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Frozen Tilapia tastes earthy

shana Feb 27, 2007 11:39 AM

Hi there - I got a large tray of tilapia filets from costco about a month ago - I divided them up into 2 fillet servings and stored them in freezer bags with all the air sucked out with a drinking straw.

I used 2 of them this past weekend in a portuguese cataplana I was making with prawns and clams. The seafood is added at the end and steamed in the tomato sauce until just done.

The fish had a real earthy taste - like potting soil earthy. Nothing else in the dish had this flavour.

The fish didn't look freezer burned at all so I'm wondering what this was? I've only had tilapia once before at a restaurant and never noticed this taste, but it was served blackened so those spices could have masked it.

I have noticed this earthy taste before in fish - usually perch or sunfish we caught in the lake as kids, and just assumed it was what they were eating.

now I've got 3 more bags of it in the freezer............................what to do?

Thanks in advance for any insights you can give me.

  1. C. Hamster Mar 29, 2013 08:52 PM

    Almost all frozen Tilapia is imported from Asia where it is farmed under questionable conditions.

    IMO its not a good choice.

    1. paizley Mar 29, 2013 10:33 AM

      Other than being fed GMO corn/soy, antibiotics, etc., they are fed testosterone to become ALL male!

      Read the unhealthy aspects of tilapia:




      1. t
        takadi Mar 27, 2013 06:31 PM

        Today I decided to get one of those free swimming tilapia they have in those tanks at a chinese grocery store for the first time. I've had those frozen packaged tilapia and I always hated them since they were always so tough and bland. Simply salted then steamed them at home. One taste and I immediately recognized the odor. I have fish tanks at home and the smell was exactly of blue-green algae. It's that "potting soil" mud smell and taste. Disgusting

        1 Reply
        1. re: takadi
          Big Eater Mar 27, 2013 07:54 PM

          The tilapia people are cutting their own throats with the way they let the quality get so bad on that species.

          The worst part is that tilapia could be a viable source of fish that could replace our overfished ocean fish long enough to let them recover but it tastes so bad that it's not going to happen.

          I guess the only solution is to eat as much ocean fish as you can now because in 10 or 15 years it's all going to be gone.

        2. todao Sep 29, 2012 10:21 AM

          Tilapia, like cat fish, are bottom feeders. Try soaking the fish for half an hour or so in cold water with a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar mixed in. About a 75/25 mix of water:acid; be sure to rinse well before cooking.

          1. paizley Sep 29, 2012 09:37 AM

            Just nasty fish. Why waste money on this vile, farmed fish when there are better alternatives? My cats won't even eat it. They won't eat farmed salmon either. Stay away from the farmed fish!

            1 Reply
            1. re: paizley
              Big Eater Mar 27, 2013 07:57 PM

              Stay away from wild fish as well. The fishing stocks are so depleted that it's unlikely that we'll see them come back to the levels they were even in the 1970s. Humans are eating themselves out of house and home.

            2. a
              asiancarpboy Aug 8, 2012 10:20 PM

              Some ethnic grocers have tilapia live in fish tanks. That is as fresh as it gets I guess. As for fillets, I have "izumidai" or sashimi grade tilapia. It's eaten raw, or can cook it as well. I would say if it tastes muddy, you could thaw it and soak in sake or rice wine. The wine just adds taste. Sometimes you can substitute the sake with white wine. It's probably good to put ice in the bow of wine. I got the idea from youtube when a chef was doing that to live shrimp before eating raw in Japan.

              1. b
                Big Eater May 16, 2012 09:10 AM

                The solution is to take the the fish back to the store. That muddy taste is a result of bad pond management by the fish farmers. Two different chemical compounds are responsible for the flavor and places like Costco and Whole Foods shouldn't be selling muddy tasting fish.
                Here's the scientific explanation:
                "The off-flavor phenomenon is most commonly associated with periods of high water temperatures, high fish stocking densities and heavy feeding regimes which are common under today's production techniques as opposed to the conditions found in the early years of the industry."
                "Two chemical compounds, Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB), have been identified as the cause of a majority of off-flavor incidents. Geosmin and MIB are secondary metabolic products of some species of bluegreen algae and actinomycete bacteria. MIB causes a flavor to be imparted to the flesh described as "musty" or "lagoon" and geosmin results in "earthy" or "woody" flavors."
                Read the whole report at http://www.uaex.edu/aquaculture/fsa/f...

                1. l
                  lennyk May 22, 2011 06:04 PM

                  I live in Trinidad, we have wild tilapia in the rivers here,
                  they taste muddy also.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lennyk
                    Bethcooks May 22, 2011 06:18 PM

                    I have stopped eating tilapia because of the "earthy" taste. Even in restaurants it has that muddy taste. I buy farm raised rainbow trout that is raised in Canada and it has always been good.

                    1. re: Bethcooks
                      DaveTheWonderWave May 22, 2011 06:40 PM

                      interesting article on this subject


                  2. d
                    DaveTheWonderWave May 22, 2011 09:58 AM

                    This may be related to how the fish was harvested. Some farmers purge the fish by letting them fast 3 or 4 days to improve flavor.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DaveTheWonderWave
                      Cheese Boy May 22, 2011 11:04 PM

                      Does this work? If so, it should be used on shrimp (less deveining).

                      1. re: Cheese Boy
                        bulavinaka May 23, 2011 09:18 AM

                        The water quality is probably the most important single factor to an aquatic organism's health. I would think that this would carry over to how they taste as well. The typical organism living in water is immersed in water, constantly respirates water through its gills, constantly "drinks" water, and excretes metabolic wastes in various manners into the water. Ultimately, if the biological load in the water is high enough to create a bio-soup of sorts, the organism's taste/smell will most likely be similar. Catfish, farmed shrimp, and talapia all seem to have this muddy algal smell/taste to them.

                        Talapia are notoriously tough fish. While their only weakness is probably cooler water temperatures (they're basically a tropical fish) they can handle what would be considered water chemistry extremes that the average organism cannot. And while they will eat just about anything presented to them as feed, they primarily eat just about any vegetation, including water plants and various forms of algae. And since most fast-growing aquatic flora and algae take in a lot of nitrogen, I think this nitrogen-rich diet only adds to the typical taste that talapia seems to have.

                    2. s
                      scarlet knight Aug 20, 2010 04:38 PM

                      We always found tilapia tastes "musty." Our favorite seafood restaurants will not serve it because it is invariably farm raised and not wild. We try to buy wild fish, not fish from a farm where the fish is swimming in its own "stuff."

                      1. c
                        ChristianeK Jan 2, 2010 04:06 PM

                        I have never had a problem with this fish, but last week my husband bought the usual brand of frozen 907g bag of Tilapia and not only did it look translucent, but after thawing in the fridge and eating it the next day, the fish tastes mushy and wierd. This is the second piece of this fish from this bag that we bought and both pieces have been horrible. I think we bought it from Price Chopper. I am almost positive that this fish is bad, so I just ate the rest of my plate, but quit on the fish. Any ideas???

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChristianeK
                          leetmom7 Jan 8, 2010 03:02 AM

                          See my post above - read the bag to determine where it is from - China?

                        2. Midlife Mar 19, 2009 02:05 PM

                          We've been buying tilapia from Costco for a few years now and doing exactly what you do with it. We've never noticed what you're reporting. Could be our palates but more likely the specific fish you bought. Whether that has anything to do with where you live or Costco's supply chain I could only guess.

                          1. greygarious Mar 19, 2009 10:59 AM

                            Like Winewidow, beets "taste like basement" to me, but I've never had that with tilapia. Either I lack the ability to detect its earthy element, have beat the odds and only gotten good ones, or it's that my usual method of preparation is to bake it with a topping of julienned vegetables mixed with teriyaki marinade. I eat it about twice a month, sometimes more. I've always bought it at the fresh fish counter but I assume some or all of it has been previously frozen.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious
                              HotMelly Mar 19, 2009 11:30 AM

                              One of my favorite TV show with the hunk Mike Rowe is "Dirty Jobs". The show in question was a salmon farm in which the way to get rid of "In the words of Mike Rowe...POOP" was to feed the waste to Tilapia... And in the words of ex-president Nixon on Laugh-In....."I KID YOU NOT"

                            2. l
                              leetmom7 Jan 21, 2009 03:09 AM

                              I refer to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program as a guide to fish products. They say to avoid Chinese/Taiwanese tilapia, usually raised in polluted waters (no surprise there), South American comes next, and they rate 'Best' US farmed. I only see Equadorean at my local markets. I bought Regal Springs brand frozen tilapia 'loins' (fillets) at Trader Joes - Malaysian, spring waters, and it is some of the sweetest fish I have ever had - I coat it in black sesame seeds and pan sear in a non-stick with a smidgen of oil.

                              I have long thrown out all my muddy tasting Chinese frozen fish (and read labels! Ralphs - Kroger - sells 'American Seafood' or something brand - print on back, 'China'. UGH)

                              How the fish is raised, IMO, affects the taste. So I research and read labels.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: leetmom7
                                tener_piedad Mar 18, 2009 09:49 PM

                                Funny, I found this forum by searching for tilapia +metallic taste ... because I just finished baking and eating those very Trader Joe's Tilapia Loins, and wondered why they tasted so oddly metallic. Grateful for all the wisdom above. There is a whole fillet left in the freezer, so before I cook it I'll soak it in buttermilk for an hour to avoid the soil/algae/basement/metallic taste altogether. I'm a cooking rookie, so any information that will help is entirely welcome.

                              2. a
                                anongoodnurse Jan 20, 2009 11:07 PM

                                So, all the fish I've ever made I've just been able to throw into the broil and eat without any seasoning at all, so I did the same with Tilapia.... I know, huge mistake. I feel like a total idiot, but what the heck?? I'd never heard of a dirt-tasting fish before. I had to drown it in tartar sauce to be edible at all.

                                I can't believe the brackish water and resulting geosmin aren't harmful to your health somehow... But I couldn't find anything to suggest otherwise...

                                Anyway, disgusting. Really disgusting. Next time (?), I'll definitely try the buttermilk and/or lemon juice thing.

                                1. t
                                  thecountryrose Jun 5, 2008 06:30 PM

                                  i only buy my tilapia from one place now. I used to get from grocery, but they are mainly from china on a fish farm. But now I get from a fish monger and love it. It is from the Rainforest. Best taste ever. I have never had a mud tasting piece and I eat it at least 3 times a week.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: thecountryrose
                                    pikawicca Jun 5, 2008 06:45 PM

                                    What do you mean, "It is from the Rainforest?"

                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                      thecountryrose Jun 5, 2008 07:28 PM

                                      The indonesian rain forests.

                                  2. f
                                    FED May 29, 2008 05:59 PM

                                    as another poster pointed out, it's geosmin and as i understand it it it comes from the fish eating certain green algaes in the farm pond.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: FED
                                      shindiganna Jun 5, 2008 04:31 PM

                                      Bobby Flay catches up....

                                      today I watched him grill tilapia and serve with a caper beurre blanc. He served grilled asparagus with vinaigrette on the side....

                                    2. g
                                      guitargirlcbr May 28, 2008 02:53 PM

                                      Any dirt-tasting fish (like catfish or tilapia) will benefit from soaking in buttermilk for about an hour. Eliminates the yucky taste, which is great, because tilapia is a cheap fish.

                                      1. tammanye May 28, 2008 08:56 AM

                                        I find letting any "muddy" tasting fish,sit in lemon juice gets rid of any yucky tastes. We eat a lot of catfish,which is horrible for tasting like dirt. soak in some lemon juice,a few drops of hot sauce,some garlic pepper and it is just a wonderful mild fish-my pickiest eater never complains about it.

                                        1. shindiganna May 16, 2008 05:23 PM

                                          OK, the deed's been done. To my surprise, the fish was cleaned and scaled. HOORAY, no scales flying around my kitchen! Cutting off the fins was a bit much for my shears, DH had to do it. After washing inside and out, I stuffed it with fennel and baked it in my 10" cast iron skillet, on a bed of orange slices. I flipped it halfway through baking, so I could judge doneness. I tried to fillet the fish by cutting along the spine etc, but the meat was so tender and slippery, and my hand so inexperienced that it turned out flaked rather than filleted. And the brains/head bit was a bit repulsive..but I managed to find the cheeks.

                                          The flavor wasnt muddy, but a bit metallic. I've one more tilapia in the freezer, so next time I will try pyrex pan and lemon juice, and maybe some stronger herbs. The fennel/orange combo seemed too sweet and didn't really compliment the fish. Maybe gremolata? Bagna cauda?

                                          Overall not bad.

                                          1. Eat_Nopal May 14, 2008 10:35 AM

                                            Lots of Tilapia is farm raised in Southeast Asia where it develops a muddy flavor. Wild Caugh Tilapia I've had in Mexico.... whether it comes from the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Cortez, or Lagoons in Veracruz... it definitely doesn't have a muddy flavor, and is also not tasteless... its not strong tasting and is best suited for some Whole Deep Fried (not battered) & plus a few squeezes of lime....but its not watery or tasteless as the Frozen versions they carry at Trader Joe's

                                            1. Eat_Nopal May 14, 2008 10:34 AM

                                              Lots of Tilapia is farm raised in Southeast Asia where it develops a muddy flavor. Wild Caugh Tilapia I've had in Mexico.... whether it comes from the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Cortez, or Lagoons in Veracruz... it definitely doesn't have a muddy flavor, and is also not tasteless... its not strong tasting and is best suited for some Whole Deep Fried (not battered) & plus a few squeezes of lime....but its not watery or tasteless as the Frozen versions they carry at Trader Joe's

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                ChefBoyAreMe May 14, 2008 10:38 AM

                                                >>>Wild Caugh Tilapia I've had in Mexico.... whether it comes from the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Cortez, or Lagoons in Veracruz<<<

                                                Tilapia are freshwater fish, sometimes found in brackish water. Given that, (brackish) lagoons are the only one of the three sources you cite that would seem possible for them to be found in...

                                                1. re: ChefBoyAreMe
                                                  Eat_Nopal May 14, 2008 12:31 PM

                                                  Nope.... Tilapia, like Salmon, Perch and some Trout can live in either in Fresh or Salt water. And I have personally seen them being brought in by boat on the north side of Acapulco.

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                    ChefBoyAreMe May 14, 2008 12:45 PM

                                                    Wondering if maybe the fish in Mexico is another species, but the same name is used. I can't find any references to a wild salt water population, though there is some testing of farm raised saltwater tilapia:



                                                    1. re: ChefBoyAreMe
                                                      Eat_Nopal May 14, 2008 01:44 PM

                                                      Its possible... the name Mojarra is used for Tilapia as well as Perch and Perch shaped fish... but I do know what Red Tilapia looks like... and I am pretty sure that is what is being caught in the Gulf of Cortez as well as the coast off Acapulco:



                                              2. m
                                                milena64 Mar 5, 2008 11:21 AM

                                                This has happen to me also. I have been told two things. One is that it depends on the month the fish has been harvested/caught and the the water level of the lake (natural not farmed) and the other is that once you have removed the dark areas of the fillets it should be better. The darker meat tends to be the worse muddy tasting.
                                                hope this is helpful.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: milena64
                                                  paulj Mar 5, 2008 02:24 PM

                                                  You may not want to learn this, but on a Dirty Jobs episode (foods), they looked at farmed fish. At that particular operation, stripped bass was the primary product. Tilapia (and carp) were a secondary product, raised on the waste water from the bass ponds. I can't say whether that makes a difference in the taste.

                                                  I'm not sure what 'dirt' tastes like, since I'm not in the habit of eating it.


                                                  1. re: paulj
                                                    irishnyc Mar 5, 2008 07:43 PM

                                                    When i saw that episode, I got up and threw out the tilapia I had in my freezer. It completely grossed me out, and I'm not easily grossed out.

                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                      Gio Mar 6, 2008 09:23 AM

                                                      I absolutely hate tilapia. Had it once, fresh from our favorite fishmonger. Will never have it again. There was definitely an unappealing aftertaste. IIRC I roasted it in the oven with S&P and lemon juice.

                                                      1. re: Gio
                                                        shindiganna May 14, 2008 10:09 AM

                                                        I bought two whole tilapia through our CSA, but have been a bit squeamish about cooking a whole fish. The farmer also grows hydroponic greens using the fish water, and claims to store the fish in a clean tank for a few days before 'harvest.' Based on this post, I imagine it's to minimize the basement flavor. I'm going to give it a try this weekend...wish me luck.

                                                        1. re: shindiganna
                                                          ChefBoyAreMe May 14, 2008 10:18 AM

                                                          Cook's Illustrated just did a piece on this...They found that the muddy taste in freshwater fish like tilapia and catfish is caused by a compound called geosmin...the fish consume the compound as they ingest algae. They found acid breaks down the compound, and eliminates the flavor, but most acid ingredients, like lemon juice are too acidic, and cook the fish (tilipia ceviche, anyone?). Their solution was to soak it in buttermilk for an hour before cooking to eliminate the muddy flavor.

                                                          1. re: ChefBoyAreMe
                                                            ketchupgirl May 29, 2008 02:08 PM

                                                            Yes! Thank you for posting this--am going to try the buttermilk soak next time--had stopped buying tilapia and catfish because of that muddiness.

                                                  2. s
                                                    samGA Dec 5, 2007 12:33 PM

                                                    I just saw this post, but I am glad to find out that I'm not the only one who thinks that tilapia tastes like dirt. I have tried it prepared by a very good cook who assured me that they were fresh and that I would probably like them, as they are a very mild, white fish. Sorry, but they tasted like dirt. I tried again months later by ordering it at a restaurant and guess what -- it still tasted like dirt. I will not eat this fish again. With so many good things to eat, who needs this? I hope shana threw out the fish, or prepared it for her cats, if they would eat it.

                                                    1. s
                                                      seconds Sep 25, 2007 11:05 AM

                                                      Tilapia is one of my favorite fishes - when my dad buys them from the fish market whole and bakes them with salt and pepper. I've bought frozen filets in the past, and the flavor pales in comparison to whole tilapia.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: seconds
                                                        foodperv Oct 1, 2007 07:50 PM

                                                        my supermarket has whole tilapia( prev frozen of course) for 99 cents a pound they don't say if it is farm raised or not but i am guessing it is

                                                      2. chef chicklet Sep 23, 2007 09:26 PM

                                                        Well I guess I am not alone, I thought the same thing. In fact all farm raised fish taste "off" to me. Shrimp too, it all has a distinct taste that is not at all pleasant.

                                                        1. trixel Sep 21, 2007 06:41 PM

                                                          I had a similar experience with frozen basa, a catfish.

                                                          1. Scrapironchef Mar 7, 2007 11:15 AM

                                                            I once saw a show on catfish farming, they caught and cooked a few fish out of the pond before harvest. Tasters had to ok the fish before they started processing the whole batch. I remember one of the farmers getting upset when the taster said "off" after tasing his fish. I doubt this is a practice followed everywhere.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Scrapironchef
                                                              Svetlana Mar 19, 2007 08:31 PM

                                                              I had Tilapia the first time yesterday and was googling online to find its nutritional value and found this site. I have eaten the Kroger brand frozen tilapia and it was so good. Yesterday I cooked it in a pan with a spray coating, garlic, pepper, no salt Tony's, then added lemon and it was terrific. Today I had it again because it was so good. I baked it with pepper, no salt Tony's, paprika, parsley flakes, (forgot the garlic) and it was still great. I hope I don't get the earthy tasting kind next time!

                                                              1. re: Svetlana
                                                                HomeCookKirsten Mar 19, 2007 11:32 PM


                                                                I am glad you got good Tilapia - or that you can't taste the earthiness. Since this thread began, I have had Tilapia again twice and I REALLY tried to taste the flavor to see if I could detect the dirt flavor.

                                                                Once I could and once I could not. So, I guess it comes down to taste and how you prepare it.

                                                            2. wleatherette Mar 6, 2007 11:43 AM

                                                              thought i'd revive this as i had some good fried catfish over the weekend. it had a slight muddiness to it, but nothing off-putting. it's totally different than the earthiness of tilapia, which to me is overpowering. a spiced cornmeal coating was enough to take care of the catfish, while i can't think of anything strong enough to mask tilapia at its worst. it really is like a mouthful of soil.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: wleatherette
                                                                Hungry Celeste Mar 7, 2007 06:06 AM

                                                                You probably had pond-raised catfish, which I won't eat. All of those pond-raised fishes are fed a commercial diet of pelleted food, so that's pretty much what they taste like.....to me, it tastes the way dog or cat food smells (or the intensely grainy smell of a grain elevator or silo). Not a bad smell per se, just not what I want out of my seafood. In bread, yes. In fish, no. Wild fish don't eat Archer Daniels Midland corn products.

                                                                1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                                                  wleatherette Mar 7, 2007 06:25 AM

                                                                  i'm sure that's true about the pellets, and not a good thing. however, there was no strong taste to the catfish that we had, just a slight muddy note. i guess my point was that while several posters had said that it was similar to the earthiness of tilapia, i think that the two are totally different. it seems to me that there's just something very off about tilapia sometimes, no matter how it's raised.

                                                              2. HomeCookKirsten Mar 1, 2007 08:46 AM

                                                                Good points - in the past I avoided Tilapia, but over the past 6 months have had some really good tasting & good textured Tilapia that seems very fresh, so my opinion has improved dramatically.

                                                                Anymore I just can't make frozen fish (of any kind!) get the right texture no matter how I cook it, so I am more likely - like Karl S said - to buy fish on ice right before I am eating it.

                                                                1. Karl S Mar 1, 2007 03:58 AM

                                                                  Tilapia is just rarely worth eating, just on its own merits. Then add frozen, and you've worsened it much more; I find deep frozen fish are very often less succulent and less sweetly flavored than fish kept on ice.

                                                                  1. xnyorkr Feb 28, 2007 11:11 AM

                                                                    I bought a huge bag of frozen tilapia in Shopper's Food Warehouse and the taste is *aweful*! I'd call it "gamey," like not-fresh fish tastes, but maybe it's the same thing you are talking about. I used as much as I can stand, but I think the rest is going to become garden food.

                                                                    1. w
                                                                      WHills Feb 28, 2007 11:06 AM

                                                                      Tilapia is one of those fishes with an earthy taste. That's why I avoid it.

                                                                      1. a
                                                                        alaughingdog Feb 28, 2007 10:29 AM

                                                                        I've had the same bottom-of-the-pond flavor in some wild caught pond panfish -- I agree that it's a sensitivity thing - - my husband, usually hypersensitive, doesn't notice it at all ...

                                                                        1. v
                                                                          vanillagrrl Feb 28, 2007 09:48 AM

                                                                          I usually avoid tilapia and can't eat catfish for the same reason. I used to like freshwater eel but no longer care for that much, either.

                                                                          1. gridder Feb 28, 2007 07:19 AM

                                                                            Sigh. I just have a sinking feeling when I walk by the seafood section of the supermarket these days. Everything is farmed, or prohibitivley expensive. (But, here in the middle of the midwest, mostly everything is farmed.)

                                                                            Gourmet had a sobering article on farmed shrimp this month. Not going to be able to eat that any more.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: gridder
                                                                              Hungry Celeste Feb 28, 2007 10:38 AM

                                                                              Don't buy your seafood at the supermarket. You're right--it's mostly all farmed if it is inexpensive. Find a good fish market, start fishing yourself, make friends with local fishermen who often give away part of their catch. Cheap, farm-raised imports are killing our domestic commercial fishing industry....eat wild-caught or don't eat it at all.

                                                                              1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                                                                fisherman Mar 21, 2007 06:22 PM

                                                                                I agreed with you 100 percent .. Wild- caught are the best than farm-raised imports also farm -raised red drum(redfish) in Texas ..

                                                                                1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                                                                  foodperv Sep 23, 2007 07:26 PM

                                                                                  that is easier said than done especially hard for people that live in the heartland
                                                                                  shipping costs to the middle of the country for wild fish can make it cost Double what a farm raised fish goes for in the mid-west
                                                                                  if you live along the coast of the country you can get away with doing that

                                                                              2. wleatherette Feb 28, 2007 06:58 AM

                                                                                i avoid tilapia for this reason. it does seem pretty unpredictable, as i've had fish with a pronounced muddy taste in a couple of restaurants that i know use good quality ingredients and reputable suppliers. i'm not sure if the original poster searched on this topic, but there was a thread a long time ago on the original chowhound about someone wondering about fish that "tasted like dirt." it turned out to be tilapia.

                                                                                1. p
                                                                                  pamd Feb 28, 2007 06:58 AM

                                                                                  Funny, my friend prepared/ate it from one of those "prepare & freeze" places & reported the same thing. I buy it at Costco & have not noticed, but perhaps the way I prepare it masks that taste for me? I definitely am going to pay close attention the next time I eat it though.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: pamd
                                                                                    coconutz Feb 28, 2007 10:11 PM

                                                                                    I usually avoid tilipia because of that taste, but I had some from Costco recently and it did not have that taste. That fish was farm raised in Costa Rica and seemed incredibly fresh.

                                                                                  2. shana Feb 28, 2007 06:30 AM

                                                                                    Thank you everyone - it's good to know I'm not crazy - my husband couldn't taste it either. I'll try laying on the spices next time and if that doesn't cover it our kitties will be eating good for a few days.

                                                                                    1. k
                                                                                      Karen_Schaffer Feb 27, 2007 09:03 PM

                                                                                      I have this problem with farm-raised trout as well as tilapia. But my husband doesn't taste it, so not everyone is sensitive to it. My uncle raised tilapia for a while and says they have that taste if they don't spend their final days in a cleaning pond (kind of like feeding snails on cornmeal to clean them out, I guess).

                                                                                      As an aside, tilapia has a long history of being farmed. The Romans had tilapia farms, including one in the basement of the multistory market, the Harrods of Rome.

                                                                                      1. j
                                                                                        JudiAU Feb 27, 2007 01:47 PM

                                                                                        Almost all tilapia is farm raised. Like all farm raised there are few good producers who raise fish in clean conditions, with good quality feed, adequate swim space, and in a non-polluting manner.

                                                                                        Most do not and since tilapia is the cheapest of the cheaply farmed fish it suffers the most from bad raising conditions. Polemics aside, this often gives the muddy off flavor you mentioned. This is not a natural variation in the flavor of the fish (like some wild catfish) it is the result of bad growing conditions. Tilapia in the wild or raised sustainable has a mild, sweet flavor, or non-flavor as the case may be.

                                                                                        1. w
                                                                                          WineWidow Feb 27, 2007 12:49 PM

                                                                                          I am so glad to hear that other people taste mud in tilapia too, because most people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them this. I've found it in the fish I buy to prepare at home, and in restaurants, so I've just stopped eating it altogether. Tilapia, like beets, are part of the Tastes Like Basement category of foods for me.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: WineWidow
                                                                                            shana Feb 28, 2007 06:15 AM

                                                                                            TASTES LIKE BASEMENT! oh that is too funny. I love it! ha ha ha

                                                                                            1. re: WineWidow
                                                                                              LulusMom Mar 7, 2007 12:59 PM

                                                                                              Me too! I used to cook with it all the time, but it just kept getting more and more "dirt" like in flavor. I quit.

                                                                                            2. s
                                                                                              Sam D. Feb 27, 2007 12:38 PM

                                                                                              I don't recall ever having seen wild Tilapia in the market.

                                                                                              That off-taste of muddiness frequently found in the flavor of Tilapia is the reason I have quit buying it. It was not 100% consistent but more like in 50% of the time that it occurred with the Tilapia I cooked. It was unpredictable and undetectable until it was tasted. Rather than try to obscure the taste by preparing it with strong flavored ingredients, I now substitute Pollock fillets in any recipe calling for Tilapia. Locally in So. Calif. Pollock is readily available, inexpensive and I prefer its taste and texture over Tilapia.

                                                                                              1. HomeCookKirsten Feb 27, 2007 12:03 PM

                                                                                                I wonder if it matters if they are wild or farmed? I know wild Tilapia eat mainly algae and farmed live on pellets that are mostly vegetarian but can include a low percentage of fish matter?

                                                                                                I have always had very mild Tilapia, but perhaps I am eating Arizona farmed Tilapia which if it is anything like Arizona farmed Shrimp, is sweet and mild?

                                                                                                1. n
                                                                                                  ncs821 Feb 27, 2007 12:00 PM

                                                                                                  I've quit buying farm raised fish for that very reason. My husband says it's the algae in the water -- the "fish farmers" don't keep it cleaned out or killed or whatever they do to destroy it.

                                                                                                  1. Aromatherapy Feb 27, 2007 12:00 PM

                                                                                                    I've found that freshwater fish, especially farm-raised, often does taste earthy (aka "muddy"), although not as often as it used to. Lay on the hot spices?

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Aromatherapy
                                                                                                      irishnyc Mar 5, 2008 07:38 PM

                                                                                                      Very interesting. I had the same "muddy" taste with catfish once, but thought it may have been because it's a mud dweller. I also haven't been able to bring myself to eat it since.

                                                                                                      1. re: Aromatherapy
                                                                                                        bulavinaka Jun 5, 2008 10:29 PM

                                                                                                        Farm-raised tilapia, catfish and trout all have that dirty muddy flavor to me. I think the reasons are two-fold. One is they are fed pelletized high-protein food, which usually has a high amount of fish meal in it. If you've ever smelled the pellets, they not only smell very fishy, they also smell dirty - I think it's the residual effects of the fish protein breaking down into ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates while it is being processed. This same process occurs when the fish creates waste matter. Since the number of fishes in the ponds or tanks far exceeds the normal ratio of fish to gallons of water in a natural environment, and since there is no natural biological cyle in place to gradually process the fish waste from protein by-products to nitrogen, filters and pumps have to do this, and are far less efficient, given the high population of fishes. Living in water that is high in different forms of nitrogenous waste and eating feed that is high in poor quality protein probably saturates the fish with this dirty algal smell.

                                                                                                      2. j
                                                                                                        jsaimd Feb 27, 2007 11:55 AM

                                                                                                        I had this issue with fresh Tilapia from Whole Foods. I haven't had it since so i would love to hear what others have to say.

                                                                                                        1. HomeCookKirsten Feb 27, 2007 11:50 AM


                                                                                                          I cook with Tilapia a lot because it is typically the freshest and most affordable fish at the grocery stores near me.

                                                                                                          The reason Tilapia is either loved or hated is that it literally has no taste. It is a VERY mild, even slightly sweet white fish. Not much going on flavor-wise, the reason a lot of chefs and people hate it, but the reason why fishy-phobic Americans tend to like it. But it can be great in a way, like tofu, because you can flavor it with almost anything!

                                                                                                          Also, Tilapia is farm raised which can be bad for the environment, but since it is mostly a vegetarian (or can be mostly vegetarian) it typically makes lists of sustainable and environmentally friendly fish.

                                                                                                          So...all that said, it's interesting that your fish tasted earthy.

                                                                                                          Did it say on the package if it was wild/farmed or anything about where it came from? Also I have heard that sometimes it's caught, frozen, then thawed for processing, then frozen again, then who knows how long it sat in a freezer warehouse before you bought it and thawed it again? Perhaps it just picked up some bad freezer taste before it even got to you?

                                                                                                          Not sure if that is helpful! Sorry! :)

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