Blackened Tilapia is a delicious way to have healthy baked tilapia in the oven bursting with taste and spicy goodness. With a great flavor profile, you can easily adjust or eliminate most of the heat—a super easy 20-minute dinner recipe.
Baked tilapia recipes are generally very easy and quick to make. And even fish haters will like tilapia.
Baked is much healthier than frying. I find frying fish in a frying pan a "pain." You have to do multiple batches, keep it warm in the oven, and stand there all the time. And the mess, oh the mess, oven baking is just so much easier.
I ended up with an Aaron MaCorgo Jr (Food Networks "Big Daddy") recipe. This man can cook and is a joy to watch, highly recommended.
The big change was going from fry pan to oven. This was not that hard. Just spice it up and cook with a bit of oil, including a light spray of PAM, so the top is not dry. I also adjusted the spicing some.
Do you want the grilled version? Try my Grilled Blackened Tilapia.
Wonderful. Spice it up to your desire. Just give it a try.
Tilapia is a 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.
Can I substitute a different fish for the tilapia?
Generally yes, another fish, like cod or halibut, can be used and will normally cook about the same thickness adjustment. Generally, fish will need about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
🔥The Blackening Seasoning
First, a brief discussion about blackening, Cajun, and Creole seasoning: all have a base of paprika, pepper, and some garlic and onion powder.
But Creole tends to add more herbs and is milder, while Cajun is generally very hot. So depending on how you vary your spice choices, you can change the term.
For this blackening seasoning, there are two ways to adjust the heat. Or, if you prefer, buy creole or cajan seasoning mix.
First is the paprika. Many people will like to use smoked paprika. Hungarian paprika is generally hot. But most paprika is just called paprika is what is called 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
👨🍳How to Make Blackened Tilapia
- Start with frozen or fresh tilapia. If frozen, thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight. Give it a good brush of olive oil.
- A large baking dish, a sheet pan, or a baking tray work well. I like to use foil for easy clean-up and a heavy coat of oil or cooking spray like PAM to prevent sticking.
- Give the tilapia a nice coat of the blackening seasoning (Not all of what you mixed). You can use a different seasoning if you want.
- Fish is best cooked in a high oven. 425° conventional for tilapia, but you may adjust the oven temperature to lower if you need to for other dishes.
- Bake to an internal temperature of 145° in the thickest part by FDA rules. Always check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Also, it should flake easily with a fork. It will take 7-8 minutes or about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. but always check the fish a minute or two early.
- Do not over cook the tilapia or it will become very dry rapidly.
Yes. Many people will use this for fish tacos or just served on a bun as a blackened fish sandwich.
Tartar provides a great contrast to the spiciness of the blackened fish.
I did an easy tartar sauce that went well with this. This is included in the recipe to use if you wish.
Lime or lemon slices for fresh lemon juice or lime juice. Side dishes of veggies, rice, or potatoes.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Preheat oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional.
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.
This makes more blackened seasoning than you need. Store the extra for later sealed airtight.
In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoon 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. The cayenne heat level will be 9/10 at 1 teaspoon, 7/10 at ½ teaspoon, and 3-4/10 at ¼ teaspoon.
Rinse and pat dry with paper towels 1 pound of tilapia.
Brush the tilapia with olive oil.
Cover the fillets with the spice mixture and rub it on both sides. You will only need about ¼ to ⅓ of the spice mix you made. DO NOT USE ALL THE MIX.
Place on the oiled pan and give the fish a light spray of PAM. Place 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°
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.
Baked Blackened Tilapia
- 1 pound Tilapia fillets - about four
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
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.
- 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.
- This makes more blackened seasoning than you need. Store the extra for later sealed airtight.In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoon 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. The cayenne heat level will be 9/10 at 1 teaspoon, 7/10 at ½ teaspoon, and 3-4/10 at ¼ teaspoon.
- Rinse and pat dry with paper towels 1 pound of tilapia.
- Brush the tilapia with olive oil.
- Cover the fillets with the spice mixture and rub it on both sides. You will only need about ¼ to ⅓ of the spice mix you made. DO NOT USE ALL THE MIX.
- Place on the oiled pan and give the fish a light spray of PAM. Place 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°
- 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.
My 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 rest 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. Be sure frozen fish is completely before using these instructions. If you want to cook frozen fish, cook by temperature.
- 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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Editor note: Originally published August 3, 2012. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.