Blackened Tilapia

$4.19 recipe / $1.05 serving

I’m continuing my quest to use up items in my pantry and freezer, which led to this delicious Blacked Tilapia. A while back I bought a bag of 12 individually wrapped tilapia filets for $9.99. I’ve made a couple batches of Baked Tilapia with Tomatoes (YUM!), but wasn’t quite sure how to use the rest. Then it hit me. When in doubt, add spices!

“Blackened” fish or meat isn’t burned. It’s “black” because it’s coated heavily in spices, which turn dark when cooked in a skillet with butter. The process is super simple and adds a LOT of flavor. You really can’t go wrong with that formula. I used my left over tilapia here, but this will also work well with chicken. Just be sure to pound your chicken into thin filets so that it cooks quickly in the skillet before the outside has an opportunity to burn.

I paired this awesomely spiced fish with my Sautéed Corn and Tomatoes. They’re a perfect pair. Perfect for summer cookouts and perfect for Father’s Day!

Blackened Tilapia

Blackened TilapiaPictured with parsley for color. Parsley not needed to achieve amazing flavor. It’s amazing all by its wonderful self.

5.0 from 6 reviews
Blackened Tilapia
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $4.19
Cost Per Serving: $1.05
Serves: 4
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika $0.30
  • 1 tsp cumin $0.10
  • 1 tsp thyme $0.10
  • 1 tsp oregano $0.10
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper $0.02
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • Freshly cracked pepper (about 20 cranks of a pepper mill) $0.05
  • 1 Tbsp butter $0.15
  • 4 (4 oz. ea.) tilapia filets $3.33
  1. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, thyme, oregano, cayenne, garlic, salt, and pepper. Liberally coat both sides of each tilapia filet with the spices. The moisture from the filet will help the spices adhere. If the fish is very wet, pat it dry with a paper towel before beginning, so that it is just damp.
  2. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add two of the fish filets at a time and cook for about two minutes on each side, or until the spices have turned a deep burgundy color and the fish is cooked through. Repeat with the second two filets, adding more butter before beginning, if needed. Serve hot.
If smoked paprika is not available, spicy or sweet paprika may be used in its place.

If you prefer a spicier fish, increase the cayenne pepper to ½ tsp.

Blackened Tilapia with CornPictured with Sautéed Corn and Tomatoes.


Step by Step Photos

Blackened SeasoningFirst mix together the spices for the Blackened Seasoning. In a small bowl combine 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and about 20 cranks of a pepper mill. Smoked paprika adds an amazing smoky element to this, but if you don’t have that you can use regular paprika. If you want a spicier fish, increase the amount of cayenne pepper. You can test the spiciness after it is mixed together and add more as needed.

Coat Fish in Blackened SeasoningIf your fish is really wet, dry it off slightly with a paper towel. You want it to be damp so that the spices will adhere, but not dripping wet. Coat both sides of the filets liberally with the spice mix. This spice mix is enough for about four 4-oz. filets.

Melt ButterMelt 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat until it is foamy. If the butter begins to turn brown, take it off the heat immediately! Burned butter is the last thing you want. A little tan is okay, but if it begins to brown before the fish is even added, it will likely go too far and burn while the fish is cooking. 

Cook TilapiaAdd two filets at a time to the skillet. It should sizzle a bit. Let the fish cook for about two minutes on each side. Flip carefully with a spatula.

Cooked TilapiaSee how the spices turn a really nice dark brown color? Beautiful.

Blackened Tilapia filetAnd then it’s ready to serve! Tilapia cooks very quickly, so it doesn’t need to be in the skillet long. Just until it’s tender enough to flake with a fork.

Blackened Tilapia with CornSeriously. The sweet Sautéed Corn with Tomatoes plus the spicy Blackened Tilapia? A match made in heaven.


  1. Sacha says:

    This is my go-to tilapia recipe now, thanks!

  2. Kimberly says:

    I just love this recipe. I like to buy bags of frozen tilapia from Target when they go on sale and this is the only way I prepare them now! When I’m done cooking the fish I hate to waste the good seasonings left in the pan so I like to saute a little kale or spinach to soak it all up and it makes the perfect super easy side. Btw Beth thank you so much for your website, it’s been my go-to for meal planning for the past 3 years!!

  3. Brenna says:

    Wow! I started this meal with some wild-caught sole, and the hubs got involved with my zucchini/onion/garlic/tomato/basil with rice side . . . Then, the man took over and threw them all together, and this dish was the best damned thing we’ve put on our mouths for a long time. I have this recipe saved in a few locations in my files, so that I don’t forget about these spices. They would work exceptionally well with, well, everything! Over and over, thanks for helping feed us!!

  4. Love this! Simple and delicious. Thank you :)

  5. This recipe came out AMAZING!

    I served it with angel hair pasta, which after cooking I sauteed briefly in butter, olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, a pinch of smoked paprika, and parboiled asparagus.

    The flavors worked together great! I will definitely be making this tilapia again, and try it served with other sides as well :-) Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Candace says:

      I made this a few weeks ago and it turned out wonderfully. It is very simple but has a large impact. I am making it again tonight.

    • Antonia says:

      That pasta sounds good! Will have to try it when I have leftover asparagus to use up.

  6. That sounds like a good spice mix to make ahead of time. It’ll be ready whenever I get home tired but still want a decent supper.

  7. I guess I didn’t think I needed to read a recipe on “blackened” fish, BUT I did as I’ve never been happy with my results until now! Getting the butter foamy was the key.

    I made this with some fairly thick salmon filets – seared per your instruction and then into a 425 oven for 5 minutes to cook through. I use a cast iron pan so I did not lose the crispiness of the blackened spices in the oven. My first perfect blackened fish – Thanks, Beth!

  8. Can I make this recipe with salmon?

    • I don’t see why not. :) It’s thicker, so cooking time will be a bit longer, although I think salmon is better a little on the rare side.

  9. Briana says:

    If you happen to have coconut oil on hand it soo good with tilapia :)

  10. Oh man, YES. This sounds amazing, especially with the tomato and corn. Spicy seared fish is the best!

  11. I make this almost five nights a week, except I just sprinkle a thick layer of smoked paprika and a little salt on each side of the filet and fry in a little coconut oil. My toddler goes crazy over the crispy fish. I’m trying to enjoy it while I can before she starts only wanting Mac and cheese.

  12. I think I’ll do this with some chicken!

  13. Kirsty says:

    Can you use another white fish instead of tilapia?

  14. Dominique says:

    Is the tilapia frozen or thawed? Would it work either way?

    • Mine was frozen, but I thawed it first. The filets were individually vacuum packed, so all you have to do to thaw them is run them under water for a minute or two. They’re fairly thin, so they thaw super quick! :)

  15. Tricia says:

    I made this last night. It was easy and delicious. I ate it with rice.

  16. Hi Beth, even as a vegetarian, this looks amazing… I love the browned spices.
    What do you think a good vegetarian replacement for the tilapia would be?

    • Hmm. You know, you could coat some vegetables in this spice mix and roast them in the oven or place them on the grill. That would be amazing! Just be sure to use some oil to help them adhere. I’m not sure about a protein, though.

    • Jacquihw says:

      The rub on a piece of homemade seitan would be tasty and delicious!

  17. Looks great! I love blackened tilapia but have not made it in a while, will have to correct that.

  18. Trying to use up some things in my freezer, I think this’ll work really well with some swai. Can’t wait to try it tonight!

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