yellowtail pan fried in smoked chilli, salt & pepper with garlic & parsley butter

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Freshly caught yellowtail is a glorious fish and like all fantastic ingredients requires the minimal amount of interference to cook a delicious meal.

However, spear shot yellowtail is something you can only dream about getting your hands on. The quality and the texture is far superior to that which has struggled on the end of the line. There is no lengthy battle between man and creature, with muscles tightening and stress being created. The fish gets killed instantly whilst happily swimming around in its habitat.

My friend Dirk is an adventurer of note and continues to inspire me. From building his own yacht from scratch, then sailing it up the east coast of Africa, to freediving and spearfishing in the ocean. An endurance MTB racer and ex kite surfer, he is a beautiful free spirited human being and I so enjoy time spent with him. He married a very good friend of mine, has two delightful children and lives in Canada. The time I get to spend with them all is very precious to me, and we have a lovely arrangement, Dirk hunts and gathers and I often land up doing the cooking.

The yellowtail I made in this recipe was part of the many fish he shot recently in the South African spearfishing championships. When I visited them a couple of weeks ago at their house on the sea, I pan fried the fish in small fillets which I dusted in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. A knob of butter and squeeze of lemon juice in the pan was all that was required to make the perfect meal.

I was lucky enough to bring home some more of the yellowtail and knocked something similar up.

To a handful of flour, I added a good few pinches of smoked salt, lots of black pepper and a few grinds of smoked chilli flakes for a little extra kick. I sliced the fish into small fillets and dusted each piece in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking off any excess. I fried them in batches in a pan with olive oil. I melted about a tablespoon of garlic and parsley butter and drizzled it over the fish and served with fresh lemon.

I can’t wait to visit them soon and hopefully get to play in the kitchen with more of the ocean’s bounty.





  1. So I haven’t eaten yet tonight. I’m terribly hungry now after seeing your post. The photos of the “catching-the-fish in action” are so cool! Nice one Sam!

  2. I echo Minglet’s sentiments, Sam – with just a cup of hot choc for din-dins, you are killing me over here! It looks completely delish, and you used that gorgeous blue plate again! I love it!

  3. Thanks Ming, thought it was nice to show the whole food chain especially since it was with such aplomb that this meal came about.

  4. Thanks Jacs, am so going to have to try not use that plate too often #overexposure :-). S x

  5. Sam, sitting here in London, that yellowtail looks simply amazing!!! Would kill for a night outside with some lovely fish and vino under the stars! Enjoy! x

  6. Sam, gosh it’s midnight and I so feel like a snack right now… lovely shots, both of the food and Dirk.

  7. Hi Jules, ja fresh fesh and white wine is something we should never take for granted. S x

  8. Stunning post about how simple food has to be. Cant wait to try it myself!

  9. This looks so good I almost started crying just looking at it! Gorgeous photo’s Sam! 🙂

  10. hey SAM

    just got me a whole Yellowtail at a supermarket in Durban,South Africa and was looking for some inspiration. i cant wait to try this recipe. looks divine and so easy.

  11. Thanks Fati, let me know how it goes 🙂

  12. It is so hot here in Johannesburg, SA this evening that your receipe sounded like just the meal we could enjoy outside when it gets cooler AND so easy. Tks.

  13. HI Alva, I hope you enjoy. Its also been very hot in Ct lately.

  14. How long do you pan fry the smaller fillets?

  15. HI Bruce, just a few minutes until cooked, fish cooked very quickly.

  16. So appealing!

  17. Sharon G-K says:

    Could use some help. I purchased yellowtail fillets from a local roadside truck recently. They would not remove the skin for me. Tried to pan sear them and they curled up and didn’t cook right – very tough!

  18. Hi Sharon, if you score the skin (make a few slits half way through) that normally prevents fish from curling when you pan fry. Alternatively cut them into smaller pieces like I have done. Im not the biggest fan of yellowtail. I tend to prefer it cooked whole on the braai.

  19. where is the recipe?

  20. HI, CD, I describe in detail how to make the dish in the blog post. There is no measured recipe. It’s so simple you can just follow the guidelines.

  21. Chris Teale says:

    Gave it a bash this evening. Number 1. Followed your recipe.

  22. Thats great to hear Chriz

  23. I’m trying to find the recipe, and I can’t. Where is the full recipe?

  24. Hi Jessica – it was a set of instruction on how to cook it vs an actual recipe. It’s so easy and simple you don’t need a recipe. I explain exactly what I did.

  25. I see that this recipe is from 2011 but I just found it this year…and have really enjoyed using it for all the yellowtail and pargo and bass we caught this year in Baja. Great easy recipe, and I like that you don’t have a huge filet to deal with in the pan. Smaller pieces work so much better! Thanks for the recipe and keep up the great recipes!

  26. Thank you so much for the comment Gayle and its great to hear this recipe is still being found on the internet from so long ago. So glad you enjoy it.

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