Caribbean spiced tilapia with coriander and lime

This is a super-tasty way to serve tilapia: deep-frying gives it a marvellous texture, the spices add an explosive flavour, and the lime cuts through both, bringing the dish to zinging life. Make sure the oil is nice and hot when you put the fish in, so that it doesn’t absorb the oil. Serve with fresh chillies, chopped seasonal salad and plantain if you wish. Or, if you’d prefer to keep with the healthy January spirit, you can grill the fish instead.

Grind all of the dry spices in a pestle and mortar to make a rough powder. Then add the roughly chopped chilli, ginger and garlic and smash into a smooth paste.

On each side of the fish, make three scores across the thick side of the fillet from spine to belly, cutting down to the bone. This will help the fish cook quickly and evenly. Rub the spice mix into the fish, making sure it goes into the belly cavity and scores. Leave to marinate for up to 1 day.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan, large enough to fit a whole fish at a time. For safety the oil should not be more than a third of the way up the side of the pan. Drop a little of the spice mix into the oil. When it bubbles and fries well, your oil should be hot enough to cook the fish.

Fry two fish at a time, for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 5 minutes to make sure both sides are cooked evenly. Carefully remove them from the oil and put to one side while the other fish cook through.

Serve the fish with the fresh coriander leaves and stalks on top, and half a lime on the side.

By Tom Hunt

Serves 4


  • About 1 to 1.5l groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 4 500g or 2 1kg tilapia, scaled and gutted
  • 2 limes, cut in half
  • 8 sprigs coriander
  • Fish spice rub 
  • 2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped

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