Poor Man’s Lobster (Buttery Whitefish)

poor mans lobster

These days lobster is an expensive seafood, alternatives are welcome; such as this poor man’s lobster recipe.

Many whitefish fish varieties are themselves getting more and more expensive, but so is lobster!

This recipe gives an alternative that is just as good in so many ways, and tastes like lobster.

The irony of course is that real lobster was at one time known as a poor man’s food.

This was because there was an oversupply of lobsters, which long ago were fed to prisoners, and slaves.

What is Poor Man’s Lobster?

poor mans lobster

Poor man’s lobster refers to a dish made of white fish, cooked in the style of lobster, mimicking many of the similar flavors.

Once cooked in boiling water, dipped in butter, with a squeeze of lemon, it takes on a taste like cooked lobster.

Is Cod The Best Substitute?

Cod fillets work really well, but are by no means the only white fish you can use.

Sea bass, sea bream, and halibut all work very well.

You want a white fish that holds up to being boiled and smothered in melted butter.

How to Make Poor Man’s Lobster

Cut a whitefish fillet into several pieces about two inches wide.

Bring water to a boil in a cooking pot and add salt and sugar.

Drop the pieces of fish into the boiling water, allowing to cook for about 7 minutes, until the fish flakes a bit.

(Alternatively bake fish in the oven brushed with butter over a broiler pan.)

Scoop from the water using a skimmer, then add to a bowl of melted butter.

Remove from the butter and squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the fish.

Sprinkle it with pepper and paprika for color.

Serve with melted butter.

Tips for Making

  • Don’t overcook the fish otherwise it will easily begin to fall apart making it difficult to serve as single pieces.
  • Do smother the fish in butter, no such thing as too much butter with this dish. 
  • Salted butter works best.

poor mans lobster

Poor Man's Lobster Recipe

These days lobster is an expensive seafood, alternatives are welcome; such as this poor man's lobster recipe.
4.29 from 45 votes
Print Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cod, Fish, Lobster
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 511kcal


  • 1 lb White Fish cod or halibut
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Salt
  • 6 oz Butter melted
  • 12 cups Water
  • Paprika optional garnish
  • Pepper optional garnish


  • Cut the white fish fillets widthwise into 2 inch widths.
  • Bring the water to the boil. Add the sugar, and the salt and stir until dissolved.
  • Using tongs lower fish pieces into the boiling water.
  • Cook for about 7 minutes or until the fish is just beginning to flake.
  • Using a skimmer, remove the fish and place in the bowl of melted butter.
  • Remove from the butter and squeeze lemon juice on the fillet pieces.
  • Serve hot.



Calories: 511kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 7472mg | Potassium: 353mg | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 1063IU | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg

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  2. 5 stars
    I was pretty skeptical but I actually loved it. Doing a keto diet so used no calorie sugar and even my husband liked it. Thank you for the recipe.

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