This halibut cheeks recipe is sponsored by Copper River Seafoods, a brand I love. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Stem and Spoon!
Tender halibut cheeks are pan seared, then topped with a fresh and flavorful pomegranate salsa and a creamy yogurt cilantro sauce. This stunner of a dish, with its festive colors and flavors, makes a great recipe for the holidays. But it's also a year-round halibut cheeks recipe, since you can easily substitute fresh pineapple or mango for pomegranate if it's not in season.
what are halibut cheeks?
Halibut cheeks are sometimes considered to be the best part of the halibut. The luxurious texture and sweet flavor of fresh halibut cheeks somewhat resemble scallops. And halibut cheeks are just as versatile as a halibut fillet.
This halibut cheeks recipe features wild Alaskan halibut cheeks from Copper River Seafoods. All of their seafood is high-quality and wild-caught, direct from the fishermen and shipped to your front door.
Any special occasion or holiday feast is a good excuse to order the best, and Copper River Seafoods is it. From salmon to king crab, there are so many wonderful seafood options to choose from, too (including samplers, which make great gifts!).
why this recipe works
Pan-searing halibut cheeks is a wonderful way to prepare them, especially if it's your first time cooking this cut of halibut. They cook over medium-high heat in a matter of minutes. The pomegranate salsa is also super simple to make, and results in a crisp, sweet, spicy and juicy medley. It has just enough flavor to compliment the halibut cheeks without overpowering them.
Serve it all together and drizzle it with a creamy yogurt-cilantro sauce (optional but definitely recommended) and you have a beautiful, fresh and elegant dish on the table in under 30 minutes.
A special occasion meal without a lengthy prep time? That is the best way to do the holidays!
This halibut cheeks recipe is:
- easy and elevated
- low-carb, gluten-free and dairy optional
- the perfect special occasion meal with vibrant colors and flavors!
The pomegranate salsa is a simple combination of fresh pomegranate arils, red onion, chopped fennel, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice. It's amazing how these ingredients come together to create an irresistible mix of flavors and textures, and it's so good that you'll want to eat it by the spoonful. 😉
To make halibut cheeks with pomegranate salsa, you will need:
- pomegranate arils
- red onion
- fennel bulb
- lime juice
- fine sea salt
- olive oil or avocado oil
- Copper River Seafoods halibut cheeks, thawed
- chili lime seasoning
- ground black pepper
And for the optional yogurt cilantro sauce, you'll need Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime juice, salt and a liquid sweetener of your choice (agave, honey, liquid monk fruit sweetener or stevia drops work well).
how to make halibut cheeks
This halibut cheeks recipe requires three simple steps: prep the pomegranate salsa, pan sear the halibut cheeks, then make the yogurt cilantro sauce.
Here's a quick look at the process, but be sure to view the full recipe card at the bottom of the page.
In a large bowl, mix together the pomegranate arils, onion, fennel, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Stir until it is well combined. Place it in the fridge to chill while you prep the halibut cheeks.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, then add the oil. Pat dry the halibut cheeks with a paper towel and sprinkle them with the chili lime seasoning and pepper. Place cheeks in the large skillet, arranged in a single layer (you will likely need to cook them in two batches).
Pan sear the halibut cheeks for about 3-4 minutes per side on medium heat, or until they are opaque and firm. Remove and set them on a plate. Cook the second batch, if needed.
Blend together the yogurt, cilantro and lime juice, then taste and add salt and sweetener. Serve the pan-seared halibut cheeks with the pomegranate salsa and yogurt sauce on top.
- Fresh pomegranate is best for this dish, but you can also use ready-to-eat pomegranate arils from the grocery store. To easily remove pomegranate arils, slice a thin layer off the top of the pomegranate. Score the fruit down the sides, then break it open in a bowl of water (mess-free!). Gently pull the arils away and remove pieces of the white flesh. Drain the water.
- A quick note about the chili lime seasoning. Most chili lime seasoning blends already contain salt (which is why you won't add any additional salt to the halibut). I've found good spice mixes at Target, Sprouts and Trader Joes, but if you can't find one at your grocery store, feel free to season the halibut with salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder and a little bit of chili powder, if desired.
- Make sure the sauté pan has a good coating of hot oil. I usually use 1 tablespoon oil for each batch of halibut cheeks but feel free to add more, if needed.
- This amount of time can vary based on the size of the pieces. Some halibut cheeks are the size of a large scallop, while others can be as large as your hand and may require up to 5 minutes per side.
- If you'd like to cut a larger piece of fish into smaller pieces, I recommend doing that prior to cooking since the texture of halibut cheeks is so tender after they are cooked, that they can easily fall apart.
- The fish cheeks are done when the internal temperature is about 130-135. I find this to be the perfect target temp for juicy, tender, flaky halibut cheeks. Keep in mind that the residual heat may continue to raise the internal temperature a couple of degrees even after you pull them from the heat.
substitutions for pomegranate salsa
The pomegranate salsa is so good, even on its own, and I highly recommend that you try it out with the tender halibut cheeks (tip: leftovers are wonderful wrapped up into a low-carb tortilla!).
However, you can absolutely make this amazing dish with a substitute for pomegranate.
Pineapple (or even better, roasted pineapple) and mango are my favorite fruit swaps for pomegranate. There's something about the sweetness of the fruit and all of the zesty flavors that pairs so well with fish (like this salmon with avocado mango salsa!).
Halibut cheeks with pomegranate salsa makes a wonderfully festive, healthy, and elevated meal. With bold flavors and tender halibut, there's so much to love about this dish. Enjoy!
you might also love...
- King crab legs with spicy beurre blanc is another one of our favorite recipes! Steamed king crab legs with the spicy, buttery sauce and fresh lemon wedge is an unbeatable combo and special occasion all on its own.
- This seafood charcuterie board is an epic seafood feast that makes a stunning centerpiece! Halibut cheeks in a caper and lemon juice sauce, tender salmon bites, king crab legs and Alaska spot shrimp are served on a beautiful board with all your favorite charcuterie fixings.
- Pan-seared halibut with brown butter is a quick and simple way to prepare tender halibut. If you ever want to take a dish to the next level, the answer is always brown butter.
- Air fryer halibut with vegetables is cooked en papillote (in paper) for perfectly moist, tender and flaky fish.
- 1 to 1-⅓ cups pomegranate arils (seeds of 1 large pomegranate)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped red onion
- ⅓ cup finely chopped fennel bulb
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped (use half a jalapeño for a more mild salsa)
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 large lime, juiced
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 pounds Copper River Seafood halibut cheeks, thawed
- 1-½ teaspoons chili lime seasoning
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Cilantro Yogurt Sauce (optional)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- ½ lime, juiced
- salt, to taste
- liquid sweetener of choice, to taste (i.e. honey, liquid monk fruit, agave, stevia)
- In a medium bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, red onion, fennel, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Mix well and refrigerate while you prep the halibut cheeks.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil (if cooking the halibut in two batches, use only 1 tablespoon per batch).
- Pat dry the halibut cheeks with a paper towel and season both sides with the chili lime seasoning and black pepper.
- When the oil glistens, place halibut cheeks in the pan in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan.
- Cook the halibut cheeks for about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook the other side another 3-4 minutes until they are opaque and firm. Transfer the fish to a plate and tent with foil. Cook the second batch if needed.
- In a blender, add yogurt, cilantro and lime juice. Blend just until combined, then taste and add salt and sweetener as needed.
- Serve the pan-seared halibut cheeks with the pomegranate salsa and the yogurt cilantro sauce on top.
- Fresh pomegranate is best, but you can also use ready-to-eat pomegranate seeds. To easily remove pomegranate arils, slice a thin layer off the top of the pomegranate. Score the fruit down the sides, then break it open in a bowl of water (mess-free!). Gently pull the arils away and remove pieces of the white flesh. Drain the water.
- Most chili lime seasoning blends already contain salt (which is why you won't add any additional salt to the halibut). I've found good spice mixes at Target, Sprouts and Trader Joes, but if you can't find one at your grocery store, feel free to season the halibut with salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder and a little bit of chili powder, if desired.
- This amount of cooking time can vary based on the size of the pieces. Some halibut cheeks are the size of a large scallop, while others can be as large as your hand and may require up to 5 minutes per side. A target internal temperature is 130-135°F.
- If pomegranate is not in season, fresh pineapple or mango will both make a delicious substitute.