Lime and Basil Tilapia

Lime and Basil Tilapia

The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Marinate: 30 mins
Total: 55 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
344 Calories
18g Fat
2g Carbs
45g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 344
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 97mg 32%
Sodium 625mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 7mg 36%
Calcium 32mg 2%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 674mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Tilapia is a mild white fish that happily takes on any flavors you add to it. The combination of lime and basil in this recipe makes for a fresh-tasting, flavorful main dish with minimal ingredients. The grill adds a delicious smoky flavor, but if it's not grilling season you can pan fry it in a cast-iron skillet or regular pan for an equally delicious meal. An herby marinade that doubles as a sauce gives a bright note to these tasty fish fillets. Serve alongside roasted potatoes and a salad for a complete and wholesome meal, or use the fillets as taco fillings, adding other fixings on the side like fresh avocado slices, pico de gallo, and cream. This recipe requires a 30-minute marinade, which coincidentally is also the right amount of time to allow the grill to come to the ideal temperature, plus 25 minutes of preparation and cooking, so plan ahead as the marinade is key to the overall flavor of the fish.

Tilapia is a protein-rich fish that is usually farmed. There's is a lot of misinformation about it not being a healthy seafood, but as long as you choose your fish from a responsible source there is no danger in eating it. However, because irresponsible farming practices crowd too many fish in smaller spaces and feed them an inadequate diet—not to mention antibiotics to prevent the spread of bacterial infections due to the very same overcrowding—tilapia has gained an infamous status, with consumers not differentiating one farming source from the other. As a general rule, safe farms in Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, and the United States produce high-quality fish that are great sources of nutrition. Because tilapia is also low in mercury, it's a recommended source of nutrition for kids and pregnant women.

Fresh or frozen tilapia fillets will work well for this recipe. If frozen, make sure to thaw completely in the fridge overnight before preparing. Each fillet of tilapia is a powerhouse of nutrition. At just 110 calories per 116-gram fillet (4 ounces), each tilapia fillet of this size has 23.3 grams of protein, 0 grams of net carbohydrates, and almost 50 milligrams of choline, essential nutrition that helps your nervous system control its brain, muscle, and memory functions. That's almost ten percent of the recommended daily intake. Don't miss out on this spectacular and budget-friendly fish with our easy and flavorful preparation.

"This recipe is quick, easy, and flavorful—exactly what I'm looking for 95% of the time. Make sure to really clean your grill grates and oil them before adding the fish so that it doesn’t come apart as it comes off the grill." —Laurel Randolph

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 medium tilapia fillets

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 medium lime, zested

  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

  • Optional: 2 teaspoons bourbon

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Lime and Basil Tilapia Recipe ingredients

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  2. Combine olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, fresh basil, bourbon if using, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

    Combine olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, fresh basil, bourbon, salt and black pepper in a small bowl

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  3. Place tilapia fillets in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the top. Make sure all of the fish is well coated with the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

    Place tilapia fillets in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  4. Remove the fish fillets from the bag and pour the marinade into a saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil, immediately reduce the heat, and let simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.

    pour marinade into a saucepan.

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  5. Grill the tilapia fillets for 3 to 5 minutes per side over high heat, or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 F and appears opaque in color throughout.

    tilapia cooking on a grill pan

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

  6. Remove from the grill and serve with a few spoonfuls of the cooked marinade drizzled over top.

    Lime and Basil Tilapia on a plate

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni


Lean white fish likes to stick to the grill. Here are a few tips to help prevent any sticking:

  • Make sure your grill is nice and clean before starting.
  • Once the grill is hot, lightly oil the grates. Fold up a paper towel into a square and saturate it with oil. Use a pair of tongs to rub the oil on the hot grill grates.
  • Don't flip the fish until it's completely cooked on the bottom side. This will help it separate from the grill.
  • Use a large, flat metal spatula to flip the fish. If you're not sure if it's done, use an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature should be 145 F.

Recipe Variation

If using the fish for tacos, you can swap the basil for cilantro, if desired. Brush the tilapia with the cooked marinade as it cooks. Remove from heat once done and flake into bite-sized pieces.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Botaro D, Torres JPM, Schramm K-W, Malm O. Mercury levels in feed and muscle of farmed tilapiaAm J Ind Med. 2012;55(12):1159-1165. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22021

  2. Tilapia, Raw. FoodData Central. United States Department of Agriculture.