Grilled Whole Tilapia Recipe

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This grilled whole tilapia is delicious and healthy. This recipe is very easy to put together. The process stays the same, but the ingredients (even the fish) can change according to your taste each time.


I love fish. It’s light and easy to digest, yet filling even if it’s just served with a salad or baked vegetables next to it. I usually use fillet of tilapia, season it and stick it in the oven, then I throw it on a bowl of salad and call it a meal. It’s the best meal!

But once in a while, I feel like going the extra mile and making it a little differently. This time it was on the grill, charcoal grill, because, you know, everything tastes better on live fire!

Grilled Whole Tilapia Recipe…

This grilled whole tilapia is really easy to make. I made it with my parents when I was visiting Israel. I pulled some images from the video for this post, but if you are a visual person, make sure that you watch the video (it should come up in the post below or you can find it on YouTube here), then the printable recipe is below.

Ingredients…

  • Tilapia – that’s my favorite fish but feel free to follow this same recipe with any kind of fish.
  • 2 Large lemons
  • Garlic cloves
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Kitchen Tools…

How to Grill a Whole Tilapia…

preparing the fish for grilling

Step one – prepare the fish. Thaw the fish if it’s not already thawed and make sure to wash it well. Set it aside while you prepare the seasonings.

Step two – prepare the seasoning. Peel a large lemon. Slice it, quarter it, and add to a large mixing bowl. Peel the garlic and slice or dice it. Add it to the bowl as well. Next, wash a large bunch of cilantro, remove the stems and chop the leaves. Add them to the bowl. Add the garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and olive oil. Lastly, squeeze the juice of one large lemon and add it to the bowl as well. Use your hands to mix it all together.

Step three – season the fish. Lay a large piece of tin foil on the counter. Stuff some of the sliced and quartered lemon, cilantro, and seasoning mixture into the belly of the fish. Then, lay some of it on the tin foil, lay the fish on top, and add some more of the cilantro mixture on top of the fish. Close the tin foil around the fish and place it on a baking sheet or a tray. Do the same with the second fish.

grilling the fish

Step four – grill the fish. Light the charcoal grill and place the fish on the grill. Grill for 30-40 minutes. Halfway through the grilling, flip the fish. You don’t have to do this if you have a grill that you can cover, also, if you can close your grill to trap the heat inside it might take less time for the fish to cook. Once the fish is ready, remove from the grill and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

A Few Tips…

  1. Spray the tin foil – you might want to brush or spray the tin foil before placing the fish in it. We didn’t do it and it’s not a big deal if you don’t do it but it might make it easier to unwrap the fish before serving.
  2. Double wrap the fish – it might be easier to flip the fish on the grill if you double wrap it (if you can cover your grill and don’t need to flip the fish you don’t have to do this). Make sure that the second wrapping covers the opening of the first.
  3. Use a grill with a cover – in the video you can see that our grill is open, there is no cover to it. If you use a grill that has a cover you can cover the fish and trap the heat inside so there is no need to flip the fish.
  4. Use the oven – if you are going to serve this fish on the holiday table or a fancy meal and you want it to stay whole and pretty, you can bake the fish in the oven first for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. Then, transfer it to the grill for another 20-30 minutes. Baking it in the oven will stabilize the meat and the fish should stay whole and not fall apart.

What to Serve With Whole Grilled Tilapia…

How to Store Leftovers…

  • In the fridge – remove the fish from the tin foil and remove the bones. Store the fish in a plastic container in the fridge for a few days.
  • In the freezer – you can keep this fish as an easy freezer meal. I think that the best way to do this is to clean it beforehand so you don’t have to do it later. Remove the bones and divide into portions. You can store the portions in a zip lock bag or in a freezer container. To serve, let it thaw and then heat it in the microwave or in the oven for a few minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions…

What can I use instead of cilantro?

If you don’t like cilantro you can substitute it with parsley, thyme, or rosemary.

Can I grill other kinds of fish this way?

Yes! Really, you can follow this same process and recipe with any kind of fish (I’m not sure that catfish will work here but I’ve never tried). So if you had a successful fishing day at the lake or the ocean feel free to try this with any fish.

Can I do this on a gas grill?

Sure you can although everything tastes better on charcoal, in my opinion. I don’t use a gas grill myself but I’m guessing that grilling time should be approximately the same time. To check if the fish is ready simply remove one of the fish from the grill and open the tin foil. If it’s not ready, close the tin foil and place the fish back on the grill.

Can I use other spices?

Anything you want! If you want your fish spicy, add chili powder or cayenne pepper. Add fish seasoning mix, leave the garlic powder out… There are so many ways to do this. Just make sure that there is a little bit of moisture so keep the lemon juice and the olive oil.

Can I do this in the oven?

You can. Follow the same recipe. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Set the tin-foil-wrapped fish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until it’s ready.


This was such a simple and delicious lunch for us that day! In fact, as you can see in the video, we didn’t even set the table. We threw a few mushrooms on the grill and when the fish was ready we just dug in. This is definitely a go-to recipe for us when it comes to fish. I hope that you’ll give it a try!

More Delicious Recipes…

Grilled Whole Tilapia

Grilled Whole Tilapia

Yield: Two whole fish
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This grilled whole tilapia is delicious and healthy. This recipe is very easy to put together. The process stays the same, but the ingredients (even the fish) can change according to your taste each time.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole tilapia, clean
  • 2 large lemons
  • 10-15 garlic cloves
  • 1 very large bunch of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Thaw the fish if it’s not already thawed and make sure to wash it well. Set it aside while you prepare the seasonings.
  2. Peel a large lemon. Slice it, quarter it, and add to a large mixing bowl. Peel the garlic and slice or dice it. Add it to the bowl as well. Next, wash a large bunch of cilantro, remove the stems and chop the leaves. Add them to the bowl. Add the garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and olive oil. Lastly, squeeze the juice of one large lemon and add it to the bowl as well. Use your hands to mix it all together.
  3. Lay a large piece of tin foil on the counter. Stuff some of the sliced, quartered lemon, cilantro, and seasoning mixture into the belly of the fish. Then, lay some of it on the tin foil, lay the fish on top, and add some more of the cilantro mixture on top of the fish. Close the tin foil around the fish and place it on a baking sheet or a tray. Do the same with the second fish.
  4. Light the charcoal grill and place the fish on the grill. Grill for 30-40 minutes. Halfway through the grilling, flip the fish. You don’t have to do this if you have a grill that you can cover, also, if you can close your grill to trap the heat inside it might take less time for the fish to cook. Once the fish is ready, remove it from the grill and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

Frequently Asked Questions...

  1. What can I use instead of cilantro?
    If you don’t like cilantro you can substitute it with parsley, thyme, or rosemary.
  2. Can I grill other kinds of fish this way?
    Yes! Really, you can follow this same process and recipe with any kind of fish (I’m not sure that catfish will work here but I’ve never tried). So if you had a successful fishing day at the lake or the ocean feel free to try this with any fish.
  3. Can I do this on a gas grill?
    Sure you can although everything tastes better on charcoal, in my opinion. I don’t use a gas grill myself but I’m guessing that grilling time should be approximately the same time. To check if the fish is ready simply remove one of the fish from the grill and open the tin foil. If it’s not ready, close the tin foil and place the fish back on the grill.
  4. Can I use other spices?
    Anything you want! If you want your fish spicy, add chili powder or cayenne pepper. Add fish seasoning mix, or leave the garlic powder out… There are so many ways to do this. Just make sure that there is a little bit of moisture so keep the lemon juice and the olive oil.
  5. Can I do this in the oven?
    You can. Follow the same recipe. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Set the tin-foil-wrapped fish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until it’s ready.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 678Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 472mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 5gSugar: 17gProtein: 49g

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