Here’s a familiar scenario: It’s time for dinner, and you’re not feeling overly (or at all) motivated.
So how can you whip up something healthy without putting out a ton of effort?
That’s where fish and veggies en papillote — the fancy term for cooking in parchment (or foil) packets — can save the day.
Baked fish in parchment pouches create an incredibly simple, delicious, and healthy meal that’s ready in under 30 minutes.
How to Bake Fish
The best part of cooking fish in parchment is that it’s completely hands-off, so you can relax while your dinner cooks.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut a large piece of parchment paper into a heart shape. Layer your ingredients on one side of your “heart”: a fillet or two of fish, vegetables, seasonings, etc.
- Fold the other side over, then close it up by making small repeating folds.
- Place it on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for anywhere from 10–25 minutes (see below for cooking times).
How to Fold Parchment Paper
The easiest way to create your parchment pocket is to make one fold at a corner, and then make an additional fold every inch.
When you get to the final fold, if there is any extra parchment sticking out, tuck it underneath the packet. It’s important to make sure you get a tight seal to prevent any leakage.
(If you’re struggling, you can always lock it up with a few staples — probably not a “Top Chef”-approved move, but it gets the job done!)
Don’t have any parchment paper? Aluminum foil works in a pinch, but note that if you’re cooking with acidic flavors — like lemon juice, tomatoes, or white wine — they can pick up a metallic taste from the foil.
How Long to Bake Fish
Cooking time depends on whether you’re cooking fresh or frozen fish.
Here are the general cooking times for different types of fish:
- Thin fillets (sole, trout, flounder): 10 minutes fresh, 12–13 minutes frozen
- Thick fillets (salmon, cod, sea bass): 15 minutes fresh, 18–20 minutes frozen
- Steak cuts (tuna, swordfish): 20 minutes fresh, 22–25 minutes frozen
A 400-degree oven is a safe temperature for all types of fish because it’s hot enough to cook quickly but not quite sizzling enough to burn the parchment paper.
You can check to see if your fish is done without opening the packet: Just press a finger quickly into the fish, through the wrapping. (Be careful if you’re using foil — it will be hot!)
It should feel firm and slightly springy. If it feels very soft, you’ve probably got a few minutes of cooking time left.
Add Your Vegetables
The world is your oyster when it comes to adding veggies, but you’ll want to choose ones that will cook at the same speed as the fish or they may end up crunchy or mushy.
Here are a few suggestions for guidance:
- For thin fillets: Julienne peppers, slice mushrooms, or cut broccoli into tiny florets.
- For thick fillets: Use quartered mushrooms, 1/4-inch thick slices of zucchini, or small knobs of cauliflower.
- For steak cuts: Keep broccoli in full florets, bell peppers in large square chunks, and carrots, which can be sliced in 1/4-inch wide segments.
How to Season Fish in Parchment Pouches
Because of the steaming that occurs in the sealed package, the fish get infused with whatever you flavor it with.
This means that for very few additional calories, you can add a big bang of taste.
Make a sweet mustard glaze with 2 tablespoons of whole-grain or Dijon mustard mixed with 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup, and spread on top of fish and veggies.
Under the veggies, place a bed of mixed fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, cilantro, rosemary, or sage.
Don’t worry about chopping the herbs — you’ll discard these before serving.
Sprinkle a chili powder blend over the ingredients and add a few squeezes of fresh lime juice.
If you happen to have any leftovers, you can add them to a healthy salad for the best desk salad ever.
Baked Fish Recipes
And if you’re not ready to go freestyle just yet, here are some baked fish recipes to get you started:
Baked Salmon Dijon
Get more healthy, 21 Day Fix fish recipes here!
The Bottom Line
The presentation is more fun than your average fish-and-veggie plate, so even though it’s technically a cooking shortcut, it feels fancier.
Harness your inner French chef and use cooking shears or a knife to slice through the center of the packet table-side.
With an aromatic puff of steam, dinner is served!