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.

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

Photo Credits

  • Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images