This Blackened Tilapia is packed full of spicy Cajun flavor and comes together in LESS THAN 10 MINUTES! Topped with a cool and refreshing avocado cucumber salsa, this is the perfect quick and easy low-carb recipe.
It’s ridiculously fast and easy to make this blackened tilapia. With the help of some very high heat and pre-mixed blackening seasoning, this is a no-fuss recipe that’s perfect for busy weeknights.
Blackening is a Cajun cooking technique that involves coating fish, shrimp, or other protein in a spice mixture, usually consisting of thyme, oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion, and cooked over very high heat in butter. The spices become burned (yes, it’s OK to burn your food in this situation), hence the term “blackened.”
For a 100% paleo/whole30 compliant or dairy-free recipe, you can use ghee or olive oil instead of butter. I like using butter because it’s more authentic- the milk solids in the butter also become a bit burnt, enhancing the blackened flavor.
I used a store-bought blackening seasoning for this, but you can easily mix up a homemade version. I was just feeling a bit lazy. There’s just something about having two kids under two makes me want to simplify my cooking even more than usual.
You can also use another seasoning mix with similar flavors in a pinch, such as taco seasoning. Blackening is more about the technique than the specific blend of spices.
The avocado cucumber salsa is a deliciously refreshing accompaniment to the spicy blackened fish. It’s so easy to throw together in a few minutes- just mix some diced avocado, diced cucumber (seeds removed, so it doesn’t get too watered down), parsley, lemon juice, and salt together in a bowl. Done.
And the fish could not be easier to make. Here’s how.
First, I recommend using a cast iron skillet for this. You can use another heavy skillet, but cast iron will get intensely hot and, if it’s well-seasoned, provide the perfect non-stick surface for cooking this delicate fish.
(Here’s some info on how to use, season, and care for cast iron skillets– my favorite cookware!)
You’re going to want to get the skillet insanely hot. Like smoking, turn on your oven fan and open a window hot. This will enable the fish to cook extremely fast and develop the burnt, blackened crust without overcooking the inside.
Pat the tilapia filets dry with a paper towel, then coat each in the blackening seasoning, pressing the spices into the fish and covering every speck of surface area.
Then, melt the butter in the hot skillet. Cook the fish for two minutes on each side (yes, only two minutes!), or until fully cooked (you can tell if it’s cooked if it flakes apart easily with a fork). If you have extra thick filets, it may take 2 1/2-3 minutes per side.
I had to cook my tilapia in two batches, so I divided the butter in half for each batch.
You can use this blackened tilapia in tacos, or use the same blackening technique for shrimp, salmon, chicken, catfish, or other proteins.
We had this with Mango Quinoa Salad– a cool, refreshing, sweet salad that pairs perfectly with the blackened fish. It would also be great with this Thai Sesame Red Cabbage and Carrot Salad or this Mediterranean Chickpea Salad.
Here’s the recipe!
10-Minute Blackened Tilapia with Avocado Cucumber Salsa
- Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until screaming hot. You might want to turn your fan on or open a window for this one!
- Meanwhile, pat the tilapia filets dry with a paper towel. Coat each in 1 tablespoon of the blackening seasoning, pressing it onto the fish so it sticks on every part of the surface.
- Melt butter (4 tablespoons) in the skillet. Add the tilapia and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until fish is fully cooked and flakes apart easily with a fork. If you need to cook it in two batches, use half the butter for each batch.
- Meanwhile, mix the avocado, cucumber, parsley, lemon juice, and kosher salt to taste in a small bowl.
- Serve blackened tilapia with the avocado cucumber salsa, with more lemon wedges (optional).
- Make it paleo/whole30/dairy free: use ghee or olive oil instead of butter.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.
- Fish Spatula