Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

$4.80 recipe /$1.20 serving

I’ve been really into simple tomato sauces lately. You really don’t have to add much to tomatoes to make a really mouth watering sauce.

I bought a big pack of frozen tilapia filets a while ago and I really needed to start using them up, so I decided to give them the tomato sauce treatment. The result? YUMMM! I wanted to eat all four! The tomato sauce not only added a ton of flavor, but it kept the tilapia super moist and tender while it baked.

For this tomato sauce I went with a classic garlic, oregano, lemon blend and it was flavorful, but light enough to not drown out the tilapia. I decided to bake it in my cast iron skillet purely for the sake of the photograph (white fish against black skillet = good), otherwise I would have just used a glass or ceramic casserole dish. I’m guessing the cast iron skillet took a while longer to heat up in the oven than a glass dish would, so if you’re using glass or ceramic you might find that you need to shorten the baking time a bit. Fish cooks quickly, so when you start to see the juices bubbling throughout (not just around the edges), it’s probably done.

Admittedly, these servings are not huge, so I suggest serving the fish over rice and adding some green vegetables on the side (broccoli, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, something like that). Super healthy, super delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

4.6 from 12 reviews
Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Total Cost: $4.80
Cost Per Serving: $1.20
Serves: 4 (1 filet each)
Ingredients
  • 4 (4 oz.) tilapia filets $3.33**
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes $0.69
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced $0.16
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • ½ tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • Freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a mill) $0.05
  • ½ Tbsp lemon juice $0.03
  • Handful of parsley for garnish (optional) $0.15
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If the tilapia is frozen, thaw it prior to beginning.
  2. Drain the excess liquid from the can of tomatoes (no need to squeeze it dry, just pour off the excess). Combine the tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir well.
  3. Add a small amount of the tomato mixture to the bottom of a small casserole dish or oven safe skillet. Arrange the tilapia filets in a single layer in the dish, then top with the rest of the tomato mixture.
  4. Bake the tilapia in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes**, or until the juices are bubbling all around the fish (not just on the very outer edges). Roughly chop the parsley and sprinkle it over the fish just before serving.
Notes
**My tilapia cost $9.99 for a bag of 12 individually wrapped filets.

**Cooking time will depend on the thickness and material of your baking dish. Heavy or thick vessels, like cast iron, will require a longer cooking time.

 

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

 

Step by Step Photos

Tilapia Filets

One day when I was all like, “HEALTHY!” I bought this huge bag of individually frozen tilapia filets, but then never used them. It was $9.99 for a bag of 12 filets. Not bad. Each filet is about 4 oz. and I used one filet per serving (four filets total). They thaw quickly, but if you forget to take them out of the freezer, you can place them in a colander and run cool water over them for a few minutes. They’re individually sealed, so the water won’t get in. Also, begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Tomato Mix

Pour off the excess liquid from the tomatoes (no need to squeeze them dry, just get rid of the extra liquid), then add them to a bowl with 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice, and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir the mixture well.

Bottom Layer

Add a couple spoonfulls of the tomato mixture to the bottom of your cooking dish (glass, ceramic, or cast iron casserole dishes). This will put a thin layer between the fish and the dish so that it doesn’t stick and it will flavor the fish from the bottom up.

Fish

Next, arrange the filets in the dish in a single layer.

Tomato Mix Top Layer

Then pour the rest of the tomato mixture over top. Try to cover the fish as much as possible. Bake the fish in the preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dish. This cast iron skillet is really heavy and takes a long time to heat up, so I baked for 30 minutes. A thinner glass dish would probably take closer to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the dish and watch for the juices to start bubbling up throughout (not just around the outer edges). When that happens, it’s probably finished.

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

Add some roughly chopped parsley just before serving. I suggest serving over some rice to soak up the delicious juices, although you could also dip some crusty bread in there!

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

Look how flakey and moist the fish is! Perfect! So much flavor, too.

Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes

 

36 Comments

  1. A. Lisa says:

    This was delicious! I took the advice of another commenter and added basil and thyme. WOW! My husband was a happy camper, too. I had a lot of extra sauce left over. It would have been good to add it with some pasta. My husband wants to use it as a dipping sauce for his bread. Great recipe though for a crazy busy grad student like me.

  2. Bontondee says:

    OH! Also, if you’re really down to your last penny and the TOMATOES aren’t even an option (or the person just doesn’t like fresh tomato as a sauce), here’s a fish I’ve been making for YEARS to RAVES. Take the tilapia filets, thaw, pat dry, put a tablespoon or so of extra-v olive oil on the bottom of a baking pan (big enough so the fish don’t overlap much), rub the filets around (tops and bottoms) in the oil residue, return so they’re top-up; then chop a few garlic cloves up and sprinkle them in and around the fish (but not on top of them), then carefully add water from a cup into the pan on the SIDES of the pan until it’s about half-way up the fish filets (leaving most of the top exposed and still coated with a little oil). Then get your favorite flavored dried breadcrumbs (or flavor your own homemade from dried/toasted bread ends) or plain storebought and flavor them up with herbs, and sprinkle enough of the crumbs on top of each filet to completely cover them (don’t worry that some got in the water, it’s SUPPOSED TO to thicken it a little!). Then COVER with a top or with foil and bake for about 20 mins at 250 in a preheated oven. Put THAT over plain white rice, and drizzle the fish juice over the rice too. FABULOUS. The more juice you want, the more water you add. If you want NO juice, just put a cup of water or so in order for steam to build up under the foil and soften the breadcrumbs. If there’s any dry bread crumb still there after baking, just spoon a little of the juice over the dry area and it instantly softens to deliciousness. I make this with a pot of cheap white rice on the stove to which I add what veggies I have left fresh or frozen, esp. broccoli and whole baby carrots! The carrots cook perfectly in the rice, just add a bit more water to the pot before cooking. GOSH, I love fish, better get to baking mine now, driving me crazy for it!…..:)

  3. Bontondee says:

    This recipe can have so many variations and still satisfy. You can replace/add to the herbs — basil, omit lemon (as I do), etc. I actually dice up 1/2 a tomato real fine (due to pickiness of a family member that needs to eat this) and throw it into a teeny pot of already-simmering garlic (several cloves chopped) and extra-v olive oil. Then I sprinkle in dried oregano and basil and a dab of salt. (This pot simmer is due to the fact that all my garlic doesn’t get as soft as I like if I bake the fish with it — garlic needs more time and more oil to simmer in that’s not spread out, and I don’t want the fish overdone. You can even make that ahead of time and put it in a tiny jar in the fridge. Then I just take the filets out when I want, defrost either in fridge or under cold running water for about 2 mins (doesn’t need to be fully thawed, just bendable), then dump the mixture from the pot (or jar) into the bottom of the small pan, swish the fish around top side up in it to coat, turn the filets and do the same for the bottom, then leave the coated filets in the pan and put it a preheated oven in at 350 for about 15-20 mins. Since my picky person doesn’t eat plain rice (eye roll), I put on a quick pot of penne or linquine pasta, drain, remove cooked filets, dump the mixture of oil/tomato/herb into the pot pasta drained, toss it, then plate it with a little parsley on top, definitely some grated parm or romano on top, then lay a filet on top of the plate with a tiny bit of grated cheese on top. FANTASTIC. I LOVE TILPIA and really won’t buy any other because I start comparing and tilapia wins in flavor and texture to me. Good thing it’s also the most economical, only a bonus in my opinion. I’m actually making this dish tonight in about 1/2 hour. GOOD choice for a budget dish, and it doesn’t even TASTE BUDGET!

  4. alicia says:

    I made this last night, and I was a big fan of the sauce, but the fish not-so-much. The tilapia had a strong fishy taste and the texture was a bit crumbly. I think next time I will try with cod fillets instead. Not sure if frozen or fresh makes a difference or not.

    • Bontondee says:

      I would try it again. Tilapia doesn’t have a strong fishy taste and it doesn’t crumble. Is it possible it was bad fish? I would have said overcooked if it were just “crumbly, by the SMELL is the giveaway. Perhaps it defrosted in it’s watery liquid and didn’t drain correctly, or was defrosted in the bag either at home or in the store, refroze, and you never knew? What you’re desribing with SMELL sounds like it’s bad fish. At a fish market, the key to buying fresh fish is to smell it: fresh fish doesn’t smell bad, it just smells light and fresh. Strong fish odor means PUT IT BACK.

  5. Soo simple, cheap, and delicious! This is my go-to meal when I’ve had a long day at work and want to throw together something healthy and easy.

  6. We had this for dinner and it was FANTASTIC!!!! Absolutely loved it! Definitely will have again in a few weeks :)

    Thanks so much for all the great recipes!
    Kitchen Full of Harts – kitchenfullofharts.com :)

  7. Tried this today for lunch and it was FANTASTIC. Garnished it with a little freshly grated parmesan and it was outta this world. I’m not usually a fish or seafood fan so I’ll definitely be bookmarking this recipe to make again the future. Thanks!

  8. Keisha says:

    Made this for dinner with my mother-in-law last night, turned out perfect! I used cod because it’s what we had in the freezer, and substituted fresh basil for the dried oregano in the sauce and parsley sprinkled on top (I just got a basil plant, so I’m find an excuse to use it in anything right now). Served with rice and garlic bread to soak up even more of the sauce.

  9. KatieKate says:

    Made a variation on this tonight, using fresh diced tomatoes instead of canned. Like others have done above, I served it with spinach. It was fantastic! Even my husband, who is not typically a fish-lover, remarked, ‘Mmm! This is REALLY good!’

    Yes, yes it is.

  10. Amanda Mananda says:

    I must agree with the other comments. This was CRAZY flavorful considering the short, simple list of ingredients. I love my Italian food chalk full of herbs, so I went on ahead and added dried basil and thyme to the mix — 1/2 tsp. each to match the oregano. We served it over rice, but it could also go great over some pasta.

    This also inspired my super-lazy, one-portion technique of putting two tilapia filets in a glass loaf pan with a mixture of olive oil and whatever leftover Prego sauce I have in the fridge. -:P I cooked it at the same temperature and for about the same amount of time. When I’m not cooking for the house, it’s a great way to get my fix. -;) GREAT recipe, Beth! It’s an absolute keeper.

  11. Maurine says:

    Made this and we all (husband, me and 4 little ones) ate it up. I call that a success! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  12. Would other white fishes work as substitute? I have a LOT of fresh water great lakes Walleye, that I am looking for new recipes to eat it!

  13. Charlie says:

    I didn’t have a can of tomatoes on hand, but I did have some pico de gallo and am using that instead. And thanks, Mariah, for the suggestion to pair it with some black beans!

  14. Tabitha Beth says:

    Beth, you are an absolute Godsend. As a 22 year old college student who has just moved with my boyfriend into our very own place, I’ve been desperately seeking new recipes to cook for the two of us that won’t break the bank but are still delicious. I stumbled across your site and let me tell you, I could not be more pleased with the outcome of the recipes I’ve tried so far. We’re pescatarians and we love the diversity of your selections.This one in particular was simply divine. Thank you so much, and I look forward to trying more of your wonderful recipes!

  15. Jessie B. says:

    I made this for dinner tonight for my family and it was a hit! It did not only taste amazing, but it was sooo simple to put together! I lovvvve tomatoes so I actually used a 28 ounce can and doubled up on the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. I am planning on making this dish once a week from now on. You. Are. A. Genius.

  16. Annemarie says:

    Thanks, this dish is awesome!! Have loved everything I’ve made, herbed tomato soup, baked oatmeal and broccoli cheese rice. All winners even took to work for potluck. Keep the great recipes coming. Love the book too. Annemarie

  17. Mariah says:

    This would go great with black beans. Yummy, can’t wait to try it.

  18. Lauren says:

    At first I read the recipe and thought it was 4oz Tilapia total! I was like….. Does she want me to starve? And is she crazy?! I then reread to see a much more reasonable portion of 4 4oz portions. I feel better now :)

  19. Many of the ingredients are in marinara sauce. Would it work with marinara sauce? Has anybody tried this?

  20. Another great recipe that I’ll certainly try. But your concerns about tilapia drying out are misplaced.

    I had the same concern when I first cooked tilapia, smothering it in mayo to keep it moist. Then my nephew the chef assured me that tilapia is a very moist fish, so I tried just zapping frozen fillets in the microwave for a few minutes. Nice and moist!

    Of course, tilapia doesn’t have a lot of flavor, so you need to add some. I usually just add some lemon juice and fresh-ground pepper before cooking. But Beth’s approach is light years ahead of that.

    And thanks to Caitlin M for making the connection to pasta…

  21. I was totally *not* expecting this to be as *amazing* as it is. Usually I’m not a fan of chunky tomato pieces but it worked wonderfully. I served it over spaghetti, and was going to dress the noodles in some olive oil and a little parmesan cheese, but it didn’t even need the cheese! Nicely done, Beth, and thank you for sharing!

  22. Kristen says:

    Like you, I bought a bag of frozen tilapia recently and was looking for new ways to cook it! This tasted awesome. I also marinated the fish for a few hours with parsley, oregano, salt & pepper, and just a splash of olive oil.

  23. Lynn says:

    Made this for dinner tonight. AMAZING. I had absolutely everything in my pantry! Used lime juice, because I had some in the freezer (I don’t like to waste, so I freeze the juice if I have extra fresh limes that I can’t use up in time). I’ll probably toss in a but of red pepper flake next time, and there WILL be a next time! So easy AND delicious!

  24. Elisa says:

    My favorite way to cook fish! Creamy Dijon mustard and dill make great additions. The way I do it is: put the fish on a baking pan (with foil + Pam spray underneath so it won’t stick). Slather with some creamy Dijon mustard, sprinkle generously with dill. Then spoon/pour a can of “Italian flavored” diced tomatoes over top & bake for 20 minutes or so.

    It’s great with just about any kind of fish: salmon, tilapia, catfish, perch …

  25. Kristen says:

    This looks unbelievable! I’m going to the grocery store after work!

    I’d seen your recipes on Ziplist, but I’ve only just realized that you live in my home state (and we are alums of the same university). That inspired me to check out your site, and I love it! So much creativity for such small expense! Keep it coming :)

  26. Robin says:

    I made this for dinner last night. It was excellent! It looked as good as it tasted. I put a bed of baby spinach under the fish, which I quickly wilted first so it would fit in the pan. I also added a little cayenne to the fish because we like a bit of heat. Served with Israeli couscous. A big hit with my teenage boys.

  27. Lisa says:

    My fiance made this for dinner last night but used the canned flavored tomatoes and it came out WONDERFUL!! Its our new favorite go to quick dinner dish.

  28. Sarah says:

    Yum, this reminds me of a dish I used to make with basa fish – almost exactly the same but with basil instead of oregano and added white beans. Served with cous cous.

  29. I have salmon and tilapia in the freezer that desperately need to be cooked – thank you for the inspiration! I will try it this weekend!

  30. Nicole says:

    This looks great! Gonna try it with some catfish fillets.

  31. Brittany says:

    Would mahi mahi filets work also?
    (damn you Costco, convincing me to buy ingredients I have NO idea what to do with!)

  32. Your recipes make me drool.

  33. Bessie Malek says:

    You read my mind! I just got a whole bunch of tilapia on sale and was wondering what to do with it. I will try this recipe. Also, I was wondering about making some fish tacos. I sure would like it if there was a budget byte recipe for this!

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