Tilapia have been used as food fish for centuries, but their commercial appeal has accelerated only in the last few decades.

The word “tilapia” encompasses a range of fast-growing fish species that are also known as Nile Perch, St. Peter’s Fish, Sunshine Snapper, and Hawaiian Sun Fish. A mild flavor, which can be compared to catfish, makes them excellent candidates for almost any seasoning.

Tilapia are versatile – the flesh is just firm enough for grilling and frying, but they can also be sautéed, steamed, broiled, and poached. One of the great virtues of this fish is that the FDA has found little or no mercury presence in the flesh. That healthy fact is due to fast growth in contained environments.


There are at least 100 species that fall within the genus Tilapia. The most common food fishes are typically black- or red-skinned.

Buying Tips

Tilapia are sold fresh or frozen as whole fish or as fillets. They are typically farmed in freshwater ponds, but also thrive in saltwater. The flavor will reflect the habitat in which they are raised. North and South America and are the largest producers.

Because these fish are prolific throughout the year, it is possible to find fresh tilapia at most markets. Flesh should be translucent and can range from white to off-white to pink. The skin side of the flesh may be streaked with black.

Storage Tips

This fish can be frozen for about 4-6 months if wrapped well. Once thawed, or if purchased fresh, it should be consumed within 48 hours. Do not refreeze until after cooking.

Usage Tips

If tilapia flesh feels “mushy” when thawed, it should not be eaten.

Remove the skin either before cooking (or after if grilling) as it will taste bitter.

Fish flesh begins to break down when marinated for long periods.

For best grilling results, select whole fish. For fillets, use a grilling rack and turn the fish only once.

Substitution Tips

Perch, red snapper, flounder, catfish, rainbow trout, farm-raised bass.

Try one of our favorite tilapia recipes:
Broiled Tilapia
Sauteed Tilapia with Lime
Rustic Fish Stew