Coconut-Poached Fish in Parchment

Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Servings: 2 to 3

The natural sweetness and floral notes of coconut milk make it one of our go-to ingredients in the Test Kitchen. This staple is put to good use in a simple fish dish inspired by the flavors of Thailand. Coconut milk will separate, so we recommend giving it a few good shakes and stirs to get the best consistency. And if you’ve got some brown or coconut sugar handy, consider adding a few teaspoons to the broth for added depth of flavor.


  • 3 fillets flaky white fish (like cod or halibut), deboned and skinned, about 4 to 6 oz. (125 to 185 g) each
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk, about 7 fl. oz. (220 ml)
  • 1 lime (half zested and juiced, half cut into wedges for serving)
  • 3 tsp. fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 3 tsp. brown or coconut sugar (optional)
  • 2 cups (13 oz./ 410 g) cooked white or brown rice, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) degrees. Pat fish fillets dry with paper towels and season lightly with kosher salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice and fish sauce (or soy sauce). Season with a pinch of salt, to taste, if desired.
Cut out 3 pieces of parchment paper, 12 by 16 inches (30 by 40 cm) each. Place 1 piece of parchment on a work surface with the long side facing you. Lay 1 fillet horizontally in the center of the parchment.

To create the parchment pocket, fold the long piece of parchment closest to you in towards the fish so the edges just touch where the fish begins. Then fold the flap in half back towards you to create 2 creases. Do the same with the other side.

Once both sides are folded, bring them together to meet in the center on top of the fish. Tuck the folds into each other, matching up both of the second folds. Fold the top piece under and away from you to create a flat sealed fold.

Fold 1 of the open sides in half twice, then tuck under the fish to seal. Pour a little over 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the coconut mixture into the open end, then fold in half twice to seal (like you did for the other side).

Place the packets in a ceramic baking dish with the ends tucked under the fish and the folded seal facing up.  

Transfer to the oven and bake until the fish is opaque throughout, 15 to 18 minutes. Allow the fish to cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then open the packets and top with more lime zest, a light squeeze of lime juice and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve with rice. Serves 2 to 3.

Belle English, Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Director