Smoked Tilapia

Smoked Tilapia
Eric Tadsen / Getty Images
  • Total: 2 hrs 10 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Servings: 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
280 Calories
11g Fat
1g Carbs
45g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 280
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 97mg 32%
Sodium 523mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 656mg 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 high-protein fish with very little fat, just 0.5 grams in a 100-gram serving. It is also among the most affordable options for fish in the U.S. as it is usually farmed.

The most common types of smoked fish in the U.S. are salmon, mackerel, whitefish, and trout. Although it's not in the top five, tilapia still makes a flavorful smoked fish. Smoking fish first came to be as a way of preserving meats before there was refrigeration, but the act of curing, salting, and smoking is done nowadays for the sole purpose of imparting a woody, smoky flavor to food. And tilapia's wonderful firm texture and mild flavor take on the smoky character wonderfully. Traditional smoking methods can keep the fish inside the smoker for up to 24 hours, but our recipe only requires 2 hours.

Hot smoking usually occurs within a lower heat range than an oven, at temperatures ranging from 126 to 176 F. When food is smoked within this temperature range, they are fully cooked, moist, and flavorful. If the smoker is allowed to get hotter than 185 F, the foods will shrink excessively, buckle, or even split. Smoking at high temperatures also reduces yield, as both moisture and fat are cooked away. Although foods that have been hot smoked are often reheated or further cooked, they are typically safe to eat without further cooking. Our smoked tilapia can be served as a main dish with a salad and some starch, but also incorporated into salads, sandwiches, dips, appetizers, or soups.


  • 6 fillets tilapia

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Prepare a smoker for a 2-hour smoke. Wash the fish and remove all the bones, if any.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and lemon pepper.

  4. Brush the liquid mixture onto both sides of the tilapia fillets.

  5. Place the fish in the smoker for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  6. Remove from heat and serve. 

  7. Enjoy!

Which Wood to Use When Smoking Fish?

The smoker exposes the meat to smoke from a heat source and burning wood. In the U.S. and Canada, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, alder, maple, and fruit-tree woods, such as apple, cherry, and plum, are the woods commonly used for smoking. But when it comes to choosing the wood you want to use, there are some recommended meat and wood combinations. Heavier meats, like beef and pork, take hardwood smoke better. For more delicate meats, like chicken and fish, a lighter hardwood like alder is suggested. Avoid using softwoods like pine and cedar, as the resin in these woods can ruin the meat and your smoker.

Substitutions for the Spice Mix

Although garlic and lemon pepper make for a fantastic smoked tilapia, we have other suggestions that you can experiment with to find your favorite flavor profile for the fish:

  • Mix 1 teaspoon each of chili flakes, dried dill, and black pepper with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 6 tablespoons of brown sugar, and the juice of half of an orange. Rub the mixture on the fish and smoke as directed.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon each of dried tarragon, dried chives, and garlic powder with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Rub the mixture on the fish and smoke as directed.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Rub the mixture on the fish and smoke as directed.
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. Tilapia, Raw. Food Data Central.