seared tilapia with chili-lime butter

dscn4819I love fish, and tilapia is one of my favorite types to prepare for a fast and easy weeknight dinner.  The filets are fairly thin, so they cook in five minutes or less – very important when I’m hungry!  I don’t like “fishy” fish (does anyone?), but tilapia is very mild.  The butter in this recipe is super easy to prepare, but even so, I usually make a double batch and keep what’s leftover in the freezer to save me from having to make it twice (slice it first to make it easier later).  I love to come home, set the butter on the counter to thaw, and know that all I have to do is give the tilapia a quick sear and dinner will be on the table.  I usually just make a quick rice dish and mix in some frozen veggies to round out the meal, unless I have a bit more time.  I made this a few nights ago and served it with potatoes anna and mushrooms au gratin…yum!

seared tilapia with chili-lime butter

for the chili-lime butter…

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 T. finely chopped shallot
  • 1 t. lime zest
  • 2 t. fresh lime juice
  • 1 t. minced fresh serrano chili, including the seeds
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

for the fish…

  • 6 5oz. tilapia filets (or less and save some of the butter for next time!)
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 2 T. vegetable oil

To make the butter, mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.


Notice how the lime zest is sitting on the microplane grater?  If you zest “upside down” – forcing the zest to sit on top instead of falling immediately into the bowl, it’s much easier to eyeball how much you’ve grated.


Place the butter mixture on a sheet of waxed paper, and shape into a small log.  Pop it in the refrigerator until it’s firm enough to slice (or the freezer if you’re short on time, just don’t leave it in too long).


All that’s left is to cook the fish!  Pat the filets dry and sprinkle with salt.


Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat just until it’s smokin’ hot (literally).  Add two or three filets to your pan, just be sure they have plenty of room. 


Don’t touch them for a couple of minutes or so, then flip.  They shouldn’t take more than about five minutes total – make sure not to overcook (don’t you hate it when recipes say that?  oooh…if only they’d told me not to overcook it, then I definitely wouldn’t have!  lol!)


Top each piece of fish with a slice of butter…


  …and enjoy!



  1. says

    So glad you guys like the recipe! I had two pieces of fish left so I made this again for dinner last night. I so love the nights where I have something easy to make, especially when I've had a long day (like yesterday). Michelle, I should have called you to pop over! ;-)

  2. Steve says

    I love your site!

    While I heartily disagree with you about 'fleshy' fish – it's great! – I do agree with your cooking methods. For good, fresh fish, simple seasoning with salt, maybe pepper, maybe an herb or two, and lemon juice or other acid, plus a simple cooking method like grilling or searing is the best way to go. As soon as you start doing anything more complicated, you start diminishing the natural taste and texture of the fish.



  3. says

    Hi! I'm a french and happy to discover your web blog!… I have one too : french creative cooking. Very interesting to change our recipes!!! If you want, i can translate some for your blog and i will do the same.

    good life for your blog!


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