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Tilapia, Tilapia, Tilapia

  • c

I didn't use to be much of a cook when it came to fish. But I'm learning fast thanks to tilapia. An extremely mild & moist fresh water fish for healthy eating. Low in total fat, saturated fat, low calorie, low carbohydrate, low sodium protein it is an excellent source of Phosphorus, Niacin, Selenium, Vitamin B12 and Potassium. And with very low levels of mercury due to the fact that they are mostly vegetarian and are a fast growing short lived fish.

My first venture with tilapia was a few years ago. I simply dredged it flour and added to a pan that wasn't sufficiently oiled or heated. Of course disaster was the name of the game there.Flash forward to March 2010. With lots of cooking shows under my belt, thanks mostly to the Food Network, I've learned a thing or two about 'breading' fish, oil amounts, and fry pan preheating!

So a few weeks ago I purchased some tilapia. And while I was cooking up some Jasmine rice I took four pieces of the fish placed them in a container and poured on enough buttermilk to cover. In the meantime I combined unsifted flour, Italian seasoned bread crumbs, and Trader Joe's (green can [Kraft type] but for some reason) non clumping version of Parmesan/Romano grated cheese. Add in a little garlic salt and finely ground black pepper and mixed well with a fork. When the rice was done and after fluffing, I added a shallow pool, if you will, of extra virgin olive oil to a large fry pan and put it on the 'high' side of a medium high flame and let it heat for about 4-5 minutes. I dredged up the fish pieces and added to the pan cooking the first side for 4 minutes. Oh my goodness! When I flipped them the cooked side was golden brown and the breading stuck to the fish like it should! Side 2 was cooked for 3 minutes and turned out just as good! Served with Jasmine rice.

Since then...

Coating was egg bath then flour laced with cornflake crumbs and seasoned with the McCormick Grill seasoning, pan fried in olive oil, and lemon peppered right out of the pan.


I did a coating of sweetened coconut and crushed macadamias. I followed a tip for working with coating and I used my Braun processor attachment on the coconut and the packaged crushed macadamias as the crushed pieces were a bit large. I also turned used a lower setting on the burner as coconut can tend to scorch. Wow! It turned out sooooo good! I highly recommend this coating.

Followed up with...

Done under a toaster oven broiler. Spray a foil lined baking pan with butter flavored non-stick cooking spray. Squeeze on some lemon juice on tilapia pieces. Spray tilapia pieces with some butter flavored non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle on seasoning(s). I used the McCormicks grill mates mentioned before. Place under broiler for 6 minutes. Remove. Sprayed pieces over with some "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray. Sprinkled on some Trader Joe's Parmesan & Romano Cheese and topped it with some papitas. Return to broiler and broiled for an additional three minutes. Went great with some Jasmine rice. And, yes I know a white wine with fish, right? But all I had was a 2007 Bears Lair Cabernet Sauvignon. But you know what? I think it complimented the tilapia excellent done in this way. Who says you have stick with tradition?

Most recently...

Tilapia 'Wrap' with Chipotle Slaw.

Slaw: All amounts to suit/taste.

'Slaw' salad mix (bagged). Drizzle on some crema (Was Crema Mexicana) . Add in chopped (canned) chipolte chilies (in adobo sauce). Chopped cilantro. Fresh squeezed lime juice. Crumbled queso fresco. Seasoned with a little garlic salt, milled pepper, and a couple of dashes of sugar. Mix it all up (what a beautiful color it came out to with the chilies in the adobo sauce).

Tilapia: Seasoned with the McCormick's Grill Mates and pan fried in olive oil.

Lay down the slaw in a steamed flour tortilla and top w/pieces of the tilapia. Roll burrito style.


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    1. re: visciole

      Yes. As with all processed or farmed foods there is a 'down side' element. Even foods from so-called 'health food markets'.

      Thanks for the heads up.

      However as with anything moderation is the key and I don't think eating a fillet of tilapia once a week is going to do much harm anyone. Especially if you otherwise eat healthy and exercise regularly.

      Now I'd ask you to share a tilapia reciepe which was the intent of this post, but I'm guessing you probably don't consume it.

      1. re: crt

        I agree that moderation is the key, and surely tilapia is healthier than many other options.

        If possible it's preferable to buy U.S. farmed fish since the environmental regulations in many other hatcheries are poor.

      2. re: visciole

        That doesn't surprise me...at one point salmon farmers were considering switching to grain based feed, only to discover that it made the salmon high in omega 6 rather than omega 3. (Grains are the reason that beef is so high in omega6...entirely grass fed beef is higher in omega3 and lower in omega6). Can't say that the news affects me...I've always hated tilapia.

        1. CRT, don't let these nay sayers dampen your enthusiasm.

          As our running club nutritionist always tells us, make the optimum choice that works for you. If eating Tilapia once a week means you are eating less red meat continue to do so. If you live in a city where two pieces of a sustainable wild caught Pacific sole does not set you back $20, perhaps there are some better choices of fish, but if you don't like other types of fish and eating Tilapia is helping you reduce your meat intake than enjoy!

          Getting caught up in specific nutritional elements of food is not an intelligent approach and people who do so lose the advantages of eating a broad variety of whole foods.

          My personal favourite way to eat Tilapia is to do a" healthy" fish and chips. I dredge Tilapia fillets in seasoned flour, egg, and panko crumbs and bake it at 400 for 20 minutes. I serve it with home made smokey paprika sweet potato oven fries, and chipotle mayo.

          5 Replies
          1. re: lunchslut

            No worries lunchslut. As the old saying goes, 'Into each life a little rain must fall.' But visciole's 'rain parade' did absolutely nothing to 'dampen' my enthusiasm for tilapia.

            Like the sound of your healthy fish and chips! I've got some panko crumbs that have been sitting unopened in the cupborad for who know how long and I've been wanting to give 'em a try with tilapia. If you're a fan of chipolte chilies you should give that wrap of mine a try. I guess you could make it a little healthier subing the crema with plain yogurt and the flour tortilla with a wheat one. Care the share exactly how you prepare your sweet pototo oven frys? I'd like to give 'em a try.

            1. re: lunchslut

              Since when is eating less red meat a good thing? Grass fed red meat has extremely heart healthy omega6/3 ratios, and a very low inflammatory profile, lower arachidonic acid and higher CLA.

              Choosing to eat tilapia anyway is fine for some folks, but it's much less healthy than properly produced red meat.

              1. re: mcf

                Actually if you eat only a small amount(s) of beef, it hardly matters if you switch to grass fed or not, provided you are buying lean cuts and trimming the meat well.

                Again, everything in m o d e r a t i o n.

                1. re: crt

                  Grass vs. grain-fed matters if taste is important. I'd much rather have less grain-fed beef in lieu of bigger portions of grass-fed, which I don't enjoy nearly as much.

                  I don't eat enough red meat for it to be a significant dietary issue for me. And I eat tilapia every once in a while, but they are indeed bland. I've never had one that was muddy, including some caught fresh from a muddy pond.

                  1. re: crt

                    It matters, not only for health reasons (and I consider beef one of the healthiest foods), but for environmental ones. And because my diet is mostly protein and fat to control diabetes without medications, beef is a very significant part of my diet, though I don't eat large amounts of anything, and I never eat to the point of feeling full, only satisfied and not hungry.

              2. I personally couldn't care less about the health aspect of this particular fish. All I know is that I can make one helluva fish taco with blackened tilapia.

                1. tilapia often tastes swampy to me. does anyone else find this?

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: thew

                    @thew. Never. I've always found it to be extremely mild to the point of no fishy taste or smell. To give it flavor it has to be well seasoned if pan fried or broiled. If breaded/coated you have to get some kind of flavor into the breading/coating.

                      1. re: crt

                        crt, if ANY fish has a fishy taste or smell, IT AIN'T FRESH...!!! Don't eat it.

                      2. re: thew

                        A lot of posts on these boards describe muddy, off tasting tilapia.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Well I've never experienced fishy or muddy 'off' tasting' tilapia. Guess I'm the lucky one.

                          I was really hoping to generate recipe ideas with this thread. Instead it seems as though tilapia may not be thought very highly of by the Chowhound critic squad. What a harsh reception. Oh well. All I know is I've had nothing but good experinces with it and will continue consuming it.

                          1. re: crt

                            Did you search the boards first? I found this among the links at the bottom of this page: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5297...

                            1. re: mcf

                              Yes I did. But I'd seen that that thread was started couple of years ago, and I didn't bother to scroll down to see if there was anything current so I thought I'd start a fresh thread. I didn't think there was anything wrong with that and was hoping for fresh ideas. But mainly what I got was a bunch of critical feed back.

                              1. re: crt

                                I don't think recipes go stale with age. :-) I asked the question because you said you wanted recipes, and to show how you could find them, given your disappointment in the direction this thread took.

                                I don't think you got critical feedback at all, just other folks' experiences and opinions, which is pretty typical of discussion boards.

                            2. re: crt

                              I've never had a problem with tilapia either. I suppose we're the lucky duo. And yes, tilapia seems to be infra dignitum among the ichtyophile cognoscenti of chowhounds.com.

                          2. re: thew

                            To me also, it tastes like muddy swamp with a mild metallic undertone. But my son and husband love it and can't taste that. The only time it didn't taste that way to me was when I had it at my mother-in-law's house in Mexico City.

                            1. re: thew

                              i'm not a tilapia fan either. it has a funny odor and taste to me -- as thew notes -- "swampy" is as good as a description as any. (i've had tilapia at different places, so i don't attribute the flavor to some non-inherent issues).

                              i'm not a catfish fan, either.

                              love grouper, red snapper, sea bass, english sole, halibut, trout, wild salmon.....

                              1. re: Siobhan

                                I personally dislike tilapia...I find that it sometimes has a bitter taste, and besides, I don't like the taste of freshwater fish. However, a lot of the frozen tilapia I see is the Chinese type..in the "avoid"category. I have tried that and found it much better tasting than other tilapia...but is probably because it is "finished" in salt water..the fish are acclimated to salt water and live in it for quite some time before killing and packaging. This may well be the tilapia that the OP has enjoyed so much.

                                1. re: EricMM

                                  My own experience with Tilapia is that it's a good fit for people who either don't like fish or prefer bland food-or both.

                                  1. re: Sam Salmon

                                    That may be so, "Tilapia is... for people who either don't like fish or prefer bland food-or both." but it seems that the OP, according to the posts, likes Tilapia and has some very un-bland ideas for ramping up the flavor.

                                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                                      as a non meat eater, we keep a fair amount of seafood in the house. we get good quality tilapia and bj's usually in 3 lb. or so packages. i split it into smaller amounts and it freezes well. i almost always pan fry it with olive oil and seasons of choice du jour. it always comes out fine.

                                    2. re: Sam Salmon

                                      Ha ha. I like tilapia and am the diametric opposite of the two conditions you apply.

                                2. I've been making fillets of tilapia in the style of Chinese steamed fish, using this recipe: http://rasamalaysia.com/steamed-fish-.... It's delicious and easy. However, the fish I cooked tonight turned out terribly. It tasted like housepaint...or perhaps you could also describe the flavor as metallic? This was disappointing, of course, but also surprising, as it came from this same tray pack as the fish I had made last week. I wonder if this had to do with freezing, thawing, and refreezing...

                                  1. Sam Salmon (Says) Apr 13, 2010 09:13PM My own experience with Tilapia is that it's a good fit for people who either don't like fish or prefer bland food-or both.


                                    Wow. I have lots of friends and co-workers who love all types of fish from anchoveys & and sardines to white fish and flounder...including tilapia. That's my experience.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: crt

                                      Here's a good idea for tilapia I made just the other night:


                                      I am not sure my link is going to work. If interested, visit epicurious and search: Pan-Seared Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter.

                                      It was delicious and has garnered many positive reviews on the epicurious website.

                                    2. One thing we do with Tilapia is use the lemon caper chicken recipie, using tilapia instead of the chicken....and if the wife isn't eating if I'll make a white gravy using the same recipie with more capers and lemon.. My daughter loves it. I also us tilapia in my fish tacos. Sure it's not the best fish, but it's cheap....and every once in awhile cheap is ok with me. Rock fish (Stripped bass) season starts tomorrow here in Maryland, so that will be my fish for the rest of the summer....but Tilapia, while bland.....can be dressed up nice.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: cb1

                                        Ooo, striped bass...are you catching it or buying?

                                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                                          I'm with Eric. If I can catch it myself or know someone who can, I won't buy it at the store. March is good for trout and yellow perch, then in the bay Striped bass starting in May through the summer, along with crabs. If I can't get down to my brother who crabs we sometimes buy them, but they never compare to his.

                                        2. re: cb1

                                          My dad used to catch freshwater stripers often when I was a kiddo, but I don't recall ever eating any. Strange.

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            The season for stripers just started here in NY. Commercially, they have been available for over a month, but I won't buy it...like bluefish, I refuse to buy a fish that I can catch myself. Unfortunately, minimum size it 28".......so I eat lots more bluefish than striped bass. But striped bass is the tastiest fish that I can get around here.

                                            1. re: EricMM

                                              Eric, do you have a recipe for Blues that you like to use? The times I've cooked them I've just baked the filets. A very strong flavor that my family didn't really like that much. Any ideas would be appreciated.

                                              1. re: cb1

                                                I'm not Eric, but I have two great methods of prepping blues so they're milder and delish. First, soak the fillets in some milk no more than say, half to one hour. The lactic acid breaks down the oiliness.

                                                Second, I lay thin sliced onion, tomato, garlic, Greek oregano, some s and p on top and wrap in parchment or foil and bake or put on the grill. The bright, acidic flavors really freshen up the taste, and such an oil fish can handle them.
                                                If you like very strong flavors, you could add kalamata olives, too.

                                                Then don't eat the dark brown narrow strips closest to the skin.

                                                I love bluefish, but this is a great method for my husband, who didn't til he had it this way.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  The strong flavor of bluefish varies with where they are caught, and to some degree (not as much as believed) with size. I live in NYC, Queens, and local bluefish are very strong tasting, even with small "cocktail" blues (1-3 lbs). The ones I catch on the east end of Long Island (North Fork), where I spend my summers, are very mild...even the large ones around 10 lbs...in fact, I can detect no difference in flavor between a 1 lb blue and a 10+ lb blue. I believe the difference probably comes from food source. (Not pollution). I think the NY area blues feed primarily on menhaden, which is really oily and stinky. The east end blues feed on menhaden, but have a more varied diet. Mainly sand eels, but I have pulled out squid, butterfish, flounder, croaker, sea robin, even a mantis shrimp from their belies when cleaning them, so I think the varied diet improves their flavor. As to preparation: Simplest, I take a fillet, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, sometimes with a light smear of mayo, but its unnecessary. I slap the fillets on the grill for no more than 5 minutes (maybe 10 if the fish was very large). I leave the scales on so there is no need for oil. When done, the meat lifts right off the skin, which I throw out. It goes without saying NOT to eat the dark meat. It tastes bad (many people who complain about blues have eaten the dark meat), and is where any potential toxins are, along with the skin. No need to cut it away from the fish before cooking...when cooked it separates easily with just a fork. Small blues, under 2 lbs, I grill whole...same way, scales on, with 2 slashes in the sides. To make it more adventurous, I'll coat the fillets with mustard/mayo blend, pepper, chives. Even better is a paste of Thai curry (red, green, or penang) with a little coconut milk, spread all over the fillets. My kids favorite bluefish dish...my favorite too, is best with the largest fish. Bluefish arreganata. For this, cooked indoors, I skin the fillets. I saute lots of garlic in a mixture of butter and olive oil, along with some shallot and hot pepper. I add a little anchovy and capers (preferably rinsed salted ones), then some white wine and parsley. I add bread crumbs to make a thick paste, adding lemon juice to thin it as needed...you can add lots of lemon juice. I'll briefly broil the fish (over a rack so that water drips out), when half cooked I add the topping and broil until it is nice and toasty on top. One of the reasons for doing it on large fish is because you will want to eat so much of it!

                                                  1. re: EricMM

                                                    I'm not far from you, on the Nass/Suff border. I've fished and eaten Montauk blues (I love Montauk!) and also have eaten LI sound blues. You're right about the dark strips separating very easily. Even without removing the skin, it stays adhered to it as you eat the light flesh around it.

                                        3. Was browsing another thread that referred to this one and had to come over to find it. I've been eating more tilapia lately too - it's usually available at Trader Joe, and US farmed tilapia is one of the most sustainable fish. I started eating more of it after someone told me farmed tilapia is net protein positive.

                                          My two favorite ways of eating it:

                                          1. Fry some green Thai curry paste (I use Mae Ploy) in oil, add coconut milk (plus a dried kaffir lime leaf or two, if I have it), simmer. Add a handful of grape tomatoes, green beans, simmer until tender. Add tilapia, cook at very low simmer until done.

                                          2.Heat garlic and red chili flakes in olive oil over low heat until fragrant, add tilapia and a little white wine. Poke at it with a spatula while it's cooking until it falls apart. Add chopped parsley, serve on pasta (I adapted this from local restaurant's pasta with sand dabs - the sand dab version is better, but the tilapia version is actually pretty good. )

                                          1. A local restaurant does a tilapia BLT: standard BLT with a slab of grilled tilapia in addition to the bacon and lime-caper tartar sauce. Yum.

                                            1. I love fish, especially an oily fish like the sardine, am often a bit suspicious of bland fishies and have found tilapia to be rubbery. That said, I cooked some the other day because Fresh Direct is doing a special.

                                              Paranoid about rubber texture, so I sauteed it this time in salted butter (with a dab of grape seed oil), chopped leeks, chopped ginger, salt, pepper, then threw some lemon juice over the sizzling fish while it cooked. It was pretty good. Maybe i'll use white wine or vermouth next time. It wasn't rubbery, was quite moist and tender, and now I've gotten over my tilapia phobia. I can't see the point of overseasoning tilapia. I also don't want to cook a piece of fish more than a few minutes. Love to eat breaded fish but too impatient
                                              to prepare it.

                                              Now I'm ready for a nice grass-fed burger!!

                                              OH - and the Fresh Direct tilapia is farmed. Maybe that's bad for you, but whatever. The price was right, and how bad can all these things be if you eat them once a week?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: omnidora

                                                From what I understand just about all tilapia is farmed. The trick is to get tilapia that comes from a relatively ecologically healthy source. Avoid all tilapia from Asia - China, Philippines, Thailand, etc. Tilapia from South and Central America are ok and US sources are good. At Costco they sell fresh fillets from, according to the meat guy, Ecuador, which is supposed to be reasonably ok. If they won't tell you where it's from, don't buy it.