Tilapia has been an important food source in North Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years, but has only recently been gaining ground in the United States. Over the past 50 years, worldwide consumption of this fish has skyrocketed, and for good reason: tilapia is fast-growing, lean, low in mercury, and can thrive on an algae or vegetarian diet.
While wild-caught fish is always preferred, farmed tilapia has an extremely low toxin profile and minimal environmental impact when raised in the right conditions. Tilapia is one of the most sustainable and inexpensive farmed fish; by comparison, it takes over 3 pounds of wild fish to produce only 1 pound of farmed salmon. In a world of decreasing wild fish options, I think it’s prudent to find the next best thing. Seek out tilapia farmed in the United States, as they are better observed than in many other countries, especially fish farms in China and Southeast Asia.
Farmed tilapia does not have the same Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio as other, wild-caught fish, but it is still an excellent protein source – it just shouldn’t be treated like an Omega-3 rich meal. Instead, we like to think of it as the nutritional equivalent of chicken breast; not a robust source of vitamins and nutrients, but still great to have from time to time.
Pan-Fried Tilapia Taco Salad
Pico de Gallo Dressing:
2 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 small handful cilantro, chopped
1 small handful parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar okay)
juice of 1 lime (2 tbsp)
salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
4 tilapia filets
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce, washed and chopped
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
2 avocados, sliced
2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil (more if needed)
1. Combine the dressing ingredients, adding salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to marry.
2. Pat the tilapia filets dry with paper towels. Combine the seasonings then sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish, gently patting the seasoning into the filets. Set aside while you arrange the rest of the salad.
3. In four salad bowls, distribute the lettuce, shredded cabbage, and avocado slices.
4. Heat a cast iron skillet on med/high heat for three minutes, then add the ghee or oil. Immediately add a fish filet and cook until browned, about two minutes, then flip and cook until starting to flake, about 2-3 additional minutes. Set on a plate to cool, then repeat the process with the other fish filets, adding more ghee or oil if needed.
5. Once the fish is finished, set it atop the salad and serve with the Pico de Gallo dressing.