Follow this easy recipe for steaming cod in banana leaves; it might become your new favorite way to cook fish! Steamed codfish is a healthy lean protein that is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike when you steam fish in parchment paper, banana leaves impart a subtle flavor to seafood. It's the perfect cooking method for mild white fishes such as cod!
Today I've got a really great recipe for my healthy people, my foodies, and my healthy foodies. We're going to be steaming cod in banana leaves. Woo hoo!
Oh my goodness, I LOVE cooking food in banana leaves. Have you tried this yet?
Banana leaves can be tough to find, but I think it is worth the effort of seeking them out. I had to go to soooo many stores to find a local source. When I was lucky enough to find a source for frozen banana leaves, you can bet I stocked up!
Unfortunately, that store has since closed. With this recipe, I've finally used the last of my stockpile of banana leaves. That means I'll be purchasing my banana leaves online from now on.
It appears that Amazon carries frozen banana leaves, but the listing is over $100 currently! I don't know about you, but that is far beyond my grocery budget for an item that doesn't even get eaten. I only paid a couple dollars for a package of frozen banana leaves locally.
Good news! There's an alternative to frozen banana leaves that you can use for steaming cod!
If you can't find banana leaves locally, no worries, you don't need to spend a fortune getting them. Amazon also carries fresh banana leaves, and the prices are much more reasonable. That's what I'm going to use the next time I want banana leaves to steam fish.
I've heard that the fresh leaves don't fall apart as easily as the frozen and thawed leaves do. That's a definite benefit of going with fresh. They'll be no waste since any leftover fresh leaves can (of course) be frozen for later use.
If you're feeling apprehensive about purchasing fresh greens from Amazon sellers, let me say I've had good experiences in the past. I've bought fresh curry leaves from Amazon and was extremely pleased with how fresh and fragrant they were.
Of course, you're taking more of a risk if you live in a sweltering climate far away from the seller. There's going to be more opportunity for your banana leaves to yellow and dry out.
Ah, the strange lengths that we foodies go to for new food experiences. Haha If this is all too much for you, I'm going to be posting a different sort of steamed cod recipe soon. Thankfully, there's more than one way to steam a fish!
By the way, if you do spring for the banana leaves, they're great for many things beyond seafood. I've formed them into cones and steamed coconut rice in them.
I've also heard of folks using banana leaves to wrap tamales instead of corn husks. Honestly, I've never tried that, but I am intrigued.
Also, if food prep for a luau is in your future, the banana leaves can be used to wrap your kalua pig. Be sure to let me know what time to come over!
What you need for steaming cod
Aside from obtaining the actual banana leaves themselves, there is some special kitchen equipment that you'll need for this one. First, you're going to need a steamer large enough to hold the fish packets.
I have a large bamboo steamer that I picked up for around $20 at a store that specializes in East Asian foods. There are similar steamers available for around the same price on Amazon.
There are about one million things that you can use the steamer for. I've made everything from Chinese pork buns to packets of steamed whole grains in my bamboo steamer. It's a really nifty piece of kitchen equipment to have.
If your goal is fat loss, steamers are an excellent way to cook foods without having to use added oils. In this recipe, I'm adding citrus juices and herbs to the steamed cod packets. Steaming is a great cooking method if you want to make healthy, low-calorie meals.
A second thing you'll need for this recipe is a pot large enough to hold your bamboo steamer. The steamer works by sitting on a pot of boiling water.
You don't want the steamer to fall off of the pot while you're steaming. If your banana leaf packets split, that is going to be a terrible mess to clean up.
I use my large cast-iron Dutch oven for the boiling water. It is big and heavy enough to hold the bamboo steamer without worries that it will tip over. Try the different pots in your kitchen until you find one that feels sturdy under the steamer.
Finally, you may want to tie your banana leaves closed with kitchen twine. Alternatively, watch the recipe video below to see how I close my packets from the tough ends I trim from the leaves!
Tips on using banana leaves for steaming fish
If your banana leaves are frozen, you need to let them thaw before using. Make sure you rinse the leaves thoroughly and pat them dry. Bird poo is not an ingredient we want in this recipe. Hahaha
Banana leaves typically have a tough end that makes folding the leaves into a packet difficult. You need to trim these tough ends off with kitchen shears.
If you cut the tough end off of each leaf in a long, unbroken piece, you can use it to tie the packets shut. Watching the recipe video may be extra helpful for this one. You'll get to see what the tough ends look like, as well as how I fold the packets.
In this case, I think a picture really is worth a thousand words. Wrapping fish in banana leaves is not too tricky when you get some good visuals on the process.
If you want to season your cod differently than I did here, that's fine. However, the strength of the flavorings and seasonings should vary by the steaming method. With this type of steaming, I recommend keeping things very mild to best enjoy the subtle flavors of the banana leaves.
I'd save something like a robust lemon-butter sauce for cod steamed in parchment, i.e., cod en papillote. (P.S. Stay tuned, I have a recipe for this coming up in the next few weeks!)
I mean, if we're going to go to the trouble of finding banana leaves, let's not overshadow their ability to flavor the food! Otherwise, there really isn't a good reason not to use parchment for steaming instead.
Serving steamed cod
Steamed cod is a low-calorie, low-fat entrée that is low-carb friendly as well. If you want to keep the meal supportive of fat loss, pair it with lots of non-starchy veggies and/or low-calorie fruit.
Here, I filled half of my plate with a sweet and refreshing watermelon cucumber salad. You can throw this simple side together quickly while the cod steams.
Both watermelon and cucumbers are high in water content. You're getting a hydrating side dish with this one that provides plenty of volume to fill you up!
I also added some brown rice for additional fiber (and also, I tend to enjoy rice with fish). Feel free to substitute wild rice, quinoa, or another favorite whole grain instead.
So, there it is. You're getting a dish that is low-calorie, but rich in protein and fiber. It's a super source of many nutrients, including provitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
It's pretty much a nutritional rock star. Plus, using the banana leaves makes this dish a little more special than your everyday fare. (Well, that last statement may only be true for those of us living where banana trees don't grow!)
Oh, and maybe most importantly, it's delicious!
This is really no secret but eating food that you find bland and tasteless (or worse, downright gross) is not sustainable. If you have a health goal, you need to find that sweet spot in the culinary world where healthy meets tasty. I hope that this cod steamed in banana leaves recipe lies at that intersection for you!
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 this post. Let's get cooking!
Steaming Cod in Banana Leaves
- ¾ cup brown rice, dry
- 3 cod fillets (approximately 1 lb.)
- 6 banana leaves (thawed if frozen; 12"-14" long each)
- orange, lemon, or lime slices
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, fresh squeezed (divided)
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (divided)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- lime wedges, optional
For the watermelon cucumber salad:
- 6 cups seedless watermelon, rind removed and chopped
- 2 cups chopped English cucumber
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 5 large fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (can use 10 smaller leaves instead)
- Cook the brown rice in water on the stovetop according to package directions. It typically takes 45 minutes, so start the rice first, then prepare the rest of the meal.
- Make sure your Dutch oven supports the weight of your bamboo steamer. Fill the Dutch oven ⅔-¾ of the way full with water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat.
- Prepare your banana leaves by rinsing well and patting dry. Cut the leaves into 12-14" lengths. Trim the tough end off of each leaf, but save the ends.
- To make a cod packet, take two banana leaves and place one perpendicularly over the other (i.e., make a cross shape). Place 3 citrus slices in the middle of the packet. Lay one fish fillet on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of lime juice, ½ tablespoon of fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with the remaining packets.
- To wrap your packets, you will need to make four folds. Wrap the right edge of the leaf over the seasoned fish. Now wrap the left edge of the leaf over the fish, so it is snug in the packet. Fold the bottom edge of the packet under, and tie closed with a reserved tough leaf end (or you can use kitchen twine). Finally, fold the top edge of the packet under, and secure by tying closed with a tough leaf end. Place the packet in your bamboo steamer, and wrap the remaining fish packets. (Watch the recipe video, it will be helpful!)
- After all of your packets are wrapped, tied, and placed in the steamer, put the cover on the steamer. Carefully place the steamer on top of your Dutch oven that contains the boiling water. Steam the packets over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. The exact steaming time will depend on the thickness of the fish pieces that you start with.
- While the packets are steaming, make the watermelon cucumber salads. Stir the watermelon cubes, cucumber chunks, lime juice, lime zest, and mint together. Let it macerate while the meal finishes cooking.
- To serve, divide the cooked rice between three plates. Carefully open the cod packets and place the fish on the rice. (The banana leaves are for flavor only, they do not get eaten!) Serve the cucumber watermelon salad on the side. Add a squeeze of juice to your cooked cod from the lime wedges, if desired. Enjoy!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). This entire meal (steamed cod, rice, large watermelon-cucumber salad) will run you under 400 calories. It's an excellent choice if you have a fat loss goal. The low-calorie (and refreshing!) salad provides the volume, the fish provides the protein. This one's also great for folks who are looking for low-fat meal options. Swap your sides to some non-starchy veggies if you want a dish that's lower in carbs. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.
If you like white fish, you might also enjoy my Air Fryer Tilapia recipe. It has a garlic chive miso butter that is excellent on rice, steaks, veggies… practically everything!
Or maybe you'd prefer some Cod with a Fresh Strawberry Kiwi Mango Salsa. Kids find all of the sweet fruits in this one appealing, and it's easy enough for a weeknight meal!
Have you ever tried steamed fish in banana leaves? You can let me know you enjoyed my recipe for steaming cod by sending some love with a 5-star rating! Thank you so much!