Ginataang Tilapia

Tilapia in Creamy Coconut Sauce

Ginataang Tilapia is another variant of the gata dishes or food cooked in coconut milk -- creamy, rich and savory and with a hint of spice from the long chili pepper.

Though unusual to other cultures, the fish is not in fillet form while being cooked in coconut milk with bones and all, together with flavor aromatics like ginger, etc.

We cook the tilapia whole because most consider the head as a treat that is sucked and enjoyed especially with the creamy sauce.

The vegetable that goes with the tilapia depends on one's preference as there is no standard vegetable that is served with any ginataan dish.

Also, vinegar is a usual ingredient for a fish cooked with gata, others even cook the fish as paksiw, then add the coconut cream in the end.


  • Tilapia
  • Coconut Milk
  • Coconut Cream
  • Long Chili Pepper (Siling Pang-sigang)
  • Thai Bird Chili Pepper(Siling Labuyo,, optional)
  • Eggplant (optional)
  • Bok Choy or Pechay(optional)


  • Vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Salt and Pepper

ginataang tilapia


  • 4 - 5 pieces medium Whole Tilapia (cleaned)

  • 3 cups Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups Coconut Cream
  • 2-3 pieces Long Chili Pepper (Siling Pang-sigang)
  • 2-3 pieces Red Thai Chili (Siling Labuyo,, optional)
  • 2 pieces Eggplant (optional), sliced diagonally
  • 1 bunch Bok Choy or Pechay(optional)
  • 5 tablespoons Vinegar
  • 1 thumbsize Ginger, cut in strips
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1 Using a skillet, mix the coconut milk, garlic, onion and chili peppers and vinegar, season with a little salt and pepper.

2 Nestle the tilapia in and bring to a boil, then simmer for 5- 10 minutes or until tilapia is partially cooked.

3 Add the coconut cream (kakang-gata) and eggplant and simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes until thick.

4 Add the Pechay or Bok Choy and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

5 Serve with hot rice. (Learn more about COOKING RICE, THE FILIPINO WAY.)


  • If you hate picking through the fish bones, use fillets instead. You might want to use less coconut liquid and you need to adjust the cooking time as fillets cook really fast.

  • The Pechay or Bok Choy is added in the end to retain its crispy texture and the bright green color. You can turn the heat off at this point since residual heat will partially cook the vegetable.

  • Vinegar is used (together with the ginger) to balance any strong fish taste or smell.

  • Cooking times for whole fish depends on the size of the fish. Large Tilapia (which is the only one available here in NJ) tend to look cooked from the outside but could still be raw in the center. You could cut 2 - 3 slits on large fish for the sauce to easily cook the inside.

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