Orange Honey Tilapia Slow Cooker Recipe

How to cook flaky fish in the crockpot slow cooker using foil packets. This post includes a recipe for Mandarin Orange Honey Tilapia -- amazing!
Fish! It's what's for dinner.

I love making fish in the crockpot.

I love making pretty much anything in the crockpot, but the ease of making fish is just so wonderful, I'm surprised everyone doesn't cook fish this way.

It's easy.

It's moist and flavorful.

It doesn't heat up the house on a hot day.

it doesn't stink up the kitchen.

and clean up is practically non-existent.


I had a bunch of frozen tilapia in the house that I bought in bulk, and needed a new recipe.

My kids hands-down favorite tialpia is Parmesan Tilapia, but I wanted a super low-fat dinner to counteract the gobs of Cheesy Creamed Corn I ate the other day.

The Ingredients.

serves 4
  • 4 tilapia filets (frozen is just fine)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 (10-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • aluminum foil
  • salt and pepper to taste at the table

The Directions.

Use a 6-quart slow cooker.

Lay a length of foil on your countertop and place the fish directly in the middle.

Dribble balsamic vinegar and honey over the top of each fillet, and place a handful of drained mandarin oranges on top (my kids like to drink the juice!).

Fold over foil and crimp the edges to form a packet.

Put the foil packet into your slow cooker, and put the lid on (if you'd prefer to have one fish fillet per packet for serving, divide the sauce and the oranges).

Cook on high for two hours, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. If your fish was frozen, it may take another 30 minutes or so, but you should still check it after two hours.

Season to taste with some salt and pepper at the table.

The Verdict.

We all loved this, and I was able to share my grandfather's story about mandarin oranges really being boneless baby goldfish.

It's a bit odd---but the kids loved the story the same way I did when I was growing up!

More fish in foil:

Do you love this recipe?

Please share it with your friends!

Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at June 28, 2015

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What they say about this recipe

  1. ooo I want to substitute pork for the tilapia.

  2. It never even occurred to me to cook fish in the crockpot. This is great! I dread baking in the summer, so this sounds like it might just satisfy our fish cravings during the hot months. Thanks.

  3. I've had frozen tilapia in the freezer for a while now. I'm going to make this for dinner. Thanks.

  4. Looks interesting....
    But I really want to try the other tilapia recipe you linked...
    Left a comment there, too.

  5. Anonymous7/08/2010

    I never knew you *could* cook fish in a crockpot. Tilapia cooks so quickly I'd never have thought of it--but this recipe sounds tasty and easy.

  6. What a great recipe! I made grilled foil packet fish 2 days ago!! I love fish! I am going to try this soon!

  7. I just don't do fish, but I applaud YOUR efforts!!

    How's life with three? We should introduce them to my three sons...

  8. Despite you having told us before about the merits of slow cooking fish, I haven't done it yet. I think it's time! I like that I can actually do this once I get home from work. :-) I made a grilled tilapia the other night using an adapted version of an online recipe. It was okay, but not the stellar dish I'd imagined.

    Funny on the goldfish ... my FIL told his kids that sweet potatoes were "music roots" to get them to eat them ... figure that one out. LOL Lots of us come up with silly things that make no sense, but still make us laugh and sometimes eat foods we normally wouldn't. ;-)


  9. Mmmm, sounds yummy. I will definitely be trying this. Love tilapia.

  10. Anything that involves honey and balsamic vinegar is right up my alley. I'm going to have to make this one.

  11. We tried this last night. It was good and easy--2 1/2 hours from frozen. I liked the light orange flavor that the fish had. However, I was less fond of the light fish flavor the oranges had!

    There was no smell in the kitchen at all from cooking this. It's definitely one we'll do again. Thanks!

  12. Hey Stephanie - have a technical question for you:
    I have one of those crocks that have one base and 3 different sized crocks. The crocks are shallow and deep. Is it ok that the packets are lying kinda touching eachother? Also, are they meant to be wrapped in foil individually? Thanks!!

  13. Hi Debra,

    they can absolutely be touching each other, or on top of each other. The newer crocks heat from the sides as well as from the bottom.
    It's up to you if you want all the pieces in the same packet, or in different packets.

    xoxo steph

  14. I used frozen Mahi......and i think i overcooked it as it came out pretty tasteless and dry..... :(

    Still want to try the salmon next time.....

  15. Oh, Stephanie! This was SO GOOD! I didn't know you could crock-pot fish, either but YUM! Thanks for the super-easy recipe!

  16. We always have frozen tilapia in the freezer and I'm so excited to try this recipe for dinner tomorrow night! Sounds so yummy - and I love that it's so few ingredients (and super healthy to boot!). Thanks, Stephanie, for always bringing unique recipes to us!

    (BTW - if you haven't tried Stephanie's Salmon with the dry rub - DO IT! We've eaten that one a few times and it's phenomenal!!)

  17. This is cooking up in my slow cooker right now. Can not wait.

  18. Thanks for the plug, love!

  19. This was a great dinner- though I didn't follow this recipe just the method- perfectly flaky, moist fish. This method is now a weekly staple! Thanks so much- posting this on my blog too!

  20. Stephanie this is an amazing idea! My crock pot has been dormant since the "soup months" and it never occurred to me to make fish in it! Plus tilapia is a great eco-friendly option, I'm always looking for new ways to make it!

  21. I made this last night and it turned out great. ( I overcooked it though). But even better was the leftovers made AMAZING fish tacos for lunch. The oranges had a great sweetness that played off the spicy salsa I put on my tacos! Yum.

  22. I made this today...and it was DELICIOUS. I also made a great do not need foil to make fish recipes in the crock-pot! I had suspected so for awhile and decided to experiment with it today. It came out perfectly flaky and moist and makes me super super super happy because I detest aluminum foil:)

  23. I'm making this tonight, for Valentine's Day... Fish for V-day! I'm looking forward to this one! Thanks for all that you do!

  24. I made this and wrote about it here. I don't know what happened, but this did not turn out very well. It was a big bummer because usually everything I've made on here has been rockin awesome.

  25. I made this for dinner tonight and we loved it!! I am planning to share it on my blog, and will make sure to link to your site when I do.

  26. Michelle7/18/2011

    This recipe sounds great. Could you use fresh navel orange slices instead of mandarin oranges? I'm not a big fan of canned fruits and vegetables.

  27. I don't cook with aluminum foil directly touching my food. Do you think it would make a difference if I laid parchment paper down on top of the foil, put the fish on that, and then made a packet?

  28. Hi there,

    go ahead and just use the parchment paper. Fold the ends over a few times and crease tightly---the fish will cook the same way.

  29. Sooo has anyone ever tried putting a veggie or starch, potatoes for instance, under the fish pocket? I am sure this would increase the cook time but that's kind of a necessity for me. I am thinking about how to achieve something akin to a bamboo steamer using a slow cooker.

  30. We were pleasantly surprised by this recipe! My husband, who is very particular about fish anyway, was suspicious. Two of my three kids hate it when I make fish for dinner.
    The verdict? My husband, oldest son, and I really enjoyed it. My youngest said it was "okay" (a rave review from her) but really loved the oranges; and my middle one had a few bites without making sounds like he was going to die. For a fish recipe this is the equivalent of 5 stars and it was super healthy with our quinoa and sauteed cabbage. Thanks!

  31. This was really tasty and totally simplified cooking fish. I'm linking the recipe on my blog to yours. Just got my crockpot and going bananas with it!

  32. I'd never thought about cooking fish in the crockpot, but I tried this recipe and it was delicious! I used frozen filets, and they were done in 2 hours. It didn't make my house smell like fish, and it was so easy I'm going to make it all the time. Thanks!

  33. Scarlett10/13/2012

    Can't wait to try this recipe. However my go to side with fish is rice. My girls are getting a little board with it. Does anyone have suggestions on budget friendly sides for this fish? Thanks in advance!

  34. I have this recipe on the plan for this week, but I really want to know the baby goldfish story! Can you share your grandfather's story with us Stephanie? :)

  35. Hi Sullivan,

    Sure thing. :-) Grandpa Ken used to tease that mandarin oranges were baby goldfish and while he was eating them, he'd every once in a while say "uh oh, I got a bone!"
    and then we'd all get nervous that they REALLY were goldfish.

    I hope you're having a good day so far! enjoy your Tilapia!

  36. Your recipes are just amazing. I really need to try them out. Thanks for the knowledge your share. I'll be looking forward to see more goodness coming from you.

  37. This recipe was a hit at our house tonight! Thank you! It was my first time cooking and eating tilapia! We only have 3 in our family, so any suggestions on how to reheat the leftover serving?

  38. Hi Alison, I'm so glad that you enjoyed your dinner! Reheating fish is tricky since it can get kind of rubbery. I wouldn't bother to slow cook the leftovers, and would suggest simply microwaving (without the foil!!) .

  39. Since I'm gone all day at work is it possible to cook the frozen fish on low for 8+ hours instead of on high for 2?

  40. Hi Dawn, no. Fish is one of the things that really needs to be cooked only for 2 hours --- you don't want smelly rubbery fish.

    I don't know what your schedule is like, but is there a way to make the foil packs and pull the slow cooker out -- and then when you get home plop them in while you change, etc? If not, then this might be one of the things you make on a weekend.

    If you want to cook in the oven instead, still make the foil packets, then place them on a high-sided cookie sheet or in a pyrex dish and bake at 325 for about 35-40 minutes.

    I hope this helps a bit!

  41. I am trying this for the first time and it is cooking as I write this. Really anxious to try the outcome. I will also try the parmesan packets. How do I get the salmon with rub recipe of yours another lady comments on? Thanks

  42. I would like to use salmon, is the cooking time different?

  43. Hi Leslie, no, cooking time will be the same. 2 hours on high in parchment or foil packets in a dry crockpot for fish! :-)

  44. Why does it have to cook in the foil? What purpose does that serve?

  45. Hi ThinkingPink -- it's because the steam gets trapped in close to the fish -- this way it steams and flakes nicely and doesn't get all dried out the way you risk in a large crock. Also, it'll keep the fish smell away! :-)
    I hope this helps a bit! Enjoy!