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Related Ingredients

Tasting Notes

This gluten-free tilapia recipe is quick enough to prepare on a weeknight but its crispy, crackly tapioca crust makes it a perfect for a casual dinner party.

Michael Mina soaks the fish in buttermilk to keep the fillets moist and lend a sweeter, brighter flavor to the finished tapioca-crusted tilapia. By seasoning both the buttermilk and the tilapia itself, we ensure full-flavor that penetrates the flesh of the fish. The tapioca flour is slightly nutty and sweet without being heavy or gluey, making it the perfect light coating for any delicate white fish. We cook the fillets in grapeseed oil, which has a high smoking point because it can get hot enough to ensure golden, crunchy crust.

Tips & Techniques

  1. Straight to the pan. Pat the fillets between both hands to get an even coating of the dry ingredients and place them directly into the hot oil.
  2. Go for the gold. For an evenly golden crust, heat the oil to just before its smoking point, and don’t overcrowd the pan. Apply gentle pressure to the fillets with the back of a spatula to make sure that the entire bottom crust is in contact with the hot oil.
  3. Maximum crisp. To get a crispier top crust on the filets, cook them about three-quarters of the way on one side before flipping.


This tool is one we find especially helpful when making this dish.


1. Deep glass baking dish. For best results, soak the fish filets in a baking dish or bowl that’s deep enough for them to be totally submerged in the buttermilk.


The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.


  • 2-inch deep baking dish or other container that will fit fish fillets
  • Small baking sheet with rack or plate
  • Sifter or mesh strainer
  • Tweezers (aka fingers) or tongs
  • Heavy sauté pan
  • Fish spatula or metal spatula
  • Cake tester
  • Small sheet pan



Tapioca-Crusted Tilapia

  • 1 cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup tapioca flour (also know as tapioca starch)
  • 4 each (4 ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 – 2 cups canola oil
  • 4 lemon wedges

Yield: 4 Servings

Active Time: 30

Total Time:  30

  1. Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the buttermilk in a 2-inch deep container that is large enough to fit the 4 pieces of fish.
  3. Season the buttermilk with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Sift the cornstarch and tapioca together into another baking dish that is large enough to fit the fillets.
  5. Place tilapia fillets in buttermilk, coating them all around. Leave to marinate for 15-20 minutes, but note that the acid in the buttermilk will start cooking the fish if left too long.
  6. Remove the fillets from the buttermilk, one at a time, draining off any excess and place them in the flour mixture. Coat fillets well on all sides by flipping them in the flour mixture several times all sides. Move to rack.
  7. Heat a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. It should be enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by ¼ inch.
  8. Once the oil is very hot (it should look liquid and be shimmering, almost smoking but not quite), add the fillets and color lightly until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Note: Do not overcrowd your pan. There should be approximately 2 inches around all of the fillets. If there is not enough room in your pan, cook the tilapia in batches. Additionally, make sure to use a nonstick pan and allow the oil to heat up long enough so that it is super-hot before placing the fish in the pan. Avoid dripping any water into the oil as it will make the oil splatter as you cook.
  9. Gently turn fish over and cook until the other side is golden brown and crispy, about another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to flip the fish away from you to avoid oil splattering. At this point, see if the fish is cooked through by inserting a cake tester into the center. If it comes out warm to the touch, the fish is done. If it still feels cool, transfer the fish to a baking sheet lined with a rack and place in the oven. Finish cooking in the oven as needed. The cooking time will depend on how thick the fillets are. Test with a cake tester every 2-3 minutes. When the center is warm to the touch, remove from the oven. Drain on rack or plate with paper towels. Serve with wedges of lemon.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

Cobb salad topped with tapioca-crusted tilapia

This crispy fish can put a new spin on a typical Cobb salad. Serve with iceberg lettuce, avocado, tomato, red onion and ranch dressing.