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Tilapia with Basil Butter

If you've had difficulty baking fish, if it always gets too dry (not that I would know or anything), you need to try this quick and easy weekday dish. From pre-cook preparation to the table, it's ready in about 30 minutes.

The recipe uses compound butter to baste the fish as it cooks. Compound butter is a combination of butter and flavoring, usually herbs and/or spices. It's simple to make and an easy way to add another layer of flavor. One of my favorite restaurants in Bucks County, PA, makes a compound butter with cheese that they serve with their bread. 

As the butter melts and cooks the fish and the vegetables, each packet seals in the moisture and creates its own sauce. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor. The celery remains fork-tender, not mushy, and adds a slight crunch to the meal. I chose to serve this over quick-cooking wild rice, but couscous, quinoa, pilaf or other grain sides would make great accompaniments. 

This recipe is also very adaptable. Any light white fish would work well. Substitute tarragon for the basil. Use any variety or mixture of mushrooms you like. Omit the celery and use almost any other vegetable. Instead of scallions, use shallots. 

Tilapia with Basil Butter
Slightly adapted from Food Network
Serves 4


  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tablespoon basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 tilapia fillets, 6 ounces each
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place two baking sheets near the oven. In a small bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat together the basil and the butter. 
  2. Cut four squares of foil, each large enough to wrap around a fish fillet. Layer one quarter of the mushrooms in the center of each sheet of foil, followed by the scallions and the celery. 
  3. Dot the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the basil-butter. Place the fish on top of the vegetables, and spread half a tablespoon of the basil-butter on top of each fillet. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Bring all four sides up and over the fish and vegetables and crimp closed. Place two foil packets on each baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove each fillet from its packet and place on a plate. Top with the vegetables and drizzle butter sauce over before serving. 

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Tuesday 31st of July 2012

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