Pan Fried Tilapia

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This delicious and juicy pan fried Tilapia with creamy lemon sauce tastes like summertime. The combination of fresh garlic, herbs, and a splash of lemon juice offers a dining experience reminiscent of a gourmet restaurant. The tender and flaky fish makes this the finest tilapia dish I’ve ever made!

If you are a fan of seafood, don’t miss out on this fabulous fritto misto, these baked lobster tails, and my easy maki roll!

tilapia in lemon cream sauce pictured in a skillet


Tilapia is one of my favorite fish to prepare because of its versatility and how well it pairs with fresh flavors like lemon, garlic, and parsley. This recipe will show you how to pan-sear tilapia easily and quickly, infusing it with a creamy, rich flavor. It’s truly the best way to cook tilapia fillets.

This simple method is also perfect for a quick weeknight meal because it’s done in about 20 minutes. Serve it with the creamy lemon sauce and fresh veggies for a completely satisfying dish.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Impressive enough to serve at dinner parties to wow your guests with a gourmet taste experience.
  • Quick and convenient, this tilapia recipe is done in under 15 minutes – a perfect choice for busy weeknights.
  • Easy cleanup thanks to the simplicity of using just one pan for the entire process.

What is Tilapia?

Tilapia, a mild white fish, has gained popularity in culinary circles due to its high protein content and delightful flavor. When fresh, tilapia boasts a sweet and fresh taste without any fishy or foul odors. The key to selecting the best quality is ensuring the fish is firm with somewhat translucent flesh, and it should not be sticky or slimy to the touch. Additionally, prime tilapia fillets are free from white or colored spots, indicating their freshness and quality.

    cooking tilapia in a skillet

    What You’ll Need

    Get ready to cook up some delicious tilapia in your frying pan! Below, you’ll find all the ingredients needed to bring this flavorful dish to the dinner table.

    For The Fish

    • Olive Oil – Used for cooking the fish. Canola or avocado oil can be used instead.
    • Butter – It adds richness and flavor to the fish while searing.
    • Tilapia fillets – I use four thawed filets. If tilapia is not available, any mild white fish like cod or haddock will work similarly.
    • Salt and pepper – Simple seasoning to flavor the fish.
    • Fresh parsley – for garnish.

    For The Lemon Cream Sauce

    • Butter – Used to create the base for the sauce and add creaminess and flavor.
    • Garlic – Perfect ingredient to infuse the sauce with a rich aroma and taste.
    • Chicken broth (or dry white wine) – Helps to deglaze the pan and add depth to the sauce’s flavor.
    • Heavy cream – Contributes to the rich, creamy texture of the sauce.
    • Fresh lemon juice – Adds brightness and acidity to balance the creamy elements.
    • Salt and black pepper – To adjust the sauce to taste.
    raw fish in a pan

    How to Make Pan Fried Tilapia

    To master the art of pan frying tilapia fillets, follow these simple steps to ensure it turns out perfectly golden and flaky!

    1. Cook the Fish: Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper and cook it for 3 minutes per side. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
    2. Make the Sauce: In the same pan, melt more butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic, then whisk in chicken broth and cook until reduced by ⅓. Lower the heat, and incorporate the remaining butter and cream, followed by lemon juice. Season to taste.
    3. Combine and Serve: Remove the sauce from the heat. Drizzle the sauce over the tilapia, garnish with parsley, and serve.

    Recipe Tips

    • Dry the fish. Before you start, if the fillets are wet, give them a quick pat down to dry them off.
    • Heat up the skillet. It’s important to let your skillet heat up properly with the butter and olive oil; otherwise, if the pan isn’t hot enough, your tilapia might just soak up oil and turn soggy instead of crisping up.
    • Add more oil. If you’re cooking multiple batches, you might need to add a bit more butter and oil to the pan.
    • Don’t overcook. Remember, tilapia cooks pretty fast, so keep an eye on it to prevent overcooking, which can make the fish tough and chewy. The fillets are done when they easily flake with a fork.
    • Rest. Let the cooked tilapia rest for a few minutes before serving; this helps the fillets stay juicy.
    • Flavors. Use fresh lemon juice and don’t skip the garlic. And if you’re in the mood for a little extra spice, add a dash of cayenne pepper or pepper flakes before frying them.

    Serving Suggestions

    To complete this fried tilapia dinner, pair it with a crisp salad, fresh roasted veggies, and fluffy rice.

    Spooning out Tilapia from the skillet.

    How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

    Tilapia is typically best served immediately. When you store it, it can become mushy or develop a strong fish smell. If you do have leftovers, store them in your refrigerator in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days. Reheat it in a lightly greased skillet over medium-low heat.

    More Tilapia Recipes

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    4.98 from 88 votes

    Pan Fried Tilapia

    Cooked to perfection, this delicious pan fried tilapia with creamy lemon butter sauce is flaky, tender, and ready in just 20 minutes!
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes
    Servings: 4


    For the Fish

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 4 skinless tilapia fillets
    • salt,, to taste
    • pepper,, to taste
    • chopped fresh parsley,, for garnish

    For the Lemon Cream Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons butter,, divided
    • 3 cloves garlic,, minced
    • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth,, or dry white wine
    • ¼ cup heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • salt,, to taste
    • pepper,, to taste
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    • Set a skillet over medium heat; heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.
    • Season the fish with salt and pepper and transfer it to the skillet; cook for 3 minutes per side. Remove the fish from the skillet and set aside.
    • Add 1 tablespoon butter to the same skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
    • Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cook for 4 minutes or until reduced by 1/3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining butter. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream.
    • Add lemon juice and whisk until everything is well combined. Make sure to whisk continually so that the heavy cream doesn't curdle.
    • Season with salt and pepper, then taste the sauce and adjust accordingly. 
    • Remove from heat.
    • Pour the sauce over the fish, or return the fish back into the skillet and spoon the sauce over it.
    • Garnish with parsley and serve.


    • Choose fresh tilapia fillets that are firm, have a translucent color, and do not have a fishy odor. Thaw the filets if they are frozen.
    • Preheat your skillet so it is well-heated before cooking the fish to achieve a perfect sear that locks in flavors.
    • Keep stirring the sauce to ensure the cream and lemon integrate perfectly without curdling.
    • Serve the tilapia with a side of steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, or a fresh salad to complete the meal.


    Calories: 330kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 124mg | Sodium: 169mg | Potassium: 572mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 482IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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    4.98 from 88 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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    Recipe Rating:


    1. Dean Koretos says:

      It looks delicious , definitely try next time with Talapia , we appreciate you giving us the Nutrition
      Numbers , it’s so hard to try and calculate them!
      We will definitely follow your recipes 🤗💛

    2. Faith G (Ninomiya) Yetman says:

      My husband and I love everything about this recipe. Easy to make and you can’t go wrong with lemons. 😊

      1. Katerina says:

        I’m so happy to hear that you and your husband loved the recipe! Lemons really do make everything better. 😊🍋 Thank YOU!

    3. Debbie says:

      Delicious! I like mine a little thicker, so I just added a bit of corn starch to thicken it up a bit.

      1. Katerina says:

        That sounds perfect! Adding cornstarch is a great way to thicken it up. Glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂

    4. Amy says:

      Omg. This was so amazingly good. Easy to make and will now be my favorite tilapia dish. I steamed asparagus and drizzled some sauce over it and the fish. I also had cauliflower rice.

      1. Katerina says:

        I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed it so much! Your additions of asparagus and cauliflower rice sound perfect. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    5. Kathy Byers says:

      Easy and delicious!

      1. Katerina says:

        I’m very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂

    6. Elizabeth Hampshire says:

      This is soooo good!! Restaurant quality in my opinion! Definitely will be a frequent meal!

      1. Katerina says:

        Thrilled to hear you loved it and found it restaurant-quality! Great to know it’ll be a regular on your menu! Thank YOU! 🙂