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.

I’ve never been much a fish eater. I grew up on frozen fish sticks and salmon patties and, well, that’s all I have to say about that.

Luckily, Culinary School saves the day. I am now forced to cook things I would not otherwise cook. More importantly, the chef instructors are experts at making e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g taste great.

Even tilapia. Especially tilapia.

Tilapia with peppers on a white plate.

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I don’t always go for quick-and-easy recipes, but when I do, we better not sacrifice AN OUNCE of deliciousness. This tilapia delivers.

The first step to a great piece of sautéed fish is a crispy, golden brown crust.

Start by patting the fish dry. If the fish has a lot of moisture on the surface, it’s not going to crisp and brown up the way you want. It will just end up steaming in place.

Paper towels are a good way to pat fish dry for food safety and convenience reasons. Then, follow up with some salt and pepper.

Next, get your pan hot. HOT. Oil-is-starting-to-smoke hot (olive oil gets a lovely lavender hazy-smoke when it’s hot). You can use olive oil or vegetable oil, just not butter (butter will burn).

Tilapia with peppers on a white plate.

The tilapia will cook quickly, but don’t move it 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 (Bad Pun Club).

Flip the fish once, then reserve in a warm place.

Next up? All the peppers.

I added lots of colorful peppers, onions, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, and capers. The sauce comes together in just a couple of minutes. (You only need 2 peppers total, but if you want all 4 colors the way I have it pictured, you’ll obviously use HALF of 4 differently colored peppers. Right? Right.)

Dinner is done fast, but dinner tastes GREAT. And that’s what counts.

Quick & Tasty Pan-Fried Tilapia on a white plate.

Quick & Tasty 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 9 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 159


  • 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


  • 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. 


Adapted from "Sautéed Halibut" in On Cooking.


Calories: 159kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 2gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 308mgPotassium: 194mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1882IUVitamin C: 82mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill

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  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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 ( 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