Buying Tilapia

Seafood grocery employee weighing fresh whole fish

You’re at the supermarket, thinking about what you’ll have for dinner tonight. A white, flaky fish would be a great option for a lean and healthy protein the whole family can enjoy. Something mild, like tilapia, would really hit the spot; you can use a bold sauce to bring out any zests you would like. Plus it’s a very budget-friendly fish. But how do you know the tilapia you’re buying is fresh, and whether or not it’s high quality? Here are a few pointers.

The Flesh Should Be Elastic

Use your finger to gently press down on the fish’s flesh and let go. If an imprint is left on the meat, then it is not very fresh. If the imprint bounces back, then the meat is firm and elastic and you know it’s fresh. 

No Unpleasant Odors

If you get home and your fish smells distasteful, it may not be very fresh. Bacteria is the primary cause for bad smells, so if it smells unpleasant, there is already bacteria growing on the fish. A fresh fillet will have a clean and neutral smell.

Bright, Clear Eyes

If you’re feeling adventurous and you’re buying the whole fish, look at the eyes; they should be bright, clear, and bulging. If you are able to see the gills, they should be reddish-pink, and the scales should be bright and shiny.

Country of Origin

Most seafood counters show where their fish comes from. High quality tilapia comes from places like Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. If you’re ever in doubt, however, simply use the Seafood Watch guide (they also have a convenient app for you to use) so you know which country of origin is best.


Seafood Nutrition Partnership: The Ultimate Guide to Buying Seafood