Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia

Our family is full of serious seafood lovers so I find myself whipping up seafood recipes on the regular. This one for lemon garlic butter baked tilapia is one that no one can get enough of! 

angled shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia on plate


Tilapia is a delicate and incredibly mild fish which means that without the right seasonings or sauces, it can easily be super boring. But this baked tilapia recipe is anything but dull! 

Instead, I’ve incorporated bold flavor by smothering the fish in a buttery, lemon-laced sauce studded with garlic, lemon zest, and smoky paprika before baking it. The result? The most moist and flavorful filet you’ll ever make — and a whole lot of happy eaters at the dinner table!

What Makes This Tilapia Crave-Worthy

Trust me — once you try this tilapia, you’ll be putting this recipe on repeat.

  • Bold seasoning. I jazz up this mellow fish with the bold smokiness of smoked paprika and the brightness of tomatoes that are baked right in the same dish. 
  • Low in carbs. If you’re looking to limit carbs — or you’re hosting guests who are — this can be your go-to dish. It’s full of flavor but totally keto and low-carb friendly.
  • Super easy. There are only a few steps to make the dish and it has a brief cooking time, making it perfect for weeknights or when you’re hosting guests. 
  • Incredibly moist. Thanks to the way that it is cooked with the sauce, this tilapia dish turns out as tender and moist as if you’d poached it. 
overhead shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia in baking dish

Ingredients for Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia

This simple list of ingredients comes together to make a show-stopping dinner that no one will ever guess is as easy as it is! 

  • Tilapia Filets – This mild fish is the star of the show. You can find it in the seafood section of your grocery store. If it’s frozen, allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before preparing it.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – The acidity from the tomatoes balances the dish but they also become slightly sweet when cooked. 
  • Coarse Kosher Salt – Salt helps to bring out the flavors of tomatoes and the seasonings.
  • Ground Black Pepper – Pepper adds a bit of gentle heat to the dish, balancing out the other flavors.
  • Unsalted Butter – Butter is the base of the sauce and helps to keep the tilapia moist while it’s baking. 
  • Garlic – You can either mince or grate the garlic, but be sure you have uniform pieces so it’s evenly distributed in the sauce. 
  • Fresh Lemons – You’ll use both the juice and zest from lemons to create a concentrated citrus flavor. 
  • Smoked Paprika – The smokiness of the paprika helps to build a more complex flavor profile in the sauce. 
  • Fresh Parsley – This optional garnish gives the dish a pop of color and a touch of herbaceous flavor. 
overhead shot of baked tilapia in baking dish

How to Make Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia

One of the best parts of this recipe is how quickly you can make it.

  1. Add fish and tomatoes to baking dish. Put the fish filets into a prepared baking dish. Place the tomatoes in the dish with the tilapia. Sprinkle the fish and the tomatoes with salt and pepper. 
  2. Make butter mixture. Place the butter into a small bowl and microwave in intervals until melted. Add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and smoked paprika to the melted butter.
  3. Pour butter over fish. After stirring until all ingredients are combined, pour the butter mixture evenly over the fish and tomatoes. 
  4. Top with lemon slices. Slice the remaining half of a lemon and top the filets with the lemon slices. 
  5. Bake. Place the fish in the preheated oven and bake it for the recommended time.
  6. Serve over spaghetti squash, rice, cauliflower rice, or a pasta like buttered noodles

How Long to Bake Tilapia

Generally, tilapia takes about 15 minutes to bake in an oven set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooking time could be slightly longer or shorter depending on the size of the fillets. 

You’ll know that tilapia is ready to come out of the oven when it has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the fish. Also, tilapia that is fully cooked will flake easily with a fork. 

close up shot of baked tilapia in baking dish

What’s Good to Eat with Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia?

One of the reasons I love serving tilapia is that its mild flavor means that it mingles well with all sorts of different side dishes. For veggies, try serving it with peas and onions, pan fried broccolini, or marinated green beans.

For starchy sides, it pairs beautifully with lemon couscous, creamy risotto, and Hasselback potatoes. On chilly evenings, I also like to serve it with soup — try pairing it with a bowl of cauliflower soup, creamy potato leek soup, or minestrone.   


Tilapia is the perfect blank canvas for creativity in the kitchen. You can mix and match your own favorite ingredients to create any flavor profile you like. 

  • Citrus – Instead of lemon juice and zest, try using limes, oranges, or even grapefruit. 
  • Heat – Add a spicy kick to the fish by incorporating cayenne pepper powder or red pepper flakes. 
  • Garnish – Swap out the parsley and use fresh herbs like cilantro or basil instead.
  • Seasoning – Give the sauce a bit of Italian flair by using Italian seasoning or make a Mexican-inspired version with taco seasoning blend
  • Sauces – Try baking the fish with a different sauce. Bloves sauce, honey garlic sauce, or homemade eel sauce are all good options.
overhead shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia on plate

Common Questions About Lemon Garlic Butter Tilapia

Should I rinse tilapia before cooking?

No, you should not rinse tilapia, or any fish or other seafood before cooking. This can cause food safety issues that could result in contamination and sickness.

How do you keep tilapia from drying out?

Tilapia can become dry if it is cooked for too long, so be sure to keep an eye on the cooking time and its internal temperature. Also, cooking it in a rich sauce will help to keep the fish moist.

Why is my tilapia soggy?

Using tilapia that was never frozen will help to prevent sogginess. However, if you are using frozen tilapia, be sure to fully thaw it before cooking and use a paper towel to absorb excess moisture on the surface of the thawed tilapia fillets.

angled shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia on plate

Storage and Freezing

You can easily make this simple fish dish and store it to eat throughout the week either with sides, over a salad, or repurposed into other dishes like tacos. 

Also, if you’re cooking for a crowd or have a hectic weeknight on the horizon, you can put all of the ingredients together in the baking dish and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours until you’re ready to bake. 

How to Store Baked Tilapia

Store the baked fish in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container. 

Can I Freeze Baked Tilapia?

Freeze the fish for up to three months in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe container. 

angled shot of fork digging into baked tilapia on plate

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Creamy Dill Salmon

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angled shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia on plate with text overlay
angled shot of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia on plate

Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia

5 from 5 votes
This tasty and EASY Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia may be the most moist and flavorful fish you’ll ever make! Super simple ingredients!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4



  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place the tilapia filets into the prepared dish, allowing the thinner sides to overlap.
  • Arrange the cherry tomatoes around the fish.
  • Season with the coarse kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside.
  • In a small microwave-safe dish, melt the butter in 30 second increments.
  • When melted, remove and whisk in the garlic, zest from one lemon, juice from one lemon and the paprika. Pour the butter mixture over the fish.
  • Cut the last 1/2 lemon into thin slices and place on top of the filets.
  • Bake the fish for 14-17 minutes or until the filets are white and easily flaked with a fork.
  • Serve over spaghetti squash, rice, cauliflower rice or pasta.
  • If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.


I served my baked tilapia over roast spaghetti squash tossed with fresh basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese.


Calories: 334 kcal, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Protein: 35 g, Fat: 20 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 130 mg, Sodium: 386 mg, Potassium: 648 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Vitamin A: 733 IU, Vitamin C: 28 mg, Calcium: 40 mg, Iron: 1 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 334
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baked tilapia
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of lemon garlic butter baked tilapia
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

5 from 5 votes

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Woah! What an amazing recipe! I loved how the fish took on the delicious flavor. Thank you so much for this one!