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Blackened Tilapia

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Blackened tilapia makes a super quick and flavorful weeknight meal. You can have it on the table in just 15 minutes!

blackened tilapia on plate

Tilapia is a flaky, mild-tasting, inexpensive, and readily available white fish that’s super easy to cook and prepare. It is especially good blackened, which doesn’t mean burnt but rather coated in a Cajun-style spice blend that takes on a dark reddish-brown, almost black color when cooked. In this quick and simple recipe, the fish fillets are dusted with a rub made from spices, brown sugar, and salt and then sautéed in olive oil until blackened and flaky.

Serve the blackened tilapia with a vegetable, like roasted asparagus, along with cornbread muffins, cilantro lime rice, hush puppies, or cheddar bay biscuits.

“First time making tilapia this way. Now, it’s gonna be my only way.”


What You’ll Need To Make Blackened Tilapia

blackened tilapia ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

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 spice rub has a little kick but the dish won’t be too spicy, even for kids.

blackening rub ingredients in bowl

Mix to combine.

Spoon in a bowl of blackening rub.

Evenly dust the spice rub evenly all over the tilapia fillets.

tilapia fillets coated with rub

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan, then add the tilapia, presentation side down.

tilapia in pan

Cook a few minutes per side, until crisp and reddish-brown (“blackened”) on the outside and flaky on the inside.

blackened tilapia in pan


blackened tilapia on plate

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Blackened Tilapia

Blackened tilapia makes a super quick and flavorful weeknight meal. You can have it on the table in just 15 minutes!

Servings: 4
Total Time: 15 Minutes


  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 six-ounce tilapia fillets
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (optional, for serving)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking


  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 the olive 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.

Pair with

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

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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  • Wow! Just made this and it is delicious! Followed recipe exactly. Thank you, Jenn. Even my husband who doesn’t like fish, loved it!

    • — MARY E FELDMAN on May 14, 2024
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I’ve made blackened recipes before but YOUR recipe for blackening spices is the BEST! It has a balanced spice mix with a hint of sweetness. This recipe is a home run by itself but coupled with the Cheddar Bay Biscuits is a super hitter. Hubby loved it.

    • — Dianne on April 27, 2024
    • Reply
  • We made blackened Mahi Mahi sandwiches with Jen’s Cabbage Slaw and Chipotle Sauce from her Baja Fish Taco recipe on toasted hamburger buns from our local bakery. It was a 10 out of 5 stars. Jen, you make mealtime fun, yummy, and foolproof. You’re the only food blogger we follow. Thank you for being you and doing what you do with passion and excellence. We appreciate you!

    • — Melanie Francis on April 3, 2024
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on April 4, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Can this be baked instead of pan fried?

    • — Johara on February 4, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Johanna, if you want to prepare this in the oven, I’d suggest broiling it. I’d coat the fish with a little bit of oil (so that they blacken a bit more) and broil for 5 – 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 5, 2024
      • Reply
      • Thank you 😊

        • — Johara Alatas on February 5, 2024
        • Reply
  • I havent made this yet, but I have a question. I bet it will taste good if I follow your recipe! Do you use frozen or fresh halibut? For some reason, I strongly detect the fishy taste in halibut, but I wish I didnt! This is when using frozen boneless fillets. I’ve tried soaking in milk to have the fishy taste bind to proteins in the milk (then rinse it away), but wish it was easier. What do you do, Jenn? Thanks!

    • — Christine Lund-Molfese on January 22, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Christine, This recipe calls for tilapia. Are you saying that you’d like to substitute halibut?

      • — Jenn on January 23, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I would like to make this with halibut. Do you think I need to make any changes to the recipe? Thanks Jenn!

    • — Cindy on January 17, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Cindy, it should work with no changes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s slightly flaky. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 18, 2024
      • Reply
  • This was the ABSOLUTE BEST tilapia I have ever eaten. It was so quick, easy, and so flavorful! I had to leave a comment so that others could see that it is SO worth trying. I as considering cooking these looms in a cast iron but didn’t want to clean it, so I ultimately decided on a non stick pan and I was so surprised at how they seared and blacked perfectly in minutes! Soft and flaky and the flavor was unmatched. I wrapped them in aluminum foil to let them rest and we ate 20 minutes later. I paired it with white rice, a broccoli & carrots mix, coleslaw and roasted purple sweet potatoes. this is going to be a weekly meal in our house from now on! I promise you will not be let down!

    • — Rebecca on December 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is soooo good!!! A definite go-to recipe……

    • — Beth on October 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • I use a lot of recipes online and I rarely comment on them, but this was really really good. I have bookmarked this for the future.

    • — L Jaqua on October 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight and followed recipe exactly. I loved it. I was a bit concerned about the cumin as I don’t usually use it in blackened seasoning but the flavors all together were great. Couldn’t taste the cayenne at all if your worried about it being spicy. Have added it to my favorite recipes. Served it with Jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. Husband and son said they would ask for it again.

    • — Kim Adams on October 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Super easy to make. Very good flavor! Also, leftovers reheated nicely.

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • — AG on August 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • First time making tilapia this way. Now, it’s gonna be my only way.

    • — Kelly on August 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • So easy and so delicious! Thank you.

    • — Karen on August 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can this be made and frozen? Then thaw and fry?

    • — Diane on July 27, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, I’ve never done it. I suspect it should work, but because the only real work is making the spice mix, you can definitely make that ahead and just coat fresh fish when you’re ready to cook it.

      • — Jenn on July 27, 2023
      • Reply
  • I”m hoping the recipe is better than the website. Holy crap on a cracker with the ads.

    • — Charles Gilley on April 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight and this was so savory. It was a little salty so I’ll reduce the salt next go around. However, the different spices blended so nicely together. I will be making this again!

    • — NANCY GENOVA on April 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • This Blackened Tilapia recipe is amazingly delicious. My husband and I have it for dinner once a week. The flavors from all the different seasonings added to the tilapia is out of this world! I use smoked paprika, not sure what you use, but if you haven’t tried it with smoked paprika, I highly recommend it!😉
    I need to check out some of your other recipes, Thank you for this one!

    • — Yolanda on April 12, 2023
    • Reply
  • Oh my goood this was amazing. I only used 2 filets though and I loved the amount of spice. I was hesitant with that 1 tsp of salt but it was the perfect amount. For the thicker cut, I did 2 mins on each side. For the thinner filets I did 2 mins, then 1 min. I loved the charred crunchy bits and I’m going to mix up a big batch of the seasoning to keep on hand for quick dinners. That’s how good this was!

    • — Nicky on April 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made a hundred times and love it. Can I apply the seasoning to the fish a day ahead of time or is it preferred to apply it the day of?

    Thank you,

    • — Chad on March 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Chad, It might make the fish too salty to apply a day ahead, so I’d stick to adding it right before serving. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 28, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hello Jen, I’m wanting a blacken chicken recipe for Caesar salad. Would this recipe work. I use your Caesar dressing which my family loves. Just want to do a chicken Caesar. Thanks
    I made your chuck stew last week and it was a huge hit. On the rotation now.

    • — Barbara A. on March 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, this should work nicely with chicken. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 22, 2023
      • Reply
  • I have not made this, but have a question; could the tilapia be coated with the olive oil, rubbed with spices and be cooked in an air fryer?

    • — Laura on March 19, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, I don’t own an air fryer so unfortunately, I can’t tell you confidently whether or not this would work in one. These tips may help you to convert this and other recipes for your air fryer. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on March 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Just made this. Excellent and very flavorfull!-

    • — Corinne S on February 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Really good and sooo easy to make

    • — Vbean on December 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delish

    • — Cat on November 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • Really nice recipe. The spice blend is a little different from what I usually make, and it was a nice change of pace. I also typically go with peanut oil or butter (for authenticity!), but olive oil was also really good.

    • — Kel on October 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Just made it tonight. I’m a novice cook and it was so easy to make. My wife loved it too. A really good tasting recipe. I will try it in the Power air fryer next time. My thanks to OUAC.com. 👍👍

      • — Sal Rosania on December 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’ve made this several times and serve it with rice and mango salad. The mango salad has mango, red pepper, English cucumber, red onion and a honey/lime dressing… a nice balance to the fish and rice. We love it!

    • — JoAnn Wood on September 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • Has anyone used the air fryer for this recipe?

    • — Kim on September 15, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes! I put it in the air fryer at 290 degrees for 9 minutes, flipped it halfway through, and it turned out wonderful 🙂

      • — Emily on October 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Delicious! So flavorful! I will be making this again and again.

    • — Kristen Berard on July 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Just made it! Easy, quick and yummy 😋

      • — Thuy Vy on August 8, 2022
      • Reply
  • We made this recipe on our green egg BBQ indirect cook. Excellent!

    • — David on July 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • My girls went back for seconds and the 3 of us finished all the fish; says a lot how good this recipe is (and we usually don’t like tilapia)! This goes so well with corn and black bean salsa. This is a keeper. Thank you for such a wonderful and easy recipe.

    • — Elie Q on June 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • My entire family of 5 loved this, even the 3 yr old. It was so quick and easy, and I didn’t have to alter it for my 6 yr old with food allergies at all which was even better! Definitely going to be adding this permanently to the mix.

      • — Kristin on June 30, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made this tonight for dinner in a cast iron skillet. It was excellent! Perfect recipe. Thank you!

    • — Betty S on June 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jen do you think I could do them in the barbecue? If yes should I use the cedar as the recipe for the salmon? Thank you

    PS: I looove your recipes. I have both books and seriously I just cook recipes from you no matter what I do is a success!!!!

    • — Viviane on June 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! yes, I think this would work nicely on a cedar plank on the grill. I’d love to hear how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on June 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • This was really a good recipe. Not only did it taste good, my whole house smelled great as well! Thanks for the recipe, it’s a keeper for other fish as well. Take care.

    • — Scott on June 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’m not a big fan of fish but I’m trying to eat healthier and decided to try something different. This recipe was a great decision and I’m happy I found it! Easy to follow and very helpful

  • Can this be baked? My fish always sticks and falls apart on the stove.

    • Sure, Gladys, that’s fine – enjoy!

  • Hi Jenn – I have made this a hundred times and I love it. I have a question though: In a recipe like this one, what is the rationale for starting with olive oil as opposed to unsalted butter? I defer to the expert chef!

    • Hi Chad, glad you like it! When I developed the recipe, I think I went with the olive oil just to make it a bit healthier, but feel free to use butter if you’d prefer.

  • So I tried this recipe with tilapia (which I usually find to be flavourless and boring) and ZING! This recipe was the exact ka-pow that it needed! I definitely saved this to my favourites and will be using this recipe again and again!! Turned out delicious, and not too spicy even with the cayenne pepper. I love it, thanks!!

  • Excellent and easy recipe! Thank you for a new staple in my house.
    P.S my family doesn’t like spicy so I left the cayenne pepper out.

  • Tilapia always looks kind of sad and gray to me, but I decided to give this a try. I sort of reluctantly took my package from the fish monger and headed home with my pathetic dinner. HUGE hit! So cheap, easy, fast, and delicious! Truly a revelation. Thanks, Jenn! 🙂

  • Easy and Delicious. My favorite for blackened fish. Thank you!

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