Poor Mans Lobster

4.80 from 5 votes

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Poor Mans Lobster with Melted Butter is a dish that you’ll never forget. It’s made with halibut, so it tastes just like lobster, but it doesn’t cost a fortune. It was our go-to recipe when we fished for halibut on the Alaskan coast. This is a great recipe if you’re looking to save some money while still getting an amazing meal!

Piece of Poor Man's Lobster dripping in butter on a fork.
Featured with this recipe
  1. Fresh Caught Fish
  2. Ingredients in Poor Mans Lobster
  3. Variations on this Recipe
  4. Cost vs. Benefit
  5. Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Catch of the Day
  7. How to Make Poor Mans Lobster
  8. Poor Mans Lobster Recipe

My favorite way to cook halibut is with melted butter. It’s a super simple dish that comes together in minutes and tastes like you’ve been cooking over a hot stove for hours.

The name of this recipe comes from its origins during a time when halibut was much cheaper than lobster which is not the case anymore! It definitely needs to be renamed “Rich Man’s Lobster!”

Fresh Caught Fish

YUMMMM!!! Just looking at this picture makes me want to make it again tonight. When Kevin, my Dad, and I went fishing in Alaska, we brought back tons of halibut and Poor Man’s Lobster was a common dish in our home for months. I never got sick of it and I don’t think I ever could. What I wouldn’t give to have a freezer full of halibut now. I don’t know if I would eat it or sell it to pay for my child’s college tuition.

Halibut is a white, flakey fish with a smooth texture. It is much better fresh than frozen. Frozen halibut tends to overcook and dry out. This way of preparing halibut to taste like lobster is amazing and easy, but it is also good when it is grilled or sautéed.

A special thanks to Elise for getting this recipe when she lived in Alaska. We enjoyed many wonderful times with her when she lived there. What a beautiful place!

Plate of Poor Man's Lobster, asparagus, dish of melted butter and lemon wedges.

Ingredients in Poor Mans Lobster

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Halibut
  • Butter – sweet cream works great
  • Lemon
Ingredients to make Poor Man's Lobster including raw halibut, lemon, butter, salt and sugar.

Variations on this Recipe

For some fun flavor variations try some flavoring with the butter or brush some seasoning on to the fish after boiling. Some ideas to sprinkle on would be:

  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Basil and Oregano
  • ginger
  • thyme
  • dried chili peppers
  • garlic

Cost vs. Benefit

Halibut has been so expensive the past several years. I rarely see it on restaurant menus anymore. Halibut have become so scarce in the Atlantic Ocean that commercial fisherman are not allowed to catch them, and the Pacific Halibut supplies have been low for many years. It may also have something to do with the life cycle of halibut. They don’t reproduce until they are 8 years old. I’m hoping the day will come when halibut prices drop to a reasonable level again and then it will be more feasible to make this recipe. In the meantime, any affordable meaty whitefish with a firm texture works great for this recipe. Doing a fish boil will give the fish a similar consistency of lobster.

Frequently Asked Questions

What seafood is similar to lobster?

Other seafood similar to lobster are the crawfish, king crab, langoustine, bass, monkfish, cod, haddock, grouper, snapper, mahi mahi, and scallops. They have that sweet rich flavor that we love from lobster. With a little lemon juice and butter, you might not know the difference.

Read More:35+ Quick and Easy To Follow Dinner Ideas Your Family Will Surely Love

Piece of Poor Man's Lobsters dripping with butter on a fork.

Catch of the Day

If you are looking to incorporate more seafood into your life, you will definitely want to check out these recipes.

  • Grilled Cilantro Lime Halibut is so easy to make and doesn’t taste fishy at all. Just fresh, flaky and fantastic!
  • Homemade Tartar Sauce uses freshly squeezed lemon and chopped dill. It is so easy to make and tastes better than anything you can buy in the store.
  • Thick and Hearty Seafood Chowder features big chunks of seasoned fish and potatoes. It is hands-down the best seafood chowder recipe ever! Thick, creamy and full of flavor.

How to Make Poor Mans Lobster

Piece of Poor Man's Lobster dripping in butter on a fork.

Poor Mans Lobster

4.80 from 5 votes
This way of preparing Halibut makes it taste just like lobster, especially when dipped in melted butter. The texture is smooth and tender.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Seafood
Servings 4


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 pound halibut
  • 1/2 cup butter (sweet cream works great)
  • 1 lemon


  • In a medium to large pot bring 2 quarts of water, sugar, and salt to a boil on medium-high heat.
    Pouring sugar into a pan of water for Poor Man's Lobster.
  • Cut halibut into 2-3 large pieces (so it cooks faster) and add to boiling water.
    Cooking halibut in pan of water for Poor Man's Lobster.
  • Boil for about 10 minutes or until halibut is nice and flaky.
    Tongs grabbing out cooked halibut from pan of water for Poor Man's Lobster.
  • In the meantime, melt butter in a pot, but do not boil.
    Melting butter in a sauce pan for Poor Man's Lobster.
  • Remove halibut from water, squeeze a little fresh lemon on it and serve with melted butter (I like to completely submerge my halibut in the melted butter, much like you would do with lobster).
    Squeezing lemons on cooked halibut for Poor Man's Lobster.


Enjoy your poor man’s lobster recipe by dipping your white fish fillets deeply in a bowl of butter and having lemon slices on standby. 

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About the author

Emily Walker

Emily lives in Meridian, Idaho, with her husband, Beau, a physician assistant, and her three incredible children: a son and two daughters. Travel is one of her favorite ways to experience new cultures and cuisines, and she has a love for all things Disney.

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  1. It was good, but it wasn’t really the right texture to remind me of lobster. I’m wondering if I cooked it too long. As soon as it came to the top, I took it out of the boiling water. So should I have cooked it longer or not so long?

  2. Mine was tough and chewy. I boiled it for 7 minutes. Found out you are supposed to put it in the boiling water and only boil until it floats to the top then boil 90 seconds more. It keeps cooking after you pull it out. I just ruined a pound of Halibut.

  3. We are from upstate NY very near Canada. We were born and raised on the St Lawrence River, a waterway known for excellent freshwater fishing. Among the various species, one stands out as the quintessential fish to make “poor man’s lobster” with. We use Northern Pike. We filet the pike boneless, then cut the filets into cubes. These are wrapped in a sack of cheesecloth much like a loose teabag. Boiling water is started and lemon and salt are added to that. Once boiling, the bags of fish cubes are cooked in this at a mild simmer for 7 minutes and served with drawn butter and lemon wedges. Now THAT is “Poor Man’s Lobster” done right!

  4. 5 stars
    So it’s been awhile since I made this…..my apologies for the question but, “it’s regular sugar or Brown sugar.” I thought I used brown sugar and salt. Thanks.

  5. 5 stars
    Monk fish is aptly named poor mans lobster, with this recipe it’s awesome, the closest thing to real lobster meat in my opinion. I used a light sprinkle of bays seasoning also, or chef minions seasalt garlic and dehydrated butter seasoning.

    Copied from Web: Monkfish has a very mild flavor that many liken to lobster. I wonder, though, how much of that is due to its texture — which is firm, like lobster. In any event, fresh monkfish has a light flavor, acceptable to most people, including those who avoid “fishy-tasting” fish.

  6. I go to Alaska fishing every year and am always in the search for more halibut recipes. This one is delicious, I try a new twist every once in a while with this as a base recipe.

    1. So glad you like this recipe! We like to do different melted butter compounds sometimes, too. But the original is always a hit!

  7. When you think about how many lobsters, or how big of a lobster, you would have to buy to get one pound of lobster meat, one pound of halibut doesn’t seem very expensive at all. You’re very lucky to find a 5 oz. lobster tail for less than $5.99, and that includes the shell.

  8. I used cod and it was absolutely delicious. I also sprinkled a little Old Bay seasoning on the cod after cooking.

  9. A chef in PAC N.W. cuts halibut in approx 1″ cubes. You know when fish is done, because it will rise to the surface of the boiling water. Interesting, haven’t tried yet.

  10. In Wisconsin, I am told they use white fish as it is plentiful and not expensive. Apparently there, restaurants regularly serve “Poor man’s lobster” which is where I first heard of it.

  11. I used this recipe on Northern Pike and Musky and it came out amazing! I’m going to give it a try with Salmon when I get back from New York.

  12. Excellent way to poach halibut! This was way better than I expected . It lacked the subtle flavour lobster has, but nailed the texture. I liked this better than the crunchy breaded halibut I made at the same time. My husband is deathly allergic to shellfish, so I think he will love this when I make it as a surprise! Recipie is easily halfed if you want to try it out. Don’t skip the butter sauce or lemon!

    1. So glad that you liked it! I agree— you definitely don’t want to skip (or SKIMP) on the butter and lemon lol!

  13. We made two batches tonight. The first batch, going by the recipe, was crazy SALTY. So, on the second batch, added very , very little salt, and used a little more sugar, and it was yummy!

  14. I tried this tonight. It was ok, the butter was definitely key to making it taste good. I like my fish “fishier” so the mildness of this wasn’t to my personal liking. I think this would be a great way to introduce kids to fish.

    1. Halibut isn’t a fishy type of fish,i would know i live in alaska,if u want more of a fishy type eat some salmon

    2. Very true, i just got back yesterday from a halibut trip, brought home 40lbs of filetts very good. First thing my 16 year old said was poor mans lobster. Had to look up recipe again, i fed her that when she was like 10, cant wait to eat

  15. This was so yummy! The flavor is more like crab to me but without the delicate texture. I’m wondering about the “poor-man” part, at least where we live, halibut is not cheap 🙁 Still delicious though 🙂

    1. You can use any mild flavored white fish. I am going to use cod for dinner tonight. I have also heard of using Swai fillets. Both are much cheaper than halibut, and I add the juice of one lemon to the boiling water to give it a lobster type texture as well.


    1. I tried this recipe and prepared it exactly according to directions. I don’t know if any of you have actually tasted lobster, but although it tasted fine, it was a far cry from lobster. It tasted like poached fish with melted butter…was not thrilled

      1. I have a completely different opinion. I just had a lobster in Nova Scotia that hadn’t been out of the ocean for more than three hours. Two weeks later I had fresh salt-water boiled halibut. The latter was way better–milder perhaps but absolutely delicious even without any butter or lemon. So my suggestion is to try it before judjing it.