How to Bake Whole Tilapia in the Oven
Tilapia is a staple in our house. We cook it once a week. We’ve grown up in a country with a rich tilapia-eating culture. Tilapia fish are harvested in Lake Victoria and sold in the local markets at affordable prices.
Even when there is a shortage of lake tilapia, some farmers harvest the fish variety from their ponds and sell it locally. Imported tilapia are also sold in big cities.
But there is only one way that tops my countrymen’s way of eating tilapia—deep frying.
Deep-fried tilapia is delicious and crunchy. It’s as tasty as every other piece of deep-fried meat. Deep-frying tilapia is also probably the easiest way to cook it.
But there is a cost to deep-frying. The fish losses most of its nutritious benefits because it absorbs a lot of the oil used for frying.
I remember having this debate with my husband and we got the determination to find a healthier way to cook tilapia. We were looking at both the price of cooking oil and the essence of cooking something nutritious in a way that denies our bodies most if not all the nutritional benefits.
And that’s how we settled on baking it in the oven as our main cooking method. At first, we had our doubts. But the outcome exceeded our expectations. Baked tilapia has a rich and satisfying flavor that your taste buds will find irresistible.
How to Bake Whole Tilapia in the Oven
You are here because you want to learn how to bake whole tilapia in the oven. You also want to be sure that the cooking method will deliver tilapia’s deliciousness in every bite.
I’ve got you.
Most recipes recommend baking tilapia at 400 degrees Fahrenheit which is equivalent to 204 degrees Celsius. After several attempts, I settled on 428 degrees Fahrenheit or 220 degrees Celsius. I bake medium-sized tilapia. They range between 450 and 600 grams.
I believe 400 degrees Fahrenheit would work great for smaller tilapia. Fish equivalent to 400 grams and below.
But you can still bake any size of whole tilapia at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You only need to adjust the cooking time depending on the size of your fish. 25 to 30 minutes work great for larger sizes of tilapia at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stick to 20 minutes of baking time for smaller sizes.
I bake the fish for 10 minutes on each side. A total of 20 minutes on both sides. To get the crispy exterior that makes baked tilapia as flavorful as deep-fried tilapia, I grill each side for 5 minutes. You can grill each side for up to 7 minutes to make it even more crispy.
Sometimes I enrich the flavor of the fish with spices. Sometimes I don’t.
In this recipe, I’m sharing the most basic way to prepare baked tilapia. I am not using any spices.
Oven-Baked Whole Tilapia Recipe
- 1 Pastry brush
- Paper towel
- 1 Kitchen tray
- Tongs or spatula
- 1 whole tilapia fish
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- Salt to taste
- Spices and herbs (optional)
- Lemon (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Clean the fish thoroughly and use a paper towel to pat dry.
- Make incisions across the body of the fish. Make two or three on each side depending on the size of the fish.
- Season the fish with salt. Add salt to the incisions and the main cutting of the fish. The taste of salt will spread to the entire fish as it cooks.
- Use a pastry brush to apply a layer of oil to the fish. Apply oil on every part of the fish to prevent it from sticking to the oven grill.
- Place the fish in the oven and let it bake on one side for 10 minutes.
- Use a pair of tongs or spatula to turn it and let the other side bake for 10 minutes.
- Select the oven’s grill mode and let the fish grill on one side for 5 minutes.
- Turn and let the other side grill for 5 minutes. Grilling makes the skin crispy giving baked tilapia a touch of deep-fried options.
- Remove the fish from the oven and serve with an accompaniment of your choice.