Cook on a Whim: Pesto-Crusted Halibut

Here is a quick, easy recipe that will help you use up all of the glorious summertime basil. And it won’t have you slaving over a hot stove — just a quick blast in the oven and dinner is served.

This recipe was an unexpected hit in my household when I made it years ago. The flavor combination and inspiration came from a recipe I had at a friend’s house. I fiddled with it, as I always do, and came up with this: an incredibly flavorful, satisfying meal that happens to be quite healthy. It comes across as kind of fancy, but truly couldn’t be easier to prepare (four ingredients!).

This is my kind of quick, summertime meal. I don’t always love turning my oven on during the summer months, but this recipe is worth it and it’s only on for a bit. The quantities can easily be scaled up or down. And choose whatever fish looks good. I love halibut but can’t always find it. Mahi-mahi, swordfish or salmon would be great.

Feel free to make your own pesto. I like this recipe — Best Pesto Recipe — a lot, but I often sub walnuts for the pine nuts. If you don’t feel like making your own and you keep a few jars of pesto stashed in your pantry, please use it. This pesto-crusted halibut recipe is so quick and easy, but made even easier if you use a good, store-bought pesto.


Pesto-Crusted Halibut

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings



4 6-to-8-ounce halibut fillets about 1 inch thick

1 cup of your favorite basil pesto (plus some reserved for serving)

1 cup walnuts or pine nuts, lightly crushed (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can easily do this in a ziplock bag — just lightly press on them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a measuring cup or a wine bottle)


Black pepper

Lemon for serving

Fresh basil for serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat halibut dry with paper towels and place on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, allowing for some space between the fillets. Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper.

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

Place about 1/4 cup of pesto on each fillet in an even layer covering the entire top surface of the fillet.

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

Divide the walnuts or pine nuts evenly over the pesto layers. Each one should get 2 to 3 tablespoons, depending on the size of the fillets.

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

Place baking sheet in oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the nuts get toasted and the fish is just cooked through and opaque. Serve with extra pesto, lemon wedges and LOTS of fresh basil!


  • I often make my own pesto, especially in the summer when I have tons of basil coming out of my garden, but store-bought works wonderfully here and makes it so easy.
  • Any fish you love would work well here, or even thin chicken cutlets.

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