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Traeger Grilled Whole Tilapia

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If you’re looking for an easy, healthy, and delicious seafood dish to grill up on your Traeger, look no further than this recipe for grilled whole tilapia. The Traeger adds an infusion of smoked flavor to this whole grilled tilapia, making it a great way to grill up some seafood for an excellent meal. Also, the smoking process helps lock in moisture and adds an extra dimension of flavor. Cooking a whole fish is easier than you think, so fire up your Traeger!

Grilled tilapia on a tray with a bowl of sauce, lime slices, and herbs.

Tilapia is a mild fish that pairs well with various flavors. This recipe uses a bold chili lime sauce to add an extra kick of flavor. The sauce permeates the delicate fish as it cooks, while the Traeger adds a hint of smokiness that enhances the meal. Plus, the Traeger will help you get an even cook on the whole fish.

Here is Why This Recipe Works

  • The chili lime sauce adds a punch of sweet, spicy, and umami flavors.
  • Stuffing the fish with fresh aromatics helps infuse more flavors into the fish.
  • The pellet grill adds a mild smoky flavor that doesn’t overpower the fish.

If you want to change the flavors up a bit, you can swap the chili lime sauce for our orange lemon butter sauce. And, if you want more tilapia recipes, check out our air fryer tilapia and our tilapia fish tacos.

Ingredients used to grill whole tilapia on a pellet grill.

The Ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients for our Traeger smoked whole tilapia recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for the ingredient amounts. 

  • Whole tilapia
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Limes
  • Onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Serrano pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Soy sauce
  • Lime juice 
  • Brown sugar
  • Fish sauce
Five whole tilapia, cleaned and scaled.

How to Buy Fresh Fish

When you buy whole fish, you can be more confident of its freshness (versus purchasing fillets). Here are some signs to look for to guarantee fresh fish.

  1. Eyes: should be clear and bulge a little, not sunken.
  2. Gills: should be bright red and wet looking, not brown or slimy.
  3. Skin: When pressed with your finger, the skin should spring back quickly and not leave an indentation.
  4. The smell: The fish should not smell fishy. It should have a clean, fresh scent, like the ocean.
  5. The fins and tail: Ensure the fins and tail are not dry and brittle.
Drizzling sauce over a whole tilapia.

How to Cook Traeger Grilled Whole Tilapia

Here is a quick overview of the process so you can grill up the best tilapia! In addition, there is a printable recipe card below with more detailed steps.

  1. Make some shallow cuts on the outside of each tilapia and coat them with olive oil.
  2. Season the fish and stuff the cavity with the aromatics.
  3. Make the sauce. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to a blender and puree. 
  4. Use half of the sauce to coat the fish then place them on the preheated Traeger. 
  5. Serve with extra sauce on the side.

While the fish cooks on the grill, you can whip up some air fryer asparagus or broccoli to serve with dinner, along with a side of rice or a side salad. If you want to round the meal out with dessert, try our deep dish chocolate chip cookie bowls or air fryer brownies.

A fork flaking off a piece of grilled tilapia.

Tips for Success

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  • Use a BBQ thermometer or an instant-read thermometer to determine the doneness of the tilapia. 
  • To prevent the stuffing from falling out of the cavity, use a large grilling spatula to transfer the fish. Optionally, you can tie the fish with cooking twine.
  • The FDA recommends cooking tilapia to 145°F. I like to take tilapia off the grill at 140°F because residual heat will continue cooking the fish. When I make grilled salmon, I only cook it to about 125°F but tilapia can handle a bit more cooking without drying out.

If you are looking for something new to try this weekend, give our Traeger smoked whole tilapia recipe a go! It’s easy enough that anyone could do it at home but so delicious that your guests will think you run an upscale restaurant.

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Drizzling sauce over a whole tilapia.

Traeger Grilled Whole Tilapia

Yield: 5 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This is how you smoke whole tilapia on a pellet grill for amazing results. We added aromatics to the cavity of the fish and further infused flavor with a chili lime sauce.

Ingredients

For the Tilapia

  • 3 to 5 whole tilapia, cleaned and de-scaled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 limes, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1-2 Serrano pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 2 serrano peppers, sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the pellet grill to 400°F and oil the grill grates. 
  2. Make 3 to 4 vertical cuts on both sides of the fish. 
  3. Coat the fish with olive oil. Make sure to get inside the cavity. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
  4. Stuff the cavity of each fish with slices of lime, onion, garlic, Serrano pepper, and cilantro. 
  5. Stuff slices of garlic cloves inside the slits that you made on the fish.
  6. Optional step: wrap cooking twine around the fish to keep the cavity closed and prevent the stuffing from falling out. If you transfer the fish carefully, you don’t need to use twine.
  7. Combine the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  8. Use half of the sauce to coat the fish. Make sure to get inside the slits and the cavity of the fish. Reserve the rest of the sauce to serve with the fish. 
  9. Grill the tilapia for 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the size of the fish) or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, the fish should look opaque and flake easily when it is finished cooking. 
  10. Serve the fish with the remaining sauce. 

Notes

  • Making cuts on the outside of the fish is optional but it provides more surface area to infuse flavor. We typically leave the skin intact on larger fish because the skin helps hold in the moisture. However, tilapia is small and cooks quite quickly. 
  • Since the cavity on tilapia is small, it helps to tie the fish closed with cooking twine so the stuffing doesn’t fall out. If you tie the fish with twine, make sure you use cooking twine so it doesn’t catch fire on the grill. You can skip this step if you transfer the fish carefully.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1 whole fish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 430Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 1580mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 47g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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