Tea Smoked Tilapia

Tea Smoked Tilapia | Teaspoonofspice.com

Use tea leaves to infuse a smoky flavor to any kind of fish with this Chinese tea smoked method ~ 

It’s pretty amazing that my recipe for this month’s Recipe ReDux did NOT set off the smoke alarms in my house (come to think of it, maybe I should check those batteries.)

This month’s ReDux theme is Cooking with Tea

Tea cups around the world are bubbling up with bold new flavors: From cardamom chai and sencha green to bubble teas and veggie teas. We wish we could attend the World Tea Expo the end of this month – but in lieu of a plane ticket, we’ll be cooking and baking and stirring up tea-inspired healthy dishes.

….and my smoky house was not the result of a teakettle left on a burner overnight but instead from this makeshift smoker I put together.

Tea Smoked Tilapia | Teaspoonofspice.com

But according to my Google search intense research on this Chinese cooking method of tea smoking, a smoky atmosphere means you are doing it right (though, you should pause when one recipe tells you to open every window in your kitchen, turn on the vent and any nearby ceiling fans.)

Build a DIY smoker on your stove! Tea Smoked Tilapia (in under 30 minutes) #thereciperedux @tspbasil Click To Tweet

Tea Smoked Tilapia | Teaspoonofspice.com

The basic method to tea smoked fish is simple:

1) Mix together tea leaves with sugar and uncooked rice.

2) Add this mixture to a foil lined skillet or wok (using foil is key if you don’t want to destroy your pan.)

3) Heat for a bit and then add your fish to a steamer and place on top of tea mixture.

4) Cover everything with a lid (damp towels around the lid help to seal in the smoke) and smoke away.

I used black tea from your run of the mill tea bags but would love to experiment with jasmine or Earl Grey tea on the next go around.

And in addition to fish, you can tea smoke just about kind of food from chicken to shellfish to tofu tomatoes to mushrooms. And since you are cooking and smoking the food at the same time, it’s a much quicker process than using a smoker for hours on end.


Tea Smoked Tilapia

The basic tea bags in your pantry can deliver amazing flavors beyond the tea cup. Use black tea leaves to make this Chinese style smoked tilapia.

  • Author: by Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD
  • Yield: 4 - 6 servings 1x


  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup black tea leaves (from 16 tea bags)
  • ½ cup uncooked jasmine or any long grain rice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 pound tilapia filets
  • Lemon slices


  1. Mix vinegar, oil, ginger, pepper and salt in a large resealable bag. Add fish and marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  2. Line bottom of wok or large skillet with aluminum foil. Add tea, rice and sugar; mix together.
  3. Turn on the vent and open your kitchen windows! Heat over medium high for 7-8 minutes (until sugar starts to melt), stirring occasionally.
  4. Place fish in a steamer and place over tea mixture (or place fish onto a grid of chopsticks laid over tea/sugar/rice mixture.) Cover tightly and cover any exposed area between wok/skillet and steamer with damp kitchen towels. Reduce heat to low and smoke for 15-20 minutes, until fish flakes and is cooked through.


Method adapted from Min Tsai’s Tea Smoked Trout w. Thai Cucumber Tomato Salad

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I gotta say, I liked the flavor of the tilapia even better the next day. We used leftovers to make quesadillas and used the rest in a spaghetti dish the following day – yum!

Tea Smoked Fish Quesadilla | Teaspoonofspice.com

Ever use tea for cooking before? What are you favorite types of tea (for drinking or cooking with) – please share! Check out all the creative tea inspired recipes from ReDux members below AND a link to Day #2 of Cooking with Tea here (featuring Regan’s Gluten-Free Lemon Zinger Tea Bread – swoon):


We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

We're also moms and business owners who share our family recipes, healthy kitchen hacks and nutrition adventures while keeping it real in the kitchen with you.

We’re so glad you’ve stopped by!

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