Pan-Fried Tilapia Recipe

In this simple pan-fried tilapia recipe, simple flavors complement succulent tilapia fillets. It will be ready in 10 minutes and is also ideal for busy weeknights.

I consider pan-fried tilapia to be the quickest and easiest main dish I’ve ever had, thanks to the fact that the thin tilapia fillets cook so quickly in a single pan with just some olive oil and simple seasonings. No breading is required.

You can also enjoy this flaky, tender fish with mashed potatoes and your family’s favorite vegetables.

Pan-Fried Tilapia Recipe

It’s a guarantee that even people who do not like fish will love this mild-flavored fish dinner.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Simple Flavors

As already mentioned, tilapia is a mildly flavored fish, so overwhelming it with spices might not be that necessary. You will get to complement it perfectly with a few carefully chosen common seasonings, and you will also make sure that your fish will go with all of your favorite side dishes.

Easy to Adjust

In this recipe, you are free to switch up the seasonings or cook more or fewer fish filets, but keep in mind that this is based on your family size and what they enjoy.

Low-Carb and Gluten-Free

For this pan-fried tilapia recipe, you don’t need to use any flour or breading, so it is a healthy meal no matter what your preferences are.

Very Fast Cooking

To make this pan-fried tilapia, it will take around 10 minutes or even less. The fact that it cooks so quickly might have you making changes to that menu plan even if you aren’t already enjoying fish regularly for dinner.

How to Buy the Best Tilapia

If you are interested in purchasing ethically raised tilapia, read on. The truth is that the vast quantity of tilapia that is available for sale in the US is farm-raised; however, it is still considered a sustainable fish if it is responsibly farmed.

It is highly recommended that you look for tilapia farmed in Peru in raceways and Ecuador in ponds. After that, you can then look for tilapia from Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

When farmed in indoor recirculating tanks with wastewater treatment, tilapia is your best choice, but when the wastewater isn’t treated, then it is a good alternative.

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It is also suggested that you look for tilapia certified by the Best Aquaculture Practices, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and Naturland.

Pan-Seared Tilapia Recipe

Below is an overview of all the ingredients and steps to make pan-fried tilapia:



2 large tilapia fillets

Lemon Juice

Fresh lemon juice cuts through the richness of the butter sauce.


Parsley is a good option to serve with pan-seared tilapia. Other good options include chives, scallions, or cilantro.

Olive Oil

This is used to help prevent the butter from burning.


You have the option of using either the salted or unsalted. But make sure you do not add salt to the batter if you use salted butter.


Fresh garlic cloves are used to infuse the butter.


This batter does create a well-seasoned, crunchy crust on the tilapia fillets. It is a mix of all-purpose flour, black pepper, red chili flakes, salt, dried thyme, and dried oregano.

Pan-Seared Tilapia Recipe

This pan-seared tilapia recipe is crunchy on the exterior and tender on the interior, and in total estimation, it will be ready in just 15 minutes.

You can serve these pan-seared tilapia fillets with a side of rice and sautéed veggies to create a wholesome meal.

  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Servings: 2


  • 2 large tilapia fillets
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley (garnish)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (salted or unsalted)

Dry Batter

  • ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt (you can skip if you are using salted butter)
  • ¼ teaspoon of red chili flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper

Laid-Out Instructions

Season the Tilapia

  • First, you are to clean and pat dry two large tilapia fillets, then proceed to spray with a pinch of salt and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • After that, mix all the ingredients mentioned under the dry batter on a plate. Then, coat the fish on both sides with the dry batter and gently shake off any excess. In my opinion, a thin coat is enough.

Sear the Tilapia

  • That being done, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or wide pan and infuse it with 2 crushed garlic cloves on low heat. Immediately after the garlic begins to brown, proceed to remove it from the pan. This way, you get a subtle garlic flavor in the dish.
  • Afterward, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the oil, but don’t add salt to the dry batter if you are using salted butter, or it might end up being too salty.
  • When that is done, set the flame to medium and gently place the fish. Then, fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, but be careful while flipping, given that it can break easily.
  • Immediately after the fish is golden and cooked through, proceed to squeeze the juice of ¼ lemon all over and garnish with fresh parsley (or your preferred herb).
  • Then, you can serve these pan-fried tilapia fillets with a side of rice and sautéed veggies to create a wholesome meal.
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What to Serve with Pan-Fried Tilapia

Pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter sauce can be served perfectly with these quick sides:


You can pair this tilapia with green beans almondine, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, or baked ratatouille for a classy dinner. And you can just whip up some quick and simple sautéed veggies or mixed roasted veggies using whatever you have on hand for weeknight dinners.


For this, serve the tilapia with a side of fluffy quinoa, healthy cauliflower rice, or roasted cubed potatoes. You can even pair them with some air fryer French fries.


I will say that the fresh mix of tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers in Israeli salad perfectly flatters the fish, and on the other hand, a Mediterranean salad does add spicy flavor and crisp texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Store Leftovers?

Keep in mind that leftover fish do have a shorter shelf life. But you can store your leftover pan-fried tilapia in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days in the fridge.

As you know, tilapia is delicate and will take on smells easily, so I strongly suggest that you avoid leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator or storing it in the same container as side dishes with a strong scent.

Can I Use Frozen Tilapia?

You can use frozen tilapia rather than fresh tilapia for this recipe. Frozen fillets are mostly more convenient and easier to find.

Just make sure that you defrost the fillets before you proceed to cook. But avoid defrosting the fish on the counter.

The best way to defrost tilapia is in the fridge overnight, or you can just do it under cold running water in the sink.

However, there might be extra moisture on the fillets given that they were frozen, so proceed to pat the fillets dry before you cook.

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Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that you need to be careful while flipping the fish, given that it can break easily.

And, I suggest that you add lemon juice at the end because it does help cut the richness of the butter sauce.

Lastly, remember that you can also store the leftover dry batter in a tightly sealed container in the freezer and use it the next time you make this recipe.

That being said, this will now bring us to the end of this guide, as you now have your perfect pan-fried tilapia recipe.

Pan-Fried Tilapia Recipe

Pan-Fried Tilapia Recipe

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

In this simple pan-fried tilapia recipe, simple flavors complement succulent tilapia fillets. It will be ready in 10 minutes and is also ideal for busy weeknights.


  • 2 tilapia fillets, large
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)

Dry Batter:

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional, omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Prepare the Tilapia:

  1. Clean and pat dry two large tilapia fillets.
  2. Lightly sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Coat with Dry Batter:

  1. In a plate, combine all the dry batter ingredients.
  2. Coat both sides of the tilapia fillets with the dry batter mixture, ensuring to shake off any excess. A thin coating is ideal.

Sear the Tilapia

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or wide pan over low heat.
  2. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves to infuse the oil, removing them once they start to brown to impart a subtle garlic flavor.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the infused oil. If using salted butter, refrain from adding extra salt to the dry batter.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and carefully place the coated tilapia fillets in the pan.
  5. Fry each side for 3 to 4 minutes, being cautious while flipping to prevent the fillets from breaking.

Finish and Serve

  1. Finish and Serve:
  2. Once the tilapia is golden and cooked through, squeeze the juice of 1/4 lemon evenly over the fillets.
  3. Garnish with fresh parsley or your preferred herb.
  4. Serve the pan-fried tilapia fillets alongside rice and sautéed veggies for a complete and satisfying meal.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 419Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 454mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 46g

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