Make Nobu‘s famous Miso Cod at home today! Also known as Black Cod with Miso, this classic Japanese seafood dish is delicate, buttery, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. You‘ll be surprised by how easy it is to pull this off at home.
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. 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.
Table of contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It requires only a few simple ingredients. I also provided substitutes (see my Recipe Card) on how to prepare the recipe using other types of fish.
- Super fast for an elegant main dish. While the marination requires a minimum of 2 days, the actual prep time takes only 10 mins and the cook time in the oven 20 mins. All in all, a fuss-free recipe!
- Prep-friendly! After marination, you can individually wrap the fish and store it in a freezer bag for up to 2-3 weeks. When ready to cook, just defrost it in the fridge. Perfect for the holiday season.
Best Type of Miso Paste 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 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 refers to “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
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.
Quick Notes on Black Cod (Sablefish)
It’s easy to mistake black cod as another type of cod, but black cod is actually not a member of the cod family at all! The actual name is sablefish (gindara 銀ダラ) or butterfish, but it is commonly referred as black cod because of its similar appearance to cod.
Black cod (sablefish) is known for its silky and tender rich texture and flavor. High in omega-3 fats and quality protein, 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. In fact, black cod with miso marinade is probably one of the most popular preparations for the fish.
Where to Buy Black Cod
I usually buy black cod from my local Japanese supermarket 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.
Other Fish Choices Besides “Black Cod”
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.
Baking vs. Broiling Fish
Although I use a broiler in my oven to cook different types of fish often (including miso cod and Japanese thin-sliced fish fillets), I recommend baking this miso cod especially if you have never tried the broiling method for black cod 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 between 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 the 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, the 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 the 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.
What to Serve with Miso Cod
Miso black cod makes an impressive main dish to serve as part of a classic Japanese ichiju sansai style dinner, especially on a special occasion or during the holiday. Prep it ahead, bake in the oven, and dinner is ready. Easy but no lack of elegance.
We would serve it with steamed rice, a side of green, and a simple soup. Here are some recipes that pair well with this beautiful dish:
- 21 Popular Japanese Vegetable Dishes
- Chrysanthemum Greens and Tofu Salad
- Simmered Fried Tofu and Greens
- Classic Miso Soup
- Vegetable Miso Soup
Miso Cod (Black Cod with Miso)
For the Miso Marinade with Saikyo Miso (Traditional)
- Before You Start: Select the freshest fish possible, as you will be marinating this fish for a few days. Please note that this recipe requires a marination time of 2–3 days. If you use skinless fish, marinate it for a shorter period of time. You can also use salmon and sea bass in this recipe.
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Marinate the Fish (2–3 days before serving)
- Sprinkle 2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt over 4 fillets sablefish (gindara) and set it aside for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out excess moisture and reduce the fish‘s odor.
- Meanwhile, make the marinade. In a bowl, add 6 Tbsp Saikyo miso (Kyoto-style white miso), 3 Tbsp mirin, and 3 Tbsp sake for the traditional recipe. (Optional: If you are making the optional recipe using 6 Tbsp white miso, add 1 Tbsp sugar.) Tip: While in some recipes we can replace sake with water, it‘s not a suitable substitute in this recipe due to the longer marination time required.
- Mix it all together and pour the marinade into a flat-bottomed 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 container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days for the traditional method. Tip: If you are not using Saikyo miso or regular white miso, you can reduce the marination time to several hours or overnight. Since other miso types are saltier than white miso, please adjust the flavor by adding more mirin or/and sugar.
To Remove the Fish from the Marinade
- With your fingers, wipe the marinade off the fish completely. Do not leave any excess marinade on the fish; otherwise, it will burn easily. At this point, you can individually wrap the fish with plastic wrap and store it in a freezer bag for up to 2–3 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator before cooking.
To Prepare the Fish for Cooking
- Place the fish skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper/silicone mat (for baking) or aluminum foil (for broiling).
To Bake (Recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200ºC) with a rack placed in the center of the oven. For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Bake the fish on the parchment paper until the surface is blistered and browned a bit, about 20 minutes. You do not need to flip the fish. Please remember the cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish.
To Broil (Optional)
- Preheat the broiler* with a rack placed about 8 inches (20 cm) away from the top heating element (in the center of the oven) for 5 minutes. Tip: 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. *There are usually three broiler settings: Low (450ºF/232ºC), Medium (500ºF/260ºC), and High (550ºF/288ºC). I usually use the Medium (6 inches away) or High (8 inches away) setting.
- Place the fish on the foil-lined baking sheet and broil on High (550ºF/288ºC) for 8–10 minutes until the surface is blistered and browned 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 from the fish. Serve immediately. I serve the fish with thinly sliced red radishes and garnish it with a small green leaf from my backyard for additional color. We always eat this dish with rice.
- You can keep the cooked leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 3 days and in the freezer for up to a month.
- Sake: Sake is used to clean and remove the 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. If you want to omit the mirin, 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.