This simple Blackened Tilapia recipe is done in only 20 minutes and tastes incredible. Juicy, flaky tilapia fillets are dipped in melted butter and generously coated in a homemade blackening seasoning. This easy blackening seasoning includes paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. It’s a beautiful combination of spicy, sweet, and savory. Blackened fish can be done in the oven or on the stove.
Tilapia is a soft, light, and flaky fish with mild flavor. This fish is growing more and more popular because it’s an inexpensive and lean protein. Its mild flavor goes very well with whatever seasoning or sauce you serve on it. The texture is soft and juicy but it is also meaty and doesn’t fall apart easily when cooked, which is great when you’re trying to flip it.
Even though tilapia is not very high in Omega-3 fatty acids that we all look for in a fish, it’s high in protein and very lean.
For an easy, 20-minute dinner, blackened tilapia is a wonderful choice. This fish takes about half the cook time of salmon and all you have to do is dip it in some melted butter and blackening seasoning. It’s easy to cook on the stove or in the oven.
WHAT IS IN BLACKENING SEASONING
Blackening cooking technique originated in Louisiana and related to Cajun cuisine. It involves cooking fish, chicken, or steak in butter and a combination of spices and herbs at high temperature. Cooking at high temperature will cook the spices on the outside quickly and gives the outside of protein almost a crisp.
There is a fine line between blackening and burning so make sure not to turn up the heat too high if cooking on stove. I like to adjust the heat according to the protein I’m cooking. Fish takes a lot faster to cook, so I can turn the heat up a little higher. For chicken, since it can be quite thick, I turn the heat up a little lower.
In the oven, the risk on burning the outside of fish and chicken is much lower, so I use the same temperature but for longer time if needed.
Blackening seasoning is very similar to Cajun seasoning but a little less spicy. The most common spices and herbs include paprika, garlic powder, onion power, thyme, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and brown sugar.
Two things that I like to do special to my blackening seasoning is to add sugar and use smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is a beautiful mild flavor addition and brown sugar is a just the touch you need to create the perfect balance of flavors. This seasoning includes the ideal sweet, salty, and spicy combination.
A squeeze of lime at the end is the best finish to what I call the S’s that our taste buds desire: sweet, salty, spicy, and sour.
HOW TO COOK BLACKENED FISH
Melt butter in a wide, shallow bowl. Combine all the ingredients for the seasoning in one bowl and mix it well. Spread the seasoning on a cutting board covered with parchment paper. (Parchment paper will make clean up much easier.)
Pat the fish fillets dry with a paper towel. Dip a fillet in melted butter on both sides and let access drip off. Place the fish in the seasoning and coat it evenly on both sides. Repeat with the other fish fillet.
Pour leftover melted butter into a cast iron skillet and spread it around. Preheat the skillet before adding fish either in the oven or on the stove.
In the oven:
Preheat the oven to 425° and place the empty skillet in there to preheat for a few minutes. Take it out and add seasoned fish fillets.
Bake fish for 12-13 minutes.
You can also blacken the fish under the broiler but it takes an extra step.
Turn on broiler to high and let it preheat for a few minutes. Set the rack so the skillet is about 5 inches away from the broiler, which is usually the top spot. Preheat the skillet in the hot oven for a few minutes and then take it out to add the fish.
Cook for about 5 minutes and flip the fish. (Use a metal fish spatula to flip.) Cook for another 5 minutes and take it out.
On the stove:
Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat first. Add the fish and cook it for about 4 minutes on each side.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BLACKENED FISH
Blackened tilapia (or another fish that you use) is great on its own, served with light sides. Serve it with vegetables of your choice or a side salad.
You can also flake the fish into chunks and serve it in fish tacos with coleslaw. Top it off with Mango Salsa too for a beautiful sweet and spicy flavor combination.
Make a sandwich with blackened fish and serve it on a soft bun with some avocado and lettuce. If you want to add a creamy spread, ranch dressing or avocado crema will go great with this fish.
Crisp and refreshing white wines go best with blackened tilapia. When choosing your wine, so with Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, and even dry champagne.
SOME MORE RECIPES TO TRY
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- 1 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar packed
- 1 lb tilapia
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2-4 wedges of lime for topping
- Melt butter in a wide, shallow bowl.
- Combine all the ingredients for the seasoning in one bowl and mix it well. Spread the seasoning on a cutting board covered with parchment paper.
- Pat the fish fillets dry with a paper towel.
- Dip a fillet in melted butter on both sides and let some access butter drip off. Place the fish in the seasoning and coat it evenly on both sides. Repeat with the other fish fillet.
- Pour leftover melted butter into a cast iron skillet and spread it around.
Cooking In The Oven:
- Preheat the oven to 425° and place the empty skillet in there to preheat for a few minutes. Take it out and add seasoned fish fillets.
- Bake fish for 12-13 minutes.
Cooking Under Broiler:
- Turn on broiler to high and let it preheat for a few minutes. Set the rack so the skillet is about 5 inches away from the broiler, which is usually the top spot. Preheat the skillet in the hot oven for a few minutes and then take it out to add the fish.
- Cook for about 5 minutes and flip the fish. (Use a metal fish spatula to flip.) Cook for another 5 minutes and take it out.
On The Stove:
- Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat first. Add the fish and cook it for about 4 minutes on each side.
I made this for supper last night. It was easy and delicious. I deglazed the pan with a bit of water and served over cream grits. Will definitely make it again.
Yum! That is an excellent idea to serve it over grits, I will have to try that! Thanks for taking the time to comment, Michele!
Nice level of spice and combination of salvor for this blackened tilapia recipe!!
I am glad you liked it, Sharon!
You can use fake butter that is in the tubs or olive oil. I hope you enjoy it!
Elizabeth Johnson says
Is there a good substitute for the butter in this recipe?
Vickie Newton says
The fish in the picture – was it oven baked?
The picture is of oven-baked tilapia. That is my preferred method because you won’t have to flip it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 🙂
This recipe was horrible! Wayyyyy too much salt and also I added even less than 1 1/2 tsp…
Hi, Alina! I am sorry that it was too salty for you! The lime and sugar is meant to balance out salt and spice. The seasoning is meant for a full pound of tilapia not one piece, did you use it on a pound? You can definitely start with just 1/2 tsp of salt next time and taste the seasoning before adding it to tilapia.
Traci Kenworth says
This looks delicious! I’ve been told I need to eat more fish.
Thanks, Traci! I have some other great fish recipes as well 😉