How To Cook Tilapia

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I found some really fresh tilapia at the fish market this week and decided to make seared tilapia, in a pan beurre blanc with capers, asparagus, and sauteed crimini mushrooms.

This is a very elegant but simple plate that literally took me 20 minutes from refrigerator to plate. OK, I let the fish rest on the counter for 20 minutes, so I guess it would be 20 minutes from counter to plate.

Pan fried tilapia, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms.How to cook tilapia like a professional chef.

Ingredients for the plate: tilapia, asparagus, and mushrooms.

Ingredients for the plate: tilapia, asparagus, and mushrooms.

Ingredients for the sauce: white wine, lemon juice, and capers.

Ingredients for the sauce: white wine, lemon juice, and capers.

How To Cook Tilapia That Is Elegant Simple And Delicious

  • Yield:2 Serving
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes


  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • Peanut oil, to coat pan
  • 5 to 6 crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 cup / 4 ounces / 120 milliliters dry white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon / 10 grams capers, drained
  • 4 ounces cold butter, sliced into tablespoons
  • Cracked pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees F / 65 degrees C.

For The Asparagus

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil, in a 4 quart pot. Season liberally with salt and return to a full boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Drain and arrange on an oven proof pie pan. Allow to rest in oven until the fish is done.

For the Mushroom

  1. Meanwhile, set a saute pan over high heat. When the pan is smoking hot add enough peanut oil to lightly coat the pan. Immediately add the mushrooms and toss to coat with oil. Continue cooking while periodically tossing the pan to ensure even caramelization. Season to taste.
  2. Transfer to an oven proof pie pan and rest in a warm oven.

For The Tilapia

  1. Toss out any oil left in the pan and add new oil just to lightly coat. Season the fish and it to the pan. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until it is dark golden brown.
  2. Remove to an oven safe pie pan and hold while you make the sauce.

For The Sauce

  1. Toss out any oil left in the pan and add the wine and lemon juice, all at once. It will instantly boil and foam up. When it subsides it will begin to reduce. Let it continue boiling and reducing until there is about 2 tablespoons of liquid in the pan. It should be thick and light brown.
  2. Add the capers and remove the pan from the heat and add 3 pieces of butter. While holding the pan about 3 inches above the flame move the pan back and forth to work the butter into the liquid. Keep working in this manner until all of the butter has been incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To Serve

  1. Plate the fish and arrange the asparagus so they are resting with the tips over the back side of the fish. Pile the mushrooms into the open corner. Spoon the sauce over the edge and around the fish. Garnish with a lemon wedge, if desired.


  1. When you are selecting asparagus look for asparagus with thinner spears, rather than the thick spears. The thinner they are the younger they are and the more tender they are. Thick spears tend to be rather tough.
  2. When I cook fish I almost never cook past medium rare. If you want well done fish you will need to saute the fish over medium to medium-low heat, otherwise by the time the center reaches well done the outside of the flesh will be approaching charcoal.
  3. If you haven't prepared a lot of fish or you don't know how to cook tilapia, or any fish for that matter, one of the easiest methods for cooking tilapia fish, is to make pan fried tilapia.  Among easy tilapia recipes, fried tilapia only requires two ingredients the tilapia fish and peanut oil. The only real consideration becomes whether to fry it at high temperature or low temperature. The temperature will be dictated by the way you like your fish. If you want it cooked through, or well done, then you will need to use a lower temperature. If you want it rare or medium rare use a high temperature.

  4. The sauce for the fish is a simple pan beurre blanc. One of the things I like about doing the sauce this way is that you can readily customize the sauce according to your taste preference. If you want it more acid forward add less butter. If you want it really velvety and silky add even more butter. Depending on how much butter you add the fat content will heighten or play down the acidity from the wine and lemon. The salt brings a balance between the fat and acid.
  5. A really nice addition to the sauce would be a shallot. Just mince up one small shallot, add it to the pan. If you do, be aware that you need to work fast to soften and caramelize the shallot before it burns. As it just begins to caramelize add the wine and lemon.