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Blackened Tilapia

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Blackened tilapia makes a super quick and flavorful weeknight meal.

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 cornbread, rice, or hush puppies along with a vegetable.

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.

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

blackened tilapia in pan


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Blackened Tilapia

Blackened tilapia makes a super quick and flavorful weeknight meal.

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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  • Very easy and very delicious. Thank you

    • — Nessa Bloodstone on June 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Incredibly easy and delicious!

  • This is a favorite for our family. Even the picky eaters like it! We also have made chicken with this recipe that we all loved.

    • 100 percent good.

      • — Richard on July 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Let me start by saying I have never been much of a fan of blackened anything. My husband and I were really in the mood for fish and after reading the reviews for this, I decided to give it a shot. We were both happy with the outcome. The flavors were spot on and it was so quick and easy. I have grown to rely on your great recipes for fantastic meals. Thank you for putting some spice back into my meal rotations!

  • This is very good! I never would have thought to use cumin and oregano in the seasoning. I used the fish for fish tacos. Excellent!

  • Absolutely love this dish. First time I made this without lemon squeezed at the end. It was fine, nothing impressive. But the second time I followed the instructions to the T. And it tasted phenomenal. Love it!!

  • Great seasoning for a mild fish and despite the cayenne, not spicy at all.

  • This was a very pleasant seasoning.
    Adjustments just for fun, I added a teaspoon of ground pepper and doubled the cayenne and it still wasn’t too hot. I also basted the fillets in melted Ghee before sprinkling with the spices and added a little more Ghee to the frying pan.
    The downfall for me was I think I overcooked the fish a little as it seemed a little less flaky than I would’ve expected.

  • This is good! Thank you for the terrific recipe! Everyone loved it and as you said, not too spicy even for my 7 year old who doesn’t do spicy (yet😉).

  • Simple yet very flavorful recipe. This is now a family favorite and will be made time and time again.

  • Thanks for this recipe! We love it and have made it once a week for the last number of weeks! We plan to try the spice blend for chicken on the grill next. The flavors are excellent!

  • Simple and yet flavorful recipe!

  • Delicious! Really nice flavor. Whole family loved.

  • So easy, so delicious and so healthy. Can’t get better than that. My husband (a gourmet cook) and my son (a gourmand) both loved it. I served it with your salad with peanut dressing.

    I’ve shared your website with others, who also rave about the recipes. Thank you for making us look good!

  • Would this be ok if grilled on the BBQ?
    Thanks for all your great recipes!! Made your Kung Pao chicken tonight and it was delicious!!!

    • Hi Emily, I’d be a bit concerned that it would stick as it’s such a thin fish and may stick to the grates and fall apart. You could use foil packets; the only thing is that you won’t get that nice sear, which adds texture and flavor. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

  • One of the best fish recipes I have ever made. We all really enjoyed it. My 8 year old took a tiny taste and asked for more! Great recipe, good flavor, and it came together easily for a weeknight dinner. Another winner from Jen!

  • This was perfect! Just the right amount of not-too-spicy yet totally awesome flavor to appeal to the kids as well as the adults. This recipe is a definite keeper!

  • Super yummy. I didn’t have brown sugar, but this still tasted great!

  • Absolutely DELICIOUS!! I’m not a huge fish fan, so I was hoping to find a recipe with great flavor and texture. This is definitely it! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful dish!

  • Absolutely delicious! I made this with sea bass fillets instead, and they looked as wonderful as they tasted!
    On its own, the spice mix tasted a little hot; I was a bit worried kids would complain, but the finished product had the perfect amount of heat-I’d say very mild heat.
    Since I had 4 large fillets, I cooked 2, put them in dish, squeezed lemon all over them and covered with foil while I prepared the rest.
    Thank you for making me look like such a good cook 🙂

  • 5-Star recipe! Restaurant quality. I cooked it in a butter/olive oil combo and it was amazing. Thanks!

  • Jenn, I am a hugeeee fan of your recipes and don’t know how this recipe has passed me by! Made tonight with fresh haddock and mango salsa from Gimme some oven’s blog and served with jasmine rice and I said yummmmmm every single bite! Thank you so much!!!

  • Very tasty rub for fish. I’ve made it twice now, first with tilapia and tonight with cod. I serve it on toasted rolls with shredded lettuce and a spicy mayo sauce. My husband told me “DON’T LOSE THIS RECIPE”! Thanks for sharing.

  • Delicious!!! This came out perfectly. Followed directions and served with wild rice & a salad. Thank you for sharing!

  • Can we bake instead fry

    • Sure, Tran. 🙂

      • Hi Jenn! What would the cooking time and temperature be if we baked the blackened tilapia?

        • Hi Nicole, 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!

          • Hi! Can I use white sugar instead of brown?

            • — Zoe
          • Sure, Zoe, in a pinch, white sugar should be fine. Hope you enjoy!

            • — Jenn
  • The spice blend is perfect! Not too hot so it should appeal to all. Tilipia I bought was farm raised and was not happy with the quality of fish. Where can a person buy a wild caught tilipia? Will try next time on a good quality wild caught fish. Jenns cooking instructions were spot on!!

    • If you are interested in which fish are good to eat based on health and environmental impact, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website, which is updated regularly. For tilapia, there is less of an issue of it being farmed vs. being caught wild although where and how it is farmed has an impact. See here:


      Our family loves seafood and my background is in biology so we try to pay attention to this stuff. There are certain fish like salmon which are almost always better caught wild while seafood like clams and mussels are almost always perfectly fine farmed. In fact their farming can help the areas they are situated in. Shrimp has a lot of issues

  • Delicious! Sweet, smokey, and just a little spicy. I make an extra batch of the rub and keep it in my spice cabinet. The lime squeeze at the end is key.

  • the recipe calls for 10 oz. fish for 4 servings? That’s only a little over 2oz. per serving. could this possibly be a typo?

    • — Susan L Farmer
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, Sorry for any confusion; the recipe calls for four 6-oz tilapia fillets. Where are you seeing 10 oz.?

  • Has anyone used frozen Talapia fillets? It seems like frozen fillets (I have individually vac sealed from Walmart) are usually thinner. I’m inexperienced with making anything “blackened” so I’m wondering if it would be overpowering on a smaller cut of protein.

    • I’ve used on frozen fillets from Whole Foods. There is usually a thinner and thicker piece. On the thinner one I did use a little less seasoning- but still enough to coat/ and cooked it for less time. Hope that helps!

      • — Annalisa on December 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • I am not a fish cooker although I love it. My husband is a truck driver and rarely gets home cooked meals. He had been craving blackened tilapia but wanted it cooked..no restaurants. I found this recipe and we both loved it. I cooked it like a pro. 🙂

  • My family requests this recipe at least every other week. I have served this fish with the Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa for guests. The meal has received rave reviews every time. Thank you for another wonderfully tasty and easy recipe.

    • — Jacquie Rohricht
    • Reply
  • Quick and easy weeknight dinner! Made with rice and a green salad, the only fish my kid’s will eat!

  • I love fish so thanks for the quick and easy recipe for a weeknight meal! Flavors are great and this fish recipe is good in fish tacos.

  • Hi Jennifer – I love all your recipes and I like the new website. Can you tell me if there’s a way to tell on the website if a recipe I’m interested in is in the book?

    • Hi Debbie, So glad you like the new site! Yes, there is a way – there is a “cookbook recipe” stamp on the cookbook recipes. It is in the bottom left corner of the main photo (see my Peruvian chicken to see what I mean).

  • THIS was AMAZING!!! I added a littlse season salt because I like it a little saltier and cooked it in a iron skillet! It was the BEST and I am NOT a fish lover!!! HIGHLY recommend!

  • I love this seasoning. I use it all the time and it’s extremely flavorful! I use a little less cayenne pepper because I don’t like spiciness, and will sometimes use lemon juice afterwards as well. But for me this recipe only makes enough seasoning for two fish filets.

  • What is a good dessert with this dish?

  • I’ve made this tilapia for dinner a couple of times over the past few months. It’s incredibly delicious and quick to prepare. This has become a go to recipe for blackened tilapia.

  • The genius of this recipe is its simplicity and perfect compliment of spices that turns an inexpensive dish into something you would certainly have again. Thank you for this recipe.

  • This recipe makes the most delicious tilapia you will ever taste! I followed the recipe exactly as written and the flavor was outstanding!!

  • Can this be baked on the oven?
    If so on what temperature and how long?

    • Hi Beth, 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!

  • This is our only way to prepare tilapia now!
    It’s easy to use frozen tilapia if you squeeze them well between paper towels after defrosting (this removes the excess water).
    I prepare a 6 recipe size jar of the spice rub and keep it on the shelf–only takes a minute the mix at the ready.
    Can’t wait for my cookbook to arrive!!!!!

    • — Alicyn Kozlowski
    • Reply
  • This is a fantastic recipe! It is on regular rotation on my dinner menu. I normally pan fry it in my cast iron skillet with some grapeseed oil. However, last time I broiled it in the oven. I placed a wire rack in a baking sheet and then placed the fish on top. It came out great that way.

  • This Blackened Tilapia is fantastic! I made it just as the recipe instructs and it did not disappoint. Served it with roasted asparagus and lemon brown rice–a perfect meal.
    Thanks Jenn–your recipes are always so easy to follow and delicious!

  • I love this recipe!! Its so easy, delicious, and best of all quick! My husband and I don’t like too much spice so I leave out the cayenne and just add a pinch of black pepper instead. Otherwise, I use all other ingredients as stated and it comes out great! I’ve made it with flounder and lemon sole as well and it came out just as good. I definitely recommend!

  • This sounds wonderful. I blacken catfish a lot, but hadn’t thought of doing so with tilapia. I try to be sugar free, so what would you substitute for brown sugar? Is it crucial to the dish. Thanks.

    • Hi Bill, you can just omit the sugar — it’s not crucial here. Enjoy!

  • I am not a big fish person to begin with and I wish I would have followed the recipe more concisely. I didn’t have any fresh limes which I thought would be a great flavor addition, so I used lime juice concentrate on the fish before I put the dry spices on. I honestly didn’t taste much lime doing it this way and the spices didn’t stick to the fish the same. I so wish I had the real deal limes!
    Also, thinking it would make it healthier, I grilled the fish instead of pan frying.
    Either the paprika or the cumin overpowered the other flavors.
    Overall, I believe that if I would’ve followed the recipe better, I may have enjoyed this fish more…..which by the way, my husband loved and devoured!

  • Another hit! Quick, easy and delicious!

  • This recipe was out of this world!!!! It was perfect, I have used it several times.

  • This recipe is to die for. Seasoning is perfect. I truly enjoyed it. Actually making it again tomorrow.

    • — Michelle Smith
    • Reply

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