11 Best Tilapia Substitutes

One of my go-to fish recipes is air-fried chili-lime tilapia. It is an excellent source of protein, and I find it delicious.

In addition, it is a staple dish in the states. But if you are looking for some tilapia substitutes to experiment with, you are reading the right piece.

In this article, you’ll find the best tilapia substitutes like Catfish, Codfish, Striped Bass, Bream, Red Snapper, Flounder fillets, Rainbow Trout, and more.

Continue scrolling as I share what is tilapia and how you can substitute it without losing the original flavoring.

What is Tilapia?

Tilapia Substitutes

Tilapia is a freshwater lean meat fish that comes from the cichlid fish species. It is not only flavorful but also an inexpensive and healthy option to add to your diet.

Tilapia was originally from the Nile river, Africa. However, for culinary needs, tilapia is now farmed in most countries.

Tilapia is a tasty and easy-to-make fish. Probably this is why tilapia has stayed as the fourth-highest consumed fish in America (source) for years now. Tilapia can be baked, boiled, grilled, or fried according to your preference. 

In the market, you will find more farmed tilapia than wild. Because it is a plant-eating fish that can be kept in a crowded lake and also because it grows up faster than most fish. The concern comes when the farmed tilapia was not kept in preferable conditions.

There have been reports that some Chinese farms feed animal feces and use chemicals in the water to get faster-growing tilapia. To avoid such products I try to buy tilapia sources locally in the US, Netherlands, or Canada.

11 Best Tilapia Substitutes

1. Catfish

Catfish

If you want a flavorful replacement for tilapia, catfish is one of the top choices. The texture and flavor of catfish are similar to tilapia, firm, mildly sweet, and moist. It is also a source of Omega 3 and vitamin B12. 

Fried catfish recipes have been a staple in the southern states for a long time, and now it’s gaining more popularity in other parts of the country. 

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However, choosing the wrong catfish could do more harm than good. So while buying, ensure I do not have an odd smell or discolorations. Buying farmed catfish is preferable to wild, as farmed ones are considered cleaner than the rest.

2. Whiting

Whiting

Whiting is similar to tilapia in taste and cooking techniques. You can enjoy its mild flavor by baking, frying, or boiling it.

If you add whiting to your diet, you are getting access to protein, magnesium, and B vitamin all in one fish.

It only has 90 calories in a 100-gram serving. However, whiting has a lower Omega 3 count than tilapia. 

3. Striped Bass

Striped Bass

When it comes to striped bass, you can choose either wild or farmed depending on the texture that you want. Wild striped bass is more firm than the firm-raised fish. But both kinds deliver a delicious flavor.

Striped bass is a white meat fatty fish that does not require butter while cooking. However, you can use a hint of oil for best results. It has a salty, lightly sweetened flavor. And if you want to eat a fish without the fishy smell, striped bass is a perfect match.

4. Bream

Bream

Abramis Brama or bream fish comes from the crap family. It is a common substitute for tilapia in European recipes. Visually it’s silver in color and has a smaller head than tilapia.

Generally, breams are found in sweetwater rivers and lakes. As it shares a similar taste, it can be a good substitute for tilapia. 

Breams are meaty and clean, which makes them perfect for fried recipes.

5. Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Red snappers are pinkish with hints of yellow. It is a moist, sweet fish and has a very high level of Omega 3. Red snappers are also similar to tilapia in taste. 

These fishes can grow up to 35 pounds, although generally, they are smaller in size. If you buy a whole fish, try to check the eyes and skin, fresh ones will have bright and red-pink eyes and skin. Even if it’s a filet, try getting one with the skin.

6. Flounder 

Flounder

Flounder are saltwater fish caught from the bottom of oceans. You can find whole flounders or flounder fillets in the market to replace tilapia in your recipe.

It is a flatfish species and has both eyes on the same side. Flounder is low in mercury and very healthy. You can make delicious baked dishes with flounder fish.

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7. Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout has a nutty taste and a delicate texture. As the name suggests, fresh ones are colorful with pink, orange, white, and silver hints. It takes less time to cook because of the tender meat.

Rainbow trouts are a vital source of Omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, it has low calorie and high protein levels.

8. Branzino

Branzino

Branzino thrives in the European seas, so it is also called the European bass. It is one of the top tilapia substitutes because of its similar mild sweet flavor.

The compact size and deliciousness make it a perfect replacement for grilled tilapia. Unfortunately, because of overfishing, the natural branzino population is at a low point.

However, farming branzino is proving to be helpful in this matter.

9. Lake trout

Lake Trout

As the name reveals, it’s a sweetwater lake fish. Lake trouts are readily available in the market, so it’s an easy tilapia substitute. The oiliness of this fish depends upon the size, and larger lake trout are more oily than the small ones.

You can boil or bake them and also grill the small lake trouts to add seer deliciousness to your diet.

10. Sole 

Sole

Sole fillets have B12 vitamins and other minerals and vitamins that will add nutritional value to your diet. All three kinds of sole fish, Common sole, Dover sole, and black sole, are preferable as tilapia substitutes.

11. Mullet

Mullet

Mullets are found predominantly in the Gulf of Mexico. The nutty, sweet flavor and firmness make it an ideal replacement for tilapia. To buy a healthy mullet, choose the ones with a firm texture. 

Baked or steamed mullets are a popular seafood option. However, if the meat of the mullet starts to become flaky during cooking, it’s ready for the plate.

What Does Tilapia Taste Like?

Tilapia has a more neutral palette of flavor. It’s white meat fish and has a mild sweetness to it. Because it does not have any dominant flavor, it’s easy to experiment with different ingredients to enhance the flavor.

However, some wild tilapias can have an earthy taste and odd smell because of the chemicals present in the water. Even because of bad farming practices, few farm-raised tilapias might have the same characteristics.

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The trick is to avoid buying tilapia without checking the smell and any discoloration. If you already have tilapia in the fridge and it smells too fishy, add mashed garlic while marinating and cooking overpower that earthy taste and fishy smell.

What Kind of Fish Is Tilapia?

Tilapia is a white fish that is generally found in sweetwater sources. Because of demand, it is farmed in mainly Asian continent. It is an inexpensive, healthy fish, so it has become a staple in many countries, specifically in the US.

However, it has its fair share of debates and theories. Some call it the frankenfish as genetic modifications are in practice to make it more disease resistant. The new, improved types of tilapia are considered healthy to eat. 

Although, even if you find a tilapia from its original line, but it is from chemically polluted water or had been given an unapproved diet, it’s not ideal for eating.

Haddock vs Tilapia: Are They Same?

No, haddock and tilapia are different fishes. 

  • Haddock is much more enormous than tilapia and has a thicker meat texture than tilapia’s lean flaky meat.
  • Because of their texture, tilapia can be cooked much more quickly than haddock. Thus haddock is more a restaurant fish, while tilapia can be seen on many household dinner tables.
  • Tilapia grows way faster than haddock, which makes haddock a more expensive option.
  • Although both are mild in taste, haddock has a more natural flavor.

Cod vs Tilapia: Which Tastes Better?

Overall I would choose tilapia, as it is farmed chiefly, inexpensive, and easy to cook. Codfish is not always sustainably caught and is more expensive than tilapia. It’s not ideal for incorporating in a regular diet plan.

Tastewise tilapia is way milder than Cod so that tilapia can be flavored according to your taste. And cod has thicker meat and a more prominent flavor.

It is up to your preference which one you choose.

There are many critics canceling tilapia, as new hybrids are farmed to get a more vital fish. But these hybrids are believed to be safe and healthy to eat.

However, sometimes tilapia from chemically infused water can taste, smell, look odd, and not eat. 

But I think I like tilapia because I can at least differentiate between good and lousy fillet by looking at it and smelling it.

If you have any information that can change my mind about tilapia, share it in the comments below. And if you are not convinced about tilapia anymore, now you have 11 tilapia substitutes to choose from. 

I’m a passionate food blogger on a journey to become a go-to person who can help others prepare delicious foods. I share recipes, food substitutes, and other cooking tips. Read more about my journey...

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