Free: Healthy Freezer Meals Recipe EbookGet It Now
When dinner needs to happen fast, look no further than fish — and this pan fried tilapia recipe is one of the easiest! In just 20 minutes, you can whip up pan seared tilapia with lemon butter sauce… perfectly flaky, flavorful, and tender. It’s an easy, cost effective, and flavorful meal you’ll make again and again.
I’m all about quick pan cooking with fish (my pan seared halibut and pan fried salmon are prime examples)… and if you’re wondering how to make tilapia pan fried, it’s just as easy! You only need a few ingredients to make this white fish taste truly special.
Why You’ll Love This Pan Fried Tilapia Recipe
- Garlicky, buttery mild fish flavor
- Flaky, tender texture
- Just 6 simple ingredients (basic spices and fridge staples)
- No flour or breading needed
- Ready in only 20 minutes
- Tastes like it came out of a restaurant!
Pan Seared Tilapia Ingredients
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for frying tilapia, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
How To Season Tilapia:
- Garlic Powder – Adds flavor! You can add a sprinkle of onion powder too, if you like.
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper – If you like a kick, add a little cayenne pepper as well.
- Olive Oil – I use extra virgin here, but any olive oil will work, or you can use avocado oil.
This is all you really need, but if you want a more complex seasoning, try adding some paprika or lemon pepper seasoning. You can make pan fried tilapia recipes with even more seasonings, but since this version has a delectable lemon butter sauce, it’s best to keep the fish simple.
For The Lemon Butter Sauce:
- Salted Butter – I use a grass-fed variety when frying tilapia, but any salted version will work in this dish. If you use unsalted butter, you’ll need to add salt to taste. You can also use ghee if you like.
- Lemon Juice – Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor, but a bottled variety is fine, too.
- Garlic Powder
How To Fry Tilapia
This section shows how to cook tilapia in a pan, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Season. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
TIP: Make sure fillets are completely dry.
This will ensure that they brown well.
- Fry. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the tilapia fillets in a single layer. Sear until the edges are opaque, then flip and cook until done. (You can reduce to medium heat if it starts to brown too much.) Remove and cover with foil to keep warm.
TIP: Work in batches if needed.
Tilapia should fit in a single layer on the pan. If it doesn’t, cook it in batches.
- Make sauce. In the same pan, melt the butter. Stir in the lemon juice and garlic powder, and continue heating until sauce becomes dark yellow. Remove immediately.
- Plate. Drizzle some sauce on each serving plate, add the pan fried tilapia fillet over it, then top with 1-2 more tablespoons of sauce. I like to garnish with a lemon slice and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
How Long To Pan Fry Tilapia?
Sear tilapia for 3-4 minutes on the first side, then 2-4 minutes on the second side. There are several doneness indicators to know how long to pan sear tilapia. Check these clues:
- Fish flakes easily at its thickest point with a fork
- Fillet is completely opaque and no longer translucent
- A meat thermometer measures an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees
Can You Pan Fry Frozen Tilapia?
You can pan fry a frozen tilapia fillet, but it will take a few extra minutes on each side. Check internal temperature for doneness, since frozen fish does not cook as evenly as thawed fillets. If you have a few extra minutes to thaw your frozen fillets overnight in the fridge or in a bowl of cold water before frying tilapia, it’s much better that way!
- Store: Keep in airtight containers in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Reheat: Bake leftovers at 350 degrees F, until warm. You can microwave it, but it will be more dry.
- Freeze: Place the pan seared tilapia fillets on a parchment paper lined platter or baking sheet, and freeze until solid. Once solid, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
What To Serve With Pan Fried Tilapia
Pan seared tilapia with lemon butter sauce pairs perfectly with these quick sides:
- Veggies – For a classy dinner, serve this tilapia with green beans almondine, baked ratatouille, or roasted broccoli and cauliflower. For weeknight dinners, whip up some quick and easy sauteed veggies or mixed roasted vegetables using whatever you have on hand.
- Salads – The fresh mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in Israeli salad perfectly complements the fish, while a Mediterranean salad adds tangy flavor and crisp texture.
- Starches – Pair the tilapia with a side of fluffy quinoa, roasted cubed potatoes, or healthy cauliflower rice. You could even serve them with some air fryer French fries.
More Easy Fish Recipes
When evenings get busy, fish can save dinnertime in flash. Try some of these classic ways to make it:
Pan Seared Tilapia With Lemon Butter Sauce
Pan Fried Tilapia (With Lemon Butter Sauce)
Pan seared tilapia with lemon butter sauce is flaky and tender, in 20 minutes! Make this pan fried tilapia recipe with just 6 ingredients.
Like this video? Subscribe to my YouTube cooking channel for healthy recipes!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Lemon butter sauce:
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Pat the fish fillets completely dry with paper towels, which will ensure even browning. Season the fish on both sides with garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the tilapia fillets in a single layer, working in batches if it doesn’t fit. Sear, without moving, for 3-4 minutes, until the edges of the fish are opaque. Flip and cook for 2-4 minutes, until cooked through.
Remove the fish from the pan and cover tightly with foil to keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium-low. In the same pan, make the lemon butter sauce for fish like this.
Drizzle a little lemon butter sauce over each serving plate. Place the pan seared tilapia fillets over the sauce, then drizzle more sauce on top.
Last Step: Leave A Rating!
This helps other readers and also helps me continue to provide free recipes on my site.
Serving size: 1 tilapia fillet with 2 tbsp sauce
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
Want to save this recipe?Save This Recipe Now
© Copyright Maya Krampf for Wholesome Yum. Please DO NOT SCREENSHOT OR COPY/PASTE recipes to social media or websites. We’d LOVE for you to share a link with photo instead. 🙂
updates, check image alt text, run through Topic, check SEM for related kw and kw it already ranks for to sprinkle in, and in general check for any little things we currently do.>