Fragrant Oven Baked Tilapia Whole Fish

Now and again, we love to eat and enjoy a whole fish. It brings back memories of many dinners at the beach while living in Thailand. 

Preparing a whole fish can be overwhelming for many people, but at the same time, serving such a dish is a great way to impress your guests! So, why not give it a try? 

tilapia whole fish

Learn how to bake whole tilapia

If you are adventurous enough and you know how to take care of fresh fish, you can gut and clean it yourself. If not, ask your fishmonger to clean and scale the fish so it is ready for you to prepare with a delicious marinade. There will still be a little work to be done before cooking but everyone can use scissors to cut off the fins. All the steps are in the recipe below and this will allow you to check if your fishmonger did everything your required.

Tilapia has beautiful, firm, white fish flesh and it has a very subtle, plain flavour which is ideal to add your own aromatics and spices. In this recipe we stuff a combination of Asian flavours such as coriander, garlic, ginger and lemon into the fish. The scoring of the fish and rubbing more of the marinade over it helps the fish absorb more of the flavours, but don’t forget to scale the fish before starting to cook.  

Don’t give up on this recipe if you don’t find whole fish, fillets of fish will taste equally as good!

Read also other fish recipes and how to filltet a round fish.

tilapia whole fish

Oven Baked Tilapia Whole Fish

Preparing a whole fish can be overwhelming for many people, but at the same time, serving such a dish is a great way to impress your guests!
3.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Fish & Seafood
Cuisine Thai
Servings 2 people
Calories 581 kcal



Prepare the marinade for the fish

  • Blend the coriander roots and stems, garlic, ginger, ½ lemon, ½ lime, 1 red chili to obtain a coarse mixture; keep aside.

Prepare the fish

  • With a scaling tool remove the scales from the tail towards the head.
  • Use scissors to trim the fins on the sides, except the tail and remove the gills and guts if your fishmonger didn’t do this.
  • Rinse the fish well and pat dry.
    cut fins from tilapia fish

Bake the fish

  • Drizzle some olive oil with a little chili-lemon mixture in a baking tray.
  • Score the fish on both sides, season with salt and pepper then stuff the cavities (where the guts were removed) and rub the fillet slashes with it.
    score tilapia whole fish
  • Place the fish onto the baking tray and bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through, baste the whole fish with the juice in the baking pan.
    stuffing tilapia whole fish
  • After baking, rest the fish for 5 minutes covered with foil.
    tilapia whole fish

Serve the fish

  • Serve on a large plate, garnish with fresh coriander, julienne of chili and lemon.
    oven baked tilapia whole fish


  • Any whole fish such as snapper, sea bream, barramundi is suitable to replace the tilapia.
  • Scoring is a culinary term for making diagonal criss cross cuts. In this recipe it helps to cook the fish evenly.

Nutrition for 1 portion

Calories: 581kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 121gFat: 10gCholesterol: 300mgSodium: 318mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 844IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 4mg
Keyword tilapia, whole fish
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was! #culinaryambition

Baking whole tilapia

Baking whole tilapia in the oven is a nice way to prepare fish, as it allows all the flavours of the herbs and spices to meld and simmer throughout the whole fish. The process acts like a steamer, which means the finished fish is aromatic.

If you are not very good at pan searing, and always end up with dry or burnt fish, baking whole tilapia is a foolproof way to get beautifully cooked fish every time.

Highlights of baking whole tilapia fish

Often, it is to your advantage to buy a whole fish as opposed to fillets, simply because it is less expensive. When you are buying pieces, you are paying for the labour to cut and slice the fish, whereas if you try baking a whole tilapia fish, you will probably save on the total price.

If you are serving a family, or several guests, a whole fish will be needed to provide enough food for each person. Finally, presenting a whole baked tilapia is much more spectacular than just pieces on a serving platter.

3.67 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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