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Our simple Pan Fried Tilapia cooks up in just minutes. Serve with a delicious lemon thyme butter sauce.

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

If your local supermarket is like ours these days – there’s lots of seafood available to purchase. Look for tilapia in the fresh or frozen section of your market – then add this delicious Pan Fried Tilapia with a luscious lemon thyme butter sauce to your menu!


Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

What is Tilapia?

Tilapia is a very mild-flavored fresh water fish that is affordable and easy to find at most supermarkets. Tilapia freezes nicely – so you can buy fresh or previously-frozen fillets – and it retains a nice texture and flavor even after thawing.

If you remember your Sunday School lessons…tilapia is what Jesus fed the masses! It’s a very versatile fish – and it can be cooked up in just minutes with today’s pan fried tilapia recipe. Or, you can add it to tacos, fish stew or fish chowder.

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

How do you make Pan Fried Tilapia?

Start by patting your tilapia filets with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Lay the filets out in a single layer on a platter.

Next, combine flour, garlic and onion powders, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Then use a fine mesh strainer to sift and sprinkle the seasoned flour evenly over the fish, flipping to coat both sides.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat – then fry up the tilapia, turning halfway through to brown both sides. Because the tilapia filets are so thin – you’ll be cooking each side for only about 2 ½ minutes on each side. Remove the fish to a platter for serving.


Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

How do you serve Pan-Fried Tilapia?

We made a delicious Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce to serve with our Pan Fried Tilapia – and it’s the perfect complement to the mild fish flavor.

This sauce is very similar to a beurre blanc – a classic French sauce made with butter and cream, white wine, and shallots – although we added lemon for acidity and flavor instead of vinegar, and we also added thyme for additional flavor. (Our cooking technique isn’t quite the same as a traditional beurre blanc either, but the end result is quite similar.)

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

You may enjoy these other seafood recipes:

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Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

Pan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: entree
  • Method: fried
  • Cuisine: American/French



12 tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup shallots, minced

¼ cup white wine

Zest of one lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme


1 pound tilapia filets

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil



Begin by making the sauce. It can be served room temperature.*

In a medium saute pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium low heat and once melted, add the shallots and cook until soft, about four minutes.

Add wine and cook to evaporate.

Add zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme and cook for two minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving about a tablespoon of liquid with the solids.

Turn the heat to low and start stirring in four tablespoons of butter letting them melt into the sauce. Add four more tablespoons of butter stirring in to melt and mix in.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the last two tablespoons of butter. The sauce will be creamy and slightly thick.

Pour this sauce through a strainer and discard solids then set aside. *


Pat fish dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, mix flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour into a small sifter and sift over both sides of the fish.

Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.

Once the oil is hot, add all of the fish filets and cook for about five minutes, turning half way through.

Remove to a platter and drizzle some sauce over the fish and serve the rest on the side.


*This sauce does not reheat well (unfortunately). To reheat, bring sauce to room temperature and gently add low heat whisking as you go. If you add too much heat too quickly, it will separate.

Keywords: pan fried halibut


Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Thyme Butter Sauce

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  • Meet The Author: Martha

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  • Kristen wrote:

    My all time favorite tilapia recipe! So yummy and super easy! You can’t get much better than that!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Kristen!

  • Barbara wrote:

    I made this last night. My husband and I both enjoyed it. It was very good. I served it with pasta and asparagus.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Barbara!

  • Gretchen wrote:

    My mouth is watering while scrolling through your pictures! This looks so amazing. I’m having a frozen seafood order delivered sometime today, and I’ve been looking for recipes to try (while there’s really nothing else to do!). This is definitely on my list!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hope you enjoy the recipe Gretchen!

  • Linda R wrote:

    Hello Martha,
    So happy to see the Tilapia recipe this morning. We are cooking from the freezer and panty,plus items our children pick up for us at the grocery. As we are in our late seventies and isolating at home, they leave all they get on the doorstep. Such a sad and trying time for the world.
    Stay safe and keeping brightening my day with your posts.

    to end

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Linda – So glad your children are able to help out…it is definitely a scary and uncertain time! Thank you (as always) for your very kind comments – we appreciate them!

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