Pan seared tilapia with shallots and bacon

Pan-seared tilapia with bacon and shallots

For a long time I thought tilapia was some kind of garbage fish. People talked about it with derision most often reserved for the Fillet-O-Fish or other generic whitefish battered and deep fried. But tilapia might be one of the better values currently in your local market's sea food section. It's cheap, low on the food chain, and farm raised, which makes it affordable, low in mercury and sustainable. And as long as you buy from farms with good regulation and safety practices, you can be assured of getting good, firm fillets that will stand up to a nice pan sear. Bonus? It provides some of the same omega 3 fatty acids as its oilier, mercury filled cousins.

This past weekend I picked up a couple tilapia fillets and brought them home. With some shallots and bacon I was able to throw together a simple, easy fish course (with bacon) in about 30 minutes, including prep. And it was delicious.


  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 cup water or fish stock
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tsp honey (or more, to taste)
  • kosher salt

Begin by heating a pan over medium heat. While the pan heats, coarsely chop the bacon and slice the shallots into discs about a quarter-inch thick. When the pan is heated, add the bacon, stir briefly and then let it sit for six minutes (or as directed on your bacon's packaging). Flip the pieces, and gently stir in the shallots. Let the mix cook an additional four minutes. Turn up the heat just a bit, and remove the bacon and shallots with a slotted spoon.

By the time you've got the bacon and shallots out of the pan, it should be hot enough for the fillets. Place them gently in the pan and sear on one side about two minutes. Flip, and sear on the other side an additional two minutes. Don't move them or mess with them or anything. You want constant, prolonged contact with the pan to get good caramelization.

Remove the fillets to plates, then add the stock to the pan to deglaze it. Add the honey and vinegar to bring some sweetness and acid to the sauce and reduce the hit to low for several minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Drizzle the sauce on the fillets, then top with a smattering of the bacon and shallots. Enjoy!

What to pair it with?
I'm a big fan of contrasting food with wine--With hot, salty food, I like a cold, sweet wine. With this dish, the fat from the bacon provides a wonderful, unctuous texture that's just begging to be cut by a crisp white wine, like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.


Anonymous said...

Okay, trying this again (Blogger didn't want to let me post before)...

This recipe looks great! I like tilapia, but haven't found many recipes for it so far. (I've been making Cooking Light's tilapia piccata fairly frequently, which is good.) The bacon sounds like a really interesting addition, too. I'll have to try that this weekend.

I'm still learning wine, but do you think a white zinfandel would go with this, in addition to your suggestions?

vanessa vichit-vadakan said...

i like the bacon-to-fish ratio. looks beautiful and delicious.

Kevin said...

That pan seared tilapia looks good. Tilapia is my go to fish. It is usually well priced and good.

Greg Turner said...

@Erin: White zinfandel is a little sweet for my tastes, but your comment has germinated a new post (coming soon, I'm sure), the upshot of which is the following: drink what you like and what makes you happy. I'm sure white zin would be fine, but don't e afraid to try a less sweet wine, especially to have with food.

@Vanessa: Thanks! You know all things really are better with bacon

@Kevin: I think it's going to enter heavily into my own fish rotation from here on out.

Maya said...

Hi Greg:
Bacon AND tilapia = delish.
I know what you mean about tilapia - it has such a bad rep. Curried tilapia is one of my all time fav.