Marinated in saikyo miso and baked to perfection, Black Cod with Miso is a beautiful seafood dish you can pull off at home. With its delicate and buttery texture, the Miso Cod simply melts in your mouth.
A classic Japanese dish, Black Cod with Miso (or simply Miso Cod 銀だらの西京焼き), is served at many formal Japanese restaurants. These days you may have heard of the dish after it’s made famous worldwide by the acclaimed fine Japanese restaurant chain Nobu. Luckily, the miso-glazed black cod recipe is simple enough that you can enjoy this wonderfully seasoned fish at home.
Watch How to Make Miso Cod
Marinated in saikyo miso and baked to perfection, Black Cod with Miso is a beautiful seafood dish you can pull off at home.
Choose the Right Miso for Miso Cod
To enjoy the succulent texture, we prepare the fish by marinating it in sweet miso for at least 2-3 days until the sweet & salty flavor is completely absorbed before it is cooked. Traditionally the fish fillet is soaked in the marinade for even up to 5-7 days. In Japan, we refer this marinade as Saikyozuke (西京漬け), and once it’s grilled, it’s Saikyo Yaki (西京焼き).
Saikyo in Japanese means “west city”, which is the former name for Kyoto. This specific cooking method is named Saikyo because the recipe utilizes Saikyo Miso (sweet white miso) originated from the Kyoto area. The traditional Saikyo Yaki recipes include just three ingredients: Saikyo miso, mirin, and sake.
The sharpness of the miso and sweetness of the mirin work wonderfully to cut the fish’s fattiness. When it’s baked to perfection, the deep flavor of the marinade comes through and the buttery flesh simply melts in your mouth. It’s so good that my young children can easily finish one fillet of the fish on their own.
Substitute for Saikyo Miso
Miso may be still a relatively new ingredient for many of you. You can purchase Saikyo Miso on Amazon or local Japanese/Asian grocery stores. If you are not able to find Saikyo Miso at your local Asian grocery stores, the best miso to substitute is white miso and add sugar to sweeten the miso.
If you want to learn more about different types of miso, click here.
Other Fish Choices besides “Black Cod”
Despite Nobu’s popular menu “Black Cod with Miso”, the fish used in this recipe is actually not related to a cod at all. “Black cod” is a common name for sablefish (Gindara 銀ダラ) or butterfish. It’s known for its silky and tender rich texture and flavor. High in omega-3 fats, it is the preferred fish choice since it doesn’t have the strong taste of fatty fish like tuna or mackerel. The creamy white flesh pairs extremely well with miso paste that is sweet, savory and salty.
If you couldn’t find sablefish, you can also use other fish to enjoy with the versatile miso marinade. I like alternating between black cod, sea bass, or salmon and my family enjoy them equally. If you go to a Japanese supermarket, you should be able to find black cod in the fresh fish section.
In the US, you can also find sustainable caught Alaskan black cod from online seafood companies. It’s rather pricey but it is still a much better deal to enjoy the fish at home than ordering at a fancy restaurant. With some simple advanced preparation, this Black Cod with Miso recipe is so easy to pull off and the results are irresistible.
If you are looking for a classic Japanese recipe for serving dinner guests, this Miso Cod will make a pretty impressive main dish. Prep it ahead, bake in the oven, and dinner is ready. Easy but no lack of elegance.
Baking vs. Broiling Fish
Although I use a broiler in my oven to cook different types of fish often (including Miso Cod), I recommend baking this miso cod especially if you have never broiled the fish before. Miso burns really easily. You can’t avoid burning miso completely; however, you can minimize the burns by removing the marinade and baking this fish.
Here I summarized the difference in broiling and baking fish, and which type of fish is suitable for broiling or baking for your future reference.
When you broil fish, the infrared energy from the heating element cooks the fish that’s placed closer to the broiler at the top of your oven. Broiling is a much faster cooking method and fish will brown beautifully, but it burns miso, fresh herbs, and many other garnishes and requires constant attention.
When broiling, you don’t control the temperature in the oven; instead, you control the distance between the broiler and the surface of the food. It’s similar to using hotter and cooler zones on your grill.
When you bake fish, hot air cooks the fish. The heat is carried through your oven by slow-moving natural currents of hot air, which is why baking takes a relatively long time to cook. But it can be relaxing as you do not need to constantly pay attention.
Choose Baking or Broiling Based on A Type of Fish
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and swordfish) can be baked or broiled at higher temperatures, ranging from 425ºF (baked) to 550ºF or 550ºF (broiler).
- Moderately lean fish (such as cod and haddock) should be brushed with oil and broiled.
- Whole fish, large fillets, or lean and fragile fish (such as sole) should be baked at temperatures 425ºF to preserve their moisture and delicate texture and avoid broiling because it’ll be overcooked too fast.
Miso Cod (Black Cod with Miso)
- 4 fillets sablefish (gindara) (you can also use salmon and sea bass; roughly 1 inch thickness)
- 2 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 2 Tbsp sake (For cleaning and removing unwanted odor of the fish.)
Miso Marinade with Saikyo Miso (Traditional)
Optional - Miso Marinade with White Miso
- 6 Tbsp white miso (You "can" use other types of miso than white miso, but it will be saltier, so please adjust the flavor by balancing out the mirin or/and sugar)
- 3 Tbsp mirin
- 3 Tbsp sake (Sometimes we can replace sake with water; however, this recipe requires longer marination and water is not a suitable substitution)
- 1 Tbsp sugar (Add sugar only when you do not use saikyo miso)
- Gather all the ingredients. As you will be marinating this fish for a few days, select the freshest fish possible.
2 to 3 Days Beforehand
- Sprinkle salt over the fish and set aside for 30 minutes. Salt will draw excess moisture and any fishy smell from the fish.
- In a bowl, add saikyo miso, mirin, and sake (and sugar, if you are using regular white miso).
- Mix all together and pour the marinade into a flat bottom airtight container.
- Pour 2 Tbsp sake over the fish to rinse off the salt. Gently pat dry with a paper towel to remove the moisture. Do not wash the fish under running water.
- Place the fish in the container and coat both sides of the fish with the marinade.
- Slather the fillets with the marinade. Cover the lid and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. If you prefer less salty (and don't eat this dish with rice, for example), you can cut down to 1 day (or even several hours). It depends on your preference.
After Marinating (& Storing Pre-Cooked Fish)
- With your fingers, remove the marinade off the fish completely. Do not leave excess miso on the fish; otherwise, the fish will burn easily. At this point, you can individually wrap the fish with plastic and store in the freezer bag for up to 2-3 weeks.
To Cook the Miso Cod
- Place the fish skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper/silicone mat (for baking) or foil (for broiling).
To Bake (Recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218ºC) with a rack placed in the center of the oven. For a convection oven, reduce cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Bake the fish on parchment paper until the surface is blistered and brown a bit, about 15-20 minutes. You do not need to flip the fish.
To Broil (Optional)
- Preheat the broiler* with a rack placed about 6" (15 cm) away from the top heating element (in the center of the oven) for 5 minutes. When broiling, you don't control the temperature in the oven; instead, you control the distance between the broiler and the surface of the food. It's similar to using hotter and cooler zones on your grill. *Broiler setting: Low (450ºF/232ºC), Medium (500ºF/260ºC), and High (550ºF/288ºC). I usually use medium (6" away) or high (8" away).
- Broil medium (500ºF) for 8-10 minutes until the surface is blistered and brown a bit. Please remember the cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish and the distance between the broiler and the food. You do not need to flip the fish.
- Carefully remove the fish with a spatula, and remove any burnt miso around the fish. Serve immediately. I serve the fish with thinly sliced red radish and a small green leaf from my backyard for additional color.
- You can keep the leftover (cooked) in an airtight container for up to a month.
- Sake: Sake is used to clean and remove the unwanted odor of the fish. You can't replace it with water even though sometimes water is used as a replacement in some recipes. We will marinate the fish for a longer time, and water can go bad and ruin the marinade and fish.
- Mirin: Typically mirin can be replaced with water and sugar, but for this recipe, please do not use water. Use sugar only. For 1 Tbsp mirin, use 1 tsp sugar.
Editor’s Note: The post is originally published on Sep 21, 2011. The photos and content were updated in November 2013 and July 2017. The video and new step by step pictures were added in August 2018.