Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia With Cilantro Pesto 4.000

Dayna Smith for The Washington Post

Nourish Jan 6, 2010

Here, a toasted cornmeal crust provides all the texture of a fried, breaded coating, but with no frying and hardly any fat.

The recipe calls for tilapia fillets, which are easy to find, reasonably priced and mild enough so kids like the taste. An initial buttermilk coating helps keep the fish moist.

Kids can have ketchup or barbecue sauce with the fish; for adults, try the quick cilantro pesto included in the recipe.

Servings: 4
  • For the pesto
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • Juice and finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup juice and 2 tablespoons zest)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon water (optional)
  • For the fish
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
  • Four 4- to 5-ounce tilapia fillets (16 to 20 ounces total)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


For the pesto: Combine the cilantro, lemon juice and zest, oil, salt and sugar. Blend until the cilantro is finely chopped. If the mixture is too dry to blend, add the water.

For the fish: Heat half of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread the cornmeal on a plate; pour the buttermilk into a shallow dish.

Sprinkle the fillets with the salt. Working in two batches if needed to keep from crowding the skillet, dip each fillet in the buttermilk, coating it completely on both sides, then into the cornmeal. Place in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cornmeal coating starts to brown, then turn the fish over and cook for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish), until the second side is lightly browned and the fish is cooked through. Add the remaining oil as needed, and repeat to cook all of the fish.

Place each fillet on an individual plate. Drizzle with the pesto to taste; serve immediately.

Rate it

Recipe Source

From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.

Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgewick.

E-mail questions to the Food Section.

E-mail questions to the Food Section at