Baked Blackened Tilapia is oven-baked with fresh or frozen tilapia filets with a savory and spicy blackened seasoning rub made with pantry spices. A healthy, fast, and easy fish recipe ready in under 20 minutes.
Tilapia fillets—fresh or thawed frozen
Olive oil—or melted butter
Homemade Blackening Seasoning Rub—paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
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Featured Comment from Colleen:
Loved the recipe! …Baking is way better than cooking on the stovetop. Less mess and more reliable (for me at least).
Baked tilapia recipes are generally very easy and quick to make. Even fish haters will like tilapia.
Baking blackened tilapia in the oven on a sheet pan instead of pan-frying tilapia in a cast iron skillet is easier, healthier, and less messy results.
👨🍳How to Make Baked Blackened Tilapia in the Oven—Step-by-Step
1. Preheat oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional.
2. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ¼ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, one teaspoon dry oregano, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. This makes more blackened seasoning than you need. Store the extra for later sealed airtight.
3. Line a sheet pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray the foil with PAM or add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brush over the foil.
4. Rinse and pat dry 1 pound of tilapia with paper towels.
5. Brush the tilapia with olive oil or melted butter.
6. Cover the fillets with the spice rub on both sides of the tilapia fillets. You only need about ¼ to ⅓ of the spice mix you made. DO NOT USE ALL THE MIX.
7. Place the fish on the oiled sheet pan and lightly spray it with PAM. Place it in the preheated oven.
8. Cook until nicely brown and flaky. This is 8-9 minutes for big fillets and a minute or two less for small to medium fillets. For safety, fish needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°. Check the cooking a few minutes early.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
Options, variations, and tips—make it right every time.
Make a hotter baked Cajun tilapia by increasing the cayenne (see discussion below) or using your favorite Cajun seasoning.
For milder heat, adjust or leave out the cayenne or use a Creole seasoning for baked Creole tilapia.
Use fresh or frozen tilapia. I generally recommend thawing frozen tilapia overnight in the refrigerator.
Thawing frozen fish fillets will give more predictable results, but most fish recipes can be cooked with frozen fillets. The cooking time is usually about doubled, but check early and cook to 145° internal temperature.
I use aluminum foil coated with oil or PAM cooking spray to prevent sticking and help clean up, but parchment paper or a silicone baking mat will work.
Do not overcook the tilapia, or it will become very dry rapidly.
Can I substitute a different fish for the tilapia?
Other fish fillets, like cod or halibut, can be used and typically cook about the same with an easy thickness adjustment. Generally, fish will need about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish fillet. Check for a final internal temperature of 145° with an instant-read thermometer.
🔥Blackening seasoning—adjusting the heat
There are two ways to adjust the heat for this blackening seasoning mix.
First is the paprika. Many people will like to use smoked paprika. Hungarian paprika is generally hot. But most paprikas are just called paprika, which is sweet paprika, which is what I usually prefer.
The second heat adjustment is the amount of cayenne pepper amount.
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper will be 9/10 hot
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper will be 7/10 hot
- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper will be 3-4/10 hot—my usual
- none-the heat will depend on the paprika
Serve topped with tartar sauce, lemon or lime juice, or slices of lemon or lime. You can also serve it as a sandwich.
Quick and Easy Tartar Sauce uses only four ingredients you already have in your kitchen. A small homemade version that is better than the store-bought version.
By FDA rules, bake to an internal temperature of 145° in the thickest part. It should also flake easily with a fork. It will take 7-8 minutes in a 425° oven. Always check the fish a minute or two early.
Yes. An air fryer is a small convection oven. Just follow the instructions baking at 400° for about 8 minutes to 145° and flakey.
Blackening, Cajun, and Creole seasonings all have a base of paprika, pepper, garlic, and onion powder.
But Creole seasoning tends to add more herbs and is milder, while Cajun seasoning is generally very hot. So, depending on how you vary your spice choices, make them all with this seasoning or use a commercial seasoning.
🐟Is tilapia healthy?
Tilapia is a healthy, mild-tasting fish that even non-fish eaters will love when appropriately seasoned. It has much less of that "fishy" smell and taste many people don't like.
Tilapia is a good source of low-fat protein. It is also low in sodium, low in calories, low carb, and, of course, gluten-free. It fits nicely in a healthy diet, even if a few "health" sites have attacked tilapia with click-bate headlines.
Most tilapia is farm-raised around the world. While farm-raised tilapia is slightly lower in omega-3 fatty acids than some wild fish, it is also lower in mercury.
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Baked Blackened Tilapia
- 1 pound Tilapia fillets - fresh or thawed frozen
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil - or melted butter
Blackening Rub- More than you need - Keep sealed for future use.
- 3 tablespoons paprika - of your choice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper - to taste
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Simple Tartar Sauce - optional
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- Preheat oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional.
- In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ¼ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, one teaspoon dry oregano, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. This makes more blackened seasoning than you need. Store the extra for later sealed airtight.
- Line a sheet pan or baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with PAM or add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brush over the foil. You may also use parchment paper.
- Rinse and pat dry 1 pound of tilapia with paper towels.
- Brush the tilapia with olive oil or melted butter.
- Cover the fillets with the spice rub on both sides of the tilapia fillets. You only need about ¼ to ⅓ of the spice mix you made. DO NOT USE ALL THE MIX.
- Place the fish on the prepared sheet pan and lightly spray it with PAM. Place it in the preheated oven.
- Cook until nicely brown and flaky. This is 8-9 minutes for big fillets and a minute or two less for small to medium fillets. For safety, fish needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°. Check the cooking a few minutes early.
- If you want a homemade tartar sauce, combine ⅓ cup mayo, 2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish, and ¼ teaspoon onion powder. Mix well.
Your Own Private Notes
- The spice mix makes more than you need. You only need ¼ to ⅓ of the mix for one pound of fish. Save the unused rub sealed tightly for another cooking.
- The cayenne heat level will be 9/10 at 1 teaspoon, 7/10 at ½ teaspoon, and 3-4/10 at ¼ teaspoon. Or skip it if you want.
- Use a cajun seasoning or any other seasoning you want.
- Remember, you can cook fish with different seasonings on the same tray.
- Generally, there will be about four filets of tilapia per pound.
- You may use other fish or frozen tilapia—discussed in the recipe post.
- Fish needs to reach 145° for safety and should be flaky when done.
- Cooking time is about 5 minutes per half-inch thickness of the fish.
- The oven temperature should be 400° to 450°. I like 425° convection, which gives a better texture.
- A light spray of oil (PAM) helps prevent a dry surface.
- Check the fish a minute or two early.
- Nutritional information does not include the tarter sauce.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Inspired by an Aaron MaCorgo Jr (Food Networks "Big Daddy") recipe. The big change was going from a frying pan to an oven.
Editor note: This article was originally published on August 3, 2012. It has been updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help with navigation.