Baked Lemon Tilapia
This recipe for Baked Lemon Tilapia is the absolute easiest way to enjoy a healthy, flavorful fish dinner at home. With minimal prep and quick, hands-off cooking, you can have this on the table in just 20 minutes.
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Baked lemon tilapia is one of my favorite dinner recipes when we need a break from the usual chicken and pasta rotation. I love that it’s light, healthy, and incredibly quick and easy to make. The fish is also really versatile and goes well with just about any sides — thanks in part to the tart, silky lemon butter sauce.
This baked tilapia recipe uses only 4 real ingredients and takes less than 5 minutes to get in the oven. It’s a true life-saver on busy weeknights.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Let’s go over the ingredients you’ll need to make this fish, and possible substitutions.
- Tilapia. You could also use another firm, white fish, such as cod, bass, or haddock. “White fish” isn’t a specific kind, per se. As The Kitchn explains, in recipes this generally means any type of light-colored fish that cooks quickly and has a relatively mild flavor.
- Butter. I like to use unsalted, so I can control the overall saltiness of the finished dish, but it doesn’t really matter.
- Garlic. Fresh minced garlic gives the best flavor to this baked tilapia, but you can substitute garlic powder in a pinch. Use about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder to replace 2 cloves.
- Lemon. Fresh lemon zest and juice is the way to go here; you’ll love having a few extra citrus wedges to garnish and squeeze on the baked fish. Be sure to zest the lemon before cutting it in half to squeeze out the juice! I love using my microplane and a simple hand-held juicer for these steps.
- Seasonings. You’ll need kosher salt and black pepper to season the fish. A sprinkling of parsley, either fresh or dried, adds a nice pop of color and freshness at the end. Crushed red pepper adds a tiny bit of heat if that’s your thing!
Is Tilapia Safe and Sustainable?
Tilapia is a popular fish with American home cooks, most likely because it’s inexpensive and has a very mild taste. Tilapia sometimes gets a bad rap for having a lower proportion of healthy omega-3 fatty acids than, say, a filet of salmon, but overall it’s still a nutritious source of protein. (Source.)
The fish grow quickly, making them a popular choice for farming, and can survive even in poor-quality water or overcrowded conditions. As you might imagine, then, tilapia farming practices vary widely. Crowded, factory-like tilapia farms, where the fish receive a mediocre diet, generally do produce fish with less nutrition and potentially more toxins, and are overall not great for sustainable fishing.
How To Bake Tilapia
Once you’ve picked up your tilapia filets, baking them couldn’t be simpler!
- Place fish in a baking pan and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Pour a mixture of melted butter, minced garlic, and lemon juice liberally over the fish.
- Bake and serve!
How Long To Bake Tilapia
Tilapia bakes quickly and tolerates high heat well. Crank up the oven to 425° F, and check the filets for doneness after 10-12 minutes.
You’ll know tilapia filets are cooked when they are opaque white, no longer translucent, and flake easily when pressed with the side of a fork. If you have an instant read thermometer, this takes out all the guesswork: the FDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145° F.
Is Fresh or Frozen Tilapia Best?
Of course, if you happen to live near the water and can buy fish that has been freshly caught and cleaned within about 48 hours, that will deliver top freshness and quality. For most of us, though, that’s an impossible standard. In all likelihood, all of the fish sold at the grocery store has been frozen at some point in order to keep it fresh for transport.
The good news? Fish is typically processed and flash frozen right after it’s caught. So, filets sold in the freezer case are most likely at least as good as those sold at the counter – probably better, since you can defrost and prepare them on your own schedule!
Can I Bake Frozen Tilapia?
Yes, you can bake tilapia filets straight from frozen. Just add an extra few minutes to the oven time; for instance, frozen tilapia might need to roast for 15-20 minutes at 425° F.
What To Serve With Baked Tilapia
This has a lovely, light flavor, so it goes well with a huge variety of sides. My go-to combination, shown here, is roasted broccolini and a spoonful of orzo. Roasted lemon pepper asparagus and crusty bread would be perfect, too.
For those who really enjoy good fish recipes, don’t miss these easy fish tacos – they are so quick, easy, and delicious, with the perfect slaw and chipotle crema on top.
If you try this Baked Lemon Tilapia, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Baked Lemon Tilapia
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 4 medium tilapia filets roughly 6 ounces each
- kosher salt
- fresh-ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley optional, for garnish
- pinch red pepper flakes optional, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, melt the butter, then whisk in the garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Season both sides of the fish lightly with salt and pepper. Place filets in the prepared baking dish, and pour butter mixture evenly on top.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Garnish with parsley and/or red pepper flakes, as desired, and serve.
- Frozen Tilapia? Yes, you can bake tilapia straight from frozen. Just add an extra few minutes to the oven time; for instance, frozen filets might need to roast for 15-20 minutes at 425° F.