Freshwater Cichlid

Freshwater Cichlid

Tilapia may not be the best option for fish when it comes to getting your omegas, but it is a fairly cheap option with a mild flavor that’s easy to cook.  Tilapia is a freshwater fish from the cichlid family originally found in the Nile River.  It is also the oldest recorded fish to be farmed with records dating from around 2,500 years ago.  There are even some who believe tilapia is the fish Jesus used to feed the masses at the Sea of Galilee.  Today, it is one of the most farmed fish in the world with over one billion pounds of tilapia farmed each year.

Tilapia packs a whopping 26 grams of protein into 3.5 ounces which is about 40% of the recommended daily intake (RDI).  It also only has 128 calories so it’s a lean source of protein for those watching their calories. In the meantime, it also includes 24% RDI of Niacin. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is an important nutrient your body needs to function properly.   It helps convert food into energy by aiding enzymes and plays a role in repairing DNA. Vitamin B12 is vital to your body but is something it can’t produce on its own.  Tilapia has 31% RDI of this vitamin.  Vitamin B12 is known to play a vital role in red blood cell formation.  Without well-functioning red blood cells, your blood can’t carry the oxygen needed to your organs.  Phosphorus works along with calcium for bone health.  Phosphorus also plays an important structural role in nucleic acids and cell membranes. And it’s involved in the body’s energy production.  Tilapia has 20% RDI Phosphorus.  Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants are known to help prevent radical free agents in the body.  Tilapia has a whopping 78% of the RDI for selenium.  

I would be remiss to not mention however, some people believe tilapia should not be consumed at all.  Tilapia has more Omega 6 than Omega 3 fatty acids.  There is some evidence this causes inflammation in some groups of people.  Also, tilapia farmed from China is often fed livestock feces.  This leads to salmonella and other bacteria contamination harmful to humans.  Fish from China have also been known to have harmful additives and cancer causing chemicals.  These issues can easily be avoided as long as you know where your fish comes from though.  

The best sources for farmed tilapia come from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Ecuador or Peru.  Wild caught would of course be better than farmed, but wild tilapia are hard to find.  Be wary of something that says wild caught and tilapia on the same packaging.  All that being said, I like tilapia and eat it on a regular basis. Make your grocery list and meet me in the kitchen to cook with this mid-sized cichlid!  FYI, my husband had a large Oscar cichlid he loved!  Hard to believe it’s in the same family.  

Fish Tacos

4 tilapia fillets

1 Tbsp. unsalted, real butter

Seasoning to taste, I used homemade taco seasoning

Kiwi salsa (recipe in last week’s column)

2 cups red cabbage, shredded

¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

2 tsps. apple cider vinegar

8 taco size flour tortillas

Other toppings as desired

Combine cabbage and cilantro. Add apple cider vinegar and toss to coat well and set aside.  Prepare kiwi salsa from last week’s column and set aside.  Melt butter in large skillet.  Season both sides of fillets to taste.  Cook over medium heat about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until fish is completely white and flakes easily with a fork.  Place fish on plate and wipe out skillet if desired.  I didn’t, it just adds more flavor to the tortillas.  Over low heat in same skillet, heat tortillas 2-3 minutes on each side to warm.  Cut each fillet so it fits better in the tortilla.  I cut each one in half and it fit perfectly.  Place fillet in warmed tortilla.  Top with a teaspoon or two of salsa, to taste.  Top with cabbage and any other toppings as desired.  Serve warm.


Panko Crusted Tilapia 

4-6 tilapia fillets

Salt and pepper, (to taste)

1 cup panko breadcrumbs (unseasoned)

2 Tbsps. finely chopped parsley

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs 

3 tsps. Cajun seasoning

2 Tbsps. mayonnaise, I use avocado mayo

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat fish dry with paper towel.  Sprinkle both sides of fish fillets with salt and black pepper. In wide bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs and parsley.  Place flour in another wide, shallow bowl.  In third bowl, whisk eggs with Cajun seasoning and mayonnaise.  Dip fillets in plain flour, coating each piece thoroughly. Dip flour-coated fillets in egg mixture and then coat them with panko crumb mixture, pressing lightly to help crumbs completely adhere to fish. Repeat with remaining fish. Arrange crumb-coated fish on prepared baking sheet. Bake 16 to 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with fork and bread crumbs have browned. The time in oven depends on thickness, so adjust for very thin or very thick fish fillets. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce if desired.


Tilapia with Sour Cream Sauce

6-8 fillets tilapia

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup sour cream

cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsps. red onion, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Ranch dressing mix

2 tsps. dried parsley

1 Tbsp. lemon juice​

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease 9x13” baking dish or baking dish large enough to hold tilapia in single layer. Arrange tilapia fillets in baking dish and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  In bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, onion, Ranch mix, parsley and lemon juice.  Spread mixture evenly over fish fillets.  Bake 15-18 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with fork.

Recipe adapted from


Garlic Lemon Tilapia

4 tilapia

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

5 tbsp. butter, melted

2 tsps. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray 9x13” baking dish with cooking spray.  Season tilapia with salt and pepper on both sides and place on small baking sheet. Season top with garlic powder and red pepper flakes to taste.  Mix together butter and lemon juice then lightly pour over tilapia. Try not to displace seasoning.  Bake tilapia for 10 to 12 minutes or until fish is fork-tender.