Dinner will be ready in minutes with this easy recipe for blackened whitefish! Packed with flavor and just the right amount of heat, try this method with cod or tilapia for the perfect quick and easy meal!
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My kids went back to school this week which means that I am adding pretty much every quick and easy meal into my rotation. This blackened fish is one of my go-to's. Not only does it cook quickly, but fish fillets generally thaw faster than other meats so it's perfect for those nights that you forget to set something out!
This blackened cod is inspired by my blackened chicken tenders and is also the base for my blackened fish tacos recipe! If you are a fan of blackening seasoning be sure to check out both of those and my sheet pan blackened chicken fajitas as well.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Not only is this recipe crazy easy to make, it also only requires FOUR ingredients! (okay, 5 if you count salt and pepper separately 😉)
- Avocado oil, or any other cooking oil that is mild in flavor and suitable for high heat.
- Cod or tilapia fillets - This recipe would also work well with pollock, bass, grouper, haddock, or halibut.
- Blackening seasoning - I have a great recipe for homemade blackening seasoning, but you can also use your favorite store-bought blend as well.
- Salt and pepper - Use salt and pepper to taste depending upon the salt and heat level of the blackening seasoning that you are using.
See the recipe card for quantities.
For this blackened cod or tilapia recipe you will need a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet. In order for your fish to properly brown, it is important that you use a skillet without any non-stick coating.
I use a 12-inch lodge cast iron (affiliate) which is very affordable and will literally last forever.
You will also need:
- Paper towels or clean cloth
- Measuring spoons
- A spatula - I HIGHLY suggest using a fish turner (affiliate) it will make such easy work of flipping the delicate fish fillets! It is basically a super thin and flexible metal spatula. While they are meant for fish I use mine all the time for anything that is a little on the fragile side, like pancakes, fried eggs, or freshly baked cookies.
Start out by heating a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the oil.
Next, thoroughly pat the fish fillets dry with a paper towel or clean cloth.
Tip: It is VERY important to thoroughly dry the fish before cooking. If your fish is too wet it won't brown properly. Frozen fish often has additional water added and you may need to gently press on the fillets to remove all the excess.
After the fish is thoroughly dried, season both sides with the blackening seasoning, salt, and pepper.
Tip: Use salt and pepper to taste and be sure to adjust them both based on the flavor of your blackening seasoning. Some blends are VERY salty and you may not need additional salt.
Add the seasoned fish fillets to the hot oil in the skillet. Cook for 2-4 minutes per side. Thinner fillets require less time, while thicker fillets may require more.
Cook until the crust is dark golden and the fish easily flakes with a fork. Be careful not to overcrowd your pan. Work in batches if necessary
Tip: Fish should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F (62.8 C). When whitefish it is fully cooked the flesh should no longer look transparent and should easily flake with a fork.
Variations and Substitutions
Here are some ways to change up this recipe:
- Spicy - Blackening seasoning is already a bit spicy. Heat level can vary quite a bit between seasoning blends. If you don't find this spicy enough season the fish fillets with additional cayenne powder.
- Air Fryer - You will get the best results by cooking this fish in a super hot skillet, but if you prefer you can cook it in an air fryer or convection oven. Preheat to 400 degrees F and brush or spray the fish with a thin layer of avocado oil. Cook for 6-8 minutes and for best results, flip the fish halfway through the cooking time.
- Make it mild - If you love the flavor of blackening seasoning, but aren't big on spicy foods simply add additional paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme, and/or chili powder to your seasoning blend.
See this my recipe for homemade blackening seasoning for more tips on adjusting the flavor!
Fish is definitely best eaten immediately after cooking, but if you do have leftovers simply store them in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a hot skillet, oven, or microwave.
Cod has a very mild flavor so when it is blackened it is cooked is takes on the flavor of whatever it is seasoned with. Blackened cod tastes like blackening seasoning which is a smoky, spicy flavor and usually has onion, garlic, and a blend of herbs as well.
Contrary to popular belief, fish that is blackened isn't simply burnt. Blackened fish is fish that has been coated in a special spice blend and then cooked in a skillet until it is a deep golden brown.
Almost any kind of fish is great for blackening! Whitefish - such as cod, tilapia, pollock, bass, grouper, haddock, or halibut - have a mild flavor that will take well to blackening.
While it is nearly impossible to define 'healthy' in a way that suits everyone, blackened fish generally ticks all of the boxes for most diet and nutrition plans or requirements. It is low in fat, calories, and cholesterol while being high in protein. Cod and tilapia are also both good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. (source)
What to Serve with Blackened Cod
Blackened fish is very versatile and will pair well with a wide variety of foods. Here are some of my go-to sides:
- Keep dinner easy and serve with steam-in-bag veggies and baked potatoes
- Quick roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon or smashed Brussels sprouts (you can toss some small potatoes onto the sheet pan with either of these recipes to make a complete meal!)
- Fresh sauteed green beans
- Corn on the cob
- a simple tossed salad, pea salad, or coleslaw
- low carb fried okra
- creamed spinach
- To ensure proper browning of the fish, be sure to thoroughly dry the fillets before cooking, do not overcrowd your pan, and be sure to use a skillet that DOES NOT have a non-stick coating
- Use salt and pepper to taste and be sure to account for the flavor of your blackening seasoning. Some seasoning blends are very salty.
- Use a fish turner (affiliate) to handle the fish fillets in your skillet and prevent them from breaking apart.
- Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F
Blackened Whitefish, Cod or Tilapia
- Measuring Spoons
- Paper Towels
- 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Fish Turner
Instructions for the Fish:
- Start out by heating the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.2 tablespoon Avocado Oil
- While the skillet heats, thoroughly pat the fish filets dry with paper towels then season all over with salt, pepper, and blackening seasoning. *use more or less salt depending upon how salty the blackening seasoning you are using is.2 lb Cod Fillets, 2-3 tablespoon Blackening Seasoning, Salt and Pepper
- Add the fish to the skillet and for cook 2-3 minutes per side, until the crust is dark golden and the fish easily flakes with a fork. Be careful not to overcrowd your pan. Work in batches if necessary.
- Carefully remove the fish from the skillet and serve immediately.
Be sure to read the entire post for tips, tricks, and help troubleshooting.
The nutrition information listed here is only an estimate and is simply provided as a courtesy. It nor any other information within this post should constitute medical or nutritional advice. Be sure to read all packaging and ingredient labels for potential allergens. Optional ingredients are not included unless otherwise specified.