Grilled tilapia is a fast and fresh dinner you can have on the table in 10 minutes or less! The delicate fillets are simply seasoned and seared over a hot grill. It’s the perfect lean protein to pair with any side!
Even if you aren’t the world’s biggest fish and seafood fan, you’ll still love this grilled tilapia recipe. It’s quick, easy, and a great way to make the most of an affordable, “non-fishy” white fish. In the end, you’ll have a lean and flaky protein that you can pair with almost any side dish!
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What is tilapia?
Tilapia is a freshwater fish native to Africa but it’s also the most farm-raised fish in the world. In the U.S., tilapia is the fourth most consumed fish, following tuna, salmon, and Alaskan pollock. This is likely because it’s affordable, easy to prepare, and mild-flavored.
Good-quality, fresh tilapia tastes most similar to red snapper and cod. It’s naturally sweet with soft buttery notes and doesn’t require many seasonings. Whether it’s blackened, pan-seared, baked, or air fried, tilapia cooks up to be firm and flaky with a soft and silky mouthfeel.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick and easy. The meaty tilapia filets are easy to cook on the grill and don’t fall apart! They’re ready to eat in less than 10 minutes.
- It’s very nutritious. Tilapia is naturally low in fat and calories, but rich in protein – one petite filet has over 20 grams of protein. It’s also a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and potassium.
- Flexible and budget-friendly. Tilapia is affordable and easy to find compared to other types of mild white fish. The seasonings in this recipe are simple, but feel free to jazz them up as you wish or serve this flexible fish next to any sides you love.
If you are anything like our family, we love cooking with tilapia because it’s very affordable, and we can find it at almost any grocery store!
This list of ingredients is short and sweet. Here is what you’ll need:
- Tilapia – The tilapia in most grocery stores in North America is farm-raised, thus making it readily available year-round. You can use frozen tilapia filets as a substitute, but make sure to thaw them in the fridge beforehand.
- Olive oil – To coat the fish and prevent it from sticking to the grill grates.
- Salt and pepper – These are the only seasonings you need to accentuate the fish’s natural buttery flavors.
- Lemons and parsley – For serving and to help brighten up the flavors.
How to cook tilapia on the grill
Simple is the name of the game when grilling tilapia. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Season the fish.
Pat the fish filets completely dry with a paper towel. Rub olive oil generously on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Preheat the grill.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Once hot, scrape the grates and brush them with olive oil.
Step 3: Grill the tilapia.
Grill the tilapia filets until the sides begin to turn opaque. Flip to the opposite side and cook until both sides are fully opaque.
Step 4: Serve.
Transfer the filets to a serving plate. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and fresh lemon, then enjoy!
Tips to make the best recipe
- Make sure the fish is at room temperature before grilling. To do so, pull the filets from the fridge and let them rest on the kitchen counter for 10 minutes. Skipping this step could lead to unevenly cooked or dried-out fish (we learned it the hard way when developing our halibut recipe).
- The best way to prevent fish from sticking to the grill is to ensure that the grates are hot and well-greased. If your grill doesn’t have a thermometer built into the lid, use a point-and-shoot thermometer or the hand test to help you tell when the grill is preheated to medium-high heat (375°F – 400°F).
- Like swordfish, tilapia should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches between 140°F – 145°F. To test for doneness, pierce the thick end of the fish with a fork, then twist gently. If the meat flakes easily and is opaque all the way through, it’s done.
When it comes to seasoning options, the sky’s the limit. Switch things up with any of these flavors:
- Cajun or Creole Seasoning – A smoky and tangy blend that comes with a subtle heat.
- Blackened – The spice blend I use for blackened chicken would be great here.
- Old Bay – A classic seafood seasoning (like in our seafood boil and its sauce).
- Lemon Pepper – To brighten up the flavors even further.
- Taco/Fajita seasoning – Similar to Cajun seasoning but puts the smokiness on full display.
- Greek seasoning – To help your fish taste like it’s come straight from the Mediterranean.
- Teriyaki – Baste the filets in teriyaki sauce before grilling.
What to serve with this dish
Simple grilled tilapia is best paired with fresh and flavorful vegetable sides. It’s perfect with green salads, asparagus, broccoli, and grilled sweet potatoes.
Alternatively, ditch the sides and stuff the grilled tilapia into tortillas for fish tacos! Top with cabbage slaw and spicy mayonnaise, then enjoy.
- To store: Once the cooked fish has cooled to room temperature, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To freeze: Keep the cooked and cooled fish in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Reheating: To reheat cooked tilapia without drying it out, it’s easiest to cover it and pop it into the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
More must-make fish recipes
- Grilled Grouper
- Grilled Mahi Mahi
- Grilled Rainbow Trout
- Branzino Recipe
- Chilean Sea Bass Recipe
- Pan Seared Salmon
- Sockeye salmon
Frequently asked questions
The exact amount of time will depend on the size of the filets. 1-inch thick filets, for instance, shouldn’t need more than 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Of course! To grill the whole fish, coat it from head to tail in oil, salt, and pepper, then grill it over medium-high heat for 12 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
No, foil isn’t needed as long as you’re grilling the fish on hot, clean, and oiled grill grates. If you want to grill the filets in foil packets, you can. Just don’t forget to poke holes to allow the steam to escape.
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- 4 tilapia fillets 4-6 ounces each
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Pat down the fish with a paper towel to ensure there is no excess liquid.
- Generously rub both sides of the fish with olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and pepper.
- Heat the grill to medium/high and ensure the grill is clean. Brush more oil over the top.
- Add the fish and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sides go slightly opaque. Flip the fish and cook for a further 3 minutes.
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