What is cod en papillote? "En papillote" means we are cooking something with moist heat in the oven by wrapping it in parchment paper or foil. This cooking method is the secret of cooking fish so it is moist, tender, and tasty instead of dry. Trust me, you need this delicious recipe for cod parchment packets with zucchini and a lemon-butter sauce in your life!
There's more than one way to steam a fish! A few weeks ago, I shared a fun recipe tutorial on Steaming Cod in Banana Leaves. I get that banana leaves can be a tough ingredient for some of us to obtain, so here's another option for you.
Today we're going to tackle how to steam cod in parchment paper packets, AKA cod en papillote. This cooking method uses items that you are likely to find in most major United States grocery stores: parchment paper and/or foil.
Unlike steaming in banana leaves, parchment paper does not impart any sort of flavor to the fish. All of the flavorings come from the ingredients that you add to your packets. Feel free to use much stronger seasonings here than you would with banana leaf packets.
In this cod en papillote, I am using a rich lemon-butter sauce flavored with garlic, red onion, and fresh sage. The butter melts in the packet while the cod steams, keeping everything moist while it mingles with the lemon juice.
This one is truly a delight for the senses, and so easy to make. But you don't have to take my word for it; try it yourself!
Benefits of Making Cod en Papillote
- Mild fish option for the picky eaters: Cod is one of the mildest-tasting fish around! If you have household members who dislike the strong taste of seafood, try whitefishes such as cod.
- A light dish without deprivation: This seafood entrée is under 300 calories and low carb. However, the rich lemon butter sauce will keep you from feeling deprived.
- Easy weeknight meal: Looking for a convenient and healthy meal? All you have to do here is layer your ingredients in the cooking packet and pop it in the oven. The cod and veggies cook while the buttery sauce comes together on its own.
- Fits your taste preferences: You can easily modify these seafood packets to meet your dietary needs. Learn more about substituting with different types of fish and vegetables in the FAQ section below.
- Gluten Free: Cod en papillote is naturally gluten-free, perfect for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Ingredients for Cod en Papillote
Here is what to gather when you want to make this dish:
- Boneless cod fillets (about ¾" thick)
- Cooking oil spray
- Sliced zucchini
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Crushed garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper (optional, to taste)
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Fresh sage leaves (I used pineapple sage leaves from my garden; regular grocery store sage will also work)
You'll also want to have any ingredients you need for the side dishes for this meal. I highly recommend serving the fish over a cooked whole grain (or some riced cauliflower for the low carbers). A bed of fluffy rice is the perfect vehicle to collect any lemon-butter sauce that runs off the fish.
I also like to have additional fresh lemons, limes, or oranges to slice and serve with the fish. To serve, you can scoop the fish out of the packets and serve as-is…
Alternatively, you can separate the cod from the zucchini and onions and serve the veggie mixture on the side. When I serve it this way, I like to arrange fresh citrus slices on top of the fish…
It tastes the same either way, so its really just a matter of which presentation pleases your eyes more.
(P.S. If you've been noticing that grape tomatoes make an appearance in A LOT of my food photos, that's because I grow them! They are Napa Grape Tomatoes, for those who are curious. Strangely, my plants are around 8 feet tall, far taller than the 40" discussed in the Amazon listing. Haha)
How to Cook Cod en Papillote
Cooking en papillote is not difficult! Be sure to watch the recipe video below for visuals on how to wrap fish en papillote. It's far easier to just show that part of the recipe versus tell about it.
For each cod packet, you will need to layer a sheet of parchment paper on top of a sheet of foil. Each sheet of parchment or foil is about 18" long, but I never bother to measure.
Keep in mind that it is better to use too much parchment and foil rather than too little. You want to ensure that you have enough parchment and foil to fully envelop the food.
Packets that are not fully closed will not effectively steam the food. Plus, your sauce may leak out and make a mess in the oven. With all the cooking I do, preventing oven cleanup (when possible) is always a priority!
Mist the parchment paper with the cooking spray. Then put the zucchini slices on top. I usually make a rectangle of 3x4 slices in each packet and add any additional slices on top.
Put the cod on top of the zucchini. Then drizzle on the lemon juice, and sprinkle the lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Next up comes the freshly chopped sage leaves and the very thin slices of red onion.
Finally, add a pat or two of butter on top of each packet. I use two ½-tablespoon slices of butter per packet.
To fold the packet, first fully encapsulate the food in the parchment by folding the sides and then the top and bottom. Then do the same with the foil. The foil will hold the parchment in place.
Place your fish packets in a single layer on a baking sheet. Now you are ready to steam codfish!
What temperature to cook fish en papillote?
I cook fish en papillote in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes. (The baking sheet with the packets gets placed in the top third of the oven.) This gives the fish enough time to get tender and flaky without drying out.
If you are using fish fillets that have a different thickness than the ones I use, your cooking time may vary. Using different veggies than I did may also alter the cooking time.
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). White fishes, such as cod, are a great source of lean protein. Cod provides a lot of protein for very few calories, which may help to keep you full, making it easier to support a weight loss goal.
Additionally, this cod en papillote recipe includes lots of zucchini. Non-starchy vegetables, like zucchini, provide a lot of volume for few calories. Non-starchy veggies allow me to eat large amounts of food while staying in the calorie balance needed to maintain a healthy weight. I recommend trying to get some non-starchy veggies into most of your meals if you want to lose body fat.
The recipe as written provides under 300 calories per serving, which is usually not enough for a meal. Adding ¼-cup of dry (½-¾ cup cooked) whole grains will add 150-200 calories to the meal. I always include more non-starchy veggies or some fruit too.
What goes with fish en papillote?
As discussed, I almost always serve fish cooked in parchment with a whole grain and some non-starchy veggies. Most recently, I served it with Lundberg's whole grain wild rice blend plus tomato-cucumber salads. You're already getting zucchini and red onions in the packets, but I like adding even more veggies to the meal.
Here are some additional ideas for what to have with fish en papillote:
- Chop Salad Bowl (Wildflower Bread Salad Copycat)
- Air Fryer Frozen Vegetables (Use your air fryer for side dishes while your oven is busy cooking the cod packets!)
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
If you really want to go the extra mile, you could try making your own butter to use inside the parchment paper packets! My How Do You Make Homemade Butter Recipe will help you out with that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is parchment paper the same as wax paper?
No! Parchment paper and wax paper are not the same things. Wax paper is not resistant to heat the way that parchment paper is. Wax paper will melt under high heat in the oven, contaminating your food and potentially causing an oven fire.
Needless to say, only parchment paper should be used in this recipe.
I remember the first time my son made the Crispy Chickpea Snack Recipe on his own. He did not know at that time that waxed paper and parchment paper are not the same things.
Luckily, he happened to grab the right baking paper for that recipe. Otherwise, we would have had to throw the batch of chickpeas out!
Is it better to use aluminum foil or parchment paper?
Aluminum foil and parchment paper each have different culinary applications where they shine best. Many people associate cooking "en papillote" with parchment paper rather than foil. However, I like the benefits of making packets with both parchment and foil.
My preference is for parchment to touch my food rather than foil, so I use parchment as my inner layer. Meanwhile, the foil helps to hold the folded parchment in place. The foil also serves as an additional layer of protection that keeps the lemon-butter sauce inside the packets.
Can I cook other fish en papillote?
Absolutely! I have tried cooking various fish in parchment paper, and it turns out great every time. I highly recommend trying salmon en papillote too (simply substitute the cod in this recipe for salmon fillets).
The one thing to be aware of is that thicker or thinner fish fillets will impact the cooking time. This recipe is perfect for fish fillets that are about ¾-inch thick.
Can I cook other vegetables en papillote?
If you don't like zucchini, you are welcome to use other veggies instead. However, you want to make sure to use vegetables that cook as quickly as the fish. Other summer squashes, thinly sliced bell peppers, and halved grape tomatoes should work well.
If you want to try items like potatoes or carrots that take longer to cook, make sure to slice them very thinly. Extending the cooking time of the parchment packet for the veggies puts your cod at risk of drying out.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
Are you a fan of white fish recipes? I bet you'll also love this seafood goodness:
- Cod Recipe Served with Strawberry Kiwi Mango Salsa
- Air Fryer Tilapia with Garlic Chive Miso Butter
- Steaming Cod in Banana Leaves
Don't forget to subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter to be kept up-to-date on all of the latest and greatest recipes!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Cod En Papillote | Cod Cooked in Parchment
- 1 lb. boneless cod fillets, ¾" thick (3 fillets)
- cooking oil spray of choice
- 1 lb. zucchini, cut into ½" thick slices
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 6 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces
- cooked whole grains, fruits or more non-starchy vegetables (for additional side dishes)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare any additional side dishes that you have planned before working on the fish.
- Lay out 3 pieces of foil, approximately 14-18" in length. Top each piece of foil with a piece of parchment paper, also 14-18" in length.
- Mist each piece of parchment with the cooking oil spray.
- Place the zucchini slices in a 3-slice by 4-slice rectangle in the middle of each sheet of parchment paper. Put any additional zucchini slices that are left on top of the rectangles. (If you use extremely large or small zucchini, the number of slices used per cod packet will vary.)
- Put a cod fillet on top of each zucchini rectangle.
- Pour ⅓ of the lemon juice on top of each piece of cod. Sprinkle the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper, sage, and thinly sliced onions on top (in that order).
- Put 2 pats of butter on top of the food in each packet (i.e., each packet gets one tablespoon of butter total).
- Fold the parchment snugly around the food in each packet. You want the food to be completely covered in parchment. I folded the sides of each packet and then the top and bottom. Secure the parchment by folding the foil over the parchment in a similar way. First fold in the sides of the foil, and then the top and bottom. Use the recipe video below as a guide in folding your parchment packets.
- After each packet of food has been completely encased in the parchment and then the foil, you are ready to get steaming. Place the packets in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
- Put the baking sheet with the packets in the top third of your preheated oven. Steam for 18-20 minutes at 400°F.
- After the allotted cooking time, unwrap your packets. The fish should be tender and flaky.
- To serve, plate the contents of the fish packets with any additional side dishes that you have prepared. I like to serve the fish and lemon-butter sauce in the packet on top of a cooked whole grain. Sometimes I serve the red onions on top of the fish, and sometimes I mix them with the cooked zucchini on the side.
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). White fishes, such as cod, are a great source of lean protein. Cod provides a lot of protein for very few calories, which may help to keep you full, making it easier to support a weight loss goal. Additionally, this cod en papillote recipe includes lots of zucchini. Non-starchy vegetables, like zucchini, provide a lot of volume for few calories. Non-starchy veggies allow me to eat large amounts of food while staying in the calorie balance needed to maintain a healthy weight. I recommend trying to get some non-starchy veggies into most of your meals if you want to lose some body fat. The recipe as written provides under 300 calories per serving, which is usually not enough for a meal. Adding ¼-cup of dry (½-¾ cup cooked) whole grains will add 150-200 calories to the meal. I always include more non-starchy veggies or some fruit too. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.