Pan-Seared Swordfish Recipe With Lemon Garlic Sauce

This decadent swordfish recipe is so easy to prepare, you can have a restaurant-worthy meal any night of the week. 

Swordfish steaks are the pearl earrings of the culinary world. They’re simple, elegant, and equally stunning at either a casual get-together or a special occasion. They go with just about everything and are a fuss-free way to look and feel like a million bucks.

swordfish recipes

When cooked perfectly, swordfish is a tried and true crowd-pleaser. It is such a mild-flavored white fish, that it often appeals even to people who ordinarily turn their noses up at seafood recipes, and its dense, meaty texture will please even the most devoted beef lovers. Cooks love working with swordfish because it is incredibly versatile. Unlike most fish, swordfish steaks hold up well on the grill. They won’t stick to the grill grate or fall apart, so you can slide them onto skewers with veggies for a different take on grilled kebabs.

Grilled swordfish recipes are popular, but you don’t have to fire up the grill to get a perfectly cooked melt-in-your-mouth swordfish steak. Just pan-sear your fish for a few minutes on each side to get a nice caramelized crust, then finish it in a hot oven. Pan seared swordfish is a dish that’s ridiculously simple, but guaranteed to turn heads.

Why You’ll Love This Dish

  • It’s seafood you can feel good about: Swordfish live in oceans the world over, and their populations are thriving. Swordfish caught in U.S. Waters are strictly regulated to protect both the fish population and their environment, so if you’re eating fish from American seas, you can rest assured that you’re dining responsibly.
  • It’s lightning fast: All in all, you’ll spend less than 20 minutes making this delicious swordfish steak recipe. Better still? It tastes so rich and delicious that people will think it took far more work and expertise than it actually does. Because this swordfish steak recipe comes together so easily, it’s perfect for stress-free entertaining. You’ll be able to serve up a chef-worthy meal without spending a lot of time in the kitchen and missing out on all the fun.
  • It plays well with others: If you’ve got simple vegetables like green beans or broccoli in your crisper, and rice or pasta in your pantry, you’ve got all you need to serve a sumptuous swordfish supper. Want to dress it up a little? Serve swordfish steaks over grits, risotto, or polenta. Surround them with caramelized Brussels sprouts, pearl onions, or tender asparagus. No matter how you serve it, this rich, buttery swordfish steak recipe will shine.
  • It’s healthy: Swordfish is low in fat and calories and chock full of vitamins, beneficial fats,  and protein. It’s a heart-healthy meal that feels like a splurge.
  • It’s fancy without the fuss: Cooking swordfish doesn’t require any special equipment or know-how. With this pan roasted swordfish, you can serve a sophisticated meal that will wow the most discerning guests. Whether it’s your best friend, your boss, or your mother-in-law, this recipe is going to have your guests thinking that you’re a culinary genius.
  • Clean-up is a breeze: You’ll need a small pot, a spoon to make the sauce, and just one pan for cooking the fish. That’s it, so you get to spend more time enjoying your guests or family, and less time worrying about cleaning up the kitchen.

swordfish steak

How to Buy Swordfish Steaks

While other fish are typically filleted, swordfish is sold in thick slices. The cut sides reveal the swirled pattern that allows the meat to retain it’s shape and texture when cooked. A typical serving size is about 6 to 8 ounces per person, but swordfish steaks are usually around 12 ounces, so with the right sides, you can serve two with just one steak.

When buying swordfish, look for nice thick pieces. Anything thinner than an inch might split when you flip it, and thin steaks are far easier to overcook. Overcooked swordfish steaks lose their tender, delicate texture, so purchase steaks at least an inch in thickness to ensure the best results.

Choose steaks with a light creamy color. A little pink is alright, but the darker red areas of a swordfish steak have a much stronger fishy flavor. You can cut away the red parts before cooking if need be though, so don’t pass up an otherwise good-looking steak on account of just a little red. Interestingly, if the fish was dining on shrimp just prior to being caught, the flesh may have an orange tint, but that will not affect the flavor in the slightest. However, steer clear of swordfish steaks that look brown.

While fresh swordfish will produce the most delicate, tender flavor, if you can’t find fresh fish, frozen swordfish steaks are a good option. Just thaw the frozen fish in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. Trying to defrost them quickly under warm water or in the microwave will likely lead to overcooking, so take your time. If you are short on time, you can seal the steaks in an airtight bag and let them sit in a bowl of cool water. They should be thawed and ready for cooking in about an hour.

How to Cook Swordfish Steaks:

  • If your fish is skin-on, start by carefully cutting it off. The skin is tough and inedible, so you won’t want that on your beautifully pan-seared swordfish steaks.
  • Next, cut away any deep red areas, as those will have a strong fishy flavor.
  • Then, pat both sides of each steak with a paper towel. Doing so will ensure that you get a nice crispy sear. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper, and it’s ready for the pan!
  • The most important thing to remember when making swordfish steaks is to avoid overcooking them at all costs. It goes quickly, so stay focused, and you’ll nail it every time. You want to sear each side just long enough to get a crispy golden crust, then finish it off in a hot oven for no more than 5 minutes. Steaks that are prepared medium will register 130-135 degrees on a meat thermometer, while well don- steaks should reach 140-145 degrees.
  • Finally, drizzle on the lemon garlic sauce. The tangy, buttery flavor of this sauce is the ideal way to bring out the natural richness of swordfish.

how to cook swordfish

How to Serve Swordfish Steaks

Swordfish is a meaty fish delicacy that you can enjoy anytime because it is caught year-round. This makes it a fabulous addition to any dinnertime rotation, and perfect for people who want to add more fish to their diets. Give your swordfish steaks some seasonal flair by changing how you serve them throughout the year. Try these pairings, or visit your local farmer’s market for inspiration.

  • Spring:  Serve swordfish steaks in springtime alongside a large baby spinach salad topped with candied pecans, tangy feta, sweet spring strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  • Summer: Summer is a great time to serve swordfish, because you don’t have to heat up the kitchen with a long cook time. Pair summer swordfish with a few lemon wedges, herbed new potatoes, and pan seared zucchini.
  • Fall: In autumn, roast root vegetables, squash, onions and broccoli in the oven. When they’re almost ready, give your swordfish a quick sear, then finish it off in the oven alongside the veggies.
  • Winter: Serve meaty swordfish steaks over creamy mashed potatoes, polenta, or buttery pasta, then top with sauteed mushrooms and capers for a hearty winter meal.

swordfish steak recipe


There aren’t many ingredients in this simple swordfish steak recipe, but there are a few potential substitutions.

Fish: If you can’t find either fresh or frozen swordfish, you can still make this recipe with an alternative fresh fish. Mahi Mahi, tuna, and halibut are all mild, meaty options that will work in a pinch.

Seasonings: Salt, pepper, butter, lemon zest, and garlic are all you need for a show-stopping swordfish steak. If you don’t have a fresh lemon on hand, you can use dried lemon peel and bottled lemon juice or lime juice. You can also substitute garlic powder or jarred chopped garlic for fresh garlic if need be. If you’d like to take the freshness up a notch, fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme pair beautifully with swordfish. Use a little Old Bay or crushed red pepper flakes to give this fish recipe an added kick.

Storing and Reheating Swordfish

If you have leftover swordfish, it will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container or wrapped tightly with foil or plastic wrap.

Reheating in the microwave is inadvisable, because it will likely overcook and lose it’s delicious texture. It’s best to reheat cooked swordfish, covered in foil, in a 275 degree oven until it reaches about 130 degrees. For 1 inch thick sword steaks, this will take about 15 minutes.

how to cook swordfish

Lemon Garlic Swordfish Recipe

This decadent swordfish recipe is so easy to prepare, you can have a restaurant-worthy meal any night of the week. 
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 246 kcal


Lemon Garlic Sauce:

  • 2 TB softened butter
  • 1 TB chives finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • The juice from half a lemon about a tablespoon
  • The zest of one lemon


  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 swordfish steaks skins removed. (6-8 ounces each, and about 1 inch in thickness)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all the sauce ingredients into a small pot so that they are ready for heating just as your fish is finishing.
  • Pat the swordfish steaks with a paper towel to ensure that you get a crispy sear. Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle olive oil into a large oven-safe skillet and heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking.
  • Gently place the steaks into the pan and allow them to sear on one side without moving them. Flip the fish, and allow them to sear, undisturbed. After 3 minutes, transfer the swordfish to the middle rack of your oven.
  • Allow the fish to cook for 5 minutes while you heat the sauce, then check it with a meat thermometer for doneness. The center should be between 130 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-cooked fish steaks or 140-145 degrees for well-done swordfish steaks.
  • While the fish roasts in the oven, bring the sauce ingredients to a gentle bubble on the stovetop.
  • When the fish is done, use a spoon to baste it with the pan juices, then pour the sauce over it and serve.


Calories: 246kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 17g
Keyword fish sauce substitutes, lemon garlic swordfish, swordfish
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

A Note About Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element in the environment. It is found in ocean sediment and is absorbed by fish both through their gills and through the digestive process. Large, long-living fish like swordfish and tuna can accumulate higher levels of mercury in their bodies than smaller fish. These mercury levels are not normally a cause for concern when consumed as part of a normal, varied diet. However, children under six can be adversely affected, so they should not eat these fish more than once per week. Because their babies are still developing, pregnant women should also avoid frequent consumption of fish that might contain high levels of mercury.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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