Tilapia gets a bad rap sometimes, but its neutral taste is an incredible asset when it comes to exploring flavors. (And its wallet-friendly price doesn’t hurt, either.) An assertive spice rub makes every bite a surprise, and a tangy avocado crema balances the heat.–Tasty

*How do you know when fish is done?

Even if you follow the timing in a recipe, you might still have doubts about how to know if your baked tilapia is ready to devour. Fresh tilapia has a pinkish hue, as well as being slightly transparent when raw. When cooked, it will turn white and opaque. The best way to know when it’s cooked through is to insert a fork or the tip of a table knife at an angle in the thickest part of the fillet and twist gently. If it flakes and looks opaque throughout, it’s ready to eat.

A person making baked tilapia with chile and lime by brushing tilapia fillets with a spice mixture.

Baked Tilapia with Chile and Lime

5 / 3 votes
Baked tilapa with chile and lime is a simple entree that’s impressive enough for guests but also simple enough for a busy weeknight.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories241 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


For the tilapia

  • 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets* (3 to 4 fillets)

For the crema

  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade plain Greek yogurt, preferably full-fat


Make the tilapia

  • Preheat to 400°F (204°C). Adjust the oven rack to the center position and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, lime juice, and olive oil.
  • Place the tilapia fillets on the prepared baking sheet and use a brush to coat each side of them with the marinade.
  • Bake the fish until the edges begin to crisp and the flesh is moist and flaky, about 12 minutes.

Make the crema

  • Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the avocado, cilantro, salt, pepper, lime juice, and yogurt. Blend until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Scoop and swoop the crema onto a serving plate. Add the tilapia and serve immediately.
Tasty Adulating Yellow Red and Green Cookbook cover.

Adapted From

Tasty Adulting

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 241 kcalCarbohydrates: 8 gProtein: 26 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gCholesterol: 57 mgSodium: 683 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Tasty. Photo © 2020 Lauren Volo. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This simple, baked tilapia with chile and lime is flavorful with just the right amount of kick. Any mild, white fish would work, because it is really just a vehicle for the flavors of the marinade. The cool, tangy avocado crema is a perfect balance for the slightly spicy marinade. The entire meal came together in about 30 minutes. I served it with an arugula salad and a quinoa/brown rice blend with garlic butter sauce. This will be a great, light summer meal.

Wow, such a nice, tasty and simple dish to prepare. I made the marinade and the crema a few hours early to let the flavors meld a bit before baking the tilapia. There is more than enough marinade for the fish, and I gave the top of the fish a few coats before placing it in the oven.

The baked tilapia was cooked perfectly in 12 minutes. As the tilapia fillet tends to be both thick and thin, the thin bits were nicely browned, while the thicker parts were very moist and juicy. I served this with a baked potato and some of last summer’s corn on the cob that I had frozen. I think this recipe could also be used to make a killer fish taco. You have the fish, the crema, one just needs to add a bit of crunch.

If you are looking for a simple, quick but very tasty recipe look no further than this baked tilapia. The fact that the prep was easy, clean up a breeze and it’s a heathy, inexpensive meal are just added benefits.

The prep for both the marinade and the avocado crema took less than 20 minutes. The tilapia had a nice spiciness and complimented the citrusy avocado crema. I served this with roasted broccoli and green salad.

From the first bite to the last, this recipe really delivered. My husband would not stop raving about the tilapia. I was skeptical about using chili powder seasoning on such a delicate flavored fish; however, the fish was a nice base for the flavors of cumin, lime and chili powder.

The burst of spice flavor was nicely balanced by the avocado crema. The crema would taste wonderful on enchiladas or fish tacos. This baked tilapia with chile and lime was quick, easy and used ingredients that most people have in their pantry. I had this with a baked potato and fresh asparagus. It could be served at a dinner party and be the star of the meal.

I chose this baked tilapia with chile and lime recipe because I almost always have tilapia fillets in my freezer, but this time I bought fresh. Four fillets were just over the pound specified in the recipe, and all the other ingredients were on hand. I used regular (Penzeys) chili powder because nothing fancy was asked for. My lime reluctantly gave up just over a tablespoon of juice. The rub was fragrant, plenty for four fillets, and spread easily over the fish. I prepared the baking sheet as noted, lining with parchment. Baked the fish the full 12 minutes, the fish was flaky and perfectly cooked.

For the crema, I needed to use two avocados as mine were quite small. My cilantro weighed out at 11 grams, and again, my second stingy lime gave a tablespoon, and I used full fat Greek yogurt. I used my immersion blender to combine the ingredients. It turned out smooth and lovely but the leftovers did darken overnight in the refrigerator.

I will definitely make this again as it’s easy, uses easy to find and pantry ingredients, and delivers on the taste front. I would make some changes, though. As noted above, I would use a different chili powder and also maybe add a little dried coriander as I feel it compliments cumin. Doubtful I will heat the oven again for four fish fillets, I’d probably just sauté or maybe do a blackened type preparation, especially in the summer. I also assumed that the lime and yogurt would prevent the avocado crema from darkening, so I’ll probably take a little more care to cover closely before storing and definitely would not make it in advance.

This is a solid recipe, would recommend.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was quick, easy to make and absolutely delicious. The spices were perfect. Even my picky husband liked this one.

  2. I made this again, this time to use in a taco. Absolutely killer taco, and I used the spices on shrimp as well to make some shrimp tacos. The crema and the seafood tacos with a little bit of homemade slaw made for a great dinner.