Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos

Tilapia Fish Tacos exploding with flavor from a quick fish marinade and the most flavorful spice rub!

 Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos topped with complementary refreshing sweet and tangy Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and addictive silky Avocado Crema are the BEST light, flavorful and filling Fish Tacos that rival any restaurant!   These Tilapia Fish Tacos are easy to prepare, healthy and about to become a new favorite for lunch, dinner, friends and family!

up close of Tilapia fish Tacos with pineapple ad cabbage in a corn tortilla

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THESE TILAPA FISH TACOS:

These are awesome! Made them tonight for my family…These are flavorful and we will absolutely make again!  Thank you for this recipe!!! – Lindsay

I made these last night and they were FANTASTIC!  – Jillian

I made this tonight and it was sooo Soo good!! … Ihave leftovers for tomorrow and I can’t wait to eat more!  Definitely adding this recipe to our weekly rotation. Thank you so much!! – Kristin

Tilapia Fish Tacos

Are you guys tired of my taco recipes yet? I sure hope not because I could eat the layers of flavors and textures all day, everyday, especially these Blacked Tilapia Fish Tacos!  Here in San Diego, we have our fair share of palate pleasing Mexican restaurants and I often find myself ordering the fish tacos whether deep fried Baja Fish Tacos (A MUST TRY) Grilled Fish Tacos or Blackened Fish Tacos as opposed to chicken because I don’t make as much fish at home.

But to be completely honest, I think I just spoiled myself from ordering fried fish tacos again because these Tilapiia Fish Tacos are just that good and so much healthier!   Both marinating and blackening the tilapia gives these easy fish tacos so much flavor while still tasting light, fresh and satisfyingly delicious.

What is the best fish to use for fish tacos?

White fleshed, mild, flaky fish fillets are traditionally used in fish tacos such as tilapia, mahi mahi, sapper, halibut or cod.

I chose tilapia for these fish tacos because because they are mild, cook quickly and can be purchased at a competitive price year round.  You are welcome to substitute your favorite fish for this blackened fish taco recipe.

up close front view of easy Tilapia Fish Tacos with cabbage, avocados and cilantro

About Tilapia

If you aren’t familiar with Tilapia and wondering why I have a whole Tilapia Fish Tacos recipe devoted to it, here are a few fun facts:

  • Tilapia is currently the fourth most popular type of fish in the US behind tuna, salmon and Alaskan pollock.
  • Tilapia is the third most popular aquaculture or farm raised seafood product behind shrimp and salmon.
  • Tilapia is nicknamed the “aqua-chicken,” because it can be produced on a mass scale.  This allows tilapia to be available year round at affordable prices without sacrifice quality.
  • You have probably eaten more tilapia than you realize!  Since 2006, Americans have consumed over 1 pound of tilapia per person each year.
  • Processing and packaging methods are regulated to ensure the tilapia fillets have a mild, uniform flavor.
  • Tilapia is the oldest farm raised fish in the world.  It is primarily raised in freshwater systems using cages, ponds, raceways or open waters.
  • Organic production methods for tilapia have been developed by some farmers.

How do you marinate fish for fish tacos?

I first tried making these Tilapia Fish Tacos without marinating them and just using a spice rub – but I found all the flavor was on the outside and the inside of the fish was still bland.  Not okay.  Not good enough for you my friends!

Instead, to infuse these blackened fish tacos with flavor through and through, I whipped up a simple marinade of olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce and some of the spices from the Spice Rub.  Now we’re talking better than restaurant Tilapia Fish Tacos!

You marinate your tilapia for 30-60 minutes  – NO more or it will get mushy!

a line of tilapia fish tacos in corn tortillas with cabbage and fish sauce
 

What spices to use for fish tacos?

After you marinate your Tilapia, it’s to make your spice rub consisting of:

  • ancho chili powder
  • smoked paprika
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • oregano
  • brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper (optional)

Although I personally use ancho chili powder a lot, I shy away from sharing it in recipes because I try and use common pantry spices so you don’t have to go buy more for one recipe – but I had to use it in this Blackened Tilapia Fish Taco Rub.

I first tried the rub with chipotle powder, cayenne, etc., but it just wasn’t perfect.  Ancho chili powder, however, was just right.  Ancho chili powder comes from ground dried poblanos and  is more mild than cayenne or chipotle powder but still has a deep rich, smoky, mild sweet heat.   Perfection.  So I promise if you buy ancho chili powder I will start using it more in my recipes so it won’t go to waste 🙂 but even if for just this recipe, it is so worth it.

showing how to make Tilapia Fish Tacos by adding a wet spice rub all over the tilapia fillets
 

How do you pan fry tilapia for tacos?

I like to blacken my Tilapia Fish Tacos.  Blackening isn’t just burning – or we all might be expert at blackening by now, but is a cooking method in which fish or chicken is cooked in an extremely hot cast-iron skillet for a few minutes to sear the outside of the fish.

The smoking skillet combined with the spice rub gives blackened food a a nice crispy seasoned crust.  And the best part is cooking literally takes minutes –  which makes these Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos extra company friendly – do all the prep beforehand and when friends arrive, cook for 6 minutes!

To cook tilapia:

  • After the tilapia marinates, dab off the marinade.
  • Rub tilapia with the spice rub mixed with a little olive oil.
  • Let fish rest for 15 minutes.
  • In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Once very hot, add 1 tablespoon butter.
  • As soon as it melts, add fillets and cook approximately 3 minutes per side, or until nicely blackened.
a collage showing how to cook tilapia for fish tacos in a cast iron skillet

What toppings do you put on fish tacos?

These marinated Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos would not be complete without the refreshing sweet tang of the crunchy Pineapple Cucumber Slaw against the blackened smoky spice rubbed fish.

Pineapple salsas or slaws are one of my favorite additions to tacos from my Chili Lime Chicken Tacos and Tacos Al Pastor to my Teriyaki Chicken Tacos. because after all, the best thing about tacos is layering them with flavors and textures so you have mouthfuls of spicy, savory, sweet, tangy, creamy all in one mouthful.   The Pineapple Cucumber Slaw is a quick tossing together of fresh pineapple, red cabbage, cucumber, red onion, cilantro and lime juice – so refreshingly delicious and so ready to be piled on your Tilapia Fish Tacos!

Lastly, I had to drizzle with my Avocado Crema that I use all the time.  No matter whatever “drizzle” or crema I come up with, this one will always be my favorite ever since I used it in my wildly popularand Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos, because everything tastes better with creamy avocado infused with lime, cumin, garlic and cilantro.

a collage of toppings for tilapia fish tacos with a bowl of cabbage, cucumbers, pineapple
 

What to Serve with Fish Tacos?

I love my Tilapia Fish Tacos with Mexican Rice or Cilantro Lime Rice,  Grilled Corn Salad or Southwest Salad,  big pile of chips and either guacamole, homemade salsa, or salsa verde.

Now stuff your tacos until your content, with the Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos, Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and a drizzle of Avocado Crema  and prepared to be blown away by the symphony of tastes and textures.  Followed by Churros.  You’re welcome.  xo.

tilapia fish tacos lined up in corn tortillas with cabbage and cilantro

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Mind blowing Blackened Fish Tacos with a quick marinade and the most flavorful spice rub! These are hands down the BEST FISH TACOS ever! And the sweet and tangy Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and Avocado Crema hit this one out of the park! seriously better than my favorite restaurant!
Mind blowing Blackened Fish Tacos with a quick marinade and the most flavorful spice rub! These are hands down the BEST FISH TACOS ever! And the sweet and tangy Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and Avocado Crema hit this one out of the park! seriously better than my favorite restaurant!

Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Cucumber Slaw

Mind blowing Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos exploding with flavor from a quick fish marinade and the most flavorful spice rub! They are topped with complementary refreshing sweet and tangy Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and addictive silky Avocado Crema are the BEST light, flavorful and filling Fish Tacos that rival any restaurant!  
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds tilapia (I use 4 5 oz. fillets)
  • 6-8 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend, more or less
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Marinade

Spice Rub

  • 1 TBS EACH ancho chili powder, brown sugar
  • 1 tsp EACH smoked paprika, ground cumin, garlic pwdr, onion pwdr, salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Pineapple Cucumber Slaw

  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Avocado Crema

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  • Marinade: Mix together all of the Spice Rub ingredients in a medium bowl. Remove 1 ½ tablespoons Spice Rub and add this to a large freezer bag along with all of the Marinade ingredients. Whisk together then add fish. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. You will use remaining spices later.
  • Avocado Crema: Meanwhile, make the Avocado Crema by adding all the Crema ingredients to your blender and blending until smooth, scraping sides down as needed. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.
  • Pineapple Cucumber Slaw: Add all of the Pineapple Cucumber Slaw ingredients to a large bowl. Toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Spice Rub: After 30-60 minutes (no more), remove fish from marinade and pat dry. Mix remaining Spice Rub together with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Rub evenly over fish and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  • Cook: In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Once very hot, add 1 tablespoon butter. As soon as it melts add fillets and cook approximately 3 minutes per side, or until nicely blackened.
  • Assemble: Remove fish from skillet and break into large pieces. Evenly divide fish among tortillas then top with cheese, Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and Avocado Crema. Garnish with additional lime and hot sauce if desired.

Notes

Total prep time does not include marinating.

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©Carlsbad Cravings Original

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Reader Interactions

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58 Comments

  1. Yvonne says

    What’s the measurements for the spices?

    • Jen says

      They are all listed in the recipe 🙂

  2. Katy says

    Does the slaw hold up if made 24 hours before?

    • Jen says

      Hi Katy, it holds texture wise but will gather liquid as the pineapple continues to release juices so you will want to drain any excess liquid.

  3. Angela says

    I was a little intimidated by some of your recipes at first because they have so many ingredients but after starting, I realize that they come together so quick and the flavor pay off is so worth it! I never bought ancho or chipotle chili powders before but now I want them ok everything! This fish taco recipe is out of this world!

    • Jen says

      Your comment made my day Angela, THANK YOU! I know my recipes are long due to the seasonings and scare some people away so I’m so glad you just went for it! I’m thrilled you loved these tilapia fish tacos and are enjoying my recipe!

  4. Lindsay says

    These were amazing. I will make them again and again! Thank you for a great recipe! The fish turned out perfect.

    • Jen says

      Yesss! Thank you so much Lindsay!

  5. Jeni says

    I made this today. So delicious. Had to substitute for some stuff I didnt have. Subbed yogurt for sour cream and mango for pineapple.
    The avocado cream was to die for and the fish… oh the fish… you are so right about marinating it first and the the spice rub… My kids loved it as well…. The best fish taco I’ve ever made.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the ultimate compliment/honor of being the “best fish tacos” and I’m thrilled your kids loved them too!

  6. Layne says

    The freshness and crisp slaw with the creamy sauce and spicy fish tasted incredible together. Thank goodness for you and your fabulous recipes.

    • Jen says

      You’re so sweet Layne! Thanks for your awesome comment, I’m so happy you loved the fish tacos! xo

  7. Natalia says

    Yes, ma’am…This are the best fish tacos I have ever eaten. Great flavor!!! Thank you so much for this great recipe. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. So good!!!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing this are the best fish tacos, thanks so much Natalia!

  8. Natalia says

    I prepared these tacos last weekend and they were excellent. So good!!!

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased you loved them Natalia!

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