A deliciously tangy, bright seafood version of the classic piccata recipe using tender cod filets. Cod piccata is dredged in almond flour then pan-fried until flaky. Capers, lemon juice and shallots bring big flavor to this easy, gluten-free dish.
Two summers ago, I decided to relive my teenage/college years and waitress again for the fun of it at a restaurant a friend worked at.
I didn’t need the job, it was just fun to do something different and work with people once a week after working from home by myself for a decade. It was an upscale Italian place with all the traditional Italian American dishes you can think of.
Aka the perfect place for me to work at because if there’s one cuisine I don’t care for at all when eating out, it’s Italian.
That doesn’t mean I don’t love Italian food. Quite the opposite in fact. I just don’t like Italian American food because when you’ve grow up eating real Italian food cooked by first generation Italians and have been to Italy seven times, you realize that the food in Italian restaurants here in the states is mostly trash.
Maybe that’s a little extreme but the marinara soaked, overly cheesed, drenched in oil dishes that came out of the kitchen I worked at weren’t my thing.
There was one dish, however, that got my attention and that was the chicken piccata. It looked light, refreshing and like you could actually taste the ingredients.
Because it was traditionally prepared with regular flour though, I never actually tried it. In fact, I all but forgot about it until recently when purchasing some cod.
What is piccata?
Typically piccata is made with thinly cut or pounded chicken or veal. The meat is dredged with flour and then pan-fried in a lemon sauce featuring shallots, garlic and capers. It’s a light, bright and incredibly refreshing dish.
This version of piccata features cod filets. There’s no reason you can’t use the piccata approach on any type of flaky white fish (sablefish and halibut are two other good options) and cod is perfect for it. It’s reasonably priced, easy to find and takes on the flavor of the piccata sauce incredibly well.
Making piccata gluten free
Piccata is an extremely easy dish to modify for a gluten free diet. Instead of using all-purpose flour, a gluten free substitute can simply be swapped instead.
This cod piccata recipe uses almond flour but a gluten-free all-purpose flour could also be used. Other than the flour, the rest of the recipe is already gluten free friendly.
If you want to skip the flour coating altogether for an even quicker and simpler preparation, while not classically piccata any more, that’s another option.
Ingredients to make cod piccata
- Cod filets – look for either fresh or frozen wild-caught cod
- Almond flour – blanched almond flour is best
- Salt & pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Butter or ghee
- Fresh lemon juice
- Chicken broth or stock – traditionally white wine is used here but broth can be substituted if preferred
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
- Lemon slices, for garnish
How to make pan fried cod piccata
Combine the almond flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Rinse and thoroughly dry the cod filets. Dredge each filet in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.
Heat the olive oil and half of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the dredged cod and brown in the skillet on each side. Carefully transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
Add the remaining butter to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Once melted, add the shallot, garlic and capers to the pan. Cook for about one minute then pour in the lemon juice and broth. Stir to combine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer.
Reduce the sauce for about five minutes then gently place the cod back in the skillet spooning the sauce on top of each filet. Cook for an additional minute then remove from the heat.
Garnish with a generous amount of chopped parsley and thinly cut lemon slices before serving.
Piccata pairs well with cooked rice and a simple vegetable like asparagus. The rice soaks up the extra piccata sauce and rounds out the meal deliciously.
Tips & tricks
- Use fresh lemon juice and garlic. Bottled lemon juice and minced jarred garlic just don’t have the same level of bright freshness. Piccata is a dish known for its tangy fresh bite.
- Keep the skillet warm in the oven (at the lowest temperature your oven will go) if you’re not ready to serve it immediately.
- Use white wine in place of the chicken broth if desired. Chicken broth, stock or bone broth can be used in its place, however.
- Like things even more tangy? Use some of the caper juice in the sauce instead of fully draining them.
- Make sure the oil and butter are nice and hot before pan-frying the cod. This will allow for the crispiest golden brown crust.
This recipe is delicious as leftovers. The piccata sauce tastes even better the next day and when all the ingredients (side dishes, etc.) are stored together, everything picks up the flavor of the bright lemon sauce.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days in an air-tight container. Freezing isn’t recommended.
What’s the difference between piccata and francese?
If you get these two lemon based dishes confused like I used to, there’s two simple delineating ingredients between them: capers and eggs.
Piccata uses capers in the lemon sauce. Francese does not.
Francese is dredged in flour and dipped in beaten eggs. Piccata is just dredged in flour.
That’s it. Otherwise, these two Italian dishes are quite similar in taste.
I always default to piccata over Francese. Mostly because it’s easier without the egg dipping but also because I love the tangy, briny nature of capers. They’re the reason I love this baked wild sockeye salmon recipe so much.
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! I’d love to know how it goes. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Tag @runningtothekitchen on Instagram & Facebook.
- 1 – 1 1/4 pounds cod filets
- 1/3 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee divided
- 1 large shallot minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/3 cup capers drained
- 2/3 cup chicken broth
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice about 2 lemons
- chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- lemon slices for garnish
- Rinse cod and pat dry.
- Combine almond flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or dish.
- Dredge cod filets in the mixture, shaking off any excess flour. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the cod and cook until browned on each side, flipping carefully. Transfer cod to a clean dish and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium.
- Once melted, add the shallots, garlic and capers. Cook for 1 minute.
- Pour in the lemon juice and chicken broth. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes until reduced. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Gently place the cod back into the skillet and spoon the piccata sauce over top of the filets. Cook for another minute until the cod is warmed through.
- Remove from the heat, garnish with fresh parsley and lemon slices before serving.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.