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The tastiest pan-fried tilapia in under 15 mins!

If there was an 'Ivy League' for fish, tilapia would most likely not be a part of it. It lacks the tenderness of salmon and the firmness of tuna, it is sort of in-between. Often written off as 'boring' due to its mild taste, tilapia has a terrible reputation, does it indeed deserve all of it? People have all sort of opinions about tilapia, some say they are harmful while others believe they are not as nutritious. Honestly, I think there is no reason why we should be so hard on tilapia. When choosing which fish to eat, a mild-tasting fish like tilapia is a great choice for people who are newer to eating fish. It is a versatile white fish, that pairs perfectly with most kinds of seasonings and sauces and makes a good substitute for chicken in our diet.


The Pan-fried Tilapia is a pretty basic recipe that can be replicated with almost any other white fish like swai, basa, cod, dover or flounder. 
Tilapia is a bland tasting fish which is why it needs bold seasoning. Hence, the spice rub is crucial in this recipe. I have kept it simple with just salt, paprika and freshly crushed black pepper. You can also include garlic powder, onion powder or herbs in your spice rub. Apply the spice rub liberally on both sides of the fillet and let it rest. If you have time in hand let the fish sit for at least 15 minutes. 
Dredge the fillet in flour so that it is nicely coated and then pan-fry on medium-high heat, searing each side for 2 minutes until the fish turns a nice golden-brown. Remove on a plate and keep aside. 
The next step is to prepare the lemon-butter sauce. Brown the butter carefully without letting it burn. Add the lemon juice and black pepper powder after turning the gas off. Mix the sauce with a spoon and pour it on the pan-fried fish. 
Garnish with finely chopped cilantro. The fish will be infused with the flavor of the lemon-butter sauce, soft and flaky. Pure heaven!

This super-easy pan-fried tilapia recipe can change your opinion about tilapia altogether. The best part of this entire recipe is that it gets ready in under 15 minutes! 
It can be easily converted into a full-meal by serving it with some rice and steamed vegetables. This recipe is ideal for busy weeknights and it is loved by adults and kids alike.


Is tilapia healthy?

I often get this question and you know what, it is certainly not a nutritional powerhouse. However, we need to understand that tilapia is a lean fish. While leaner fish contain fewer omega-3s than oily fish, tilapia still provides a healthy dose of heart-healthy omega-3s.

Why should I eat tilapia?

There are several reasons why tilapia should not be banished from our kitchens. Here are the most relevant reasons:
  • It is an environmentally friendly, lean, low-calorie source of protein.
  • It is inexpensive, you can get tilapia fillet for as low as 5.99$ per pound!
  • It is mild in taste which gives you a high degree of freedom in cooking. Fry it, grill it, poach it or make a curry out of it, almost anything works!
  • It cooks very fast making it an ideal choice for a quick lunch or a busy weeknight dinner.

Why should the fillet be coated in flour before frying?

Coating fish with flour before cooking results in a crispy golden-brown outer crust while retaining the inner flakiness of the fish. When a fish is coated in flour and then pan-fried, the flavor is enhanced and the juices are sealed in.

How long does it take to brown butter?

Always brown butter in a light colored pan so that you can easily see the butter change color. It takes around 2-3 minutes for butter to brown on medium heat. Once you see the butter frothing, stir with a spoon and remove from heat immediately and continue to stir for few more seconds.

Can I use any other fish?

Yes, you can use any other white fish like swai, basa, cod, dover or flounder.


The Pan-fried Tilapia can be served with rice, quinoa or grilled vegetables. You can also serve it with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. I served it with plain white rice and our favorite 'Garden Salad'.

Looking for other fish recipes?

Find them right here:


Yield: 2
Author: The GradChef
Prep time: 5 MCook time: 8 MTotal time: 13 M
The tastiest pan-fried tilapia in under 15 mins!


  • 2 tilapia fillet washed and dried
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt as per taste
  • finely chopped cilantro for garnishing


  1. Prepare a spice rub with salt, 1 tsp pepper, and paprika. Apply the spice rub liberally on the tilapia fillet.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan. Dredge the fillet in the flour coating both sides and sear them in the hot oil. Sear each side for 2 minutes, flip, and repeat. Remove the fish on a plate.
  3. To prepare the sauce, in the same pan add butter and allow it to brown. Turn off the gas.
  4. Add the lemon juice and remaining pepper to the browned butter.
  5. Pour the sauce on the pan-fried tilapia and garnish with cilantro.


  • Ensure that the butter is browned but not burned.
  • Serve with steamed rice and steamed vegetable for a simple and easy meal.
  • You can also serve it with roasted asparagus.
  • You can use chopped parsley instead of cilantro if you prefer.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
tilapia, fish, pan-fried,easy,quick
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