Golden and crispy, my pan fried fish recipe turns light, flaky tilapia fillets into a flavorful fish dish ideal as a simple weeknight meal, or as part of festive spread. Marinated in lemon, garlic and spices, then lightly breaded in a combination of panko breadcrumbs plus a hint of grated parmesan, these pan fried fish fillets are finished with a topping of sauteed mustard greens kissed with lemon and garlic for added flavor!
A Fish Dish Fit for the Holidays, or Any Day
When I was a little girl, I used to love to listen to my parents share stories about how they celebrated the holiday season growing up in Slovakia, and all the shenanigans they'd get into with cousins and siblings during that festive time of year.
I enjoyed hearing the details about what their Christmas Eve dinners were made up of, and how cozy everything felt, even though life was pretty modest for both of them, with money fairly tight.
For my parents, a fish dish was always a part of their special holiday dinner, typically one that was fried and served in a very simple way, and it was a beloved part of the meal for both of them.
They appreciated the tradition, and the delicious flavor that this comforting fish dish would add to their holiday experience.
Hearing their stories always warmed my heart, and I've often found a lot of joy in taking inspiration from my own heritage and background when creating delicious and comforting dishes of my own, this pan fried fish recipe a wonderful example.
I wanted a recipe that would not only be a fantastic and elegant offering on a holiday table, but one that would be simple enough to prepare any day of the week when a little healthy comfort food was needed.
My Recipe for Pan Fried Fish with Sauteed Mustard Greens
While you can certainly use any type of light, mild-flavored fish fillets you like for this recipe, I opt for light and flaky tilapia fillets here.
I've always found them to take on the flavor of a good marinade really well, and to cook quickly with succulent results.
For my marinade, I'm using some olive oil, lemon juice and zest, paprika, garlic, plus salt and pepper, and allowing for at least thirty minutes of marination, up to four hours. This makes a difference in the flavor of the fried fish, offering lots of savoriness in each bite.
In addition to a quick dip in a bit of flour, then whisked eggs, I like to dredge the marinated fillets in a combo of crispy panko breadcrumbs and parmesan, because together, this combo creates lots of terrific crispy crunchiness, golden color, and even a hint more flavor.
Because I like my fried fish with some greens alongside, I'm also very quickly sauteing some mustard greens in a touch of olive oil and garlic, plus a squeeze of lemon, and then spooning those atop of the crispy, pan fried fish fillets, just before serving.
Here's a sneak peek at how I make my pan fried fish recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I marinate my fish fillets in olive oil, lemon, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper for roughly 30 minutes, or up to four hours.
- Once marinated, I gently dredge each fillet in a touch of flour, then whisked eggs, followed by a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and parmesan, and then set them aside on a platter.
- When all fish fillets are dredged, I heat enough oil in a large skillet for shallow frying (about ½ cup oil). Once hot, I fry a few fillets at a time until golden-brown on each side, about 4 minutes on the first side, about 3 minutes on the second.
- I allow the pan fried fish fillets to drain on a wire rack while I quickly saute my mustard greens in a small amount of olive oil with garlic and lemon.
- To serve, I place my pan fried fish onto a serving platter, top with the sauteed greens, and sprinkle over some sliced almonds and garnish with lemon slices.
Pan Fried Fish
by Ingrid Beer
This crispy pan fried fish is marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon, then coated in panko and parmesan for a lightly crunchy texture!
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 240 calories per serving
Prep Time: 25 minutes (does not include marination)
Cook time: 12 minutes
Total time: 37 minutes
- 4 tilapia fillets
- Olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic pressed through garlic press, divided use
- ¾ teaspoon paprika, divided use
- ¼ teaspoon plus a pinch cracked black pepper, divided use
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided use
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 eggs, whisked
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- Vegetable oil, for pan frying (about ½ cup)
- 4 cups (heaping) mustard greens, coarsely chopped and woody rib/stems removed
- ¼ cup toasted, sliced almonds
- Lemon slices for garnish
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Place the tilapia fillets onto a large platter, and add to them about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 cloves of the pressed garlic, a couple of good pinches of salt, about ½ teaspoon of the paprika, ¼ teaspoon of the cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice and the ½ teaspoon of lemon zest, and gently distribute these ingredients over the fillets to evenly coat each one. Marinate the fillets for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours, depending on how full-flavored you like them.
- After marinating the fillets, prepare to dredge them: add the flour into a large, shallow bowl, the whisked eggs into another bowl, and combine the panko with the parmesan in a third large, shallow bowl, along with a pinch of salt, the remaining ¼ teaspoon paprika and the pinch of cracked black pepper.
- Dip both sides of each fillet in the flour, then the whisked eggs, then the panko/parmesan mixture, and set the breaded fillets aside.
- Next, place a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add in the vegetable oil, roughly ½ cup. Allow the oil to heat up (you can test it by dropping a small crumb of the breading into it, and if it floats, sizzles and fries, it's hot enough to fry the fish), and once hot, add the fillets into the pan (working in batches, if necessary) pan frying the fillets for roughly 4 minutes for the first side, or until golden-brown in color, and roughly 3 minutes on the second side.
- Once the fillets are fried, place them onto a wire rack paper to drain, keeping them warm while you prepare the mustard greens.
- To prepare the mustard greens, place a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, and add in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the remaining 2 cloves of pressed garlic, and as soon as the garlic becomes aromatic, turn the heat off from under the pan, and add in the mustard greens, gently tossing them in with the garlic-oil to coat allowing the greens to gently wilt and warm up.
- Add in a good pinch of salt and the remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and toss to combine.
- To serve, place the pan fried fish onto a serving platter, top with equal portions of the greens, and sprinkle over top about 1 tablespoon worth of the toasted, sliced almonds, and garnish with a semi-circle wedge of lemon. Serve with rice, roasted potatoes, or any favorite accompaniment.
Tips & Tidbits for my Pan Fried Fish recipe:
- Substitutions for tilapia: If you'd prefer to use another type of fish for pan frying, other great options that are similar to tilapia are catfish, flounder, striped bass, or red snapper. Choose a mild, light, flaky fish if possible, as these are not as oily and take on the flavors of the marinade deliciously.
- Other delectable greens to saute, or use: Not a fan of mustard greens? Feel free to opt for spinach or kale, or even simply top the fried fish fillets with fresh arugula greens dressed in a bit of olive oil and lemon.
- Terrific options to serve as accompaniments: Fragrant basmati or jasmine rice is really tasty on the side of this pan fried fish, or even these roasted potatoes.
Hungry for more fish dishes? Check out this Pan Seared Salmon, this Baked Halibut, this Broiled Salmon, or this Cioppino!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2012, and has been updated with even more love!
What a beautiful story of your family's history! And it's always fun to start new traditions with our new family! This fish looks absolutely perfect =)
The Cozy Apron
Hi Peggy! Thank you so much, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Making this recipe tonight using cod filets & adding salad salad versus cooked greens
Thank you so much for this fish recipe! My entire family thought they were wonderful!
The Cozy Apron
Heidi, it is my pleasure! Thrilled you and your family all enjoyed this simple-yet-flavorful recipe, and that you took some time to share your experience with me.
Happy cooking to you! 😁