Oven-baked whitefish with a crispy, buttery Panko bread crumb topping is a 20 minute dinner recipe that’s great for any night of the week!
This post was first published in September 2020. It has been updated most recently with improved recipe tips and instructions as of July 2023.
If you love fried fish, you will love this recipe. Whenever I’m craving the crunch but don’t want to have a fish fry in my kitchen, this crispy baked fish recipe is a great way to satisfy the fried fish itch.
What is Great Lakes Whitefish?
The Great Lakes region is one of the most meticulously managed fisheries in the world! There are only a handful of small, family operations for commercial fishing in the area. All of the product is cleaned, packaged, and sold from their retail counters or at local markets.
Whitefish is generally consumed in the region where it is caught, making it a sustainable seafood choice with less impact on the environment. Seafood Watch is a great resource to check and see if your fish selection is sustainable. They also have an app you can use to determine the best substitutions for your needs.
For another delicious Great Lakes white fish recipe, try this Baked Walleye with Lemon Garlic Butter and Herbs.
Why you will love this recipe
- It quick and easy recipe, taking only 20 minutes to make with minimal cleanup – perfect dinner for a busy weeknight.
- It’s lighter and healthier than traditional breaded fish recipes. We’re skipping the flour and egg mixture and just pressing butter and breadcrumbs on top to get deliciously crispy fish.
- You get all the fried fish vibes in a healthier baked fish fillet.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Lake Whitefish: Whitefish is different than white fish, a general all-encompassing term for mild-flavored, quick-cooking, flaky, fish with white flesh. Lake Whitefish are freshwater fish from the trout/salmon family. Most commonly found in the Great Lakes, they also live in small inland lakes throughout Michigan. If you don’t have lake whitefish, any type of white fish like cod fillets, haddock, flounder, snapper, and catfish will work beautifully. You can use fresh fish or frozen, just defrost before proceeding with the recipe instructions.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Panko is a coarse, crumbly, Japanese breadcrumb and can be found in most grocery stores. I buy plain breadcrumbs and season them myself. If you have seasoned breadcrumbs, omit adding the additional herbs and spices. To make this gluten free you can use gluten free Panko breadcrumbs.
- Dried Herbs & Spices: I’ve used a mix of dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper but feel free to play with whatever is in your pantry!
- Butter: The butter is mixed into the breadcrumbs with a fork to help the breading stick and it adds tons of flavor without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the fish. Use room temperature or softened butter so it mixes in easily with the Panko. To make this recipe dairy free, substitute a good plant-based butter.
- Lemon: fresh lemon zest and juice to give it some zing!
- Salt and black pepper
- Optional: Fresh parsley for garnish and tartar sauce for dipping.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet or shallow baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Pat fish dry with paper towels then place fillets, skin side down, on the prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, mix together the Panko breadcrumbs, dried herbs, and salt.
Add softened butter to the breadcrumb mixture. Use a fork to combine bread crumbs and butter, mashing it together until no visible butter remains.
Lightly press an even amount of Panko bread crumb mixture on top of each piece of fish.
Bake the fish for 14 to 16 minutes, or, until the Panko topping is light golden brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Place fish on a serving platter and serve hot with lemon wedges on the side in case anyone wants a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on their fish.
Yes. You can use fresh or frozen fish. If using frozen fish it is best to thaw it by defrosting it in the fridge overnight, or if you’re pressed for time, tightly seal the filets in a zip top bag and place in a bowl of cold water to thaw before making the recipe.
Yes. The Lake Whitefish I buy usually comes with the skin left on. I haven’t tested this recipe with skinless filets, however, I think they will work fine.
This recipe is best enjoyed fresh. The Panko crumbs will soften over time and it won’t keep the same crunchy texture. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Gently reheat in the air fryer or oven for best results.
What to serve with crispy baked fish
- French fries or these Crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes
- Sauteed Broccolini, or Lemon Garlic Sauteed Asparagus
- Simple green salad
More easy seafood recipes to try
Panko-Crusted Whitefish (Oven-Baked)
- 24 oz Whitefish filets skin on, 6 oz each
- ½ cup plain Panko breadcrumbs
- ¾ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 2 tbsp butter softened
- 1 lemon sliced into wedges (for serving), zest of half lemon optional in breadcrumb mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Pat the Whitefish filets dry with paper towels then lay them, skin side down, on the prepared foil-lined sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix together the Panko breadcrumbs, zest of half a lemon, herbs, and salt. Use a fork to mix and mash the butter into the crumbs until no visible butter remains.
- Lightly press the Panko-butter topping evenly on top of the four Whitefish filets. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the fish for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the Panko topping is lightly browned and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve hot with lemon wedges on the side.