Here’s a dinner for nights when you just can’t even. All your fish frozen? No worries! Turn your pressure cooker into a fish-thawing machine and get dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.
Is It Safe to Cook Frozen Food in an Instant Pot?
Yes! It seems crazy, but it’s totally doable. Not all items can be cooked from frozen, mind you, but boneless fish fillets are the perfect candidate. The fillets are thin, plus fish cooks quickly in the first place.
What is Tilapia?
Tilapia is a freshwater fish native to Africa and is a very mild, sweet tasting fish. It’s also economical to farm—which means it has broad appeal and is an affordable fillet which is a part of the reason it’s so popular now.
Most tilapia is raised in Asia or Latin America. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers and businesses make sustainable seafood choices, recommends that you look for tilapia sourced in Ecuador or Peru, but avoid tilapia from mainland China, where the fish are raised with fewer regulations.
How to Cook Frozen Tilapia in the Instant Pot
A lot of Instant Pot recipes for cooking frozen fish give longer pressure cooker times than necessary. Two minutes under pressure seems like no time at all for frozen fish but remember fish fillets cook quickly. This method works best if the fish fillets don’t overlap, so you’re limited to 2 to 3 fillets. That’s the catch here.
The fish is also cooking during the 6 to 7 minutes the pot takes to come to pressure. If the fish is not flaky after you quick release the pressure, cook it on the sauté setting until it’s done.
How to Cook Fresh Fish in the Instant Pot
This recipe is designed for frozen fish, which means you need to cook frozen fish at high pressure. When working with fresh fish, low pressure is the way to go.
- When cooking fresh fish, you need to use low pressure.
- For fresh fish less than 1/2-inch thick cook on low pressure for 4 minutes, then do a quick pressure release.
- For fresh fish more than 1/2-inch thick, cook on low pressure for 7 minutes, then do a quick pressure release.
No Tilapia? Try Another White Fish
Any flaky white fish will work here: flounder, pollock or cod. The cooking time has more to do with the thickness of the fillet than the type of fish you are using. Frozen fish, cooked on high pressure cooks in 2 minutes while thicker fillets have a longer cook time.
Swaps and Subs
The mirin, soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil make the perfect glaze to spoon over your finished fish, but you can go a little rogue and simply steam the fish with JUST mirin.
Add 1/2 cup of mirin to the bottom of the cooker and follow the rest of the recipe as directed. Then, season the steamed fish as you like—a shake of lemon pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, perhaps.
What to Serve with Tilapia?
I love this recipe with soba noodles and steamed asparagus. Both will be ready before your fish is done, about 10 minutes later.
Here’s a timeline:
- Program the Instant Pot
- Put a pot of water on the stove for noodles
- Put another pot on the stove to steam the asparagus.
More Recipes Using Your Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto
- Instant Pot Roast with Balsamic and Rosemary
- Instant Pot Chicken Wing Ramen
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Instant Pot Barley Lunch Jars
Instant Pot Ginger-Soy Tilapia
To make this recipe, you will need an Instant Pot and a steamer rack. Start with frozen fish for this recipe. If your fish is thawed, see the post above for alternate cooking directions.
You don’t want the fish to overlap so take that into consideration when shopping.
There’s not a lot of liquid in this recipe, but don’t be alarmed. It’s enough for the Instant Pot to safely pressurize.
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- Cooking spray
- 3 frozen tilapia fillets, or other flaky white fish
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced on the bias
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
Put the cooking liquid in the pressure cooker:
Remove the lid to your Instant Pot. Into the Instant Pot add the mirin, water, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger. Give it a quick stir.
Lightly grease a steamer rack with cooking spray and lower it into the Instant Pot insert as well. Set the frozen fillets on top of the steamer rack making sure to avoid overlapping the fish (if the fish overlap, they cook unevenly).
Lock on the lid and make sure the valve is set to seal.
Program the pressure cooker:
If your fish fillets are 1/2-inch thick or under, program the pressure cooker on the manual setting for 2 minutes at high pressure.
If your fish is thicker than 1/2-inch thick pieces, program your cooker on the manual setting for 3 minutes on high pressure.
The Instant Pot will take 6-7 minutes to come up to pressure before the actual cooking time begins.
Release the pressure, open the Instant Pot, and remove the fish:
Once the pressure-cooking time is up and the Instant Pot beeps, quick release the pressure using the steam vent. You can use the handle of a wooden spoon to release the pressure on the Instant Pot. Open the lid and lift the rack with the fish out.
The fish should be opaque and stained brown in patches from the steaming liquid. It won’t be pretty, but don’t worry about it.
To tell if the fillets are fully cooked through, prod the fish gently with your finger and it should easily flake apart. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
If the fish is not flaky after you quick release the pressure, add it to the liquid in the Instant Pot and cook it on the sauté setting until it’s done.
Reduce the liquid to a glaze:
You can skip this step, but it makes for a tastier dish. Once you remove the fish, turn the sauté setting on high and boil the liquid until it’s reduced by about half, enough to thicken and get sticky like a glaze, about 3 minutes.
Monitor the liquid all the while to make sure it does not burn. Stir in the sesame oil.
Garnish and serve:
Divide the fish between serving plates and pour the glaze over top. Garnish with a sprinkling of scallion greens and sesame seeds.