Recipe in Progress: Cranberry Tilapia Quinoa

Cranberry Tilapia Quinoa | Dinner of Herbs


This dish almost was a masterpiece.  Despite roasted, salted pistachios, plumped cranberries, juicy tilapia, ginger, and tarragon…this recipe fell a bit flat.  Bland.  Blah.  There is nothing terribly wrong with it, but it needs some help.  Maybe I was too conservative with the spices?  Or maybe I need some other spices?  I was at a bit of a loss as to what I should do.

cranberry tilapia from above

I was very happy with the dried cranberries, though.  I decided to add them to the quinoa as it cooked, so that they would hopefully absorb some water and plump up–it worked!

tilapia cranberry pistachio quinoa

Any suggestions to improve the flavour are quite welcome!

The Recipe


2 6 oz tilapia fillets

1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and uncooked

1 c water

1/4 c dried cranberries

1/4 c pistachios, roasted, salted, and shelled



Servings: 3-4

Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a small pot over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Let simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes.  Halfway through the cooking process, add the cranberries to the quinoa.  Meanwhile, cook the tilapia in a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Flip to cook on both sides, until the fish is cooked through, or white and flaky even in the middle.  Roughly chop into pieces and set aside.  When the quinoa is finished, add the fish, pistachios, and seasonings to the pot.  Stir to combine, and serve.  Enjoy!

final tilapia cranberry pistachio quinoa


34 thoughts on “Recipe in Progress: Cranberry Tilapia Quinoa

  1. Salt! little bit of lemon juice or sherry vinegar to brighten the flavor? To me, the quinoa, cranberries, and tilapia scream CHILI POWDER, though you’d have to give tarragon the boot. (am not a tarragon fan so…) And if not chili powder, than at least generous turns of freshly ground black pepper. never can go wrong with loads of fresh parsley either. will be watching here and fb for your next go at it 🙂

    1. I was going to suggest adding in something really crazy like chili powder too! A lot of new recipes I’ve tried lately call for several scorching-hot spices, but in such small amounts that they don’t really set you on fire. Give it a shot!

        1. A twist on the chilli powder would be to “blacken” the tilapia instead of ‘just’ pan-frying it. I haven’t posted by owning recipe (yet) for my blackening spice mixture, but it’s super easy to make and you’ll find plenty of recipes on the net. Either way, the reason it works so well in my opinion is that the earthiness of the fish is enhanced by the warm, slightly pungent, spices in the spice mixture. As well, I agree with other readers that some acid would be a good finish as well. Without getting fancy, just squeeze a fresh lemon over the blackened fish and quinoa at the point of serving and I think you’ll find your dish will have gone from bland to “wow.”

    2. Salt? Of course! (Maybe I could add it in the form of some crispy bacon–or would that be too weird? I think it would go well with the tilapia if nothing else.) Yeah, chili + tarragon = disaster. But I like the idea of using chili. Unfortunately it will be awhile before I get to this recipe again since I used up the last of my quinoa…and since I am moving soon, I’m trying to not buy more supplies.

  2. Could I be cheeky and make a suggestion?why not try cooking the fish “en pappilote” cut a piece of aluminum foil a bit bigger than the fish,lay the fish on it,add a thin slice of butter on top of the fish,top with thin slice of lemon or lime and squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice over the fish,fold the edges of the foil over to make a little handbag shape,make a couple of slits in the foil and cook in a 350 oven for about 40 mins,you can also drizzle a few drops of sesame oil over the fish for a little extra flavor,tilapia responds well to being cooked this way and I think the citrus may offer the little zing that you seem to be looking for here.
    Good luck with it,I like the recipe idea.

    1. Of course! Suggestions are a big part of why I post “recipes in progress” and “disasters”. Lemon (or lime) juice has been a common suggestion, but this is the first that someone has mentioned cooking the tilapia in this manner. Thanks!

  3. Hmmm. Certainly looks delicious. I really enjoy ginger, cilantro (not everyone does) garlic and olive oil together. It might be a nice contrast to the sweetness of the cranberries. And a little salt. I like your recipe though! 🙂

  4. My suggestions: Needs garlic (my opinion is that most dishes do). Cook the fish with a generous amount of garlic, grated ginger, and lime juice, in addition to adding garlic and ginger to the mixture.
    You could also use chicken or vegetable broth to cook the quinoa in.
    Mix in a little chopped pineapple or sweet red pepper, maybe?

    1. Haha, garlic and onion powder are my “comfort zone” spices. I add a little garlic to almost all of my dishes. I was trying to branch out a little, but it failed this time. However, I do like the lime juice-ginger combination. I think the sweet red pepper would be delicious–but I cannot eat red pepper. :-/ My stomach doesn’t like it, haha.

    1. I have cooked quinoa in vegetable or chicken broth in the past, so I agree that sounds like a good idea! Chili has been a popular suggestion…I think I am going to have to try it!

  5. I find quinoa a challenge to season well. My idea would be to add cardamom and more salt. What I don’t know is how that would jive with tarragon, since I haven’t used that herb in years. I’d probably swap it out for the cardamom and be generous with the spices and salt.

  6. It does sounds amazing. I feel that both quinoa and tilapia require a lot spice to keep from being bland. Maybe next time try cooking the quinoa in stock or saute tilapia with a bit of peach brandy to bring out a bit of sweetness. Good luck!

    1. I usually cook quinoa in vegetable or chicken broth. I didn’t have any on hand at the time I made this, though. I also like the idea of saute-ing or even marinating the tilapia in something. Thanks!

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