There are some meals that I could literally eat every night, and this Asian Tilapia Recipe is one of them. The fish is pan-seared so it gets a nice crust, then simmered in a salty, garlicky ginger-soy sauce that’s simply out of this world.
This easy meal is so flavorful and healthy, and it’s also gluten free and dairy free!
I have been known to stand at the stove, eating this fish right out of the pan. And when you put it over a bed of fluffy rice and throw some flavorful wilted spinach on the side? So so good.
And it’s not just me. The entire family loves it.
What is tilapia?
Tilapia is a mild, white freshwater fish that is also inexpensive. This lean fish is a great alternative to more expensive and similar tasting types of fish like branzino and red snapper.
There are many different ways to enjoy tilapia. Since the texture of the fish is pretty flaky, the best way to to enjoy it is to avoid heavy preparations and sauces.
Pan-searing raw tilapia and using minimal seasonings is a great way to allow its mild flavor to shine through. A little salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice is all it needs.
I love using tilapia for fish tacos in the summer. And I especially love it in this Asian Tilapia Recipe.
What’s in this Asian Tilapia recipe
It’s amazing how just a few simple ingredients can create such a huge flavor profile. That’s why this tilapia fish dish is one of my favorites. Minimal work, high reward. It’s the best easy dinner to make on those busy weeknights.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tilapia filets. Skip the fresh fish market prices and buy frozen tilapia. It’s inexpensive and lasts for a long time in the freezer.
- Vegetable oil. This is what we’ll use to pan-sear our fish. Vegetable oil lends a lighter flavor which is better for fish than an olive oil would be.
- Sesame oil. Only a few drops lend massive toasty flavor to the Asian-inspired sauce.
- Mirin. It’s Japanese rice wine that’s similar to sake, but with a higher sugar content. Using mirin is an easy way to naturally thicken sauces without the use of additional starches. You can find mirin in most grocery stores in the Asian section.
- Soy sauce. To keep this recipe gluten free, be sure to use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.
- Baby spinach leaves
- Cooked rice. Plain old white or brown rice work great in this recipe. I love using boil-in-bag rice because it’s so easy.
How to make Asian-style Tilapia
Tilapia defrosts pretty quickly, so if you’re using it from a frozen state, you won’t need to wait too long for it to come to room temperature. Just place the frozen fillets, still wrapped, in a bowl of cold water to speed the defrosting process.
The cooking process for this delicious meal is quick and it all happens in one pan.
The tilapia fillets go right into the pan without any flour or cornstarch. Get them nice and crusty on both sides and then remove them from the pan so you can make the sauce.
Here’s when things start to smell amazing! Sizzle the ginger and garlic together with the mirin, soy sauce and that little bit of sesame oil I mentioned. The sauce will thicken up in just a few minutes.
Add your cooked fish back into the pan. The spinach just needs to wilt, and it will only take a minute. So be sure to add the spinach just before you’re ready to serve this Asian Tilapia.
Is tilapia healthy?
For sure! Like most fish, tilapia is high in protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s also high in Omega-3 fatty acids and has virtually no carbohydrates.
This tasty fish is a great option when you’re looking for a light, healthy, low carb protein without that fishy odor.
How long can tilapia be frozen?
Tilapia will keep in the freezer for 6-8 months. We stock up on fresh tilapia at Costco. I love buying all kinds of proteins there. Coscto sells high-quality delicious fish for far less than a fancy seafood market.
When we get the tilapia home, we re-wrap the fish fillets in plastic wrap and put them in an airtight container or freezer bag for double protection against freezer burn.
Often times we will also vacuum seal the fish, which is the best method. If you have a vacuum-sealing machine, use it! It’s the best choice for preserving any type of fish. Using a vacuum sealer, your tilapia can last for up to 1 year in the freezer.
Can you cook tilapia from a frozen state?
You sure can! If you don’t have time to defrost your fish, you can simply pan-sear it while it’s still frozen. Keep in mind that the cooking time will probably be about 50% longer. It’s a good idea to check that the internal temperature has reached 145 degrees, which is the standard for fish.
What if you can’t find mirin?
If your supermarket doesn’t carry mirin, you can just regular white wine or even rice vinegar. You’ll have to make up for the loss of sweetness though, so add 3 teaspoons of sugar to this recipe if you’re using regular wine or vinegar.
Can you use a different kind of fish instead of tilapia in this recipe?
Absolutely. I’d stay in the mild, flaky family though. Catfish, trout or sea bass are good options.
Is there a substitute for fresh ginger?
Ground ginger is the most obvious substitute for fresh ginger. Because ground spices are always more concentrated in flavor, you’ll only need 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger in this recipe.
Another substitute for fresh ginger, that’s also my preferred option, is minced ginger from a jar. The flavor is fresher and closer to the real thing. Minced ginger from a jar can be used in recipes in that call for fresh ginger in the the same amounts.
This light and healthy meal is so full of flavor that you’ll forget you’re also doing something good for your body! I can’t wait for you to try it.
And when you make this Asian Tilapia Recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more easy and healthy recipes, try these:
- Easy Layered Southwest Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
- Easy and Healthy Citrus Thai Basil Shrimp with Coconut Rice
- Easy Vegan Edamame Hummus with Tahini
For more gluten free dinner recipes, try these:
- Gluten Free Pad Thai with Shrimp
- Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- Coconut Cauliflower Curry
Asian Tilapia Recipe (Easy and Healthy)
- 4 8 oz. tilapia fillets
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/3 cup mirin
- 1 Tbsp. garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp. ginger minced
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
- 5 cups cooked rice
- red pepper flakes garnish, optional
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat. Pat tilapia fillets dry with paper towels. Pan fry the tilapia in a single layer (do not crowd the pan), 7-8 minutes per side, until both sides have a golden crust. Remove onto a separate plate.
- Add the sesame oil, garlic and ginger to the pan. Once the garlic and ginger start to sizzle, add the mirin and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low.
- Put the fish back into the pan and simmer, spooning sauce over the fish, 3-5 minutes.
- Divide the cooked rice evenly among serving plates. Add the spinach to the pan and cook 1 minute, until spinach wilts. Plate the fish and spinach over the rice. Garnish with red pepper flakes, if desired.