How to Cook Frozen Tilapia—Plus 5 Easy Recipes to Try

Frozen tilapia on wooden tray

While cooking with fresh fish is often the most popular choice, it isn’t always the most convenient option—especially if you’re big on meal planning. The good news is that fresh-caught fish is not essential to an amazing meal. Stocking up on frozen fish can be a practical way to make life a little easier, and fortunately, it’s just as straightforward to prepare, too.

When you’re used to preparing fresh fish, swapping for the frozen alternative can raise a few questions: how long do you thaw fish for? Can you cook fish straight from the freezer? How do you ensure the fish quality doesn’t get lost in the process? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Tips for Cooking Frozen Fish

If you’re thawing fish, it’s important not to rush the process. It’s best to allow frozen fish to thaw in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours prior to cooking to maintain quality and for food safety reasons. If you’re in a pinch, you can thaw fish in cold water by placing it in a plastic bag and submerging it for up to 60 minutes. Remember that fish should never be thawed at room temperature or with hot water to ensure harmful bacteria don’t have the chance to grow.

When cooking fish from frozen, remove any packaging, rinse under cold water to remove ice and pat dry. Be sure to increase cooking time by up to 40% if you are cooking frozen. Steaming and poaching are a couple great ways to cook your frozen fish safely.

Whether a dish calls for loins, fillets, precuts or whole fish, Tilapia is a great option when meal planning. Here are some delicious recipes and tips for cooking with frozen Tilapia.

1. Spicy Tilapia Ramen

Tilapia chipotle ramen soup

If you’re craving a warm bowl of Ramen with a unique twist, this Japanese-Mexican fusion is an exciting addition to your dinner repertoire. Tilapia is the ideal fish option: its mild taste and moist texture soaks up the bold flavors of the soup. Because this recipe calls for thicker loins rather than a leaner fillet, it’s best to thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours in advance. When thawing fish in the fridge, the general rule of thumb is to thaw for 6–8 hours per pound.

Try the recipe: Tilapia Chipotle Ramen Soup from The Healthy Fish

2. Slow Cooker Tilapia

Fish stew with vegetables

Slow cookers are popular appliances for saving time and energy in the kitchen. This low-carb slow cooker meal is healthy, easy to prepare and makes for flavorful Tilapia. It’s important to note that due to the low cooking temperature, any type of fish should not be cooked from frozen in a slow cooker—make sure to thaw your Tilapia in the fridge before cooking for safe and delicious results.

Try the recipe: Slow Cooker Fish and Tomatoes from Fit Slow Cooker Queen

3. Butter Poached Lemon Garlic Tilapia

Poached fish with lemon and asparagus

This recipe is the perfect option if you’re looking to wow your dinner guests with restaurant-quality Tilapia. The secret is to poach the fish in a delectable butter garlic sauce. The recipe calls for thawing the frozen fish in the fridge in advance; however, if you’re tight on time you can poach the frozen fillets in uncovered water for about 3-5 minutes prior to poaching in the butter garlic sauce.

Try the recipe: Butter Poached Lemon Garlic Tilapia from The Kitchen Magpie

4. Cantonese Steamed Tilapia

Steamed fish in broth with herbs

With a mix of fresh ingredients like ginger, scallions and cilantro, this aromatic recipe will have your kitchen smelling amazing. Tilapia holds up well when steaming due to its lean and flat characteristics. If you have pre-thawed your fish in the fridge, you can stick to the steaming directions in the recipe, but if you choose to cook frozen fish, don’t forget to add cooking time during the steaming process.

Try the recipe: Cantonese Steamed Fish from The Woks of Life

5. Tilapia Pesto Pasta

Green Goddess pasta with Tilapia

With a handful of nutrient-dense greens like basil, parsley and broccoli, this dish is equal parts healthy and filling. Try this delicious pesto pasta recipe for your next Italian night. The instructions call for baking the Tilapia fillets in the oven before coating with pesto, but you can change things up by steaming or poaching if cooking the fish from frozen.

Try the recipe: Green Goddess Pasta with Tilapia from The Healthy Fish

We hope that you’re feeling more confident when it comes to thawing and cooking with frozen fish. If you’re keen to try more Tilapia recipes at home, check out these hearty crockpot recipes to find the perfect meal for cold winter nights.


Photo Credits: Ilia Nesolenyi / Shutterstock, Regal Springs, BBA Photography / Shutterstock, Foodio / Shutterstock, Ketut Mahendri / Shutterstock, Haley Davis for The Healthy Fish