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Apr 11, 2010 08:04 AM

Tilapia, Tilapia, Tilapia

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 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:

                            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

                          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 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.