How to Freeze Tilapia

When it comes to seafood, we definitely love our fish. Tilapia is one of the most consumed types of fish packed with protein and incredibly tasty as well. It is relatively affordable and packed with loads of nutritional benefits.

Tilapia does not stay fresh for long so what if you have more than you need? You have to keep tilapia refrigerated to prevent them from going bad, this will only last a couple of days. So what if you need to keep them for longer?

You have to freeze them! Yes, you can freeze tilapia and it is pretty straightforward if it’s done correctly. By following a few steps, you can prepare the fish and freeze it for up to a whole year.

Different ways to freeze tilapia

Fish generally freeze well due to the high water content so you should have no issues with tilapia. You can choose to freeze it whole or fillet before doing so. You can also freeze it fresh or cooked although the former will have a longer shelf life.

To keep them fresh for a long time, it has to be prepared properly and stored right. Follow these methods to freeze your tilapia.

Freezing a whole tilapia

The first step is to make sure that the fish is properly cleaned to ensure that the flavor and taste are not affected. Remove the guts and scale the fish before washing thoroughly. Scaling will make it easier to freeze the fish. Then follow these steps to ensure the tilapia freezes properly.

  • Place the tilapia on wax paper or a baking sheet
  • Place in the freezer for two to three hours.
  • When the fish is completely frozen, remove it from the freezer.
  • Wrap the frozen tilapia in a freezer bag or an airtight bag.
  • Press on the bag to remove as much air as possible from the bag.
  • Seal the bag as tightly as you can and label it with the freezing date.
  • Put fish in the freezer.
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Tip: It’s important to wrap the fish tightly to prevent other things in the freezer from smelling like tilapia.

Freezing tilapia fillet

This method takes up less space in the freezer and is more convenient for use after defrosting. However, you will need to properly fillet the fish to use these freezing steps properly.

How to fillet tilapia

Filleting the fish can reduce the cooking time while making the tilapia easier to portion and eat. It’s also a great way of deboning the tilapia, so no one chokes on a bone while eating. These are the steps for filleting a tilapia:

  • Clean the whole fish with water and place the whole fish flat on a cutting board.
  • Use your fingers to find the soft spot between the fish’s skull and where the dorsal spines start.
  • Using the knife, make a slightly diagonal cut from the soft spot to about an inch behind the pectoral fin.
  • Using just the tip of the knife, cut about half an inch deep from the soft spot towards the end of the dorsal spines.
  • From where the first two cuts intersect, lift the corner of the fillet and begin separating the flesh from the bones, leaving minimal flesh on the bone.
  • Make sure the blade is right up against the ribs to cut off as much of the fillet as possible.
  • Remember to trim the pin bones from the fillet. There are usually a few in the middle.

How to freeze the tilapia fillet

When you have cut out the fillet portions, you can cut them into smaller portions depending on the sizes you prefer. To freeze the tilapia fillet portions, here are the steps:

  • After filleting the fish, clean thoroughly to remove any dirt on the fish.
  • Pretreat the tilapia by dipping in a brine of 1/4 cup salt to 1 quart of cold water.
  • Leave tilapia in the solution for about twenty seconds.
  • Place the fish on wax paper or a baking sheet and put in the freezer for one to two hours.
  • When completely frozen, remove tilapia from the freezer.
  • Dip fish in near-freezing ice water for five seconds.
  • Place the wax paper/baking sheet and freeze again for a few minutes to harden the glaze.
  • Dip the fish once more in ice water until you see a uniform cover of ice.
  • Wrap tilapia in a moisture-resistant bag a few times.
  • Put the fish in the freezer and press the bag to remove any excess air.
  • Seal the bag as tightly as you can and label it with the freezing date.
  • Place the tilapia into the freezer.
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Tip; Brining the fish is important because it helps to give a firm texture and improve the quality of the tilapia.

Freezing tilapia with a vacuum sealer

Vacuum-sealing your tilapia is the best way to keep it fresh the longest. This method can ensure the fish lasts up to a year in the freezer without going bad. It also works best for fish fillets.

You would need a vacuum-sealing machine for this so if you don’t have one, make sure to get one. The appliance is easy to use and relatively affordable as well. It works by placing the prepared bag of cleaned tilapia on the outside edge of the device and sealing it.

It will extract any air in the bag and seal it completely. The lack of air in the bag will greatly reduce the chances of freezer burn. This process increases the shelf life of the tilapia to a year.

Can you freeze cooked tilapia?

If you have cooked tilapia leftovers, you can choose to refrigerate the fish. The fish will last two to three days in the refrigerator and should be consumed by then or discarded after.

For extended storage of your tilapia, place the leftover fish in a shallow covered container. This will ensure it freezes a lot quicker and will last for up to a month in the freezer.

How to defrost tilapia

The best way to thaw tilapia is by leaving it in the fridge to defrost. This retains the texture and taste of the fish and overall quality. Here are the steps:

  • Remove fish from the freezer.
  • Place on a plate and leave in the fridge.
  • Allow the fish to thaw overnight or for at least eight hours.
  • Once defrosted, you can proceed to use it in your cooking. 
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Tip; If you need a quick fix, remove fish from the freezer and place it in a bowl of cool water. Leave to sit for twenty minutes and it should be completely thawed.

Can you refreeze tilapia?

Yes, you can refreeze tilapia, but under certain conditions. The fish cannot be completely thawed and must be thawed in the fridge.

If your tilapia has thawed completely, the texture of the fish will be severely affected and will lose its flavor. If you go ahead to freeze again, you will end up with bland fish.

Also, tilapia should be allowed to thaw in the fridge if you plan to refreeze it. Leaving the fish to thaw at room temperature will likely cause contamination. Refreezing will keep the bacteria intact and likely cause food poisoning.

How long will tilapia last in the freezer?

If prepared and stored properly, frozen tilapia shouldn’t spoil in the freezer. It can go bad if left for a prolonged time in the freezer or allowed to thaw.

Tilapia will typically last for six to eight months in the freezer unless vacuum sealed. After this period, the quality of the fish will start to deteriorate and will eventually spoil. Spoilt fish should be discarded and not consumed.

Frozen tilapia will also go bad if left to thaw for too long. Note that it will last a day or so in the refrigerator and should be consumed within that time.

Concluding thoughts

Taking the time to prepare your tilapia can go a long way in ensuring a smooth freezing process. Now you know you can freeze your fish for up to eight months. Vacuum-sealing will ensure it stays good for up to one year.

Whenever you’re ready to cook your tilapia, defrost and make that delicious meal.