Learn how to master the cooking technique of blackening fish for use in tacos, sandwiches, pasta and more! This blackened cod fish recipe is spicy, smoky, delicious, and versatile.

fish fillets blackened set on a white plate

What’s in a blackening seasoning? 

Many blackened seasonings are a mile long, I wanted to keep things simple so I kept the spices to a bare minimum. Here is what you’ll need for this recipe: 

  • sweet paprika (or smoked paprika, or a combo!)
  • ground cumin
  • dried oregano (I prefer Mexican)
  • ground black pepper
  • kosher salt 
  • cayenne pepper

Other classic blackening spices include: 

  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • dried basil
  • dried thyme 

If you don’t want to go to the effort of mixing up your own seasoning, you can use a Cajun seasoning blend or chili powder. Most chili powders should have ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano, among other spices. If you so use chili powder, be sure to add some regular or smoked paprika if you have it. 

How to cook blackened fish

  1. The first thing I like to do is arrange the fish fillets on a paper-towel lined plate. This way the fish can start to dry out a bit before I coat it in the spice mixture. 
  2. The second step is to mix together the spices in a shallow dish and coat each cod fillet in the spice blend, rubbing it in as needed. 
  3. Next, it’s time to heat up a nonstick skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. (I like to preheat the pan first, then add the oil to avoid smoking out my kitchen.)
  4. Once the pan is hot, add the oil. Heat the oil just until shimmering, then swirl to coat the pan and add the fish; cook until blackened on both sides, about 3–4 minutes on each side.

The thing to keep in mind when cooking blackened fish—the process is quick! Don’t leave it alone, 4 minutes per side is all this fish needs! 

Another thing to consider, cook time largely depends on how thick your fillets are. My fillets were 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. If you have thinner fillets, drop the cooking time down by a minute or more.

fish fillets coated in a spice blend set on a white plate

What kind of pan to use for blackening fish

When cooking blackened fish of any kind, I prefer to use a cast-iron skillet because of how evenly it retains heat and how it creates a beautiful crust. If you don’t have one, you can also use a large nonstick skillet. 

How to grill blackened fish

Fire up the grill for an even smokier blackened fish! 

Charcoal: 

  1. Prepare a two-zone indirect fire. Brush grill grate clean then brush grate with oil.
  2. Place cod fish fillets on the hot side of the grill; cook until blackened and a thin fish spatula easily slides underneath the fillets, about 4 minutes. Flip and repeat cooking process on second side.
  3. Transfer fillets to the cool side of the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 140ºF. 

Gas:

  1. Heat a grill over medium-high. 
  2. Brush grill grate clean then brush grate with oil. Place cod fish fillets on the grill grate and cook until blackened and a thin fish spatula easily slides underneath the fillets, about 4 minutes. Flip and repeat cooking process on second side.
  3. Decrease heat to medium-low and continue to cook the fillets until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 140ºF. 
fish fillets blackened set on a white plate

How do you know if the fish is done?

The easiest and most efficient way to know if your fish is done is to check the internal temperature with a thermometer. One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my instant-read thermometer, I use it for everything, but especially when cooking fish! 

According to the USDA, fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF. I like to pull my fish off the heat at 140ºF—the internal temperature will often increase to 145ºF as it rests, and this helps to ensure it won’t be overcooked. 

If you don’t have a thermometer, the fish should feel slightly firm to touch and should flake easily with a fork. You’ll know the fish is done when the last trace of translucence in the center is starting to disappear.

Can I use a different kind of fish?

Of course! You don’t have to use cod. 

In general, I prefer to use lean and firm white fish. For one thing, this kind of fish tends to hold up better during cooking than thinner white fish. And two, quite frankly, I like the flavor of firm white fish much better than thin watery white fish like tilapia. 

Lean, firm white fish includes:

  • Cod
  • Mahi-mahi 
  • Halibut 
  • Grouper 
  • Pollock
  • Haddock
  • Striped bass

If you aren’t into firm white fish, you can certainly use thick fillets of salmon (I prefer wild-caught).

tacos arranged on a flat white plate topped with pickled onions, black beans and arugula

How to use blackened cod/fish:

  • Flake and serve in tacos, like these Blackened Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Sauce.
  • Make a fish sandwich! Serve on toasted buns with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato. 
  • Over angel hair pasta tossed with good extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest. 
  • Over lime rice with mango salsa, pineapple salsa or peach salsa.
  • Over herby grits. 
  • Flake and serve in lettuce wraps with rice and cucumber. 
  • Serve with succotash or maque choux.

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fish fillets blackened set on a white plate

Blackened Fish Recipe

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This blackened cod recipe is quick, easy and delicious. Plus, it works with any type of lean, firm white fish, not just cod!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 tablespoon paprika*
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (I prefer Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 (4-ounce) cod fillets (see other fish recommendations above)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Combine paprika, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and cayenne in a shallow bowl. Pat fish fillets dry then coat fillets in spice mixture on all sides; rubbing in as needed.

Heat a large non-stick skillet set over medium for 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet, swirl to coat, then add 2 cod fillets. Cook just until starting to blacken, about 4 minutes. Flip the fillets and cook 3–4 minutes more until blackened on second side and a thermometer inserted in the thickest parts registers 145ºF; transfer to a plate. Repeat cooking process with remaining oil and fillets.


Notes

* use regular or smoked paprika, I prefer a combination of the two!

A NOTE ON COOK TIME: cook time largely depends on how thick your fillets are. My fillets were 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. If you have thinner fillets, drop the cooking time down by a minute or more.

Keywords: blackened fish, blackened cod

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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