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Beat the clock with my 25-minute Pan-Fried Tilapia recipe. Family-friendly fish recipes do exist, and this restaurant-quality tilapia and vegetable entree is proof.

Two plates of pan fried tilapia.

Sure, 30-minute meals are good. But I can do better with this weeknight dinner idea that can be on the table in a mere 25 minutes.

Start by pan-frying fish, then whip up a quick pan sauce with peppers, tomatoes, and briny capers. This is one of my family’s favorite Mediterranean dinner ideas.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Pan-Fried Tilapia Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for pan-fried tilapia.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Tilapia: Protein-rich tilapia is one of the most affordable and quick-cooking protein options available. Find it at the fish counter or frozen, and look for it with either farm-raised or wild tilapia label. (Wild is my personal preference when I can find it.)
  • Bell peppers: I prefer a mix of colors, but any single hue will do, too. Yellow, red, orange, green yellow; choose one or a variety.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. 
4 pieces of seasoned tilapia on a cutting board.
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sauté fish in a single layer without moving until crispy and golden-brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip each piece of tilapia and continue cooking until fish is 145 degrees. Transfer fish to oven to keep warm.
Pan fried tilapia on a skillet.
  1. To the same skillet, add onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add peppers and sauté until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Sliced peppers and onions in a skillet.
  1. Stir in tomatoes, capers, and thyme until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Return fish to pan and stir to coat with sauce. 
Pan fried tilapia in a skillet.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This fish recipe makes four 6-ounce, entree-sized servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Towel off: If the fish is too moist on the surface, it won’t crisp and brown in that craveable way you recognize from your favorite seafood restaurant. Instead, the tilapia will steam. To ensure your fish is primed for the pan, use paper towels to pat it dry before seasoning and pan-frying.
  • Up in smoke: Yes, I mean it when I suggest that your pan should look like it’s just starting to smoke. This medium-high heat is what you want to sear the tilapia to crunchy perfection.
  • Tilapia cooking tip: Tilapia fillets cook quickly; ideal for weeknight dinners, but not for getting distracted while cooking them. That said, don’t attempt to move the fish around in the pan until the crust forms. If the fish sticks, your pan may not have been hot enough. Or, you didn’t have enough oil. But, you don’t want the fish swimming in oil, either. I’ve found ¼ cup of oil is ideal (so try not to skimp).
Two plates of pan fried tilapia.

Recipe FAQs

Is Tilapia a man-made fish?

Tilapia is a real fish that is native to the Middle East and Africa. The myth of tilapia being “man made” probably rose out of the way it is extensively farmed worldwide.

What does tilapia taste like?

Tilapia is a mild white fish with a firm texture that flakes under your fork. It has a light sweetness similar to cod.

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One plate of pan fried tilapia.

Pan-Fried Tilapia

Simple pan-fried Tilapia with lots of colorful bell peppers makes a quick and easy, delicious and healthy meal! A great recipe if you want to eat more fish.
5 from 15 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 159

Ingredients 

  • 4 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets thawed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 bell peppers any color, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes drained
  • 1/4 cup capers drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. 
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sauté fish in a single layer without moving until crispy and golden-brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Flip each piece of tilapia and continue cooking until fish is 145 degrees. Transfer fish to oven to keep warm.
  • To the same skillet, add onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add peppers and sauté until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes, capers, and thyme until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Return fish to pan and stir to coat with sauce. 

Notes

  1. Tilapia: Protein-rich tilapia is one of the most affordable and quick-cooking protein options available. Find it at the fish counter or frozen, and look for it with either farm-raised or wild tilapia label. (Wild is my personal preference when I can find it.)
  2. Bell peppers: I prefer a mix of colors, but any single hue will do, too. Yellow, red, orange, green-yellow; choose one or a variety.
  3. Yield: This fish recipe makes four 6-ounce, entree-sized servings.
  4. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 159kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 2gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 308mgPotassium: 194mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1882IUVitamin C: 82mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. Yum! I added a teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste, my latest obsession, and a tbsp of butter to finish. Served with rice, it was a big hit!5 stars

  2. Love this recipe! Easy and delicious! Question, 1 onion halved an then thinly sliced – Thinly slice half the onion? Or the entire onion?

    1. Hi LR, you cut the onion in half and then thinly slice the halves. Sorry for the confusion, hope you enjoy! – Meggan

    1. Hi Vonni, no, it’s not. There is something wrong with the nutrition label generator, it must have the wrong value for tilapia in ounces. I added the tilapia in grams instead, and now it’s showing 346 calories which makes a lot more sense to me. I also think 1/4 cup oil is not necessary for cooking this, so I’m going to retest with smaller amounts of oil. Once I figure that out, I’ll update the recipe. Thank you for pointing this out to me. Sometimes that happens, but I never know unless kind people like you point it out. Thanks again! -Meggan

  3. This was so yummy! The timing was perfect to make it flaky. I left out the capers because I wasn’t sure if mine were still good.  SO quick and easy~ pretty and delicious.  Thank you, I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes so that my husband stays impressed!  He said I went over the top with the tilapia! Ha!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Audrey! This makes my day. I feel like the recipe is fairly simple for how tasty it turns out, and yes colorful too. :) I’m so excited that it worked out for you! Thanks again, I really appreciate you. Take care!

  4. I like to cook fish at least once a week, Meggan, but usually errr on the boring side with it. I love this easy idea – lots of veggies!5 stars

    1. How are you even back on the interwebz, Helen?! Shouldn’t you be asleep somewhere! :) Thanks so much for visiting my little ol’ blog. Can’t wait to catch up on everything that’s been happening with you. :) XOXO

  5. First Time Poster, Long Time Reader!
    Holy Moly, I love fish! I cannot reiterate that enough.
    Do you have a good recipe for Baked Fish (So the fish doesn’t have to swim in oil) :)5 stars

    1. Wow Ben, I’m so flattered! Although I *feel* like you commented a couple of years ago with a fake email (bigfish@gmail.com rings a bell) asking about why there were no fish recipes. But maybe that wasn’t you. ;) I definitely have some baked fish recipes on deck for future inclusion. In the meantime, I’m happy to inform you that this lightly pan-fried Tilapia checks A LOT of boxes in terms of being gluten free, grain free, paleo, soy free, corn free, dairy free, sugar free… so it could be worse. And as we say in California: Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar makes you fat! God bless. XOXO