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Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

5 stars based on 11 votes

I first tried tortilla crusted fish at a restaurant out West and have been tinkering around trying to recreate the recipe for a long time. Initially, I tried coating the fish with crushed tortilla chips — it was good but no matter how I cooked it, the crust was always a little too tough. Finally, it dawned on me to try grinding fresh corn tortillas in my food processor, like I would make fresh bread crumbs. Bingo! The result was a deliciously crunchy and flavorful crust with soft, flaky white fish within — and a new supper standby the whole family loves. 

ingredients

The recipe works best with smaller tilapia filets; if you can only find large ones (over 7 ounces), cut them in half.

ready-to-blend

Begin by combining the corn tortillas with the spices in the bowl of a food processor, and process until the tortillas are coarsely ground.

tortilla-crumbs

I use a 3-step breading process to coat the fish: first flour, then eggs, then the tortilla crumbs. This ensures that the coating adheres perfectly to the fish.

assembly-line

Set up an assembly line with flour in the first bowl, beaten eggs in the second, and the ground corn tortillas in the third. Dredge the fish in the flour, shaking off any excess.

dredging-in-flour

Dip in the eggs.

dipping-in-egg

Then coat in the ground corn tortillas.

coating-in-crumbs

This can be done ahead of time (and even frozen), so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is pan-fry the fish.

ready-to-cook

When you’re ready to cook, coat a nonstick pan generously with oil. Pan-fry the fillets for 3-4 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown. Flip the fillets and cook a few minutes more.

cooking-tilapia

Serve the fish with lime wedges and fresh cilantro, if desired. For a side dish, try my Mexican Rice Pilaf.

Tortilla-Crusted-Tilapia-1

Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into quarters
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 pounds tilapia fillets (cut in half if the fillets are larger than 7 ounces)
  • Vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
  • A few springs cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine the corn tortillas, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, onion powder and garlic powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the tortillas are ground into coarse crumbs. Transfer the tortilla crumbs to a dinner plate.
  2. Crack the eggs into a wide, shallow bowl and beat with a fork until blended. Place the flour on a dinner plate. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Set up an assembly line with the flour first, the beaten eggs second, the tortilla crumbs third, and the baking sheet fourth.
  4. Lightly season the tilapia with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Working with one fillet at a time, dredge in the flour mixture, shaking excess over the plate so just a light coating remains; dip in the eggs and turn to coat evenly, letting any excess drip off so just a light coating remains; then dredge in the tortilla crumbs, turning to coat evenly. Place the breaded fillets on the lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (this can be done several hours ahead of time).
  5. Coat a large non-stick sauté pan generously with vegetable oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place 2 tilapia fillets in the pan (you don't want to crowd them) and cook until the first side is golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until done, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the tilapia to a serving platter. Wipe the pan clean and repeat with remaining fillets.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 556
  • Fat: 28g (approximate, depends on how much oil you use)
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 42g
  • Sodium: 1166mg
  • Cholesterol: 178mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    This turned out the best tilapia I’ve made. All four of my kids happily ate it (even the baby). Thanks for the recipe!

    - Melissa on February 7, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn! I made this recipe a while ago and really enjoyed it. I want to make it again soon and I do have a couple of questions that I’m hoping you could answer! One: would this recipe work with cod instead of tilapia? And two, would using flour tortillas diminish the flavor? I have a bag of small flour tortillas that I’m dying to get rid of. Thanks for the delicious fish recipe!

    - Margarit on January 10, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Margarit, I do think the recipe would work with cod. While I think the flour tortillas will work, I don’t think it would be as good b/c it will lack that distinctive corn tortilla flavor.

      - Jenn on January 11, 2017 Reply
      • Most tilapia is not considered to be a healthy type of fish, so I no longer buy it. I’ve recently breaded haddock with good results, so I would definitely try cod or haddock in place of tilapia in this recipe.

        - Jenn V. on April 4, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    wow my daughter is vegan she left some tortilla chips that staled a day or two but not the crunch you want in a chip, so i did your recipe , omg it looked just like pic and was amazing and I served with your rice pilaf recipe and just added slivered almonds it was amazing, thank you Jenn, im gonna try the Cauliflower Steak and Cauliflower mashed for my Vegan Daughter

    - carmen garced martinez on May 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I was all set to make this recipe for dinner one night but found that my lovely family had eaten the corn tortillas! But I discovered that substituting panko crumbs in place of the ground corn tortillas produces a crunchy and delicious result. The spice mix was very flavorful.

    - kimberly on March 8, 2016 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    This looks pretty good ! I’m wondering what is the size of the pan that you use and what quantity of oil did you use ? I have the same question for the fish finger recipe. I’m also wondering if you can do this recipe with bread crumbs ? Thanks :)

    - Vickie on February 26, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Vickie, I would use the largest pan you have as that will cut down on the number of batches you need to cook. Also, you don’t really need to measure the oil- I would just use enough to make sure the bottom of the pan is well covered. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on February 26, 2016 Reply
  • I wanted to know why the sodium count is so high, I have to watch my intake. I see you added salt. Was it the garlic or onion powder or chips? Can you make some suggestions on how I can reduce it?

    Thank you, Keep the great recipes coming

    - Shell on January 15, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Shell, sorry for the delay! I thought the sodium looked a bit high, so I wanted to double check it. Albeit high, the program I use to calculate nutritional info confirms that it is correct. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of room to decrease the sodium except for looking for reduced-sodium tortillas (if they are available) and decreasing the added salt in the recipe. Thanks for your patience!

      - Jenn on January 22, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve tried a lot of breaded and crusted fish recipes and this is by far the best that I’ve made. My family loved this meal. The corn tortillas and spices were the key. Thanks for this recipe – it’s a winner.

    - Shanie on October 30, 2015 Reply
  • 3 stars

    First time ever that one of your recipes hasn’t worked out! I followed the recipe exactly. It needed serious salt and lime juice–the tilapia is so bland that it just seemed to suck up all the flavor that was added to the fish with the crust (which was, itself, amazing). I had some sliced avocado with mine and thought that, with that plus the lime and salt, it had the potential to be a pretty great fish taco. Next time I try it, it will be with either chicken tenders or a more flavorful fish.

    - Erika on October 27, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Erika, So sorry you didn’t enjoy the tilapia. If you try it again fish taco-style, you might try seasoning the avocado. I love avocado but it definitely dulls the other flavors unless it is heavily seasoned.

      - Jenn on October 27, 2015 Reply
  • We had this a 2nd time & had leftover tilapia. We morphed it into “filet o’ fish sliders” for a leftover weekend lunch.

    The (heated) filet with some (melted) american cheese on top, shredded lettuce and a siracha mayo on a grilled slider bun. OH MY GAWD, heaven.

    I have tilapia (& slider buns) in the freezer and corn tortillas in the pantry. It won’t be too much longer before this gets a three-peat in our house!!

    - Meredith on August 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is my new go to or how to prepare Tilapia. I amde no changes to the recipe. It is quick, easy and delicious! And my kids gobbled it up. I only make 2 – 3 fillets at a time and found that the tortilla breading stores well in the freezer for a few weeks. Making the next batch even easier. I serve with whatever fruit and steamed veggie is in season and everyone is happy.

    - Audrey G on August 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Chef, what kind of sauce can be made for this dish?

    - Daniel on July 14, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Daniel, I have served it with a lime-jalapeno-garlic mayo; it was delicious but not really necessary. It’s good with just a squirt of lime :)

      - Jenn on July 14, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was absolutely delicious!! Everyone in the house, including the 3.5 year old, cheered: “Winner, winner, tilapia dinner!!”.

    We had some chipotle bbq sauce leftover from some bacon wrapped shrimp (Guy Fieri) for Father’s Day that hubby used on his. My daughter and I were purists and used lime “squeezies”.

    Served it with a simple roasted yellow squash; absolutely yummy! Thanks for a great recipe edition to my repertoire!

    - Meredith on June 22, 2015 Reply
    • So glad you all enjoyed it, Meredith!

      - Jenn on June 22, 2015 Reply
  • What would you serve with this? Thanks!

    - Sally on June 13, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We just had the fish and rice with a marinated slaw for supper……delish! Hubby is not a huge fish guy, but loves mexican or southwest food–he loved it. I will try freezing it. My folks have health issues and I cook meals they can reheat. I think they could pan fry if it is all prepped. They like fish and I never cook it for them because it is not a great dish to reheat. Thanks for a great recipe.

    - Jan on June 12, 2015 Reply
  • Do you think I could spray it with olive oil and bake in the oven? Or won’t be as crunchy? Love, love, love all your recipes!

    - Alison on June 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Alison, I’ve tried it — it’s not as tasty as pan-fried but it does still get pretty crisp.

      - Jenn on June 11, 2015 Reply
  • Hello, good afternoon. Tortillas are such as one buys? Or they are fried like nachos?

    - Carlos P on June 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Carlos, The fresh tortillas you would use for tacos — they are not fried.

      - Jenn on June 11, 2015 Reply
  • Are these crispy tortillas? I am not quite sure what I will be looking for.
    Marjory

    - marjory on June 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Marjory, They are not crispy. Corn tortillas are fresh and soft — they are an alternative to flour tortillas. They are usually sold in a plastic bag near the flour tortillas.

      - Jenn on June 11, 2015 Reply
  • Could the fillets be baked or broiled instead of pan fried? Thanks! Love your recipes and website!

    - Jamie on June 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Jamie, I did try baking the fillets — it’s not as delicious as pan-frying (naturally!) but it does still come out crisp. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on June 11, 2015 Reply
  • I am just about embarrassed to ask this question, but here goes. Could you use the crispy corn tortillas?

    - Karen T on June 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Karen, I would stick with the fresh corn tortillas. I think the crispy ones will give you the same result as the tortilla chips I tried — the crust comes out a little tough. It’s much better with the fresh :)

      - Jenn on June 11, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    taste great I have also done the same recipe with parmesan cheese it melts in your mouth

    - Ted M on June 11, 2015 Reply

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