Chili-Lime Tilapia – Black Beans – Brown Rice

Let’s be real here. Tilapia is boring. On its own, it’s really just a cheap, tasteless source of lean protein. If tilapia were a Simpsons character it would probably be Milhouse.  Or maybe Hans Moleman. Poor, poor tilapia.

But eating tilapia does have its pros.  Like I said, it’s cheap (I got over a pound for less than three dollars), lean, and it’s fish so it’s a good source of omega-3s (although most would agree that farm-raised fish tends to have less omega-3 fatty acids than wild caught). Tilapia also has decent texture and holds up well to pan frying or even grilling. Finally, but most importantly, tilapia is bland and doesn’t even taste fishy, so you can basically make it taste like whatever you want depending on how you season it.  It’s like a blank protein canvas for your palette! Yippee hooray!

So here’s what I’m gonna do.  We’re gonna go a little Tex-Mex with this dish, starting with my chili seasoning:


We’re going 2:1:1:1:1 for the seasoning mix, starting with a 1/2 tsp of chili powder (then 1/4 tsp for everything else in case math isn’t your strong point). Add some beef, a little Mexican oregano, a pinch of cocoa powder, and a can of tomatoes, and baby, you got a chili going. But that’s for another day.


Got some nice looking tilapia filets right here.


Here’s a tip: season from a good height above your meat, this will allow for more even seasoning rather than splotches of heavily seasoned areas next to essentially bare meat.


Searing is easy. Check out my post, why don’t you!


Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid to let it steam while it’s searing. Uncover and squeeze lime on the filet and flip it over.


Squeeze some more lime on the other side of the fish, cover again, and continue cooking.


That’s pretty much it for the fish.  Let’s get the beans and rice going. All you need for this is a can of black beans, some chopped onion and jalapeño, some chicken broth, and a little cumin.


Heat some oil, saute the onions and jalapeño, add a tsp of cumin, then add some broth and the beans. Simmer, stir, and occasionally mash the beans until it’s thickened and the onions are soft (about 10 minutes).


As for the rice, all I did was cook some brown rice in a rice cooker with chicken broth instead of water, and about half a cup of diced onion.  Easy. Serve the rice and beans with the fish, garnish with avocado and some kickass salsa. Qué Rico!


Chili Lime Tilapia with Black Beans and Brown Rice


1 cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion

METHOD 1: Rinse the brown rice and drain. Throw all ingredients into a rice cooker and press “Start.” Boom. Done.

METHOD 2: Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the brown rice and coat with the oil and onions.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer until rice is fluffy and tender, about 45 minutes.


1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth1/4 cup chopped onions
1 jalapeño, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
Olive oil

Heat a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, add 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Saute the onion until translucent, add the cumin and saute a little more. Add the jalapeño, chicken broth, and beans. Cook and stir, mashing the beans occasionally, until onions are soft and the whole thing is thickened. That’s it.


1 lb tilapia filets
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lime, cut into quarters
Olive oil

Coat the tilapia filets with about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Combine chili powder cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt in a small dish. Season the tilapia filets well on both sides with the spice mixture and let marinate for an hour.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and coat the pan. Add the tilapia to the hot pan (it should sizzle as soon as you put it on). Immediately cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for about 90 seconds. Remove the lid, and the edges of the top of the tilapia should start to look cooked. Squeeze one quarter of the lime on the top of the filets, flip the filets, cover, and continue cooking for another 90 seconds.

Remove the lid again, squeeze another quarter of lime over the filets, and remove from heat. Serve with the rice and beans, garnish with salsa, avocado, and cilantro.

(beans and rice based off of bon appetit’s recipe)


Here’s the order you should do everything so it’s all done in about an hour. You can do it!

1. Start with seasoning the fish
2. Start the rice
3. While rice is cooking, make the beans
4. Once the rice and beans are done, cook the fish quickly and serve everything warm.

beer pairing recommendation: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. But really, what wouldn’t go well with this beer?

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