Caribbean Butterfish in Butter Sauce Recipe

Plate of butterfish fillet with leek

Enrique Chavarria/Getty Images

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 14 mins
Total: 24 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 4 fillets
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
158 Calories
12g Fat
7g Carbs
7g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 158
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 36mg 12%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 10mg 49%
Calcium 37mg 3%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 249mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Fish is always plentiful in the Caribbean, and pan-frying is the most popular way of preparing it. But fish broth—a kind of fish soup— is also a favorite. Personally, we like fish that can be prepared simply and quickly, and this butterfish recipe is just that. You can have it on the table in about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Butterfish, also called small eye croaker, is a type of white fish. It got its name because its scales are golden and the flesh is tender.

“I wondered if four fillets would fit in my skillet, and was delighted they did. The herby and complex broth delivers a gentle flavor to the delicate fish. I used habanero and loved the mild heat delivery as well as the beautiful red color. The broth is delicious. Grab crusty bread to enjoy each drop.” —Mary Jo Romano

Caribbean Butterfish in Butter Sauce/tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 (6-ounce) butterfish fillets, or any whitefish

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions

  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons minced hot chili pepper, such as habanero, jalapeño, or Fresno

  • 2 cups water, room temperature

  • 1 medium green onion

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

  3. Add the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn translucent, about 4 minutes.

  4. Add the thyme, garlic, and chili pepper. Season to taste with salt. Continue to sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  5. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the fish, and continue to cook while spooning the sauce over the fish continuously, 3 to 5 minutes.

  6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and continue to baste the fish with the sauce until the fish is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.

  7. Toss in the green onions. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove the pan from heat and serve immediately with the broth, if desired. 


  • Butterfish is widely available in the Caribbean where it's in season year-round. You may have a harder time finding it in the U.S. except in ​Caribbean or Chinese marketplaces. If you want the real deal, consider ordering it online if you can't find it locally. Otherwise, this recipe also works well with flounder, sole or any white fish that poaches well and cooks quickly. 

Recipe Variation

  • Some recipes for this and similar dishes call for the addition of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. 

Serving Suggestion

This fish serves well with crusty bread, root vegetables or mashed potatoes.