Pesto + Parmesan + Panko = True Love. This easy trio of big flavor and crunchy texture delivers a rockstar of a weeknight dinner in under 20 minutes.
Cod is the utility player of weeknight dining. The mild white fish can be baked, grilled, seared or fried and the flaky fish texture takes on whatever flavors you serve around it. Cod is a quick cooking main dish your whole family will love.
And when you cover it in store-bought pesto and top it with a savory parmesan panko crust? They're going to write songs about you...throw parades in your honor...christen you Lord / Lady of the Easy Weeknight Meal.
Or maybe they'll just clear their own plates once they've finished licking them clean?
Whatever. Baby steps.
What you'll need to make this pesto, panko parmesan baked cod recipe:
Cod fillets: fresh fish is lovely, but a quality frozen fish that has been thawed overnight in the refrigerator works just as well. Other types of fish like haddock, grouper, hake or mahi mahi would also be a good substitute. Almost any flaky white fish would do!
Basil pesto: store-bought is great! If you have a jar of tomato pesto, that would work beautifully as well.
Mayonnaise: adds creaminess to the pesto spread and a rich texture to the finished fish. Full fat is best.
Panko bread crumbs: these crispy nuggets of dried bread bring all the crunch to the party. You can substitute regular breadcrumbs, although the crunch will be reduced. Homemade toasted breadcrumbs would be another good option.
Parmesan cheese: finely shredded or grated cheese is best here. The umami in the parmesan works beautifully with the savory pesto and the freshness of the lemon zest.
Lemon zest (plus wedges for serving): lemon zest brings all the flavor without the overwhelming tartness you find in lemon juice. Perfect for this dish!
Sea salt and black pepper: the only seasonings you need in this flavor packed dish.
Full measurements and directions included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for this crunchy panko, pesto and parmesan cod:
Preheat oven to 400℉. To begin, dry your fish fillets well with paper towels. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lay your cod fillets on the prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons basil pesto with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Set aside.
In a second bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Using a pastry brush, cover the top of the fish fillets with a thin coat of the pesto mixture. Next, cover each fillet in about 3 big tablespoons of the seasoned panko parmesan mixture. Pat down lightly to ensure the crumbs adhere to the fish.
Bake fish in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the panko crust is golden brown and the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145℉ and fish flakes easily. (Precise cooking time will depend on the thickness of your fish fillets.) Serve with lemon wedges and fresh basil for garnish.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Either fresh or frozen and thawed cod fillets work well in this recipe. If using frozen, I recommend thawing in the refrigerator overnight.
I tested the recipe using a little olive oil and also melted butter. I felt that the fat in the mayo and pesto combination, as well as the parmesan in the panko mixture, added enough richness to the dish that more oil in the crumbs felt unnecessary.
A simple roasted brussels sprouts dish or seasoned green beans would be a lovely side dish with the cod. For a starchy side, parmesan and truffle french fries or roasted baby potatoes with whipped feta would be great partners for this fish. If you're looking for a fresh salad, gazpacho veggie salad or Mediterranean tossed salad are perfect with this crispy crust fish.
To store leftover fish, move to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, bake in oven at 375℉ until just heated through and the crispy topping is still golden brown.
Check out some of our other fish recipes:
- Perfectly Seasoned Grilled Haddock
- Easy Parmesan Cod
- Miso Marinated Sea Bass
- Yellowtail Flounder Piccata