Crispy Tilapia Fingers with Lemon & Garlic Mayonnaise

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If you’re wondering how to get your children to eat — or even love – fish, try feeding them this. They’ll think it’s kid-friendly food for them, but I promise you it’s anything but. These tilapia fillets are lightly coated with panko, pan fried to crispy perfection, and served with a tangy garlic and lemon mayonnaise. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best way to transform ordinary tilapia into a seafood sensation.

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The great thing about this dish is that you can do most of the preparation ahead of time. Come dinnertime, all you have to do is throw the fish in the frying pan. You can also make a huge batch and freeze some before cooking, which makes for a quick and easy dinner another time. Gotta love two meals for the work of one.

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To make these tilapia fingers, simply cut your tilapia fillets in half. Leave the thin sides long and then cut the thicker sides in half on a diagonal so they appear longer.

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Next, bread the fish using the three-step breading method: first flour, then eggs, then panko. This will ensure a beautiful and crispy coating that will adhere evenly to the fish.

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Lay the fish fingers on a baking sheet and season with them salt and pepper. Looks good already, right?

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Coat a non-stick pan generously with olive oil and pan fry until crisp and golden.

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Drain any excess oil on paper towels…

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Sprinkle with salt, dip in Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise and enjoy!

Crispy Tilapia Fingers with Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise

Print Recipe
Servings: 4-6


  • 2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

For the Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's or Duke's
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


For the Tilapia Fingers

  1. Cut the tilapia into "fingers" by first cutting the fillets in half. Leave the thin sides long, then cut the thicker sides in half on a diagonal so they appear longer.
  2. Set up three large shallow bowls in an assembly line. Put the flour in the first bowl; the beaten eggs in the second; and the panko in the third.
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Dredge the fish fingers in the flour mixture, shaking excess into the bowl so just a light coating remains; dip in the eggs and turn to coat evenly; then dredge in the panko, turning several times to coat evenly. (This can be a messy's best to use one hand for the flour and eggs and the other for the panko.) Set the breaded tilapia fingers on the prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (this can be done several hours ahead of time).
  4. Line a plate with 3 paper towels and set by the stove. Heat the olive oil in large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, place the first batch of tilapia fingers in the pan (do not crowd) and cook until the first side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until done, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the fish fingers to the plate with paper towels and let sit for a minute to drain any excess oil. Remove any brown bits out of the pan, add more oil if necessary and continue to cook the fish in batches until done. Season the cooked tilapia fingers with more salt if desired. Serve with lemon wedges and Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise.

For the Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise

  1. Mix the mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Note: If you want to freeze the breaded tilapia fingers, lay them in a single layer and wrap well with aluminum foil. Place in a freezer bag in the freezer. When you're ready to make them, simply defrost them enough so they'll lay flat in the pan and cook as directed above.


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  • Nic

    Those look so good! can you make me some for lunch?

  • I’ve stumbled upon your blog and I soooo will try this!!! I’ve made breaded tilapia before but not with panko!! Looks easy! Thanks!

    -Ms B

  • looks fantastic! :-)

  • Tried this and the whole famly loved it. The dipping sauce was delicious!

  • Beth

    Just wanted to let you know we made your tilapia fingers. SO GOOD! My mom was here and everyone loved them– simple, easy and delicious!

  • Doloris

    I can’t wait to try this, I know from experience panko is good on anything. Never tried it with Mayo base……this should be entresting.

  • L.C.

    Made these for dinner last night and, WOW, sooo yummy. Even my picky kids ate them. Love the recipes…keep ‘em comin!

  • Hi, I made these tonight for dinner and they were very, very good. Quick to put together and very tasty indeed. I will be making these on a regular basis.
    Thanks so much.

  • Tammy

    Huge hit with the family!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!! It will be a new favorite one for us

  • cca

    mmm fish and chips might be on my menu this week!

  • Dani

    My husband made this recipe without changing a thing, except we baked the fish, and it was really great!

  • I am making this tonight!!

  • Sadie

    I made this tonight and my guy and 6 yr old daughter gobbled it up! YUM.

  • Leah

    Delicious! Made this tonight and my hubby couldn’t get enough. We will definitely keep this one hand.

  • Julie M.

    My family loves tilapia, so I have made your tilapia fingers with garlic mayonnaise many times. Even my 2 year old will eat it! I like, too, that I can assemble the tilapia (bread them and stuff) then put them in the fridge until it’s time to cook! Super easy and super yummy!

  • Emma

    So delicious! This has become a staple in our house – the tilapia always comes out perfectly crispy and the lemon-garlic mayo is the perfect accompaniment.

  • Terri

    This is the recipe that got my family hooked on Tilapia. So easy and so delicious. Thank you!

  • meredith Lovelss

    These were a hit- the kids gobbled them up. Great recipe.


    Have tried this with a little diversion and it is so yummy, Anything that is seafood is better than meat..

  • Carissa

    We had halibut on hand so we used that instead, and they disappeared! Delicious!

  • Tom M.

    Can’t wait to try this . I like that you can prepare then freeze them.

  • Meredith Loveless

    We are not a big mayo family so I used apricot jam and diluted it slightly with a few tsp of OJ (could use water) and added about 1/4 tsp asian chili paste for a dipping sauce that everyone loved

  • Mark

    I make these for my daughter instead of buying frozen fish sticks, and she loves them. She even asks me to make them for her. The one thing I don’t do is the mayonnaise sauce since she likes to dip her’s in ketchup.

  • Eliana G

    Will this be just as good baked and not fried?

    • Jenn

      Hi Eliana, Probably not. Sorry!

  • Kat D

    These are perfect to throw in tacos with lettuce, cheese, and a zesty aoili!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  • Donna

    Thanks for the simple recipe! I was planning on Tilapia tonight, but wasn’t sure how I wanted to cook it. I needed something kid friendly, and sure enough it was a hit! My 20 month old and 5 year old gobbled them up quickly. I made some tartar sauce instead and it tasted great! Thanks for a go-to recipe!

  • DavidB

    My wife and I made these a few weeks ago, and they were phenomenal! Even our picky-eater 14 month old daughter loved them (her first fish dish that she liked). We of course made too much, so we froze the leftovers for later. With a quick reheating at 350F in the oven they were just as good the first go around. For the mayo-dip I jazzed it up a little bit with some fresh dill, made it pop, just a little bit more. Keep these wonderful recipes coming!

  • Lauren

    A trick from my mom included putting the fish in milk then flour then panko. Does the egg make them fluffier?

    • Jenn

      Hi Lauren, It makes the panko stick better.

  • Mary

    Is there a need to season fish with salt and pepper before dredging procedure?

    • Jenn

      Hi Mary, No it’s not necessary.

  • jennifer

    I made them last night and my three, and 5 year old boys went back for seconds. They loved them we all did. Everything from everyone’s plates was gone. I never thought of cutting up the fish into fingers,,,great idea. Great Friday-fish night meal.
    Thank you so much. No I’m gearing up for the southern shrimp barbeq,,,, Pretty jazzed, been waiting, but it’s time,,,

  • I made this tonight for the first time and everyone loved it!! Thank you for a quick easy yummy recipe

  • jennifer hobson

    These were great!
    My kids really ate these up.

    Added lemon pepper seasoning to the flour. Worked really well.
    The garlic/lemon/mayo sauce was excellent! The kids (though they LOVE to “dip” things, went wild with this one. my 3 year old was practically licking his plate. He did his fingers…

  • Steve

    Trying to eat fish as part of a healthier diet; frying in oil with breadcrumbs defeats that – forget about adding mayonnaise too…Might as well have some friend chicken at that rate

  • Jennifer Smith

    These were very yummy. I made no changes in the recipe, and my family enjoyed every bite.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • pavlo

    I do no comprehend the necessity for this step, I thought at first they would be baked, put on sheet just to salt and pepper?

    Lay the fish fingers on a baking sheet and season with them salt and pepper. Looks good already, right?

    • Jenn

      Hi Pavlo, You have to put them somewhere, especially if you want to prep them ahead of time and store them in the fridge, and a baking sheet is just the right size. A plate would be too small.

  • Teresa

    Loved this, very easy but I thought the fish needed a little extra seasoning, maybe some cajun spice added to the flour. Next time I will get some good french bread, lettuce, tomato and make these into Poor Boys with that sauce they will be AMAZING!

  • Jennifer

    These were really tasty! I only had Italian style panko crumbs and I used coconut oil to fry them, and they turned out delicious! I have 2 kids, 6 and 3, and everyone was happy! A keeper in my family!!

  • Donna

    The Tilapia came out perfect. I just made some homemade tartar sauce instead though. My picky kids, ages 2 and 6 loved them and even wanted seconds. This recipe is a keeper! Thanks

  • Julie

    I made these tonight with cod and even my fussy “I never eat fish” daughter scarfed them down. I was out of panko so I used Italian bread crumbs and it still work great!

  • Carol

    This is THE best fish recipe ever! Even people who don’t care for fish seem to enjoy it. The garlic mayo makes it addicitng. Wonderful–and so easy too.

  • Jared Davis

    This was awesome. I had to use butter instead of olive oil though. Very tasty treat!

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