Summertime Fave: Tilapia Tacos

Cary, NC — My kitchen and I have had plenty of bonding time during these last few months of “quarantine cooking”.

Time in the kitchen, for me, is usually like a blissful therapy session with only the sounds of a knife to the cutting board and some background music. With the struggles of going to the grocery store and making almost every meal at home though, I found myself in a rut of shuffling the same old recipes over and over.

It was time to add something new and something exciting to the mix.

Connecting Food with Memories

As I thought about the type of meal I’d want, I tried to think of a favorite summertime meal. I decided to challenge myself to recreate something from my time spent in Costa Rica a few summers ago. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to let the taste buds have a little vacation even if you’re not going on one anytime soon.

Thinking back to the cantinas of Costa Rica, the meal came to mind pretty clearly — Tilapia Tacos.

To put together this recipe, I combined different elements from three recipes. I went for the ingredients I liked, a decent prep and cook time and a price point I was willing to spend on a dinner for two. An added bonus for this one is that you can easily make a home-made taco sauce to go with it in no time. I’m telling you, nothing makes you feel like you’ve got your life together more than a scratch-made taco sauce drizzled on a plate.

Also worth mentioning — it doesn’t take much time to put together, it’s a great way to cook fish without worries of over or under-cooking and it can easily be upsized or downsized for gathering sizes. After just one try at it, I made sure to jot it all down because it’s definitely a new favorite in my house. If you’re up for a light, citrusy summertime meal with a slight kick, here’s how to put together Tilapia Tacos.


While I opted for cilantro, tomato, red onion and avocado, feel free to add other classics like red cabbage and cotija cheese.

Taco Fillings

  • Tortillas, the smaller the better (# depending on gathering size)
  • Tilapia filets (Each filet makes about 3 tacos)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Taco Toppings

  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 Lime

Taco Drizzle – Garlic Lime Crema

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice from a medium-size lime
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Note: To make dairy-free, skip the sour cream and add more mayo. To make gluten-free, use corn tortillas instead of flour.

Key to Success: Good Prep

By looking at the ingredients, you might guess there’s a good bit of chopping involved. My advice? Turn on the tunes and have fun with it!

You can experiment with your knife skills or throw it in a food processor for quick work. Either way, take each of the taco toppings one at a time, putting each ingredient in its own bowl for an easy grab & go style toppings line.

As you chop the first few ingredients, get the oven preheating to 375 degrees for the tilapia.



  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
  3. Evenly sprinkle the mix on both sides of the tilapia & lightly drizzle olive oil on the top of the fish
  4. Dot each piece of fish with a bit of butter
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375


  1. Whisk together  the sour cream, mayo, lime juice and garlic in a small bowl until well blended

Taco Assembly:

  1. If you want awesome tacos, briefly toast your tortillas in a pan. I do about 10 seconds a side on medium heat.
  2. Start with the fish, then add topings
  3. If you really want to elevate the dish, find some cotija cheese and sprinkle on top
  4. Finally, finish it off with a drizzle of your scratch-made (super easy!) Garlic Lime Crema
  5. Serve with a lime wedge for some added acidity

The Magic of Finger Food

I paired these tacos with a salty, buttery classic — corn on the cob, grilled in the husk. Keep an eye out for that recipe on Food Cary!

There’s something about making something that’s sole purpose is to be eaten with your hands. It’s fun, it gets you out of the fork and knife routine and it seems to always be a catalyst for good conversation and memories.

If you make this dish, share it with us by tagging @FoodCary on Instagram or Facebook.

Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.

Story originally published on FoodCaryDelivering Cary’s food scene since 2014. Subscribe by email.