Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jun 21, 2007 08:19 PM

Why do you buy tilapia? [moved from Ontario board]

I am curious, why do you guys buy tilapia?

Personally speaking, it's one of the blandest fishes on the market to my taste buds. Is it because of price? I know it's cheap and commonly available, you also have to realize that most tilapia grow in farmed ponds packed to the gills (pun intended).

I am not trying to get anyone on the defensive. Just interested in why tilapia is so popular.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I decided to go with tilapia for fish tacos because it's not a threatened species and it's farmed on land so the farming doesn't threaten wild fish populations. I was hoping for organic tilapia because it would be farmed more humanely, with less crowding in the pond, than regular farmed tilapia. And I'm not the biggest fish lover, so one person's "bland" is probably my "mild"--by the time it's battered, fried and doused in pico de gallo, I don't think it'll matter whether I used tilapia or shoe leather--it'll prolly be pretty darn good.

    5 Replies
    1. re: TwinklyTerrapin

      In case your wondering farming fish "on land" is just as harmful to the environment as penning them in the ocean. They both carry a whole slew of problems.Technically speaking the best fish for the environment( and most humane) would be made out of tofu, but thats not much fun!

      1. re: phisherking

        The environmental impacts of inland raised fish can vary from positive to very negative. But tilapia can easily (in the technical sense) be raised sustainably and even with positive envivronmental impacts. Ocean and lake farmed fish can also be raised with no negative environmental impacts. It all depends on good policy, the implementation of such policy, and political will.

        1. re: phisherking

          Funny, I always called tillapia "the tofu of fish" since it has almost no flavor, and is in fact flavored w/whatever you season it with.

          1. re: phisherking

            So what would you have us eat? I'm sorry, but this drives me crazy. I try to be as conscientious a food consumer as I can reasonably be, but krikey! Humans need to eat, and I'm sorry, but I am not going to eat tofu every day.

            1. re: flourgirl

              Here! Here ! Flourgirl.

              We all need to relax a little bit. We are becoming so neurotic about everything.

        2. just curious, what would you suggest instead of tilapia? Just had some that we cooked (broiled) for dinner and would love alternative suggestions.

          8 Replies
          1. re: JamieK

            Instead of tilapia? The fish for people who don't like fish is catfish filet. 1) It has no fishy taste or smell. 2) It has no bones. Never. 3) It has no nasty scales as the fish is skinned. 4) It has a mild sweet flavor that combines well with a tangy fruit sauce like mango or pineapple, or a fresh tomato salsa. I dredge catfish in bread crumbs and bake it in a 425* oven until the crumbs are a little bit crispy, maybe around 20-25 minutes depending on size of pieces.

            1. re: Querencia

              Why would anyone not buy catfish then? Personally, I love it. Had some fried today!

              1. re: Querencia

                Don't like catfish. I've never had any that some relative of mine didn't catch, though, and it always tasted like mud.

                1. re: Querencia

                  Catfish???!!!! I completely disagree that it has no fishy taste or that is has a mild, sweet flavor.
                  I do think we all need to be aware of the fish we choose and whether it is caught, and populations maintained, in an environmentally responsible way. But I'm not sure that catfish is the answer. Just my opinion.

                2. re: JamieK

                  Orange roughy. A little more sturdy, still mild enough to take on other flavors well.
                  Sometimes I want that quality in a fish.
                  I was offered a nice Tilapia cevechice the other day, the Mexican homecook that made it did an awesome job with the flavors and I could taste the tilapia as well. Just the right amount of lime and cilantro to compliment not cover.

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Perhaps you missed the previoius discussion on Orange Roughy. It is an endangered and very slow growing fish, with an average life span in the neighborhood of 80 years, and does not reproduce until nearly 20 years old.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      I did miss it. I wasn't aware about that with the OR.. Thanks I appreciate that you told me I'll need to do my own research now. I feel like I've been living under a rock sometimes.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        This might help with your research:


                        I think there is some info on shrimp farming for mojoeater.

                3. Packed to gills with what?

                  I'm not sure that eating farmed fish will decrease demand on ocean stocks, but our ocean fish stocks and their habitats are in grave danger due to high and increasing demand and to destructive fishing methods. We need to start thinking.

                  Also, if you know how to cook fish, tilapia is not at all a bad choice.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Sam, I'm curious what you know about shrimp farming. I met someone who had worked one in Ecuador and came to the US to work on one here. He claimed that farming shrimp was more ecologically responsible, since the trawlers drag their nets through the ocean killing plants and other sea life as well as destroying reefs.

                    1. re: mojoeater

                      While on the subject of tilapia- is there any threat of mercury? My family eats it frequently just pan sauteed with a panko crust.

                      1. re: foodsnob14

                        Mr/Mrs/Ms Snob, tilapia should not pose mercury problems. They are not up the food chain predators that accumulate mercury.

                      2. re: mojoeater

                        mojo, while it is true that shrimpers can and do destroy shrimp habitats, coastal shrimp farming can and does destroy mangroves--a delicate and important ecosystem as well. I don't know a thing bout shrimp farming in the US, but at least there are no mangroves there. There are a series of difficult trade-offs attached to all production-environment decisions. Hopefully, consumers will more and more understand the issues and make wise choices--ones based on a global environmental view rather than on personal pocketbooks.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          As far as mangroves go, they are everywhere along Florida Gulf coast. I've got some in my backyard, in fact. Mangroves also grow along the Texas and Louisiana coasts, where a large portion of shrimp are harvested in the US.

                          1. re: Agent Orange

                            Shows you what I know! I just hit my head and said, "Douugwhh" a la Homer Simpson. I had no idea! But then my concern for mangroves does extend to the US.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              That's cool man. I'll keep on protecting the mangroves of the US Gulf Coast, and you can continue to support the mangroves of the Sunderbans , or whichever mangrove-endowed land you post from.

                              EDIT: I thought I had read that your "concern for mangroves does *not* extend do the US." I shall have to write something on-topic to ammend for my frivilous post.

                              Personally, I'm not a huge seafood fan and cannot tolerate overly-"fishy" flavor, so I like to cook with Tilapia and other mild fish. I tend to make flavorful sauces and salsas to accompany them to make up for their "blandness."

                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            The "organic" farmed shrimp I recently bought claims to hot be harming the mangroves. I'm suspicious by nature but this seems like my best shrimp option for now (would rather buy wild Canadian I guess - if I could get it!)

                          3. re: mojoeater

                            I try to avoid farmed foreign shrimp whenever possible. In order to get yield up, there's a lot of overuse of antibiotics during the production process in places like China and Thailand, which sets everyone up for more problems down the road because of the increased odds of other drug-resistant bugs down the road.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Google China shrimp and antibiotics, and you get a ton of links on past and ongoing problems. There have even been bans in Europe and Japan regarding Chinese shrimp because of that issue. Brief mention here:


                          4. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            They're highly invasive species, causing the decline of many local fish populations.

                            They're farmed because of their tolerance to high stocking densities. Henec my "packed to the gills" description.

                            1. re: aser

                              It is true that they overwhelm any body of fresh water. Like kudzo. My bass are gone.

                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              My favorite easy way to do tilapia is lightly dredged in seasoned fine-ground cornmeal, fried in X-light OO. (It should be a bit crispy around the edges and nicely browned.) . Mix a little caper juice into some lemon juice and drizzle it on the fillets, sprinkle with capers. It really takes to the flavor of capers.

                            3. It's protein, it's healthy, it's relatively inexpensive and if you make a decent sauce, bland doesn't enter the picture.... Not everyone can afford wild salmon....

                              1. I buy the frozen sashimi grade (I think thats what it is) tilapia at the asian grocery store and I eat it raw. I don't let it thaw out though when I slice it, instead I slice it frozen and eat it quickly after I slice it. It's slightly sweet and is incredibly cheap to buy. I have never cooked with it though so I don't know how it tastes when its cooked

                                2 Replies