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This oven baked tilapia recipe is an easy way to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. Made with just five simple ingredients (plus salt and pepper), this lemon butter tilapia has bright lemon flavor, with a rich buttery texture. And unlike my standalone lemon butter sauce for fish, this sauce does not require cooking separately.
Go ahead and buy the big package of tilapia, and try my parmesan crusted tilapia or pan fried tilapia next! Serve your tilapia recipes with roasted asparagus or sauteed broccoli for a fast and healthy meal.
What Is Tilapia?
Tilapia is a fresh water fish that were native to Africa, but are now farmed all over the world. It’s incredibly popular as it is easy to prepare, mild in flavor, a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, low in calories, and reasonably priced. While I usually prefer wild caught fish, tilapia is a great cost effective option.
Why You’ll Love This Oven Baked Tilapia Recipe
- Mild taste with bright lemon flavor
- Flaky, tender fish
- Ready in 20 minutes
- Easy and healthy dinner
- Naturally low carb and gluten-free
Lemon Butter Tilapia Ingredients
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for oven baked tilapia with lemon butter sauce, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
How to choose tilapia fillets:
- Fillet Size – Most tilapia fillets will be around the same size, but tilapia loins will be the thicker part of the fillet, without the flat part. I used whole fillets for this recipe, but loins are fine to use as well.
- Skin – Most tilapia will not have skin, which is preferable as it’s really bitter.
- Appearance – Look for a pink and white colored flesh.
- Fresh vs. Frozen – Most tilapia will be previously frozen, even if it’s fresh at your store, so go with whatever you prefer.
For the lemon butter:
- Butter – I prefer to use grass fed butter for best flavor and nutrition, but any unsalted butter will work. If you need a dairy-free option, you can use olive oil (will have a different flavor) or butter-flavored coconut oil.
- Lemon – We’re going to use half to get lemon juice and lemon zest, and use the other half to make slices to place on top of the fish. Feel free to use two separate lemons if it’s easier for you. You’ll need a total of 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest. If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand but have bottled lemon juice, you can increase the lemon juice to 2 tablespoons and omit the zest and slices, but the flavor is less lemony this way. Lime juice can also work in a pinch, but the flavor will be different.
- Fresh Parsley – Feel free to substitute other fresh herbs, such as dill.
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic, not jarred, we’re going to crush the cloves garlic. Minced is okay to use in a pinch, but the flavor is more evenly distributed if you crush it.
For the baked tilapia seasoning:
The seasoning for this baked tilapia recipe is super simple — just salt and pepper! The lemon butter provides plenty of flavor.
For a little more heat, you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
But if you want to season tilapia in other ways, check out the variations I have listed below!
How To Bake Tilapia In The Oven
This section shows how to make oven baked tilapia fish with step-by-step photos and details about the technique. For full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Dry. Pat tilapia with a paper towel to dry, and arrange fillets in a baking dish. It’s fine if they touch, but don’t overlap them much, if at all.
- Mix lemon butter. Melt butter in a small bowl, then stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and crushed garlic.
- Season. Brush garlic lemon butter over the tilapia fillets, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Top the fish with lemon slices.
- Bake. Cook tilapia in the oven, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
What Temperature To Bake Tilapia?
Like baked salmon and many other proteins, I recommend baking tilapia at a fairly high heat — 400 degrees F — so that it cooks quickly and doesn’t dry out.
How Long To Bake Tilapia At 400?
The lemon butter tilapia in oven will take about 12-15 minutes. The best way to tell it’s done is to use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part — it should read between 140 and 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can also check that it flakes easily with a fork.
Can You Make Baked Tilapia From Frozen?
Yes, you can make baked tilapia from frozen, you’ll just need to adjust the cook time. However, I prefer to thaw it first for more even cooking.
How Long To Bake Frozen Tilapia?
Frozen tilapia will take about 18-22 minutes to bake. Bake until it flakes easily and internal temperature reaches 140 to 145 degrees F.
Baked Tilapia Recipe Variations
This easy baked tilapia can be seasoned in so many different ways:
- Baked Cajun Tilapia – Omit the lemon and use a Cajun seasoning in place of the sea salt and black pepper.
- Parmesan Tilapia – This tilapia with a parmesan cheese crust is made with just 4 simple ingredients and is ready in 15 minutes.
- Baked Tilapia Fish Tacos – Omit the lemon from this lemon tilapia recipe and add 1/4 teaspoon cumin. Bake as directed and serve flaked in tortillas, taco bowls, or taco salads.
- Baked Blackened Tilapia – Use a traditional rub that’s made up of paprika, salt, onion powder, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and dried parsley. Some versions also include brown sugar. (Use my Besti Brown Sweetener for a sugar-free option.)
- Tilapia With Old Bay Seasoning – Simply swap out the sea salt for Old Bay.
- Store: Store baked lemon butter tilapia in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Reheat: Reheat tilapia in a hot skillet or 350 degree F oven for best results. Reheating in the microwave is not recommended, but can work if it’s your only option. Microwave on half power.
- Freeze: Freeze this baked tilapia recipe in an airtight container for 2-3 months.
What Sides To Serve With Baked Tilapia
Rice and potatoes may be traditional sides to white fish meals, but don’t skip the nutrient dense veggies:
More Easy Fish Recipes
If you like this baked tilapia recipe, you might also like some of these other easy fish recipes:
Reader Favorite Recipes
The recipe card is below! Readers that made this also viewed these recipes:
Lemon Butter Baked Tilapia Recipe
This easy oven baked tilapia recipe makes a healthy dinner in only 20 minutes. Lemon butter tilapia needs just 5 simple ingredients!
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).
Use paper towels to pat the fish fillets dry. Arrange them in a single layer in a 9×13 baking dish.
Cut the lemon in half. Juice and zest one half (you should get about 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest). Slice the other half into thin slices.
In a small bowl in the microwave or saucepan on the stove, melt the butter. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and crushed garlic.
Brush the garlic lemon butter over the tilapia fillets. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Flip and repeat both lemon butter and seasoning on the other side. Arrange the lemon slices over the fish.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, (will vary by thickness), until the baked tilapia is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Serving size: 1 baked tilapia fillet
Video Showing How To Make Lemon Butter Baked Tilapia:
Tap here to jump to the video for this recipe — it’s located directly above the ingredients list. It’s the easiest way to learn how to make Lemon Butter Baked Tilapia!
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