Tilapia is a fine-textured fish with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Coconut adds an earthy nuttiness and crunch that even Panko bread crumbs cannot achieve. The key to bringing out both the flavor of the coconut and the crunch is to use toasted coconut, which is simple to make at home. Coconut breading is a healthy and flavorful alternative if you have gluten sensitivities or are simply avoiding white flour.
Toasting the Coconut
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread shredded coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Use two baking sheets if you plan to toast a lot of coconut and tilapia.
Toast the coconut for 5 minutes. Stir the coconut with a spatula, flipping over the flakes as you stir.
Continue baking the coconut for 20 minutes, stirring and flipping it every 5 minutes to ensure that it browns evenly. Remove from the oven and let the coconut cool to room temperature before proceeding.
Baking the Tilapia
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Spray a thin coating of nonstick cooking spray into a baking dish large enough to hold all of your tilapia fillets without crowding.
Rinse your tilapia in cool water and pat the fillets dry with a paper towel or lint-free linen dish towel.
Season the tilapia with salt and pepper on both sides. Herbs de Provence complement coconut, as do coriander and chili powder.
Break two eggs into a pie plate and whisk until creamy.
Fill a second pie plate with a thin layer of corn starch.
Place a thick layer of toasted coconut into a third pie plate.
Coat each tilapia fillet with corn starch.
Dip the tilapia fillets in the beaten egg and hold them up so that the excess egg drips off.
Coat the tilapia fillets with the toasted coconut; place them in the baking dish.
Bake the tilapia fillets for about 10 minutes. Turn them carefully with tongs and bake for another 10 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer shows an internal temperature of 145 F.