Fish has a reputation for being tricky to cook, but even a novice chef can get along with tilapia. A white fish with a mild flavor and a firm texture, tilapia can be prepared in many different ways.
Tilapia is widely available as both whole fish and prepared filets, and can be bought fresh or frozen. It’s a family favorite fish thanks to its versatility and low price.
Whether you can’t find tilapia or you’re looking for a chance to branch out, there are many other fish choices with the same versatility.
In this guide, we’ve explored 6 of the best tilapia substitutes, and when to use them.
All About Tilapia
Head to the store to buy fish for dinner and there’s a good chance you’re coming home with tilapia!
There are plenty of reasons for this. Tilapia is an inexpensive white fish that is often sustainably farmed in the U.S.
It has a mild taste with only a slightly fishy flavor, so it can be paired with different seasonings and spices. Plus the firm and flaky flesh of tilapia can be cooked in many ways and holds up in soups, stews, and other dishes.
Looking for a simple way to cook tilapia that delivers near-perfect results every time? Try baking it in the oven, with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a glug of olive oil.
For quick results, you can pan-fry tilapia in olive oil, or wrap it in foil and stick it on the grill. You can use fileted tilapia in stews and curries, or as a spiced filling to your favorite tacos.
The best tilapia is firm with a clean smell and a pale pinkish-white coloring. You can buy tilapia whole or as filets. It’s also available fresh or frozen.
Try to buy tilapia that has been farmed sustainably in the U.S.
The 6 Best Tilapia Substitutes
Tilapia is a great choice if you’re cooking fish because of its versatility in both preparation and flavoring. But sometimes, you might not be able to get your hands on tilapia. What should you use then?
The fish we’ve listed below are our favorite tilapia substitutes. Don’t just think of these as your second choice!
These delicious seafood favorites are a great way to diversify your meal times, and you might find a new favorite!
Let’s take a look at the 6 best tilapia substitutes.
Catfish has the same firm flesh and mild flavor that you’d expect from tilapia, making it our favorite substitute. We also like that catfish can be prepared in various ways, including fried, baked, and grilled catfish.
When shopping for catfish, look for fish that has been farm-raised in the U.S.
This is a more sustainable choice and farm-raised catfish tends to have a milder flavor than its wild counterpart. Farm-raised catfish should be readily available in good stores, so keep an eye out if you can’t spot tilapia!
Fried catfish has been a Southern staple for many years, but that’s only one way to prepare this fish.
Because the flesh is firm, it won’t fall apart in soups and stews, and the mild flavor pairs well with even boldly spiced curries.
If you do choose catfish, be careful when cooking it! If overcooked, the flesh can become tough. Make sure to adjust your cooking times to suit the thickness of the fish.
2. Red Snapper
Grilled or baked red snapper has the firm and flaky texture of tilapia with a similar mild and sweet flavor.
When choosing red snapper, look for flesh that’s pinkish all over with a slight tint of yellow. This is a true red snapper!
Red snapper can be prepared in several different ways. Baking and grilling are both easy ways to deliver delicious results, as red snapper is a fish that can be enjoyed simply.
Make sure not to overcook the red snapper. Done right, it should be dense and moist, not dry and tough.
Try serving it as an entree with a seasoning of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
But that isn’t all you can do with red snapper! This is a fish that can be served dressed up, so try using red snapper when you’re looking for a tilapia substitute in Mexican foods.
Flounder is a generic name given to a group of flatfish, and the mild flavor and flaky texture make it an excellent tilapia substitute.
Flounder can be sold as both whole fish and filets. If you’re looking for a substitute for tilapia, we recommend purchasing filets.
Whole flounder can be tasty, but it’s harder to prepare! Flounder filets are widely available in supermarkets, and you can often find them in the frozen section.
Flounder is a very flaky fish, with a tendency to fall apart if prepared wrong. When cooking founder, you need to be careful to ensure the whole thing doesn’t break into pieces!
Baking and steaming are both popular ways to prepare flounder.
When pan-frying flounder, many people choose to use a batter or a coating.
This will help the fish hold together and add some new textures and flavors. This method can be used to transform your flounder filets into fish tacos and fish sticks.
Another excellent substitute for tilapia is branzino. A type of bass, branzino has a fresh and mild taste with a hint of sweetness. When cooked, it has a firm texture with incredible flakiness.
Branzino is often served as a whole fish. Probably the most popular way to serve branzino is roasted whole and finished with a few minutes under the broiler and a squeeze of citrus.
It’s popular in the Mediterranean, and you’ll often find it accompanied by Italian or Greek flavors.
But branzino is more versatile than you might realize! Thanks to that flaky texture it can be served in soups and stews. Try using it in Italian fish stew.
Struggling to find branzino for sale? This fish is sometimes known as European sea bass, to reflect the waters where the wild fish is most commonly found.
For a sustainable choice, look for branzino (or European sea bass) that’s been farmed in the U.S.
5. Striped Bass
Striped bass is a versatile substitute for tilapia that is often farmed in the U.S. It takes its name from the dark stripes that run along the sides of the skin and can be fished in rivers and lakes around America.
You can find both wild and farm-raised striped bass for sale in the U.S. Wild striped bass has a firmer flesh and a stronger flavor.
Farmed striped bass has a milder taste and a softer texture, although it still has the firmness of tilapia.
As a tilapia substitute, farmed striped bass is best. It can be grilled, baked, or pan-fried, and is particularly good in tacos and other Tex-Mex dishes.
Wild striped bass isn’t quite such a good tilapia substitute, but it’s still worth trying.
The richer taste and firmer texture do well on their own, so consider a simple preparation with salt, pepper, and a splash of citrus.
6. Rainbow Trout
The flesh of the rainbow trout can be a range of colors, including white, pink, and orange. But as you cook the trout, these colors will fade away, leaving a white fish with a soft and flaky texture.
The most common trout color is pink, like salmon, but don’t be put off by some different hues.
Rainbow trout has a slightly buttery flavor, which you can amplify by pan-frying the filets in butter!
Rainbow trout is often sold with the skin on, so try cooking it in a pan to crisp up the skin and add a new texture to your dish. You can also try baking and grilling your rainbow trout.
Rainbow trout isn’t the perfect tilapia substitute, but it’s a good one to try if you want to mix things up a little! The slight differences in flavor and texture can help diversify your dinner choices.
As a white fish with a mild taste and a firm texture, there are many substitutes for tilapia.
Catfish and striped bass both work in a variety of dishes, while branzino and red snapper are for when tilapia is the star of the show.
Try using flounder for tacos and rainbow trout when you want to push the boat out (no pun intended).
How do you like to eat tilapia?
The 6 Best Tilapia Substitutes To Try TodayCourse: Substitutes
- Decide on what substitute you need
- Pick a substitute from the list above
- Read what you need to substitute with
- Create the recipe and enjoy
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