Lemon and Rosemary Pan-Seared Tilapia

Starting out in Rwanda, I was nervous about adjusting to cooking at high altitudes and cooking with local ingredients. But after several successful dinners, not coming out burnt, I’ve been pleasantly surprised! Hopefully it stays this way.

While we wait for our household goods to arrive, which includes our stash of spices and other staple ingredients, I have tried to limit my purchases to versatile items that will work in multiple recipes while we bide time for our stuff to arrive. I’ve been creative with cooking and with ingredients to accommodate for those that are available here and those that I am comfortable working with. Over the next two weeks, I’ll post some of these successful recipes as well as one of the first local dish I tried here so you can bring East African recipes to your dinner table with spices and ingredients you likely already have on hand.

Last week, I bought a huge piece of tilapia. Unfortunately, it was already frozen so my plans of cutting into smaller pieces to use over time just wasn’t going to work the way I had planned. I thawed out the fish today to cook it up and eat for the next day or two. So I knew whatever recipe I came up with had to be good! To cook here, it requires running around to multiple stores to get all the ingredients and to make sure you go to the right stores when they are open and hope that the ingredients you want are fresh.

Since it was a lazy Sunday evening, I decided to work with what ingredients I had in our kitchen so I could sit back with my glass of wine and relax. Just last week, our gardener picked some ripe lemons off one of the trees we have in our yard which I thought would pair perfectly with the tilapia and the rosemary sprigs in the fridge that only had so much life left. And why not add a little wine from my glass, too!

Here’s the recipe I came up with to use these ingredients for a refreshing and easy dish.

Lemon and Rosemary Pan-Seared Tilapia - Bon Appetit

Lemon and Rosemary Pan-Seared Tilapia


  • Knife and cutting board
  • Skillet
  • Measuring spoon
  • Spatula


  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • Tilapia filets
  • Salt, to taste


  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, melt butter in oil and add garlic, wine, 2 lemon slices (cut in half), and rosemary sprigs.
  • Add tilapia filets to the pan, salt filets, and top with lemon slices. Let cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove lemon slices, flip the filets and replace the lemon slices and rosemary on top. Let cook another 4-5 minutes until cooked thoroughly.
  • Remove from pan and place on serving dish. Drizzle the browned butter from the pan on top of the filets and serve immediately.
  • ENJOY!