to discover another fish that would steal my heart and palette: Sablefish, otherwise known as Black Cod or more aptly, “Butterfish.”

Like every other worker bracing against the salt and scales, I was standing on the puddle-strewn floor of the processing plant wearing my xtratuff boots. My guide, Kendall Whitney, directed my attention away from the totes of coho and king salmon to another table. Without hiding his reverence, he whispered, “now those are black cod.”

Workers processing black cod in a seafood processing plant in Sitka, Alaska

“What’s black cod?” I asked naively.

“Let’s try some,” he said. That night we dined at Ludvig’s Bistro with several friends and salmon warriors, and I had my first bite of black cod. To this day I can’t remember how it was cooked, but I do remember it was one of the most luxurious bites of fish I have ever had.

The good news is, you don’t have to have a trained chef at a fancy restaurant prepare black cod for you. Alaskan black cod tastes buttery and has a delicate, velvety texture that comes from its high-fat content; not necessarily from the way it’s prepared and cookedOn the contrary, black cod shines in simple recipes and is difficult to overcook!

Scooping Lemon-Rosemary Braised Tomatoes on to Baked Black Cod

Because black cod is so rich, I wanted to prepare a zesty, tangy tomato sauce to balance the fish’s oily texture. I simply coated the black cod portions with olive oil and salt, then layered lemon slices on top. I roasted the black cod with acorn squash, while preparing braised tomatoes to dress the fish. The result was astounding, and a perfect compliment to the harvest season when seafood and vegetables are coming in from the sea and fields.

I hope you’ll consider treating yourself to Wild For Salmon’s Black Cod and preparing this recipe at home!

With love and gratitude // E

Workers processing black cod in a seafood processing plant in Sitka, Alaska

Black Cod vs Common Cod

Sablefish bears the alias “black cod” due to its dark black scales and similar appearance to common, Pacific cod. Both fish live in the Pacific and can look very much alike, which people end up confusing. Black cod, however, isn’t related to Pacific cod at all, and should never be substituted for each other.

Common, Pacific cod has a firm, lean, and flakey white meat, while black cod has velvety, fatty white meat. When overcooked, common cod becomes dry and chewy. Black cod, on the other hand, is so fatty that it’s hard to dry out (a novice cooks dream!).

If you’re looking for an alternative to black cod, try Chilean sea bass, which is just as fatty and rich. Now, these luxurious fish are fairly pricey, so you may want to consider saving them for a special occasion and using a more affordable, high-quality fatty fish, like wild Alaskan salmon or halibut, for everyday meals.

The Health Benefits of Black Cod

  • Black cod contains twice as many Omega-3 fats as salmon.
  • The fatty acids in black cod are good for brain and heart health.
  • These also help keep blood vessels healthy and regulate blood pressure.
  • Black cod is an excellent source of protein.

Baked Alaskan Black Cod with Lemon and Acorn Squash on a baking sheet

Mercury Levels of Black Cod

Black cod can be part of a healthy diet, but it’s wise to consider its mercury level, especially if you’re a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding.

All fish contain trace amounts of mercury, which is an element that’s commonly found in soil and water. Fish that grow in polluted fisheries are more likely to have higher mercury levels. It can increase levels in adults who eat fish as part of their regular diet—eventually becoming harmful to their health.

Fortunately, Alaskan black cod lives in one of the cleanest bodies of water in the world. Alaskan seafood is generally lower in mercury levels thanks to their preserved water. Learn more about the mercury levels in Wild For Salmon seafood, here.

Black Cod and Sustainability

Black cod has an extremely long life span, some reaching over 90 years old! That means they can reproduce early and more often, making them a wonderfully sustainable seafood choice. In fact, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s rating system for environmentally-conscious seafood, black cod is one of the best choices for seafood.

Where to Buy Black Cod

If you live on the west coast, you’ll likely find fresh black cod at the grocery store or fish market. Off-season, black cod is available frozen as well as online from a number of retailers, including Wild for Salmon.

Scooping Lemon-Rosemary Braised Tomatoes onto Baked Black Cod

How to Cook Black Cod

Black cod is wonderfully versatile, and its high-fat content makes it forgiving if overcooked. Before you start cooking, make sure you remove all the little bones that run along the fish’s centerline, as some purveyors don’t remove all of them.

Baked: Coat black cod in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking dish or sheet and bake in a 400F oven for 10 minutes.

Broiled: Set an oven rack 3 to 4 inches from the heat source, then preheat the broiler. Place the black cod in a well-greased or nonstick ovenproof baking dish or skillet, and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil, adjusting the time or rack position if the fish is browning too quickly until fish is golden and just cooked through.

Pan-Fried: In a large nonstick skillet, heat light cooking oil (such as safflower) over medium-high heat. Season the black cod with salt and pepper. Cook each fillet, skin-side down, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip the fish and sear until just cooked through.

Grilled: Make sure your grill is well oiled; black cod is fragile and can easily stick to the grill and fall apart. Heat the grill to medium-high, then place the black cod directly over the heat and cook on each side until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Best of all, you don’t have to worry too much about the fish getting overcooked if you look away for too long.

Poached: Arrange cod fillets in a single layer in a shallow saucepan; cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add in any aromatics or spices like bay leaf or ginger. Cover again, and cook for 5 more minutes.

Smoked: Smoked sable is a staple at Jewish delis. It’s usually sold sliced and used as a topping for bagels. If you have a smoker, check out this recipe for homemade Smoked Sablefish from Honest Food.

Raw: If you like fatty tuna or salmon belly sushi, then you’ll love raw black cod. Just make sure you’re sourcing sushi-grade black cod, like from Wild For Salmon.



Black cod is such a luxurious, buttery fish that it needs very little prodding to feel special. This braised tomato sauce is a perfect compliment, adding an herbaceous, tangy, and lightly sweet topping that pairs perfectly. The acorn squash melds just as beautifully with the braised tomatoes and rounds out this dish to make it a hearty, delicious meal. I love using a variety of cherry tomatoes to really make this dish pop in beauty. And don’t forget to save your squash seeds so you can try making your own variation of roasted seeds to snack on.


  • 1 lemon, zested and thinly sliced into rounds

  • 2 acorn squash

  • 2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 3/4 teaspoons salt

  • 2 six-to-eight ounce portions Wild Alaskan Black Cod


For Braised Tomatoes:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 45 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and coarsely chopped

  • Zest of 1 lemon



  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and set the oven rack on the middle rung.
  2. Prepare the acorn squash by slicing them in half and scooping out the seeds (don’t forget to save them*). Then slice the squash** into half circles; don’t remove the skin – it’s edible! Transfer the sliced squash to a large baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Use your hands to coat each slice with the olive oil and salt. Evenly space out the squash on the baking sheet, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your braised tomatoes. Place a medium frying pan on the stove, just a touch under medium heat. Add the olive oil, sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic, and salt to the pan and stir to combine. After about 2-3 minutes you should hear the tomatoes begin to sizzle. Stay attentive and stir the tomatoes every minute or so. When the tomato skins are shriveled and the garlic begins to brown, add the rosemary, and continue to stir for another 7-10 minutes until the oil is a beautiful golden color. Remove the tomatoes from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the squash from the oven. Use a spatula to flip the squash, which will allow the other side of the squash slices to caramelize. Clear a space in the center for the black cod.
  5. Place the black cod in the center of the baking sheet and drizzle the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt over the surface. Use your hands to rub the oil and salt evenly over the cod, then top with the thinly sliced lemons. Return the baking sheet to the oven for 10 minutes (set your timer!).
  6. When the timer sounds, turn the oven to broil for 3 minutes and be sure to remove the squash and cod right when the timer sounds. Remove the baking sheet and allow the fish to rest for a few minutes.
  7. Transfer the squash and cod to a serving dish and spoon the braised tomatoes over the cod, using any extra for the squash.
  8. Tuck in immediately!
  9. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
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