Grilled Swordfish with Lemon and Caper Sauce

July 12, 2010
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 12 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

I’m so glad swordfish is back and sustainable. I’ve loved grilling it since a long-ago event at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium where the chef simply sprinkled the fish with freshly ground white pepper and squirted fresh lime juice over. Whole Foods had harpoon-caught swordfish on special last weekend, so we had this for dinner last night. Easy-peasy! —ChefJune

Test Kitchen Notes

"The lemon-caper sauce was fresh and clean, and contrasted nicely with the smoky meatiness of the swordfish. This is a quick and easy recipe that’s great for summer eating." –frozenfoodie

"I don’t often buy swordfish, and when I do, I tend to simply grill it with some salt and pepper and add a dash of lemon. Once in a while I get fancy with some Italian-style preparation, like Sicilian-Style Swordfish which employs sundried tomatoes and capers.

My new fave, Grilled Swordfish with Lemon and Caper Sauce, sort of splits the difference between minimalism and Italian-influenced with a week night meal that is ready in less than 30 minutes.

I made this with a heavy pound of swordfish, which is enough for two adults and two kids if they don’t eat a lot. I halved only the butter and the capers because I like to have sauce at my disposal.

I love this whole-lemon approach to things–just be sure you get the pith off well and watch them come together nicely in the butter with the capers. From here ChefJune wants you to put your fish on the grill; I used a grill pan and cooked my fish while my sauce was going so the whole thing could be done in about 10 minutes.

This is fast and eloquent, the best of a weeknight world." –Jestei

—The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large lemon, peeled, cut crosswise into 8 1/4" slices, seeded, with all the juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained nonpareil capers
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 3 swordfish steaks cut 1 1/4-inch thick (about 1 pound each)
  • 3 tablespoons (very green) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley for garnish
  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constantly until the butter is light brown, about 3 minutes.
  2. Cut the lemon slices into quarters. Add them (with their juice), and the capers, to the saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook, shaking the pan several times, until the lemon and capers are heated through, about 1 minute. Taste for and correct seasoning.
  3. Light a grill or preheat the broiler. Brush the swordfish with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste.
  4. Grill or broil the swordfish about 4 inches from the heat, turning once, until charred outside and still slightly pink in the center (3 to 4 minutes per side).
  5. Transfer the swordfish to a large platter and cut into thick strips. Pour the lemon and caper sauce over the fish and serve immediately, garnished with the chopped parsley.
  6. Wine Tip: Juicy whites are most refreshing in summer. There are a whole host of tasty and affordable bottles in that category. We drank Albariño from Martin Codax (and also toasted Spain’s win in the World Cup!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • lawprof
  • ChefJune
  • Goo
  • Suellen
30+ years a chef, educator, writer, consultant, "winie," travel guide/coordinator

9 Reviews

Goo July 28, 2020
Made this last husband had 2 servings, it was that good! Grilled the swordfish on the gas grill, low for 4 min's a was so tender. And the sauce was incredible...but how can you go wrong with butter, lemon, and capers. Served with fresh sautéed spinach and steamed rice which helped sop up the sauce. Will certainly be making again! Thank you.
lawprof June 19, 2019
Cooked this for the third time. Love it! Two suggestions: (1) cut the lemon slices thinner than 1/4" - maybe 1/8" - some guests didn't like the mouth feel and taste of the lemon rind - thinner slices will soften the texture and taste; and (2) consider adding garlic (as others have suggested) or shallots - they add flavor and do not detract from the simplicity and elegance of the dish. Bonus: cook more than you need, put the leftovers in a glass container with the extra sauce, and enjoy slightly warmed (to remelt the butter).
Suellen May 19, 2018
When my husband looked at our plates, he said "this looks like a gourmet restaurant serving." The recipe is simple, the sauce was delicious. Try eating a piece of the lemon peel that has been sitting in the butter.
K J. January 15, 2018
I had already decided I wanted to make swordfish with lemon and capers, and I check the net to see if others had made something like this already. I was surprised to find a few different recipes. After checking several I tried this one out. We enjoyed it immensely! The variation this recipe had that I liked was that it cooked the fish and the sauce separately. I believe this helps preserve the lighter flavors of this dish. The only addition I made was a little garlic powder added into the sauce. I'll certainly be adding this to my keeper list.
ChefJune January 16, 2018
So glad you liked it!
Ross May 29, 2016
We made this last night and the results were fantastic. "Restaurant quality" was the universal response. We marinated ours in garlic for a few minutes before we put the steaks on the grill.
ChefJune May 29, 2016
so glad you enjoyed it!
sl(i)m August 3, 2012
Dee-lish-us!! Just tried it with sword fish shortcuts and it was wonderful.. picky eaters loved it :~))
Loves P. May 4, 2011
I made this last night for dinner - it was actually a pleasant night in the Philadelphia area, as oppossed to what it is today - and grilled fished seemed like a really good idea. The sauce is really nice, easy but really flavorful and fun. It really rounded out the fish making it special. The sauce also runs around your plate a little, comingling with vegetables and some rice making the meal feel like a company event rather than an easy, after work dinner. So, thanks and yes, a juicy, soft white wine really was a nice addition!