Tangy Tamarind Tilapia + Coconut Rice Bowls

Zesty, fresh and nutritious tilapia recipe with some sweetness and crunch. Served on a bed of aromatic jasmine rice. This rice bowl makes for a yummy, complex and quick dinner.

Do you ever have those happy accidents in the kitchen that start out as you looking at the clock and being like, “Oops, time for dinner” and raiding your fridge/freezer in desperation? But then somehow you end up with a meal that you’re totally in love with?!

…Yeah, admittedly, it doesn’t happen that often for me either. Which is why I’m sooo excited that this quick, way beginner-friendly bowl of heaven came out of my scatterbrained mess!

Tangy, sweet n’ sour tamarind really comes alive with the brightness of lemon juice in this tilapia recipe. Red bell pepper brings a bit of sweetness, while garlic and ginger add big punches of flavor as you chew through this dish.

The cozy backbone of this meal is the coconut rice. A can of thick, creamy coconut milk and healthy sprinkling of salt transform the already exceptional grain that is jasmine rice. I like to serve it next to (not underneath) my main course. The delicate flavors of the rice don’t get overwhelmed that way.

Top it all off with cashews, which add a very satisfying crunch to this tilapia recipe with mostly softer textures. Cilantro and green onions are a nice, fresh contrast to the tender, savory, zesty fish and rice.

This tilapia recipe is easy enough to make it into weekly rotation. I make rice bowls often because they’re ready in a pinch and you can dump whatever you want in ‘em. I also like to keep tilapia fillets in the freezer so I’ve always got a light protein ready.

Speaking of the freezer, I think this recipe could do double-time as a freezer meal if you mix the sauce ingredients in a bag, add the fish chunks/bell pepper slices, then allow to defrost before cooking and make the rice fresh. If you give it a shot, let me know what you think!

The Magic Of Tamarind Paste

The standout, sweet n’ sour ingredient that makes this so awesome is tamarind paste, which you can easily order online if it’s not in your grocery store. Not sponsored, but I buy this brand off of Amazon for less than $4. It’s my best friend for margaritas, too!

If you are not well-acquainted, tamarind is used in foods from areas including Thailand, India and Latin America. If you don’t recognize the name, you might recognize the taste as being one of the defining flavors in pad thai. It’s also popular in candies and drinks such as aguas frescas.

Want to learn more about tamarind paste and get ideas for other ways to use up this liquid gold? Check out The Woks Of Life.

tilapia with red bell peppers, cashews, cilantro, green onions in tamarind sauce with coconut rice bowl

Additional Ingredients For Tilapia Recipe

Fish sauce: This stuff is liquid umami gold and is often paired with tamarind in Thai dishes. If you like pad thai, you’re already familiar with this flavor combination. If you’re not used to cooking with it, don’t be deterred by the name! It cooks beautifully in sauces.

Dried chilis: If you’re into heat, definitely add some spice to this dish! It pairs SO well with the bright acidity of this sauce.

Also — because life’s short — why not throw a dash of tequila in the pan while you’re cooking the fish? I prefer to use gold in cooking. It’s mighty tasty! I really love some mirin (rice wine) in this dish too.

By the way, if you can get them at your market, use Meyer lemons here. They’re a little bit sweeter. Since tamarind is also acidic, opting for Meyer lemons is a nice touch. If you can’t find Meyer lemons and find the acidity to be a bit too much for you, consider adding some brown sugar or honey to taste.

I tried to keep this tilapia recipe as simple as possible, but you can go crazy with the veggies. Broccoli, sliced carrots, spinach would be good here too. Just note that you might need to add some cooking time to make sure everything is fully cooked.

tilapia with red bell peppers, cashews, cilantro, green onions in tamarind sauce with coconut rice bowl

Tilapia Recipe Ingredients

  • Tilapia, or another white fish such as cod, fresh or frozen
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Red bell pepper
  • Lemon
  • Tamarind paste
  • Coconut oil or other neutral-flavored oil
  • Salt and pepper

Optional:

  • Fish sauce
  • Dried chilis
  • Chopped cashews
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions

Rice Bowl Ingredients

  • Jasmine rice, or other preferred type of rice
  • Canned coconut milk

Tilapia Recipe + Coconut Rice Instructions

tilapia and red bell peppers in a pan with tamarind sauce
  1. Combine all ingredients for the coconut rice in rice cooker. If cooking on the stovetop, follow directions on package and substitute recommended amount of water for coconut milk.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of tilapia and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, add oil and when hot add chili pepper and garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes using medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, tamarind, lime and fish to the pan (plus fish juice and chilis, if desired) and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. Make space for your tilapia fillets in the center of the pan, add fish and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve tilapia while hot with fresh rice, and top with cashews, cilantro and green onions.
tilapia with red bell peppers, cashews, cilantro, green onions in tamarind sauce with coconut rice bowl

Zesty Tilapia Recipe + Coconut Rice Bowl

A zesty, sweet n’ sour tilapia fillet recipe cooks in a pan, served atop a bed of aromatic, tropical coconut-jasmine rice.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

For the rice:

  • 1 c. jasmine or other rice rinsed
  • 1.5 c. canned coconut milk
  • salt

For the fish:

  • 2 fillets tilapia or other white fish such as cod defrosted, if frozen
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 inch peeled ginger sliced into thin coins
  • 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil or other neutral-flavored oil
  • salt and pepper

Optional ingredients:

  • dash of fish sauce for adding to fish skillet
  • dried chilis torn in half, for heat
  • chopped cashews, cilantro, green onions for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients for the coconut rice in rice cooker. If cooking on the stovetop, follow directions on package and substitute recommended amount of water for coconut milk.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of tilapia and set aside.
  • In a large pan, add oil and when hot add chili pepper and garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes using medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, tamarind, lime and fish to the pan (plus fish juice and chilis, if desired) and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Make space for your tilapia fillets in the center of the pan, add fish and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  • Serve tilapia while hot with fresh rice, and top with cashews, cilantro and green onions.
Keyword coconut rice, rice bowl recipes, tamarind, tamarind recipes, tilapia fillet recipes, tilapia recipes, tilapia recipes pan

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