Simple flavors complement tender tilapia fillets in this easy Pan Fried Tilapia recipe. It’s ready in about 10 minutes, and perfect for busy weeknights.
Pan Fried Tilapia might be the quickest, easiest main dish I have! Thin tilapia fillets cook so quickly in a single pan with just some olive oil and simple seasonings. No breading needed!
Enjoy this flaky, tender fish with mashed potatoes and your family’s favorite veggies. Even the ones who don’t like fish will love this mild-flavored fish dinner.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Simple Flavors – Tilapia is a mildly flavored fish, so there’s no need to overwhelm it with spices. A few carefully chosen, common seasonings complement it perfectly and ensure that your fish will go with all of your favorite side dishes.
- Very Fast Cooking– It takes about 10 minutes or less to make pan-fried tilapia. If you aren’t already enjoying fish regularly for dinner, the fact that it cooks so quickly may have you updating that menu plan!
- Easy to Adjust – Feel free to switch up the seasonings in this recipe, or cook more or fewer fish filets, depending on your family size and what they enjoy.
- Low Carb and Gluten-Free – This pan-fried tilapia recipe doesn’t use any flour or breading, so it’s a healthy meal no matter what your preferences are.
Ingredients for making pan seared tilapia
Wondering how to season Tilapia? Here’s what you need to make this simple pan fried fish!
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Tilapia Fillets: This will work with tilapia fillets or tilapia loins which are a trimmed version of the fillet that just includes the thickest parts. If you’re using frozen tilapia, let it thaw overnight before cooking.
- Olive Oil: This allows us to cook the fish in a pan without any sticking, and helps the seasonings to adhere to the tilapia well.
- Salt and Pepper: Simple seasonings make the fish taste good.
- Smoked Paprika and Garlic Powder: For more flavor, these two spices are perfect! The paprika also gives a smoky flavor and nice color to the fish.
How To Make Pan Fried Tilapia
- Prep The Fish: Use paper towels to pan the fish so that it’s as dry as possible. This will help with browning. Drizzle half of the olive oil over the fish, and then season with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper on both sides.
- Heat The Pan: It’s important to heat the pan before adding the filets. Use a non-stick pan, and heat over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Pan Fry Tilapia: When the oil is hot, add the fish fillets to the pan. Don’t overcrowd them – work in batches if needed. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side until the fish is opaque and cooked through.
Keep it Warm! The fish only takes a few minutes to cook, so it may be done before everything else is! Remove it from the pan onto a plate, and cover with foil to keep it warm and ready to serve.
- Use a Non-Stick Pan. Without a non-stick pan, your fish WILL stick to the pan. While this won’t affect the flavor of your fish, it will make it very difficult to remove it from the pan without it breaking into pieces.
- Don’t crowd the Pan. You can easily make more or fewer fillets, but be sure that you only cook as many will fit comfortably in a single layer in the pan. Work in batches if needed.
- Get a Fish Spatula. If you don’t already have one of these, you don’t know what you are missing! The long, slotted spatula allows you to lift a whole fish fillet to flip it over.
- Keep It Simple. Feel free to add seasonings that you enjoy to this recipe, but don’t overdo it. Too many spices can overwhelm tilapia. Lemon pepper seasoning is always tasty with fish!
Lemon Butter Sauce for Tilapia
Pan-fried tilapia is flavorful and perfect on its own, but you can whip up a rich buttery sauce to drizzle over it to make it fancy and decadent!
I use this same sauce on my Air Fryer Salmon, but it’s a simple mixture that works on shrimp, fish, chicken, and more!
In a saucepan, mix together 3 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock or dry white wine.
Simmer until the mixture reduces by about half and creates a fragrant, savory sauce!
Store leftover tilapia in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Reheat gently in a pan at low-medium heat.
What To Serve With Pan Fried Tilapia
- Buttered Noodles
- Olive Oil Pasta
- Broccoli Casserole
- Instant Pot Red Potatoes
- Parsnip Puree
- Texas Roadhouse Rolls
- Pasta with Peas
- Lebanese Rice with Vermicelli
- Lemon Rice
Tilapia is a mild white fish that is not very fishy tasting. It also has a softer texture than many other types of white fish.
Yes you can! This recipe doesn’t use any flour. Just some seasonings to create a flavorful, gluten free, low carb fish dinner!
You can use frozen tilapia in this recipe, but you need to thaw it before cooking. Luckily, tilapia is thin and thaws quickly! Place it in a large bowl of cool water and it should be thawed in under an hour.
Pan frying is the easiest and best way to make tilapia! Be sure to save this recipe so you can make it any time.
- 3 6-ounce tilapia fillets thawed if frozen
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Using paper towels, pat the fish completely dry, this will help with browning.
- Drizzle the tilapia with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and seasoning with smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper on both sides. Use a brush or your hands to distribute the seasonings evenly.
- Heat a non stick pan over medium high heat, heat oil – when it’s hot, and add the tilapia fillets. Work in batches if needed.
- Sear for 3-4 minutes per side until the fish is opaque and cooked through. Use a fish spatula to carefully remove from pan as it’s a flaky fish and can easily break. Cover with foil to keep warm until you’re ready to serve.
- This recipe will work with tilapia fillets or tilapia loins.
- The exact amount of time it takes to cook tilapia fillets on the stove will depend on their thickness. Check for doneness by flaking with a fork, or using a thermometer to ensure that the tilapia has reached a temperature of 145°F/62°C.
- Make sure to use a nonstick pan, or your fish will surely stick!
- To Store: Keep leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days. Reheat gently in a pan at low-medium heat.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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