How to Smoke Tilapia

by Zora Hughes ; Updated November 22, 2017

Smoking tilapia fillets on a smoker grill adds an intense amount of much needed flavor to this mild white fish. Choose your favorite flavor of wood to enhance the taste of this versatile grocery staple. Marinating the tilapia first also helps add more flavor. Enjoy your smoked tilapia with a flavorful lemon cream sauce, a flavored butter sauce or even chopped up in a seafood stew.

Step 1

Add your tilapia fillets to a resealable bag of marinade, if desired. Make your marinade from equal parts oil and an acidic liquid, such as lime juice, and add salt, pepper and other seasonings to your taste. Place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate for up to an hour, turning it over halfway through.

Step 2

Place flavored wood chips in water to soak for about 30 minutes and add charcoal to your smoker. Fill the water pan in the smoker and light your charcoal, bringing it to 200F to 225F.

Step 3

Pour the soaked wood chips on top of the coals once they start to ashen. Adjust the vents to maintain the temperature of the smoker.

Step 4

Remove the tilapia fillets from the marinade and place them on aluminum foil folded or cut to fit each fillet. Place them in the smoker on the center rack.

Step 5

Let the fillets cook for about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the thickness, or until the tilapia is firm and flakes easily with a fork. Each fillet must also reach an internal temperature of 145F, which you can determine with a meat thermometer. Serve hot.

Items you will need

  • Marinade (optional)
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • Seasonings
  • Wood chips
  • Charcoal
  • Aluminum foil


  • Check the tilapia after an hour for doneness to avoid overcooking. Thinner-cut fillets will cook much faster than thicker cuts.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.