Could this Creamy Tomato Sauce Tilapia recipe be any more perfect? Maybe… but I don’t think so! You’ll love these easy tilapia fillets, pan-seared and served up in a creamy, buttery tomato sauce.
Flaky Tilapia in Creamy Tomato Sauce
Most of us need to eat more seafood. It’s super healthy and nutritious! But often the prep seems a little overwhelming, and it’s just easier to brown some hamburger or grill some chicken.
This dish, though, is not only delicious and good for you— it’s extremely easy and foolproof! You’ll love the flavors of the gently seasoned fillets in creamy tomato sauce, chock-full of buttery chopped onion and Italian herbs.
What’s in this Tilapia Recipe?
For the Fish:
- Olive Oil: For sauteing.
- Tilapia Fillets: You’ll need 4 tilapia fillets, each weighing about 6 ounces.
- Chili Powder, Paprika, and Cumin: For seasoning the fillets.
- Salt and Pepper
For the Sauce:
- Butter: For sauteing.
- Onion: Dice the onion. I use a yellow onion, but any type of onion will be fine!
- Fresh Garlic: I use about 3 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press.
- Heavy Cream: You can substitute full-fat coconut cream here, but the sauce will not taste quite the same or have the same texture.
- Broth: You’ll need ½ a cup of broth. I use low-sodium chicken broth, but homemade broth and/or veggie broth will also work.
- Tomato Sauce: Plain tomato sauce is great in this dish, but if you need to substitute pasta sauce, that is fine. Don’t substitute tomato paste, which is highly concentrated and has a different flavor.
- Dried Italian Seasoning: You’ll need 1 teaspoon of your favorite dried Italian seasoning blend.
- Chopped Fresh Parsley: For garnish.
How to Make Tilapia with Creamy Tomato Sauce
This tilapia recipe is super easy to make and it comes together pretty quick!
How to Cook Tilapia
- Season the Fillets. Combine the chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small dish. Season tilapia fillets with the prepared spice rub.
- Cook the Fillets. Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add tilapia to the hot oil and cook for 3 minutes per side; remove from skillet and keep covered. If you have a fish spatula, use that to flip over the fillets.
How to Make the Sauce
- Saute the Onion and Garlic. Set skillet back over medium heat and melt the butter. To the butter, add the diced onion cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Stir in garlic and cook for 20 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Whisk in Remaining Ingredients. Add in heavy cream, chicken broth, and tomato sauce; mixing until smooth. Season with Italian seasoning and bring mixture to a slow boil.
- Simmer. Lower heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook for 8 minutes. Whisk occasionally. Taste sauce for salt and pepper; adjust accordingly.
- Return Fish to Pan. Return fish to the skillet and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, or until heated through. Remove from heat. Garnish with parsley.
Tips for Success
- How Do I Know It’s Done? Unfortunately, a very easy way to ruin any fish fillet dish is to overcook or undercook the fillets. To avoid that, watch the timing carefully. You’ll know the fillets are done when a) they’re no longer translucent and raw looking, plus b) they flake apart easily when you poke a fork into the thickest part of the fillet and gently twist. The internal temperature might be difficult to take, since the fillets are usually not more than an inch thick, but fish is done at 145°F.
- How Do I Know If It’s Overdone? Fish fillets are overdone if they begin to look dry, overly firm, or look like cooked egg white. If you accidentally overcook this tilapia recipe, remove them from the heat as quickly as possible and serve with plenty of sauce to help cover the dry texture.
- Let It Be: For some reason, we are always so tempted to “adjust” food that we’re trying to sear. Have you noticed that? We try to move it around, wiggle the ingredients to see if they’re sticking, and turn things over again and again. But, even more than chicken and steak, fish fillets should be left alone while they sear. Trying to move or adjust the fillets in the hot pan (other than carefully turning them when one side is done) is a recipe for scorched fillets, broken fillets, or fillets that fall apart and stick to the pan!
What Goes With This Tilapia Recipe?
- Pasta: A lovely creamy tomato sauce like this one is absolutely terrific over your favorite pasta! I love using a nice linguine, cooked up with just a splash of olive oil or butter to keep the pasta from sticking. You can also use egg noodles, macaroni elbows, or orzo!
- Rolls: I think an easy batch of No-Knead Dinner Rolls goes with just about, well, anything. But they’re especially delicious with this dish! It’s so satisfying to break apart a warm roll and use it to soak up the buttery tomato sauce.
- Brussels Sprouts: Did you know that tomato dishes go really well with Brussels sprouts? Yep, these teeny tiny “cabbages” make a perfect contrast in both taste and texture with tomato-y dishes like Creamy Tomato Sauce Tilapia. Try Slow Cooker Parmesan Brussels Sprouts for a simple and flavorful way to cook these little guys!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
- To refrigerate, place leftovers in their sauce in shallow food-storage containers, or food-storage bags. Seal well and place in the refrigerator. Storing on the shelf closest to the freezer is recommended, since it should be the coldest part of the refrigerator. The fillets will keep for up to 3 days.
- To reheat, place fillets and sauce in a covered skillet over medium heat, and cook until just heated through. Do not overcook.
CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE TILAPIA
For the Tilapia:
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small dish.
- Season tilapia fillets with the prepared spice rub.
- Add tilapia to the hot oil and cook for 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through; remove from skillet and keep covered. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets.
- Set skillet back over medium heat and melt the butter.
- To the butter, add the diced onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened.
- Stir in garlic and cook for 20 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Whisk in heavy cream, chicken broth, and tomato sauce; whisk until smooth.
- Season with Italian seasoning and bring mixture to a slow boil.
- Lower heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook for 8 minutes. Whisk occasionally.
- Taste sauce for salt and pepper; adjust accordingly.
- Return fish to the skillet and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, or until heated through.
- Remove from heat.
- Garnish with parsley.