Saffron and Garlic Poached Tilapia

Saffron and Garlic Poached Tilapia

You might think, that living on a Caribbean island, we eat a lot of seafood. As city dwellers in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, seafood can be surprisingly hard to find. Safe and efficient supply chains to carry fresh seafood from port to table are a challenge with Haiti's limited infrastructure; roads, refrigeration and factories. So when we spotted some locally farmed tilapia filets in the grocery recently, we were excited and inspired. A little bottle of saffron sat in our larder, a present from past visitors, and our pantry yielded fresh tomatoes, garlic and fresh thyme. Thus a Spanish influenced Saffron and Garlic Poached Tilapia was created. This light fish dish is subtle, sweet and flaky, a great way to highlight a mild flavored fish.

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Yield: Serves 4


  • 4 tilapia fillets, cleaned and patted dry
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 small onions, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 head garlic (8-10 cloves), finely diced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch saffron ('bloomed' in 1 tablespoon of hot water for 15 minutes)
  • 2 cups water


  1. Add butter, onions, and salt to a wide sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until softened and starting to turn translucent (3-5 minutes)
  2. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes more, stirring frequently.
  3. Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently until the water from the tomatoes has evaporated (about 3-5 more minutes).
  4. Reduce the heat to low and add the thyme, black pepper, saffron (bloomed first in 1 tablespoon of hot water), and water. Simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  5. Add the tilapia fillets and slowly simmer, flipping once during cooking, until they are cooked through (the center should lose its translucency and begin to flake apart).
  6. Serve the tilapia hot, with generous spoonfuls of the poaching sauce. We like ours served over rice.