Soy Sauce Tilapia

Frozen tilapia is a good go-to dinner. You know, on those days that you just don’t have time to make something fancy, but still want a healthy dinner? Make this over some rice and serve with a small salad and you have a full meal in very little time. The original recipe called for striped bass, but I only had tilapia on hand, so I made it this way and loved it. Now I do it like this all the time. When I don’t have scallions, I just skip them. My husband is not a fan, anyway, but he loves the soft onions, so although they’re not a part of the original recipe, sometimes I make a swap.

I like to make the scallions very soft, so I add them at the beginning. The original recipe does not. Oh well, do it however you like it.

Soy Sauce Poached Tilapia, adapted from Mark Bittman:


  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dried chili
  • 4 tilapia filets
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Water (possibly)


1. In a large skillet, add the chili and scallions and put over medium low heat, mixing occasionally until the scallions soften, about 7 minutes.

2. Add the soy sauce and bring the heat up to medium high to bring to a boil.

3. Add the fish, skin side down (even though I usually use skinless) and add some water, if needed, to make sure the sauce goes almost all the way up the side of the fish.

4. Watch to make sure the mixture is bubbling, but not too hard, and cook for 8-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

5. Serve over some white rice (or brown, but the white soaks up the juices better) and enjoy!

  • Tamar Genger

    Thanks for this recipe I am always looking for new ways to cook tilapia and this look easy and tasty.  I don’t usually have skin on my tilapia though, does it matter which side is down first? 

    • Jessica

      Tamar – there’s still a side that used to have skin on it!

  • melindakitchentested

    I love cooking tilapia in my house because it is so cheap and tastes like whatever you want it to taste like! I love the idea of poaching it. 

    • Jamie Geller

       Totally agree with Melinda tilapia is so non offensive and neutral – not that any fish offends me (happen to be crazy for fish) but have some touch and go fish eaters at home and I find that after salmon, tilapia is a safe choice — I’m going with the scallions at the end though so they still have a slight bite.

  • Do the chilis make the sauce very spicy?

    • Jessica

      yes, and i love spicy! use less (maybe 1/2) if you don’t like spice.

  • This recipe sounds fantastic! I’m always looking for new ways to prepare tilapia, but I’ve never poached it. This is a must try!

  • This looks delicious. I always have frozen tilapia in the freezer so this looks like a great dinner for the nights I haven’t been to the grocery store. My kids will love it (without the chilis, probably).

  • Alessandra

    Looks great

  • I need to try this. Everything I have made from Mark Bittman comes out perfectly.

  • love tilapia. First tasted St Peter’s fish in Israel, years ago and learned it was tilapia!

  • Busyinbrooklyn

    With 3 little kids in tow, I’m all about easy dinners and I love how simple this is. I’ll definitely be trying this.

  • If only I would have read this last night.. I was itching for a new way to make tilapia!!

  • This looks fantastic! I’m always looking for easy and quick dinners and love fish! This would make a great change from the usual cod or salmon go-to dishes!