Learn how to cook tilapia and see how best to use it for easy family meals. Whether you cook tilapia on the stove or make a baked tilapia recipe, it cooks up quickly and can be seasoned however you like.
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Why cook tilapia for dinner?
Families eat fish for so many reasons. In general, fish is a healthier protein choice than meat. Give tilapia fillets a try next time you're making a fish dinner.
Tilapia is a non-fishy fish, which makes it popular with kids. The meat is mild, tender and lean, plus there's only 128 calories per 100g of fish. Tilapia also has niacin, B12, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium. It packs a lot of nutrition into a small package.
It is easy to keep tilapia on hand (especially in the freezer) and use it for easy dinners. Tilapia soaks up whatever flavors you add to it–whether with a spice rub, marinade or sauce–so you have a blank canvas to work with. It's so versatile that you can use it on its own, in soups or stews, or even in fish tacos.
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How to defrost tilapia fillets
While you can bake tilapia fillets from frozen, that can often lead to soggy fish. I don't recommend it! We often keep the individually-wrapped tilapia filets in the freezer for quick weeknight meals.
It is so quick to defrost frozen tilapia fillets that it is worth the minor wait. I fill a bowl with water (just colder than room temperature), then submerge the 4-5 fillets I will need for 15-20 minutes. Frozen tilapia fillets are so thin that it really doesn't take much time at all.
The best way to defrost tilapia is to remember to take it out of the freezer the night before. Even if you take it out the morning you plan to cook it, move it from freezer to refrigerator, and it will be defrosted by dinnertime.
Whatever you do, do NOT put frozen tilapia in the microwave to defrost and do NOT leave it sitting out on the counter. Those are not safe methods for defrosting frozen fish.
What are some tilapia seasoning ideas?
It is really important to add flavor to tilapia while cooking, since it's a white fish that absorbs flavors. That's also why kids often like it, because it doesn't taste or smell “fishy.” This same characteristic, however, is why adults don't always enjoy it.
Try different recipes to see what you family thinks is the best seasoning for tilapia fillets. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Garlic and olive oil tilapia
- Southern baked tilapia
- Lemon pepper tilapia
- Parmesan crusted tilapia
- Tilapia Veracruz
5 ways to cook tilapia
Depending on how much time you have to prepare dinner, there are many different ways to cook tilapia. The most common are:
- pan frying – since tilapia holds its shape, it handles the heat of a skillet well
- stewing or braising
How long does it take to bake tilapia
It's as simple as adding a spice rub to your tilapia fillets and laying them on a baking sheet or baking dish. The thickness of the fillets is what determines how long they need to cook, in addition to the oven temperature you use.
Why would you use a different temperature to bake tilapia? Usually, I'm making a vegetable side dish alongside our fish dinner. Knowing how long to cook tilapia at 400-425℉, for example, means I can also roast vegetables either on the same pan or on their own baking sheet.
|Oven temperature||Cooking time|
|How long to bake tilapia at 350℉||30 minutes|
|How long to bake tilapia at 375℉||25-30 minutes|
|How long to bake tilapia at 400℉||15-20 minutes|
|How long to bake tilapia at 425℉||10-15 minutes|
|How long to broil tilapia (500℉/your oven setting)||4-7 minutes|
You can even steam tilapia by wrapping it in foil and baking it. This is a great way to infuse the fillets with marinade or other cooking flavors. Try my Asian Fish in a Packet that includes vegetables and rice as well.
How do you know when tilapia is done?
You can tell when tilapia is done because the flesh will turn white and flaky, which you can test using a fork. You can also insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part to be sure it reaches 145℉ internally.
It is very easy to overcook fish. I tend to use the lower amount of cooking time and then I take the baking tray out and let it sit a few minutes.