Tilapia is native to the Nile River in Africa and it's often called St. Peter's fish because it has been eaten since biblical times. Today an estimated 1 billion pounds are produced annually, making it the most common farm-raised fish in the world.
Colors vary between black, red or gold. The most common species in the United States are the prolific Nile tilapia, the hearty blue tilapia and the red-colored Mozambique tilapia. Because it is farmed and distributed efficiently, and harvested year-round, tilapia is sometimes the freshest fish at the market. Many Asian food markets even sell them live. Tilapia's wide availability and moderate price make it a consumer favorite.
Cooked tilapia flesh is white, tender and somewhat firm with a flaky texture. Taste is largely determined by the growing environment — water quality and feed — but good-quality tilapia tastes mild and sweet.
Most tilapia is sold when the fish weighs about 1 1/2 pounds. If it's filleted, a thin layer of darker meat below the skin is often removed. But it is best to buy tilapia whole. Fillets are usually frozen, depleting the delicate texture and taste.
Tilapia can be baked, broiled, sautéed, pan-fried or steamed. The bitter-tasting skin should be removed, either before cooking or before serving.