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Why You Should Try Tilapia

Fancy trying a new fish that’s easy on the wallet and palate? Get to know the tilapia, a mild-flavoured, versatile white fish that you might grow to love when you try it. Whether you’re a seasoned seafood enthusiast or a curious culinary explorer, let’s get to know this fish that isn’t native to the UK but has proven to be a hit in many markets across the globe.

What is Tilapia Fish and Where Does it Come From?

Tilapia doesn’t refer to just one type of fish, but a group of warm freshwater species native to Africa and the Middle East. They have since spread to other parts of the world, raised in farms as a very reliable source of food. In the UK, farm-raised tilapia is more common, mainly sourced from Asia and South America. 

In local grocers and fishmongers, you’ll most commonly encounter two varieties: Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Nile tilapia are typically larger, reaching up to 60 cm in length and 5kg in weight, and have a brown or grey body with subtle stripes or bands, especially on the tail. They also come in reddish, pinkish or orange colouration. 

Mozambique tilapia, on the other hand, are smaller, topping out at around 40 cm and 2kg in weight, and have a duller greenish or yellowish coloration. They are most recognizable by their long dorsal fin with spiny tips.

Tilapia has the nickname ‘St. Peter’s fish.’ This name is not widely used in everyday conversation or on product labels. So for those asking what tilapia fish is in English, we simply refer to them as tilapia!

What Does Tilapia Taste Like?

Quality tilapia is often described as having a mild and neutral flavour, sometimes with a slight earthiness. It is considered even milder than cod and haddock, which have a slightly fishier and sweeter taste. 

Tilapia is not overpowering or fishy, making it a versatile option in the kitchen. Because of its mild taste, tilapia easily takes on the flavours of marinades, sauces, or seasonings used in various recipes.

The flesh of tilapia is white, and lean, but moist with a moderate flakiness. Compared to cod and haddock, it is more tender and so may ‘break’ a little more easily if overcooked. 

Is Tilapia a Nutritious Fish?

But taste isn’t the only reason to give tilapia a go. It’s a lean protein source, packed with essential nutrients like vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus. Plus, it’s generally lower in mercury than other fish, making it a safe and healthy choice for the whole family. 

Unlike salmon or sardines though, tilapia is not a good source of omega-3s, crucial for heart and brain health. But overall with its low fat content and vitamins and minerals, it is a great option for those watching fat and total calorie intake. Tilapia calories in a 100-gram serving is about 128 total, 104 from 26 grams of protein, and the rest from less than 3 grams of fat. 

Growing Global Popularity of Tilapia

Aside from China and the US being top consumers of tilapia, the European Union is growing to like this fish as well. The availability of supply from big exporters like China and the relatively more affordable price compared to other white fish have made it a viable alternative.

Why is tilapia so affordable and readily available compared to other fish?

There are a few reasons:

  1. Fast growing: Tilapia grow very quickly, reaching adulthood in only 6 months. This quick growth cycle means they can be raised and harvested faster, keeping costs down.
  1. Adaptable: Unlike some fish that need specific conditions to thrive, tilapia can live in a variety of environments, even crowded ones. This reduces space requirements for farms, making them more efficient and affordable.
  1. Simple diet: Unlike many other popular fish that need specific types of fish or shrimp for food, tilapia can eat a variety of things, including plants. This means their food is usually cheaper than the food needed for other fish.
  1. Large-scale production: Because of all the above reasons, tilapia farming can be done on a large scale. This means more tilapia are available, naturally driving down the price per fish compared to those with lower production volumes.

Tilapia Recipes: Cooking Up a Tilapia Feast

Tilapia is very easy to cook. And because it is widely available all over the world, you can find recipes from a variety of global cuisines. Whether you are up to cooking up a whole fish or fillets, have just the basic spices and ingredients or want to go on a more adventurous culinary journey, there must be something in the expansive tilapia cookbook for you. 

For a light and healthy option, why not try Lemon Pepper Tilapia. This classic recipe is a crowd-pleaser for its simplicity and flavour. Tilapia fillets are coated in a mixture of lemon juice, black pepper, and sometimes additional seasonings like garlic powder or paprika, then baked, pan-fried, or grilled. 

Crispy Baked Tilapia with Parmesan Crust is a kid-friendly and quick option. This recipe involves coating tilapia fillets in a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, and seasonings, then baking until golden brown and crispy.

Tilapia Curry offers a taste of the tropics, featuring tilapia simmered in a flavorful curry sauce with coconut milk, vegetables like peppers and onions, and warm spices like turmeric, garam masala, or curry powder.

Inspired by Cajun cuisine, Blackened Tilapia features a spice rub containing paprika, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The fish is then typically pan-fried or grilled, resulting in a crispy exterior and flavorful interior.

Tilapia fillets are convenient not only because they are cleaned and deboned, the smaller cuts fit more easily in pots, pans and your air fryer basket. Yes, you can use your air fryer for the tilapia recipes calling for baking and even grilling.

But of course cooking the whole fish imparts more moisture and flavour from the bones and skin. Tilapia do not have a lot of tiny bones, so serving a whole fish is not that difficult to manage. And just like with fillets, you can bake, grill, fry and steam whole tilapia too. 

Check out this Fried Fish with Lemongrass recipe that will let you showcase a beautiful, plump and tasty whole tilapia. The crispy and well-seasoned skin might just convince you to fry whole fish (or even just skin-on fillets) from now on.

If you are craving light, East Asian cuisine, why not whip up Steamed Whole Fish that combines that tender flesh with the flavours of soy, ginger, scallion and cilantro? (Yes, tilapia can be swapped in for other tender, mild tasting white fish). You can stuff it with herbs, spices and vegetables and throw it on the grill for a smoky and aromatic dish.

Where to Buy Tilapia?

Give this globally popular fish a try! You might discover a new favourite that’s delicious, versatile, affordable and a great addition to a healthy diet. With its mild flavour, ease of cooking, and nutritional benefits, tilapia is a fantastic addition to your seafood repertoire.

We deliver across the UK. Click here to order Tilapia fillets or Whole Tilapia.

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