Broiled Lemon-Honey Arctic Char With Citrus Sauce

December  2, 2021
10 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

If you’ve made any sort of New Year’s resolutions regarding food and health, chances are (unless you’re a vegetarian or hate seafood) fish has worked its way into your meal planning. Dinners that include lean protein, low-but-good fat, and minimal carbs may be a priority. This arctic char recipe fits the bill.

However, it’s for none of these reasons I suggest you make this. Why you should, coming from someone who couldn't tell you what it means to be Whole30 compliant (until just now, that is, when I Googled it), is this: First and foremost, it’s delicious. Second, it’s easy and demands about 15 minutes of active time. Third, it requires a handful of ingredients, most of which you have on hand—there’s a crate of oranges sitting on your countertop, right? And last but not least, it tastes fresh and bright, just what we need the most this time of year.

Here’s the gist: Broil fish and top with citrus sauce. The latter’s a long-time favorite of mine from Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook. Sally describes it as an “all-purpose sauce for fish.” It’s essentially segments of oranges and lemon, their juice, olive oil, and salt. It tastes like a not-so-sharp vinaigrette, and it’s not emulsified. I add minced chives for color. In the past, I’ve served this sauce with whole grilled snapper or roasted striped bass fillets, but most recently, I’ve been spooning it over broiled arctic char.

Arctic char, if you're unfamiliar, looks similar to salmon in hue, but genetically is closer to trout. This is most apparent in arctic char’s thickness, which rarely measures greater than three-quarters of an inch. It tastes mild but there’s an appealing richness in its texture.

When marinated briefly with a tablespoon each of citrus juice (stolen from the aforementioned sauce), olive oil, and honey, its flesh caramelizes under the broiler, creating visually appealing spots of charred char (ha!). Fillets will cook in no more than 5 minutes, at which point they’re ready to welcome a refreshing sauce swimming with citrus segments.

Serve this broiled char with a salad and a big hunk of bread, and don’t think twice about any resolutions here—this sauce demands a crusty, toasty mop.

A few notes:

I’ve been buying arctic char from my favorite local market that sells a farm-raised variety from Iceland. Farm-raised fish isn't something I would have considered buying until very recently, when I began researching various fisheries and their practices. Both this char and char I’ve purchased from Whole Foods Market come from Iceland, whose operations, as far as I can tell from online sites and endorsements from sources like the Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, appear pristine and sustainable.

Arctic char is mild and delicious. It's thin, so it cooks quickly. The trick I've found to getting the flesh to caramelize without overcooking is to get the fish closer to the heat source—I use a turned over sheet pan set on a rack 4 inches from the heat source to bring my broiling pan to a distance of 3 inches from the heat source.

The sauce: It’s nice to use a mix of citrus. I love using Cara Cara oranges for their sweet flavor and pretty hue, but it’s nice to include more acidic varieties of citrus, too, such as other navel oranges, nectarines, or blood oranges.

Portion size: For years we’ve been told to count on 6 ounces to a half a pound of fish per person. But I find myself asking recently, says who? And why should we listen? I’ve been reading Cal Peternell’s latest book, A Recipe for Cooking, and saw a recipe for “fish with crisp skin” that calls for 3-ounce portions. This is probably a better portion size, I thought. Three-ounce portions, of course, will make for a light meal, so be sure to have some vegetables, a grain salad, or a big loaf of bread on the side. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Broiled Lemon-Honey Arctic Char With Citrus Sauce
  • 4 small oranges, a mix is nice (I've been using Cara Cara and tangerines)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 (3- to 4-ounce) arctic char fillets
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  1. Position a rack 3 inches from the broiler. (Note: I can position a rack only 4 inches from the broiler. To get the pan 3 inches from the heat source, I turn over a rimmed sheet pan and set it on the rack—I do this when the fish is ready to be broiled.) Heat the broiler to high.
  2. If you know how to supreme citrus fruit, do that, squeezing and reserving any juice left in the rinds, then skip to step 2. Otherwise: Slice off the ends of each orange and the lemon. Squeeze the juice out of those ends into a medium bowl. Discard the rind. (It’s handy to have a garbage bowl nearby for this step.) Stand each piece of fruit on one of its cut sides. Run a knife down the side of each orange and the lemon to remove the skin. Squeeze the juice out of those skins into the bowl, then discard. Remove each citrus segment by running a knife down the side of each membrane and slicing the segment out. Drop it into the bowl of juice. Once all of the segments are removed, squeeze the remaining membranes into the bowl to extract the juice. You should be left with a bowl of beautiful segments swimming in a lot of juice. (If this doesn't make sense, YouTube it.)
  3. Pour 1 tablespoon of the juice from the bowl of citrus segments into a large bowl. Add the honey and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Whisk to combine. Add the fish and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the bowl with the citrus segments. Add the chives and a big pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Taste—it should taste similar to a salad dressing with perhaps less of a bite. It should not be emulsified.
  5. Rub a sizzle pan, sheet pan, or broiler pan lightly with the neutral oil. Remove the fish from the marinade, letting the excess drip off—no need to pat dry. Discard the excess marinade. Place the fish skin side down in the pan. Season the flesh with salt (and pepper, if you wish) to taste. Place a sheet pan upside down on the rack (see why, if you've forgotten, in step 1), then place the pan with the fillets in it on top. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the fish to a platter. Spoon the sauce over the top. Pass the extra sauce on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Stephanie B.
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

21 Reviews

Judy July 30, 2023
Arctic char is always delicious. This marinade /sauce pretty much ruined it. The fish survived fortunately
Sauce G. February 6, 2023
I think this makes the fish more fluffy and chewy.
Spencer December 30, 2021
Followed the recipe but didn't care much for it. Way too sweet. Sweet and fish is not my cup of tea. Used navel and caracara oranges. Marinade will make a nice salad dressing though. Let the broiler heat up plenty, measured the distance and used the additional pan as suggested but barely got any crispy bits after 5 minutes. Also, I recommend less discussion at the beginning of the recipe. A short paragraph or 2 is sufficient and then get into the how to.
Anna F. December 15, 2021
This was good except there was not enough marinade to even cook down because it would have burnt the sauce pan.
Rebecca L. March 28, 2021
Love this recipe! Made it several time with different citrus combo's: orange, grapefruit lemon. The char and citrus is great the next day, tossed with greens for a salad (if you have leftovers). I make extra citrus/chive dressing now as it works great in a salad with greens, tomato, avocado, tunafish, sweet peppers..just to name a few.
Oh...and this dish is FAST to make! Bonus!
Robin April 28, 2020
Wonderful dish that my whole family devoured. Even my teenage boys asked if we can have it again. Will definitely add to the rotation when Arctic char is available.
Christine H. April 24, 2020
Quite delicious and easy. I used a combo of Cara Cara orange and pink grapefruit. Used leftover citrus sauce on top of butter lettuce for a salad. Big hit in my house, will be making again. Thanks for this excellent recipe. (I take leftover citrus peels and soak them in white vinegar, then I use that citrus vinegar to make homemade spray cleaner. Search for instructions online on how to make your own.)
Samantha December 26, 2019
I followed the instructions of placing the fish three inches from the broiler on high and the fish caught on fire after 3 minutes, setting off all the fire alarms. The inside of the fish wasn’t even cooked all the way through. I would probably keep at least five inches of distance from the flame next time.
Anna F. June 10, 2021
Agreed. It looked very nice when I removed the pan from the oven but it was a little under cooked. I turned off the oven and just let it finish cooking for another 5 minutes. I did have to open the oven to make sure it wasn't going to catch on fire when it was broiling though.
LittleMissMuffin November 28, 2021
Same problem. How do you get it brown without causing a fire? I watched the whole time to avoid a fire but it didn't get as brown as I would have liked
Anna F. December 15, 2021
I moved on to another recipe. I didn't like the citrus taste and the other recipe requires a 400 degree oven. Works for me and it's safer.
eileenie B. March 18, 2019
Delicious! Made it just as the recipe says, paired it with honey glazed carrots. It got A+ approval in my household!
msmely January 25, 2018
This recipe does depend on portioning out the salt to your liking, but otherwise it was a hit. I served it with some quinoa, cucumber, and celery, dressed with leftover citrus juice, sami tamimi's seeds from plenty more and a good amount of chopped mint. I enjoyed the simplicity that let every ingredient shine.

I ended up using salmon filets (char was $$$) and broiled a bit longer to obtain a 145F internal temperature. Loved the surface caramelization. I used the fact that citrus is in season to up my citrus variety, including a pomelo, a tangerine, a blood orange, a sour orange (instead of lemon), and a cara cara orange. If I'd have been thinking I'd have zested the oranges first and set the zest aside for another use.

I found it hard to figure out vegetables to pair with this that wouldn't steal the show from the citrus. I bet it'd be delightful with fennel, lettuce, carrots, jicama, or anything else crunchy and mild.
LittleMissMuffin November 28, 2021
Yes, I paired it with roasted beets, fennel and potatoes
Stephanie B. February 1, 2017
Couldn't find Char either, so I used Swai. This was amazing, loved the citrus sauce-so fresh, so yummy. Served the fish over a quinoa, grated brussel sprout and daikon salad. Took a little bit of the citrus juice to make a miso-ginger dressing for the quinoa salad.
Alexandra S. February 2, 2017
So happy to hear this, Steph! Love your creative use of the citrus sauce to make the dressing for the salad, which sounds delicious.
Nanners January 24, 2017
I could not find Arctic Char so I used salmon instead. Was not disappointed as the taste was great. The citrus sauce is fantastic; a definite keeper. Thanks for sharing.
Alexandra S. January 24, 2017
So happy to hear this, Nanners. Thanks for writing in!
LCT January 20, 2017
Arctic char is hard to come by in my area- is there another fish that works well with this recipe?
Alexandra S. January 20, 2017
I would try trout (in which case follow the cooking instructions exactly) or salmon (in which case, just broil it without the sheet pan trick noted in the recipe). Someone commented somewhere that they made this with halibut and loved it.
yiayia January 14, 2017
Arctic Char is a wonderful fish--more delicate (and less expensive) than salmon but still flavorful. Your dish is so lovely and such a fresh , colorful presentation, especially for a winter's day, but I can imagine lovely in any season. Although, you are likely correct about portion size, I find 6-8 ounce portions for a party, anyway, to be about right, especially if you don't want to make a lot of side dishes. Thank you!