This recipe for Fish en Papillote (which is French for Fish in Parchment) couldn’t be easier – and talk about EASY cleanup! In this elegant recipe, cod (or another fish) is set atop sun-dried tomatoes, summer squash, corn, and green onions, then drizzled with lemon garlic herb butter and sprinkled with capers. The whole meal is wrapped in parchment paper, then baked. The parchment packet creates a seal that keeps the steam in while everything cooks, resulting in a perfectly flaky and moist result and infusing all of the flavors into the fish and veggies.
This recipe is another collaboration between me and my dad! A while back, I got to share his recipe for New England Fish Chowder, and you all LOVED IT. We’ve been planning yet another delicious (and easy!) fish recipe for some time now. Here it is – Cod en Papillote!
So why should you consider cooking fish in parchment paper? There are three main reasons:
- Easy clean-up! I’m telling you – this has to be the easiest, and cleanest, way to cook fish. The clean-up is incredibly minimal – everything is both cooked and served in a nice neat little parchment packet. This keeps the surface of your baking sheet and plate clean. There is no searing anything, no pots to dirty, nothing sticking to anything. Just toss the parchment paper when you’re done!
- Perfectly cooked fish, with very low risk of overcooking or drying out. Have you ever cooked fish and had it dry out from being overcooked? NOT WITH THIS METHOD! It’s incredibly easy to get a super moist, flaky result with the fish with a low risk of it overcooking and drying out.
- A whole meal in one. For this fish en papillote recipe, the fish is cooked with summer squash and zucchini, corn, and sun-dried tomatoes, for a complete and satisfying meal. No side dishes needed! (though I would recommend some bread or something to mop up the DELICIOUS sauce from the bottom of the parchment packet).
In this post, I’ll explain how to make fish en papillote, along with two methods for wrapping the parchment paper packets. There’s a trick to getting a nice tight seal, keeping the steam inside and cooking everything perfectly.
Ingredients for Fish en Papillote
- Cod – or another fish of preference, or even shrimp! Just be sure to keep an eye on cooking times since some fish, depending on thickness and other factors, may take longer or shorter to cook.
- Zucchini and/or Summer Squash – or other quick-cooking veggies of choice, like broccoli or tomatoes (stay away from carrots, potatoes, and other veggies that take longer to cook).
- Corn – I used frozen, but fresh off the cob works too. Peas also work. Omit if you prefer.
- Sun-dried Tomatoes – I recommend the dry version, rather than the ones packed in oil for this recipe, since they will absorb some of the liquid released from the fish and veggies while it cooks. But oil-packed works too (or fresh cherry tomatoes, though they will release a bit more liquid).
- Green onions – another onion (quartered and thinly sliced) will also work, with a stronger onion taste.
- Lemon – the whole thing: you’ll use the zest, and also slice the lemon to use as well. A lime will also work for a different flavor.
- Butter – or olive oil, or ghee, for a dairy-free version.
- Herbs – I used chives and thyme, but you can use whatever you want.
- Capers – or some chopped up olives, or omit if you don’t like either.
How to make Cod en Papillote
To make this recipe for cod en papillote, you’ll just layer all the veggies, then the fish (seasoned with salt and pepper) on a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle with capers and drizzle with a mixture of melted butter, herbs, lemon zest, and garlic. Place lemon slices on top and close up the parchment paper (more on this below). Place on a baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Then place the packet on a plate, open it up, and enjoy!
How to make parchment paper packets for Fish en Papillote
My dad and I experimented with two different ways to make the parchment packets for fish en papillote. He preferred one way, and I preferred the other, so we’re sharing both!
For both methods, you’ll need a rectangle of parchment paper approximately 12″ x 16″, give or take. I LOVE these heavy duty, pre-cut parchment sheets that nestle perfectly into a standard half baker’s sheet pan.
Check out the video in the recipe card below for a video on how to do both of these methods!
Parchment Wrapping Method #1
Here’s the first way to wrap fish in parchment paper, my dad’s way. The pros: it’s beautiful, and poufs up beautifully whilst it bakes and allows a lot of room for steam. When you cut into it, it’s gorgeously presented. The cons: it’s a bit more complex to assemble, and you can only fit two per standard baking sheet.
First, fold the parchment paper in half. Brush butter (or oil, or egg wash) along the edge of the parchment on both sides (this will help seal the packet, and is pretty essential for this method so no steam escapes). Assemble all your ingredients and fish on the bottom half, then fold the top over. Starting in one corner where the fold is, fold down a triangle. Then keep folding along the edge, starting about halfway through the previous fold, until you reach the end. Tuck the bottom under and place on a baking sheet, and bake!
Parchment Wrapping Method #2
Here’s my preferred way to wrap fish in parchment paper. The pros: it’s simple and easy to do, you don’t need any butter or anything to help make a seal (though it does help if you want to do it), and it’s more compact, so you can fit all four on one baking sheet. The cons: it’s not as pretty, and not using anything to help make a tight seal may mean that some steam escapes.
If you like, you can brush butter (or oil, or egg wash) along the edge of the parchment on both sides, which will help create a better seal but isn’t 100% necessary for this method. Assemble all of the ingredients and fish in the center, then bring the top and bottom edges to meet. Make a crease about one inch big and fold down, creasing as you go, until you are pretty close to the ingredients. Then tuck the ends under and place on a baking sheet and bake.
Whichever method you choose, rest assured: cooking fish in parchment paper is pretty foolproof. Even if some steam escapes, or the parchment packets look a little messy, I guarantee you’ll end up with a delicious result and a wonderful texture with this fish cooking technique!
Sure! Since foil isn’t non-stick, I recommend greasing the inside of the foil with oil or butter to prevent sticking. Foil also conducts heat more effectively than parchment paper, which may result in a faster cooking time. You can also use the foil packet method on the grill! Just don’t use too high heat, and keep in mind it may cook faster depending on the grill temperature.
For optimal texture, it’s recommended to cook fish en papillote very soon after assembling. However, you can easily assemble the parchment packets a few hours in advance. For another way to save time, you can also make sure to prep all your veggies and make the garlic herb butter mixture in advance, so assembly is fast and easy.
The fish is cooked when it easily flakes apart with a fork. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, but many chefs and cooks aim for 130-140 degrees to prevent an overcooked taste. You can choose what you prefer based on your comfort level with risk, like choosing medium-rare steak or tuna. To read the temperature while it’s in a parchment packet, you can poke an instant-read thermometer (I love Thermoworks Thermapen for this!) right through the parchment and into the fish if you want. A little steam will escape but it will be minimal. Luckily, even if you cook the fish to a higher temperature, the texture will still be moist and flaky with this cooking method! We accidentally cooked ours to about 155 degrees and it still tasted amazing. This is one of the reasons why this cooking method is so wonderful!
Feel free to experiment here! You can add anything that is relatively quick cooking that won’t take up too much space. Leftover cooked rice, especially if it’s a bit dried out, will work wonderfuly to absorb some of the liquid created as everything cooks. Maybe some already cooked beans or lentils. Other veggies will work. For potatoes or sweet potatoes, this is again a great opportunity to use up leftovers, since you wouldn’t want to add them raw since they take so long to cook. Other herbs, spices, rubs, etc. – the possibilities are endless! Which is great for using what you have.
What to serve with fish en papillote:
The great thing about this recipe for cod in parchment paper is that it’s a complete meal! Veggies, corn, and fish all provide a hearty, well-balanced meal. HOWEVER, it also creates the most DELICIOUS sauce as it cooks. So we served ours with bread to mop up the sauce. It would be great with rice, pita bread, or something else to help absorb the sauce.
Other easy fish recipes
- Dad’s New England Fish Chowder
- Fish Stew
- Blackened Tilapia with Avocado Cucumber Salsa
- Seared Tuna Steaks
- Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Lemon Garlic Herb Sauce
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Fish en Papillote (Cod in Parchment Paper) with Veggies and Garlic Herb Butter
- Parchment Paper Sheets about 12" x 16", give or take
- 1 ½ lbs. cod cut into four, 6-oz filets of similar thickness (or another kind of fish- see notes)
- 4 tablespoons butter melted (plus more, optional, for assembling parchment packets – see notes)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs I used thyme and chives, but other herbs like basil, dill, cilantro, oregano, etc. will work.
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 lemon zested and cut into 8 slices
- 12 whole sun-dried tomatoes sliced in half (see notes)
- 2 small zucchini and/or summer squash cut into 20 total slices
- 1 cup roughly sliced scallions cut into about ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen/defrosted
- 2 tablespoons capers or chopped olives
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prep all ingredients before beginning for easy assembly. Season the 1 ½ lbs. cod (cut into four similar sized pieces) on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside. To make the garlic herb butter, place the 4 tablespoons butter, the 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, the 1 clove garlic (minced), and the zest of the 1 lemon in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Melt everything together in the microwave for about 1 minute.
Assemble your parchment packets
- Place a piece of parchment paper approximately 12 inches x 16 inches on the counter in front of you. OPTIONAL: brush melted butter around the border of the parchment paper on both sides (see notes).
- Option #1: Fold in half, arrange ingredients on the bottom half. Fold top over, and crimp the edges around, tucking the last bit underneath. Place on baking sheet.
- Option #2: Place ingredients in center of parchment, bring top and bottom edges together, fold together about 1-inch, and continue rolling and folding down until you reach the ingredients. Tuck ends underneath and place on baking sheet.
- To arrange your ingredients: Evenly divide the 12 whole sun-dried tomatoes, the 2 small zucchini and/or summer squash slices, the 1 cup roughly sliced scallionsand the 1 cup corn kernels on each of the four pieces of parchment. Top with the 2 tablespoons capers, spoon the melted garlic herb butter mixture on top, and place 2 slices of lemon on top of each.
Bake and enjoy!
- Bake the wrapped parchment packets at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until cod is fully cooked (see notes). Place packed on a plate and use scissors to cut open or unfold manually, being careful of escaping hot steam. Serve directly out of the parchment packets on the plate and enjoy!
- Another kind of fish can be used. Cod is a lean whitefish, and this recipe lends itself well to other kinds of lean or delicate fish, since the fish is cooked gently, and stays completely still and secure in the parchment packet while it steams and cooks. The steam keeps everything moist, so even a lean fish won’t dry out much. Halibut, sole, snapper, sea bass, and haddock are examples of these kinds of fish. But salmon or other fish will also work. Shrimp may also be used.
- Using butter, oil, or egg wash to seal the parchment paper is more important if you use the Option #1 wrapping technique where you fold in half and work around the edges to seal. It helps the parchment stick to itself (a difficult feat for a nonstick material!) to create a tight seal, which ensures the steam stays inside the parchment packet. If using the the Option #2 folding technique where you roll the edges down and tuck the ends under, it’s not as important, since the weight of the ingredients helps anchor down the parchment to keep a tight seal.
- DRY sun-dried tomatoes are best here. The ones you find in the bag, rather than oil-packed. This is because they will rehydrate as everything cooks from the juices released from the veggies and fish. However, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes will work just fine if you don’t have the other kind!
- I recommend serving this with bread,or something else to mop up the delicious sauce created at the bottom of the parchment packets!
- Feel free to experiment with different flavor and ingredient combos! Other quick cooking veggies, like broccoli, peppers, fresh tomatoes, spinach or kale, etc. will work great. Leftover cooked rice would be a delicious addition, if you have some. Use other herbs or spices. However, veggies that take a while to cook, such as potatoes or thickly sliced carrots or other root veggies, won’t work well here. If you want to use these, just pre-cook them first (or use leftover roasted potatoes or carrots!).
- The fish is cooked when it easily flakes apart with a fork. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, but many chefs and cooks aim for 130-140 degrees to prevent an overcooked taste. You can choose what you prefer based on your comfort level with risk, like choosing medium-rare steak or tuna. To read the temperature while it’s in a parchment packet, you can poke an instant-read thermometer (I love Thermoworks Thermapen for this!) right through the parchment and into the fish if you want. A little steam will escape but it will be minimal. Luckily, even if you cook the fish to a higher temperature, the texture will still be moist and flaky with this cooking method! We accidentally cooked ours to about 155 degrees and it still tasted amazing. This is one of the reasons why this cooking method is so wonderful!
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: