Blackened Tilapia

5 stars based on 14 votes

blackened-tilapia

This is one of my favorite fish recipes, and it’s super quick and easy. Mild tilapia fillets are dusted with a bold Cajun spice rub, then sautéed in olive oil until crisp and flavorful on the exterior and tender and flaky within. 

Begin by making the Cajun spice rub. In a small bowl, combine paprika, brown sugar, oregano, salt, cumin, garlic powder and cayenne. Don’t worry about the amount of cayenne — the fillets have a little kick to them but they’re not too spicy, even for kids.

Next, dust the spice rub evenly over the tilapia fillets.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, then cook the fillets a few minutes per side, until crisp and reddish-brown (“blackened”) on the outside and flaky on the inside.

Enjoy!

Blackened Tilapia

Servings: 4
Total Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 six-ounce tilapia fillets
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (optional, for serving)
  • Olive oil, for cooking

Instructions

  1. Combine the paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl; mix until well combined (use your fingers to break up the lumps of brown sugar). Sprinkle the spice rub evenly over both sides of the tilapia fillets.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick pan. Cook the fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side until reddish-brown on the outside and flaky on the inside. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 236
  • Fat: 10g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 34g
  • Sodium: 672mg
  • Cholesterol: 85mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    So I had some tilapia in my freezer but did not want to stop by the store on my way home. Googled a tilapia recipe and came across this one. Best one ever! Family loved it. I paired it with some cilantro rice and sauted garlic kale with cajun seasoning.

    - Tanya on December 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was absolutely delicious. I substituted coriander for paprika and oregano (didn’t have either in the house) but it still came out great. Thank you!

    - Vishu on December 13, 2014 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Tilapia is great and so is this recipe. Just be sure of the source of your tilapia. Tilapia imported from China is known to be farmed raised in sewage treatment ponds.

    - Jerald Lynch on December 10, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe is just delicious. The look of the finished product is exactly like the photograph in the recipe. I changed nothing in preparation and the whole family loved it. We served the fish with Jasmine rice and fresh vegetables on the side.

    - Jim Ryan on December 4, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just made this was delicious! The whole family loved it!!

    - Deb on November 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love this recipe but can I use it on Swai fish

    - Stephanie on October 24, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Stephanie, Yes, that should work.

      - Jenn on October 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This recipe was absolutely awesome! Will become a favorite in our family! Thanks for sharing!

    - Karen Stenicka on October 21, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn,

    Can I use flounder fillets? I’m trying not to fry fish. Do you recommend baking or broiling? If so, which one is better and for how long? Will the fish still be blackened?

    - Seidi on October 7, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Seidi, Flounder fillets will work. I’d probably coat them with a bit of oil and then broil them so that they blacken a bit more.

      - Jenn on October 7, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious, super easy and fast. I love it! Note: the spice was a bit much for the kids. Enjoy!

    - Graham on September 22, 2014 Reply
  • Could you broil this in the oven? If so, how long?

    BTW, I think your website & recipes are fantastic! Top-notch. :-)

    - debbie on September 4, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Debbie, Yes that would be fine. I’d say 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. And thank you!

      - Jenn on September 4, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Man this was easy and tasty. Takes a very plain fish and makes it extremely flavorful. Quick weeknight dish.

    - egbluesuede on August 25, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love this recipe! It has become a family favorite and enjoyed often.

    - Katie on July 13, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I don’t like cayenne so I mixed up the rub mix and used taco seasoning instead and it turned out great. Love how easy these are to make – and good for you too!

    - Amanda S. on July 10, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Tilapia has become our favorite fish…so versatile and adapts well to many preparations. I made this the other night and both my husband and I were saying yum all the way through dinner. I’m going to make up some of the rub and keep in a zip lock bag and try it on a pork tenderloin and also boneless chicken breasts. Thanks for a great, easy recipe. I’m really enjoying your website!

    - Linda on July 2, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    We have this so often in our household, I keep a jar of the spice mixture all made up, then, it cuts down on prep time. So good. Would be good on corn on the cob too!

    - Karen on June 27, 2014 Reply
  • Can I do this without cumin ? I don’t have that on hand. But my husbands in the mood for tilapia

    - Kayla on June 10, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Kayla, You could but it won’t be quite the same; the cumin adds a lot of flavor.

      - Jenn on June 11, 2014 Reply
  • Can I use this recipe without cumin ?? I have everything but that .

    - Kayla on June 10, 2014 Reply
  • This was delicious! I’ve always been afraid to cook fish but when I saw this recipe I just knew I had to try it and it turned out great. This will become a regular dish. Thank you!

    - Halimah on March 9, 2014 Reply
  • Jen, this recipe is wonderful. I’ve made these three times for my teens and I’m making again tonight at the request of my uber-finicky son. I always find frozen tilapia on sale and never really knew how to make them taste good compared to other fleshier fish. Thanks. Really love your blog, visuals, and most importantly…your recipes. Nice job!

    - Cathy Arrington on February 24, 2014 Reply
  • This was so easy and very good. I’ll be making it again soon.

    - Flo on January 20, 2014 Reply
  • Saw this in my inbox yesterday and picked up the tilapia at the store. The rest is history. This goes down as the “best fish I have ever made, as exclaimed by my 22 year old son”. I had all the ingredients on hand except the fish, and it was a very quick, simple, impressive and delicious high point of our meal. Thanks once again! All I have to say is once upon a chef…and my family knows what to expect! (This would be great to use in a fish taco dish).

    - Karen T on January 16, 2014 Reply
  • This is a super easy full proof fish recipe and we all love it. Thanks for taking the fear out of cooking fish!

    - Theresa on January 15, 2014 Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! A new go to for quick dinners! This is easy to make for one person, esp since you can keep the spice mixture sealed up!

    I paired with sauteed green beans and brown rice & quinoa mixture.

    - Steven on January 7, 2014 Reply
  • Another fabulous recipe. Served it with oven roasted broccoli splashed with a little fresh squeezed orange to balance out some of the heat. We ate on a OUAC kick and have been using your recipes almost every day. Keep them coming. I love checking my emails for new recipes !

    - Sharyn on November 18, 2013 Reply
  • I have made this dish many times as it’s so very easy and tasty. My husband loves it every time and even my grandaughters’ have eaten it. I have doubled the spice mixture to make it easy to prepare it the next time we have it. I’ve served it with rice and roasted vegetables for an easy, nutritious meal. Thank you Jennifer for creating this recipe!

    - Mary Redmiles on November 14, 2013 Reply
  • This is a fantastic weeknight meal – simple and quick to prepare, and best of all delicious! My entire family loves this recipe – I do put a little less of the spice mixture on the kids’ fillets, my husband loves it loaded up. To keep things quick and simple, I serve it with couscous and sautéed spinach.

    - Tracy on November 12, 2013 Reply
  • I have served this tilapia dish often. It is quick and delicious, a hit with my whole family. The rub is awesome; I have used it on salmon and chicken as well. I have made the rub as is, and also cut the paprika in half and used regular chili powder in its place. They are both good; it is a little spicier with the added chili powder, which we like. Serve with rice and a green vegetable.

    - Amber on October 23, 2013 Reply
  • Simple, fast, and yummy. Perfect weeknight recipe.

    - Abby on October 22, 2013 Reply
  • This is one of my favorite ways to make tilapia. It delicious and perfect for a quick, weeknight meal. I prefer to use fresh tilapia and I it cooks up easily in my cast iron skillet. I like to serve it with sauteed swiss chard or roasted broccoli. In the summer, it is great with fresh corn on the cod.

    - Ruchita on October 22, 2013 Reply
  • Great when combined with the Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, Avocado & Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette!!!

    - Lindz on August 26, 2013 Reply
  • To do a proper backened fish of any type, you MUST use a cast iron skillet and the spice mix is only pressed to one side.

    You recipe is great – I am not debunking it – but it is not blackened by definition.

    - This is Not Really Blackened on June 16, 2013 Reply
  • I LOVE this recipe!! I made the tilapia exactly as you suggest, and used it in fish tacos (after eating a bite or 5 of the fish). This seasoning rocks. Would love to see more easy fish recipes :)

    - Kelly on May 6, 2013 Reply
  • I feel a bit embarassed, but what do you serve this with beside the lime wedges? Fries or mashed potatoes? Any suggestion would appreciated. Thank you.

    - Mommy222 on April 21, 2013 Reply
    • I like to serve this with roasted sweet potatoes, but roasted potatoes or buttered rice would also work well. And any simply prepared vegetable would be good too…check out my recipes for roasted carrots or garlicky roasted broccoli.

      - Jenn on April 21, 2013 Reply
  • A delicious go-to dinner! I’ve made this dish numerous times and shared it with many friends and family who also give it rave reviews. If you are sensitive to heat you can leave out the cayenne or just use less. So good…a must try!

    - Katie on March 10, 2013 Reply
  • We loved the tilapia recipe. My kids don’t like a lot of spice so I used 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper instead of 1/4 and it was just as good with a little less”spice” for them

    - Jackie on March 10, 2013 Reply
  • We use this spice combination on tilapia, haddock, flounder and halibut. It makes any fish taste delicious! I sometimes bake the fish in parchment paper in the oven to avoid using oil. It’s still moist and delicious!!

    - Donna on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Loved this recipe. Have used it with shrimp as well.

    It was the first receipe I tried from you and got me to follow you and “Like” you on Facebook.

    - Sharon on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Love this recipe. It even got a non fish eater to eat fish.

    - Pam on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • I have cooked this recipe for my family three times since I discovered it on your site. I reduce the cayenne pepper to 1/8 of a tsp, as I am cooking for young children. After seasoning with the spice blend, I use a light dusting of a seafood breading mix. My family loves this dish.

    - Tonya on March 9, 2013 Reply
  • Another fantastic dish!! I have gone from not cooking at all to cooking 5 nights a week, and everything is from your blog!

    - Pam on March 4, 2013 Reply
  • Jenn — I loved this recipe! I used tilefish — was on sale at Balducci’s — and it was delicious! My picky 10 year old asked for seconds. Thanks so much — keep these great recipes coming!

    - Karen on February 8, 2013 Reply
  • your blog is so pretty.. love this dish.. my favorite fish is salmon, tilapia is on my list too, love any kind of fish spiced up.

    - Honey What's Cooking on January 15, 2013 Reply
  • This looks great! I’m not a huge fan of tilapia. Can I substitute another white fish? Any suggestions?

    - Kristen on January 14, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Kristen, You could substitute just about anything here, but snapper, grouper or mahi mahi would work particularly well. Salmon would be good too.

      - Jenn on January 14, 2013 Reply
  • Made this tonight for a quick mid-week supper. This was so delicious and easy, too. I had to double the recipe for my big family and not one bite left! I substituted 1/8 tsp granulated garlic for the 3/4 tsp garlic powder. Served the fish with a basmati rice pilaf and some fresh steamed green beans. Thank you, Jenn, for another simple but unbelievably tasty recipe. My husband and I had forgotten how good fresh tilapia can be!

    - Liesel on January 10, 2013 Reply
    • Glad you all enjoyed it, Liesel!

      - Jenn on January 17, 2013 Reply
  • We loved your recipe. It was quick and easy and I already had everything in my cupboard. Both my two and five year old enjoyed a large portion each. They especially enjoyed squeezing the lime wedges and we all talked about how the juice enhanced the flavor. Thanks for the wonderful and easy recipe.

    - Sofia on January 9, 2013 Reply
    • You’re welcome, Sofia. Glad to know it is kid-friendly!

      - Jenn on January 17, 2013 Reply
  • This recipe was wonderful! I had to use packaged, frozen salmon on hand (which I thawed — salmon is one of our emergency staples) and luckily the fillets were really thin, so they were similar to tilapia in size. The rub was delish!!! It wasn’t overly spicy, so the spice level was perfect. My husband raved and asked me to add it to my recipe collection. Yay!! Thanks again, Jenn, for another winning recipe!

    - Kim on January 7, 2013 Reply
  • I will most definitely be trying this one!
    Thanks.
    Teresa

    - Teresa Taylor on January 7, 2013 Reply
  • Looks fantastic ~ especially because I don’t have to change anything to make it gluten free! Thanks so much.

    - julianne on January 3, 2013 Reply
  • Hi Jennifer – I am definitely going to try this recipe.

    One of our New Year’s Resolutions is to eat healthier and that includes more fish.

    Problem is, my husband firmly BELIEVES that he HATES Tilapia – and I have to agree that most restaurants do a lousy job with it . Still I’ve been afraid to try making it at home because I don’t want him to think I’m making something he doesn’t like just to be mean!

    This recipe sounds perfect for a secret test run to see if I can “trick” him into changing his mind. Right now our repertoire is limited to and by his pricey favorites: FRESH Alaskan Halibut, Tuna, Swordfish and Salmon… If this recipe works with him – I’ll feel emboldened and liberated!

    Oh and I been meaning to tell you that one of my (OUR) favorite and regular recipes is one of yours from last year:
    “Golden Roasted Cauliflower with Pecorino Romano Cheese” (Feb 19)

    My Honey/Hubby went from being a confirmed cauliflower hater to sometimes actually preferring this recipe to Mac & Cheese! And THAT is really something!

    Thank Jennifer and Happy New Year!

    I’ll let you know how Project Tilapia goes!

    - Jesselyn Andersyn on January 3, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Jesselyn, Nice to hear from you! I agree with you both — most restaurants do a lousy job with tilapia. It really needs the right preparation to be as good as those pricier options. This would definitely be a good one to try but you might try another recipe on my site first — the Crispy Tilapia Fingers with Lemon-Garlic Mayo — then graduate to this one. Good luck!

      - Jenn on January 3, 2013 Reply
      • hi jenn,
        i tried the tilapia fingers with garlic-lemon mayo during christmas eve. it was perfect! those who arent fish lovers become one! no joke. the mayo was so perfect too. but i added 2 more choices of sauce – ready made thai sweet chili and soy-vinegar sauce made from scratch.
        thanks for this recipe.
        happy new year!

        - Mary on January 3, 2013 Reply
  • Now that’s a simple and delicious AND quick dinner!
    Happy New YEar to you!

    - leslie on January 2, 2013 Reply

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