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Last updated on May 13th, 2024 at 11:12 am

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How to Cook Lemon Butter Tilapia in the Oven [VIDEO]

Cooking lemon butter tilapia in the oven requires little preparation and results in the most delicious buttery and flavorful dinner. This quick dish, made with lemon, butter, garlic, and capers, is for the whole family to enjoy. Bonus points: this easy recipe is low in carbs and high in protein, with a good amount of fat, making it Keto friendly.

Over the past years, I have discovered the best way to cook tilapia, and that is with some lemon, butter, and capers. I enjoy cooking tilapia because it is a budget-friendly fish, and it is easy to prepare. Simply, drizzle with some butter sauce and some seasoning, then bake it, and have a hearty and delicious meal in less than 15 minutes.

If you have never tried tilapia before you really should. Especially making it at home tastes so much better. You can go with frozen tilapia, and simply thaw it before baking, or buy it fresh. Both versions work fine, but usually, the frozen version is cheaper.

Even people who insist that they don’t like fish typically love this one. Tilapia does not have any of the fishy aftertaste you can get from salmon and tuna, so it is almost like you are eating the most tender white meat in the world. The hardest part about this dish is not eating them all before serving your family. You could always double or triple the recipe!

This is one of my favorite fish recipes to make. Not only is it easy and quick to prepare, but it is a very flavorful and delicious dinner. Lemon butter tilapia is pretty hearty on its own, but when you add some butter and lemon to it, you end up with the best fish meal ever.

If you are looking for a lighter version, that does not require butter I highly recommend you try my Lemon Garlic Tilapia with olive oil. Tilapia goes with just about anything from baked potatoes and corn on the cob to wild rice risotto and grilled asparagus. I love serving it with some Crispy Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or Crispy Roasted Baked Potatoes.

Why you will love this recipe

  • It is very inexpensive: You can get tilapia for about five dollars for a bag of four fillets so that means you can serve the family for just over a dollar a person. You cannot beat that anywhere else, not even at the fast-food joints!
  • You can make it really quick: From start to finish, this dish is done in less than minutes. If you make the side dishes while they bake, you can have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes.
  • Use fresh or frozen: Sometimes you just cannot get fresh tilapia at the grocery store. With this recipe, you can use frozen, and it will taste just as good as fresh.
  • Absorbs flavors: No matter how you season it, tilapia is good at absorbing whatever you put on it. Butter and garlic, lemon and pepper, whatever you like.

What you’ll need to make lemon butter tilapia:

Special items:

  • Baking dish – A medium baking pan or dish will work fine.
  • Medium bowl – For mixing the seasonings.


  • Tilapia – You can usually get tilapia fresh at your local grocery store most of the year. However, if you cannot get fresh tilapia, frozen is always found in the freezer section. Just thaw it out and pat it dry before you start.
  • Butter – Melted unsalted butter gives your sauce a sweet and buttery taste to meld with the lemon and garlic. If you use salted butter, omit the salt from the recipe.
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic cloves, minced when you are ready to use them, is the only way to get that awesome bold garlic flavor without the bitter aftertaste. For even more flavor, crush the garlic instead of mincing it. The more cells you crush, the more intense the flavor is.
  • Ginger – Fresh ginger has a spicy and sweet flavor with a hot punch. This adds a wonderful balance to the other ingredients.
  • Red pepper flakes – Just a pinch of red pepper flakes will also add a touch of spiciness to your fish for a refreshing taste.
  • Capers – Whole capers are zingy, fresh, and salty with the slight flavor of lemon and floral notes. The taste is similar to a green olive with a tangier lemony flavor.
  • Lemon – I use the zest and juice from a medium-sized lemon. This will give your fish a wonderful kick of citrusy flavor and scent to accentuate the other flavors without overpowering them. Then, place thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish before baking.
  • Olive oil – You can use any oil you like or baking spray for the dish to keep the tilapia from sticking. You could also place parchment paper on the bottom of the dish.
  • Fresh parsley – This grassy herb has a mild flavor with peppery undertones. You can substitute it or leave it out if you like.
  • Salt – I prefer sea salt for its mild taste and its ability to enhance the rest of the seasonings.
  • Pepper – Grind your own fresh black pepper from peppercorns. It will provide a fresh peppery aroma and flavor.

How to make lemon butter tilapia in the oven:

  1. Prepare: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and drizzle oil in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Whisk the lemon garlic butter sauce: Next is the sauce. Add the melted butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, pepper flakes, parsley, salt, and pepper to a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  3. Clean and season fish: Now, rinse the fish and pat each fillet dry before adding salt and pepper. Place them in the baking dish, slightly overlapping.
  4. Drizzle and bake: After, drizzle the lemon garlic butter sauce on top of the fish and then add lemon slices and capers.
  5. Bake and serve: Lastly, bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork. Garnish and serve immediately.

Expert tip:

How to get the freshest tilapia

If you are buying fresh tilapia, knowing what you are looking for is important. The obvious signs are simple: Don’t buy anything that smells strange or astringent. But also, make sure the skin is shiny and moist. Dry, flaky skin means it has probably been sitting there for a while. You don’t want anything sitting out for a long time, even if it is on ice.

The flesh should feel firm but have a little bit of give when touched. It should bounce back when squeezed and you don’t want to see any black or white spots on it. If it has eyes, make sure they are bulging and clear. Cloudy sunken eyes are another sign of sitting out too long.

Fresh tilapia should smell mild and sweet without any ammonia scent. The scales should be tightly packed and shiny, and pressing on the fish should not leave any indentions. Wild-caught tilapia is freshest in the spring and fall, so those are the best times to get your fish fresh.

Get rid of the fishy odor

I will probably surprise you by saying this BUT try soaking tilapia in milk before cooking. Yes, you read that right, I said “MILK”. Now let me tell you why this is a great tip idea.

Soak the fish in milk for 20 minutes, the milk binds with the compounds that cause that fishy odor and basically gets rid of it. You are left with a sweet-smelling flesh with clean flavor.

Recipe Variations:

  • Spicier: This recipe is pretty versatile, make it spicier by mixing in some chili powder or Sriracha sauce.
  • Herbs: Also, you can add a variety of fresh herbs, I like rosemary, thyme, or oregano.
  • Mexican: Switch the lemon for lime, and add some cumin for a Mexican twist.
  • Orange: For a sweet and savory combo replace the lemon with oregano.
  • Southern style: Make your lemon butter tilapia southern style with some Cajun seasoning or fry it blackened in a cast iron skillet.
  • Add cheese: Grated parmesan cheese is perfect on top of this fish for a salty rich taste.
  • Sweeten it up: Sweet fish? Sure! Add some brown sugar to your seasoning for a subtle sweetening that everyone will love.

Serving suggestions:

Here are some interesting ways to serve your baked lemon butter tilapia.

  • This dish tastes great with a side of veggies sautéed in buttery garlic sauce.
  • Another way to enjoy it is on top of a bed of rice. Check out this easy and delicious recipe for stick of butter rice.
  • Serve it with a fresh avocado tomato salad for a light dinner.
  • Tilapia also goes great with potato salad and coleslaw at a barbecue or picnic.
  • Kids will love it with my creamy macaroni and cheese.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tilapia safe to eat?

Farm-raised tilapia is safe to eat if it is raised in a protected and regulated area and even wild-caught tilapia are approved by the FDA and EPA. It is one of the lowest in mercury, similar to cod, catfish, salmon, and sardines. The fish with the highest mercury levels include tuna, swordfish, shark, and mackerel.

Should I rinse tilapia before cooking?

To minimize the fishy odor, you may either rinse the tilapia fillets under cold running water or soak it in salted ice water for a few minutes.

How long to cook tilapia in the oven?

We love baking it at 400 degrees F. It is the right temperature to cook it, and results in flaky and tender fish. Depending on the dish size, it should be ready in about 12-15 minutes. You can also broil it for the last minute to get a crispier outside texture.

What temperature should tilapia be cooked to?

According to the USDA, the internal temperature of fish should be 145 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer. If you do not have a thermometer, the best way to check it is to see if it is opaque. It is done once you cannot see through it and the flesh can easily be flaked with a fork.

Should I bake fish covered or uncovered?

Some fish need to be covered, especially if it is thick. For example, a tuna steak would be better cooked with foil placed on top to prevent drying. Also, if you use breading, covering it for the first 10 minutes will keep it from getting too dark. You should not worry about that with this thin fish because it cooks quickly.

More delicious fish recipes:

How to store:

  • Refrigerate: Place the fist in an airtight container and store in the fridge for 2-3 days. It makes great leftovers that can be packed with some rice for lunch. Make sure to let the fish cool down before refrigerating. Keep in mind that the longer you store it, the tougher and dried it will get.
  • Freeze: I do NOT recommend freezing baked tilapia, it will get soggy when defrosted.
  • Reheat: It is preferred to consume it the day it was baked, however, leftovers can be easily reheated in the microwave. Keep in mind that the fish will be drier, add a tablespoon of water, and drizzle it with some butter or lemon juice before reheating. This way you will add some moisture and it will taste better.

Recipe tips:

  • If you have the time, let your fish marinate in the sauce for up to 30 minutes. It will absorb an incredible amount of flavor.
  • For those using frozen tilapia, make sure to thaw it all the way and pat it dry with paper towels to prevent it from getting soggy.
  • The best way to thaw frozen tilapia before cooking it is by putting it in the fridge overnight.
  • Check your fish after 10 minutes. If it flakes easily, remove it. Overcooked tilapia is hard and chewy.
  • It is best to use an instant-read thermometer for more accurate results. Your fish should be 145 degrees F when done.

How to Cook Lemon Butter Tilapia in the Oven

Cooking lemon butter tilapia in the oven requires little preparation and results in the most delicious buttery and flavorful dinner.

  • Prep Time10 MIN
  • Cook Time12 MIN
  • Servings 5 servings


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 4-5 (6oz each) tilapia fillets fresh or thawed
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  • Sliced lemon
  • Chopped fresh parsley


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Lightly drizzle with olive oil a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Add melted butter, lemon juice, zest, minced garlic, pepper flakes, dried parsley, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
  • Wash the fish fillets, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Arrange them on the bottom of the prepared baking dish slightly overlapping.
  • Drizzle with the lemon butter mixture, top with capers and lemon slices.
  • Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts

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Daniel Baley

Daniel Baley

Love this recipe use it often. I do however add Lawrys total seasoning. Serve with a side of rice so delicious.



This recipe looks absolutely delicious! I love adding lemon to any fish recipe and cooking it in the oven makes life so much easier!

Annemarie LeBlanc

Annemarie LeBlanc

This looks like a really delicious way to cook tilapia. I saved your recipe and will be preparing this for my family soon as I get the ingredients I need.

Ruth I

Ruth I

Yay for this recipe! I am on a low carb diet so I am excited to try this recipe. I am sure this is delicious!

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