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This Crispy Walnut Cod recipe gives classic fried fish a Mediterranean makeover with California walnuts! It’s a Mediterranean twist for oven fried fish!
Thanks to California Walnuts for sponsoring this post.
May is Mediterranean Diet Month and I’ve partnered with California Walnuts to bring you this recipe that transforms traditional fried fish into a crunchy, “Mediterraneanized” oven fried fish. It comes together in less than 20 minutes and is a hearty and satisfying swap for traditional fried fish.
Fried fish is a staple in the South. I grew up eating it at least once a week – usually on Fridays. We’d get it from the only fresh fish market in town. At the market, my Grandma would point out the pieces of whiting or flounder that looked good to her. The guy (it was always a guy) would clean the fish and either wrap it for us to take home or cook it. There were no fancy flavors. The fish was simply dredged in seasoned cornmeal and quickly fried in a vat of hot oil.
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Surprised? Well. I grew up in the rural south. Though we had plenty of fresh vegetables, they were often balanced with a side of something fried. And when it came to fish, we generally only had it one way – fried and in between two slices of white bread. The thin pieces of fish sometimes had the head attached and all of the bones too. Getting to the actual meat was a bit of a chore. And I always wondered how you were supposed to eat a fish sandwich with bones in it? Thankfully, someone would pull it for me to eat. But I digress…
Fast forward 20+ years and a lot of nutrition knowledge later, I rarely eat fried fish. And I know more about olive oil, fish, and the Mediterranean way of eating than I ever could have imagined. So, I was excited when California walnuts asked me to makeover a traditional southern dish.
I gave fried fish the Mediterranean treatment.
- I swapped walnuts for all of the breading. The buttery walnuts create a deliciously, crunchy crust. With fiber, protein, and flavor, walnuts are an ideal swap for cornmeal or flour.
- Lemon, fresh parsley and garlic are common ingredients in the Mediterranean diet and give the coating a ton of flavor, spice and a little pop of color.
- I used extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean staple, to add more flavor and healthy fats and to help the walnut mixture stick to the fish and reach that golden brown color.
- Instead of white bread, I served the fish with a cabbage slaw dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, chopped walnuts, salt, and pepper. On another day, I made a simple walnut tzatziki as a swap for tartar sauce. (Tzatziki is a traditional Mediterranean yogurt, cucumber, garlic sauce.)
Why Walnuts? Research. One of the largest studies on the Mediterranean diet found that this way of eating, which includes nuts (especially walnuts) or extra virgin olive oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in certain groups. Further, walnuts provide 2.5 grams of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber in just one ounce. Beyond the Mediterranean diet and heart health, walnuts are being studied for potential benefits in brain health, diabetes, weight management, cancer, and gut health.
Now for the recipe…
The most important part of this walnut cod recipe is the crispy coating. I wanted to create a crust that rivals fried cornmeal. For that, I pulsed walnuts with fragrant lemon zest, fresh parsley, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper for incredible flavor.
To get a crunchy finish without drying out the fish, it’s essential to preheat the oven to 425°F and make sure the fish is as dry as possible before you top it.
I used Atlantic wild caught cod for its slightly sweet, mild flavor and meaty texture. You can also use flounder, sole or any other mild white fish available to you. Complete the meal with a cabbage slaw with crushed walnuts or other greens. For a more traditional feel, try the crispy walnut cod with a side of tzatziki sauce.
In working on this recipe, I made it three times. Twice with a thick cut cod fillet and once with a thinner cut that’s more reminiscent of the traditional fried fish pieces you’d get in the South. Both use the same coating. The only difference is that you’ll need to cut the baking time for the thinner fillets. And you know what that means? Yes. That’s a 10-minute dinner!
Crispy Walnut Cod with Walnut Tzatziki
- 1 pound cod fillets (cut into 4 pieces)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided 1T + 2 T)
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- ¼ diced cucumber
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Make the tzatziki: Combine all ingredients for the tzatziki in a small bowl. Stir to blend and adjust the salt as need. This will vary based on the amount of salt in your yogurt. Set aside.
- Using a clean towel, gently press to remove water and pat the fish dry. This is especially important if you're using thawed fish which has more moisture. Drizzle lightly with lemon juice and one tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.
- Pulse the walnuts, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil until it's the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Firmly press the walnut mixture into the fish covering the top, sides, and bottom of each fillet.
- Bake fish at 425°F for 15 minutes (thick fillets) or 10 minutes for thin fillets.
- Remove the fish and serve immediately with a side of vegetables and your favorite whole grain side dish. For a tartar sauce swap, add a side of tzatziki with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.
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