Pan Fried Garlic Lime Tilapia

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Pan Fried Tilapia is made with just five ingredients for the perfect quick and easy meal. This tilapia dish is anything but boring and a great fish recipe to add to your rotation.


This Pan Fried Tilapia recipe is crazy delicious! The light, citrusy flavor will make your tastebuds dance with happiness. Not to mention, it's super easy to put together making it an ideal dinner choice.

I have always loved fish but, growing up in New England, I was a bit spoiled and it took me a long time to come around to the idea of tilapia. Some people like it for the lack of flavor because it doesn’t taste “fishy”, but I’m the opposite.

Since I grew up eating much-stronger flavored fish, I don't find tilapia as flavorful as some other fish. When I eat it, I find that it's necessary to really inject lots of flavor into the fish to make it something I can get excited to eat… like a ton of garlic and lime juice!

There are several reasons why this tilapia dish is a favorite:

  1. It's healthy
  2. It's super tasty
  3. This recipe can be ready to enjoy in 20 minutes!

Similar to my Honey Lime Tilapia and Lemon Pepper Tilapia, this simple garlic and lime version packs in the flavor with some salty butter and a whole lot of seasoning.

As a side note: If you don’t love fishy-tasting fish, eating Tilapia is a great way to start enjoying fish!

Pan fried tilapia with garlic, fresh lime juice, butter, and Old Bay seasoning on a plate with lime slices and green onions.

Key Ingredients For Garlic Lime Tilapia

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this lime fish dish at home:

  • Tilapia: This mild-tasting fish is not only great for beginner fish eaters to enjoy but also lends itself well to a wide range of flavor options and combinations. It's also a very budget-friendly fish!
  • Butter: Delivers a rich flavor that perfectly blends the garlic and lime and helps the seasoning stick to the fish. If you need to avoid lactose, try this recipe with ghee instead of butter. You’ll still get that buttery flavor but with hardly any lactose.
  • Garlic cloves: Garlic cloves pair well with the other flavors and add a slightly nutty taste you’ll love.
  • Old Bay seasoning: I tend to use Old Bay because it’s a seasoning brand that I trust. However, you could use any seafood seasoning (or make your own preferred spice blend)
  • Lime juice: Milder and sweeter than its lemon counterpart, lime adds those citrusy notes that are critical to the flavor profile of this recipe.

Note: For a full list of ingredients and detailed instructions on how to make this fish recipe, check out the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post!

Wild-Caught vs. Farm-Raised

When it comes to buying fish, many readers ask whether to buy wild-caught or farm-raised.

For tilapia, it’s actually kind of a non-issue because the real concern with buying farm-raised fish is the amount of mercury they contain. However, tilapia only contains very low levels of mercury, and it’s a very sustainably farmed fish that has been farmed for centuries.

Besides, you’ll probably only be able to find farmed tilapia to buy, but I wanted to make sure you knew that was ok.

Side Dish Ideas

Here are some delicious ideas of ways to serve this tilapia so that it feels new and interesting, even if you’ve made this dish twice already this month!

  • Tilapia is a perfect protein for adding to your fish tacos, and this recipe for fish tacos and avocado crema has the ideal flavor.
  • Add some avocado and crunchy slaw like these easy fish tacos with lime slaw!
  • Add this fish to the top of a light summer salad with your favorite veggies. Top it off with a drizzle of cilantro-lime yogurt dressing.
  • This tilapia would work really well on top of some brown rice or quinoa. Add your favorite toppings and sauce!

Garlic tilapia that has been pan fried with butter and Old Bay seasoning on a plate with a fork and knife.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Tilapia

Here are some questions I frequently get asked about by some readers…

Can I use lemon juice instead of lime juice?

Yes, you can, but know going into it that it will change the flavor of your fish and may seem even brighter and more citrusy.

Does lime juice cook tilapia?

Yes and no. The acid from the lime juice does change the structure of the proteins in the fish meat so that it essentially "cooks" the fish without adding heat. But, you still need to follow the instructions listed in the recipe card below and cook the fish in the pan.>/p>

How do you know if tilapia is done?

As a very thin fish, it doesn’t take long to cook tilapia. Make sure to get a good sear on both sides, and by that time, your fish will probably be perfectly cooked. A good way to check for doneness is to poke a fork into the thickest part of your filet. If it’s white and easily flakes, it’s done.

Can I bake lime tilapia fish fillets in the oven?

Yes, you could bake this lime fish recipe instead of pan-searing it! I would recommend doing it in a 375-degree oven for about 8-12 minutes. However, if you like a crispy crust on your fish, stick with this pan-searing method.

A fork with lime tilapia coated with butter, garlic, and seasoning being held by a hand.

More Delicious Fish Recipes You’ll Love:

The Recipe
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Pan Fried Garlic Lime Tilapia

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  • 30 oz. tilapia filets
  • 2.5 tbsp. butter (or ghee)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more)
  • 1 tbsp. Old Bay (or seafood seasoning)
  • 2.5 tbsp. lime juice

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Season the fish liberally with Old Bay or seafood seasoning.

Seafood seasoning being sprinkled on two pieces of tilapia.

Melt the butter in a skillet and add the garlic. Once fragrant, add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes per side.

Tilapia frying in a pan with seafood seasoning, garlic, and butter.

Add the lime juice over top and cook for 2 more minutes until fish is nice and flaky.

Lime juice being squeezed on tilapia in a pan.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 6 oz.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 194
Calories from Fat 78
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 100mg
Sodium 716mg
Total Carbohydrate 1g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 32g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Pan Fried Garlic Lime Tilapia
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June 15, 2023 - 22:54
Add a Rating:
Made this for dinner tonight with lime & cilantro rice & sauteed squash. Definitely a hit & making it again. Even my picky granddaughter ate it
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March 7, 2023 - 16:05
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loved it! so tasty and easy to make!
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Ana Bowman
September 13, 2021 - 18:43
It was easy and very good
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August 1, 2018 - 13:18
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So quick and easy ty
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