This mouthwatering lemon butter baked tilapia is infused with butter, lemon, and paprika flavors. It’s a divinely tasty fish that takes a scant 15 minutes to make.

Baked Tilapia on a sheet pan.

Do you have a whole tilapia instead of a fillet? Try our whole grilled tilapia. It’s a fun dinner that the whole family is sure to love and enjoy.

What is Lemon Butter Baked Tilapia?

Lemon butter baked tilapia is a meat entree that consists of tilapia fish, perfectly seasoned with salt and smoked paprika. The fish is infused with flavor from slices of lemon and pieces of butter while cooking, making the fish moist and rich.

Tilapia is a species of freshwater fish that is originally native to the Middle East and Africa, but is now raised in fisheries worldwide. It is also widely known for its numerous health benefits — including being low in fiber, carbohydrates, and cholesterol, but high in protein. It is a highly popular fish due to its easy preparation, mild taste, and low price — making it perfect for lemon butter baked tilapia.

Here’s a brief overview of what to expect when making this dish.

  • Taste: The combination of dry rub made of salt and paprika, fresh lemon, and butter gives the fish a citrusy, moist, and savory flavor.
  • Texture: Lemon butter baked tilapia is flaky, while the infusion of butter gives it a tender melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Time: This recipe takes about fifteen minutes to prep and bake. It’s perfect for a quick dinner!

Make Baked Tilapia in 4 Easy Steps

Lemon butter tilapia takes only fifteen minutes to make, so there’s no surprise there are only four steps to the entire recipe.

  • Prepare the tilapia:Place tilapia fillets on a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Season the tilapia: Season the fish with dry seasonings on both sides.
  • Place the toppings: Top the tilapia with a slice or two of lemon and butter pieces.
  • Broil: Broil the fish until cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Serve and enjoy!

Using frozen tilapia? To quickly thaw frozen tilapia fillets, submerge the fillets in cold water for 30 minutes. When thawed, pat the fillets dry with a paper towel to help the seasoning stick better.

Tips for a Perfectly Baked Tilapia

The key to a restaurant-worthy fish is to make it moist and flavorful. Follow these tips to ensure your tilapia is absolutely perfect.

  • Grease the baking dish: To make the fish easier to remove from the pan, spray the baking dish with a little bit of oil prior to baking. (See our guide on oils and how to best use each type).
  • Substitute butter with oil: Unsalted butter is important to keep the tilapia moist as it bakes. For a healthier alternative, olive oil or avocado oil work well, too.
  • Use tilapia fillets: Tilapia fillets are the best cuts to use for this recipe. Fillets can be bought either fresh or frozen, and either work beautifully. For the best texture and flavor, thaw the frozen fillets and dry them with a paper towel prior to baking.
  • Avoid overcooking the tilapia: For the most tender and moist fish, remove tilapia from the oven as soon as it is ready. Tilapia is fully cooked when it is white in color, flakes easily with a fork, and temperature reads 145°F when a thermometer is placed in the thickest part of the fish. Overcooked tilapia can become dry and chewy.
  • Add more flavor: For additional flavor, add diced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or ground black pepper to the dry rub seasoning. Great herbs to add would be thyme, parsley, oregano, or dill. Alternatively, you can use a flavored butter such as garlic herb butter instead of plain butter.
  • Bake tilapia uncovered: Tilapia does not need to be covered while baking in the oven. Because it is a thin fillet, it cooks quickly. Leaving it uncovered also allows it to develop more color and crisp on top while baking.
  • Broil for more crisp: If you want a more crispy fish, broil on low for only a minute or two. Watch carefully to avoid burning or over-cooking.
  • Top with cheese: For a little more flare, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top of the fillets just before removing from the oven.
Baked tilapia on a sheet pan with lemon and herbs.

Preparing Lemon Butter Tilapia Ahead-of-Time

For best results, it is best to avoid baking the lemon butter tilapia until ready to serve. However, you can save time and prepare the fish ahead of time. Season and assemble the tilapia fillets with the butter and lemon topping, then refrigerate for up to a day. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before baking.

How to Serve Baked Tilapia

Serve lemon butter baked tilapia with a side of carbs like basmati rice or parmesan risotto. For even more balance, add an array of your favorite fresh or cooked vegetables, such as the perfect veggie side dish or sauteed mushrooms. Alternatively, serve it with a fresh tomato mozzarella lettuce salad.

Storing and Reheating Lemon Butter Tilapia

This baked tilapia has the best flavor and texture when enjoyed right away. However, in case of leftovers, here are our top recommendations for storing and reheating to ensure the quality and taste remain great.

  • Refrigerating: To keep for two to three days, store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Freezing: To keep for up to two months, store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheating: For best flavor, reheat in a baking dish at 400°F until warm. Alternatively, reheat on the stovetop with a teaspoon of olive oil on a hot nonstick pan. For a quick reheat, place in the microwave and heat in 30 second increments until warm. If you’re worried about fish drying out, add a splash of water or broth when reheating.

Leftover hot tip: Flake any leftover tilapia and place it into tortillas to make fish tacos. Add your favorite ingredients like cilantro, corn, avocado, pickled jalapeños, and pico de gallo.


Is it safe to eat tilapia daily?

Tilapia is considered one of the safest fish to eat due to low levels of mercury compared to other fish. Most sources agree that low-mercury fish like tilapia are safe to eat 2-3 times a week.

What are the different ways to make tilapia?

Tilapia can be made in a variety of different ways including oven-baked, grilled, and pan-seared. It’s very versatile and can also be served in a multitude of dishes.

Why is my tilapia dry and chewy?

Tilapia, like many seafood, can turn out dry and chewy if overcooked. Tilapia is fully cooked when it is white in color, flakes easily with a fork, and internal temperature reads 145°F.

Should I flip tilapia when baking or sautéing?

Tilapia is a thin fish and cooks quickly in the oven, so there is no need to flip it when baking. When sautéing, flip the fish once to ensure both sides of the fish cook and and a crispy outer layer develops.

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Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya founded Momsdish to demonstrate that placing a homemade meal on the table is not hard at all. Natalya makes cooking easier and approachable, by simplifying the ingredients, while still producing the same great taste.