Lemon Butter Tilapia will become a family favorite! This mild-flavored fish is infused with a hint of tart lemon, cilantro, and sweet, creamy butter perfect for a family dinner. The best part is, it only takes 10 minutes to cook! You will have a delicious dinner ready in no time at all.
What is talapia?
Tilapia is a mild flavor fish that holds its shape, which is perfect for pan cooking. Tilapia is probably the oldest farm-raised fish in the world. Stories from biblical scholars suggest it was the fish used by Jesus to feed the crowds at the Sea of Galilee John 6:1-14), and Peter probably found that coin in the mouth of a tilapia (Matthew 17:27). Today, over 80 nations produce farm-raised tilapia, including the United States. Farming this fish in freshwater year-round also makes it an economical fish to add to your grocery budget.
How to choose good tilapia
The best way to purchase any quality fish is to check with Seafood Watch first. They will break down the best choice by showing you the harvest method, the body of water raised in, and the country grown in for any type of fish.
For tilapia they suggest,
"Look for tilapia farmed in Peru in raceways and Ecuador in ponds. Tilapia is also a "Best Choice" when farmed in indoor recirculating tanks with wastewater treatment and a "Good Alternative" when the wastewater isn't treated. Other "Good Alternative" sources include tilapia from Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Also, look for tilapia that's been eco-certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), and Naturland. Tilapia is called "izumidai" in sushi."
Avoid farmed tilapia from China.
Is tilapia bad for you?
Tilapia sometimes gets a bad wrap for its fat ratio because it contains much less omega-3 than other fish like salmon. Its omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is higher than other fish and may contribute to inflammation in the body. It's also important to know how your fish was fed and the waters it was grown in to ensure it is a good quality choice.
Even more impressive is the amount of vitamins and minerals in this fish. Tilapia is rich in niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and potassium.
A 3.5-ounce serving contains the following (3):
- Calories: 128
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Protein: 26 grams
- Fats: 3 grams
- Niacin: 24% of the RDI
- Vitamin B12: 31% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 78% of the RDI
- Potassium: 20% of the RDI
Should I use fresh or frozen tilapia?
If you plan to serve whole tilapia fillets, it is best to go to the fish counter at your grocery. These fillets tend to be bigger and a nicer cut than what you'll find in the freezer case. Frozen fillets are smaller, usually around 4 ounces each. The frozen fillets are good for recipes that call for the fish to be cut into pieces.
How long to bake tilapia
- For fresh or thawed fillets: Bake, uncovered, in a 450 degree F oven for 4 to 6 minutes per each ½-inch of thickness.
- For dressed tilapia: Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree F oven for 6 to 9 minutes per 8 ounces.
What type of lemon jucie to use
Bottled lemon juice vs fresh lemon juice is like eating a piece of watermelon candy vs a fresh piece of watermelon. Sure it works in a pinch for the flavor but it really does not compare in taste. I suggest keeping a quick and easy juicer on hand like this OXO brand. Fresh lemons keep in your refrigerator for weeks and are inexpensive.
Can you cook tilapia frozen?
There will be suggested directions for thawing on the brand of tilapia you purchase. Basically, it is best to quick-thaw by running cold water over frozen tilapia fillets in a colander for about 10 minutes. Next, pat the fish dry with paper towels before proceeding with a recipe.
Tips for avoiding overcooking fish
One way to be sure you do not overcook fish is by either poaching or braising. Both methods rely on a liquid like water or stock to cook the fish through. Because fish is submerged in this liquid while cooking, it isn't likely to dry out.
You can tell if it's done by the following:
- Opaque color: Before cooking fish, it's rather shiny and translucent. When it's done, the fish will turn opaque.
- Flake easily with a fork: When the fish is finished cooking, it will flake apart with a fork.
How to make lemon pepper tilapia
If you like a little heat with your lemon, then add 1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper to the butter mixture in the first step of this recipe.
How prep before serving
Lemon Butter Tilapia makes a quick family night dinner if you slice the lemons and mix the lemon butter sauce for this recipe ahead of time. All you will have to do is saute the fish in a pan and add the lemon butter sauce and lemons. You could have the main dish ready in 10 minutes.
Sides with tilapia
To balance the lemon in this lemon butter Tilapia dish, you could serve this quick and easy sweet coconut rice. Instant Pot Coconut Rice is a creamy, slightly sweet aromatic Jasmine rice recipe that is quick and easy to make using your electric pressure cooker.
Lemon Butter Tilapia
- 1/4 cup butter softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic freshly minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice fresh squeezed
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lemon slices cut into 1/4 inch circles
- 4 tilapia 5 ounces skinless fillets
- Mix butter with cilantro, garlic, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Stir until blended then set aside
- Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season fillets with salt and pepper
- When oil is hot, add fish fillets top side down. Cook until fish is almost cooked through and the underside is deep golden brown. About 3-4 minutes
- Flip fillets using a large spatula so they do not break apart
- With a small spatula, spread butter mixture over each fillet.
- Add lemon circles to the pan and allow to cook with fish for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Serve immediately with lemon circles as a garnish
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