This Brown Butter Pan Seared Tilapia is a 15-minute meal perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. This budget-friendly dinner is impressive enough to serve to guests. A cheap healthy meal that will be loved by all!
I’m always on the lookout for a budget-friendly meal that will also please my meat-and-seafood-loving husband. Tilapia is a low-fat fish and an economical way to enjoy seafood, but it always seems just a little bit…plain. But that makes it a blank canvas for adding flavor! By adding brown butter and almonds, this tilapia moves from hum-drum to oh-wow.
Brown Butter + Pan-Seared Tilapia = Oh wow!
First on the list of flavor enhancers is the brown butter. You may hear chefs talking about how browning the butter adds “depth of flavor”. It’s the equivalent of toasting a bagel, for example—heating food until it’s brown makes it even tastier. That’s what we are doing with the butter here. By toasting the butter in a saucepan it becomes a nutty, toasty, more intense version of itself. It’s an easy way to add flavor without adding much expense, and you don’t need much (I used two tablespoons of butter for four servings).
The key is to pull the butter off the stovetop once you see small brown bits collect at the bottom of the pan (as shown above). Ta-da! That’s brown butter.
Next up is the almonds. I love the combination of fish and nuts (like trout with a pecan crust, for example). I don’t have much luck with cooking the fish through without burning the nuts first. So instead, this recipe simply puts the almonds on top, which is much easier and less time-intensive (and just as flavorful).
Eat healthy with this budget-friendly dinner!
I buy the slivered almonds in the bulk bins at my grocery store so there’s no waste. I also rarely buy tilapia at full price. It’s a popular fish and goes on sale often, whether fresh from the seafood counter or frozen in the freezer section.
Speaking of sales, I always purchase extra butter when it is on sale. It freezes and defrosts easily, making it great for stocking up when the price dips.
In order to quickly cook the tilapia, I pan seared all four fillets in one tablespoon of olive oil. Canola oil would work here, too. It just takes 3–4 minutes per side, and meanwhile, you can toast the butter to create the brown butter.
Serve this Pan Seared Tilapia with Brown Butter and Almonds with budget-friendly brown rice and a green salad. It would also be delicious over whole wheat pasta!
- 4 (4–6 oz) tilapia fillets, defrosted if frozen
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- To garnish: fresh chopped parsley (optional)
- Pat tilapia fillets dry with paper towels. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
- Place the flour in a shallow dish. Place each tilapia fillet into the flour, gently pressing to create a thin coating of flour on both sides of each fillet.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the tilapia in the hot oil and cook for 3–4 minutes on each side, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
- Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook, picking the pan up to swirl occasionally, or until the butter is light brown and smells toasted, about 4–5 minutes. If the butter turns dark brown or black, it is overcooked and you’ll need to start again, so watch closely! Remove from the heat. Season with a pinch of salt and stir in the slivered almonds.
- Place the cooked tilapia fillets on a serving platter and pour the brown butter & almond mixture over the top. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.
Home Chef Tip: Purchase the slivered almonds in bulk bins at your local grocery store to eliminate waste and extra expense. They are often cheaper by the pound when buying via the bulk bins, too!
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We hope you love this Brown Butter Pan-Seared Tilapia recipe from SoFabFood Home Chef, Kate from Gift of Hospitality, as much as we do. If you love this cheap healthy meal, stop by our 30-Minute Meal Section for more like it. For daily recipe inspiration, subscribe to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Pinterest. Enjoy!