Cast Iron

Blackened Tilapia (or Catfish)

September 23, 2013
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

Very loosely adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook, who in turn got it from Paul Prudhomme, of course. I leave out the cayenne; add a few pinches if you want. And yes, it will be smoky. —Nicholas Day

What You'll Need
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 8-ounce fillets of tilapia or catfish (frozen is fine -- just thaw and pat it dry)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, thyme, oregano, salt, and sugar. Pat the fish dry, then sprinkle both sides of it with the spice mixture. The fish should be entirely coated.
  2. In a cast-iron pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the butter and wait until it stops foaming. Then add the fillets and let them cook without bothering them, except for flipping halfway through -- after about three minutes. They should take between six and eight minutes to cook in total. Serve as soon as possible.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Bob Skiba
    Bob Skiba
  • Frank
  • Lauren
  • Ashley Marie
    Ashley Marie
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

8 Reviews

Sarah W. December 30, 2021
This is a great way to lend flavor to the very mild Tilapia - which also happens to be very reasonably priced. I made a sauce - I diced up a large tomato and a small clove of garlic, and threw them into the pan after the fish was finished. I kept the fish warm in another skillet bearing some sauteed snap peas. I stirred the tomato until liquidified, scraping up the blackened paprika in the pan, then added some chick broth and a dash of white white, salt and pepper. Once the sauce thickened, I plated the fish with peas, some black rice and spooned the tomato sauce over the rice and fish. Yumm!
lovefood October 31, 2015
one more recipe........... Blackened Fish


Filet of firm fish (Red, Drum, Tuna, Sheephead, Grouper)
3 oz. butter melted
Seasoning mix (Salt, cayenne, white and black pepper, chili powder, garlic, thyme, cumin and or other seasonings).

Preferably in a cast iron skillet, and outside or under a good hood, heat the skillet extremely hot. Pat the filet dry, press the seasoning into the flesh, pass the seasoned fish through the melted butter and drop into hot skillet. When the fish turns white on the edges, (about 4 minutes) turn it over. Remove the fish and dribble fresh butter on the fish.

Tasty and yummy....
Bob S. September 12, 2015
No cayenne? Really?
Frank June 22, 2015
This is not how you blacken fish! It has to be done outside over very high heat with a dry cast iron skillet. You have to heat the skillet until you start to see tiny white sparks coming off the metal. You trim the thin edges off the fish. Dip it in melted butter and then the seasoning blend. Put the filet in the dry pan and pour a tablespoon of melted butter over it and stand back because it will flame up. Flip the fish and do the same on the other side. What you describe is what Prudhomme called "bronzed fish". And the true method of blackening fish will take all the seasoning out of your cast iron, so it must be re-seasoned afterward or it will rust. And cayenne is a must in the seasoning blend. If you can't take the heat - use less.
frank February 19, 2014
gotta have cayenne in blackened fish! I like to do this outside so the house doesn't fill with smoke.
Lauren October 6, 2013
I've made this recipe several times, but I marinate the tilapia in milk for an hour before coating. It does wonders for the flavor! Serve with apple slaw and some cheese grits- and you've got a delicious (albeit perhaps plebian, but who cares!) Southern meal.
Ashley M. December 11, 2013
Soaking it in milk - genius! Thanks!
Emilie M. October 1, 2013
What would you pair this with to make a meal?