Marinating tilapia is a great way to add flavor to this mild fish.

How to Marinate a Frozen Tilapia Filet

by Kelly McCoy

Tilapia is a mild, inexpensive and sustainable fish that lends itself well to a variety of flavorings. Marinating the fillets is an easy way to add bold flavor to your dish, such as Thai-inspired ginger and lime or classic lemon pepper. Plan ahead to thaw the tilapia fillets in the refrigerator for best results, but even with just a few hours to spare and the right technique for quick-thawing your fillet, you can still turn out a great marinated tilapia dish.

Place the frozen tilapia fillets in a baking dish large enough to spread them in a single layer, and thaw your tilapia overnight in the refrigerator. If the fillets are individually vacuum-sealed, keep them in their plastic while they thaw. If you're pressed for time, you may place the fillets in a large resealable storage bag and submerge the bag in a large bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes or so -- to keep it cold -- until your fish is thawed. Keep the fillets in the refrigerator until you're ready to marinate them.

If the fillets are individually-packaged, remove the packaging and drain any liquid that has accumulated. Move the fillets back to the baking dish in which you thawed them and arrange them again in a single layer; pour over your desired marinade and gently turn each fillet to coat. Alternatively, you can place the frozen fillets in a resealable storage bag and add the marinade to the bag; seal the bag and gently massage it to distribute the marinade around each fillet. Let your tilapia marinate in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes.

Remove as much of the marinade as possible from your tilapia before cooking it. This improves the color and texture of your dish -- especially important when pan-frying or sautéing the fillets. To do so, gently remove the fillets from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels.

Items you will need

  • Frozen tilapia fillets
  • Baking dish or resealable storage bag
  • Pre-bottled or homemade marinade
  • Paper towels


  • Thaw the tilapia fillets before marinating, as frozen fish will not absorb any flavor.
  • The more acidic the marinade, the less time the tilapia needs to soak up the flavor; marinating too long will compromise the texture of the fish.
  • Do not thaw the tilapia in the microwave, as this usually results in partially cooking the outside of the fish, producing an off texture.


  • Do not leave your tilapia out at room temperature or place it in hot water to thaw, as this method allows bacteria to multiply and may result in food-borne illness.

About the Author

Kelly McCoy has been writing for lifestyle blogs and online publications since 2010, specializing in recipes and techniques for the home cook. She holds a B.A. from Boston University and J.D. from the University of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Photo Credits

  • Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images