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


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

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


  • 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


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


  • 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.


Total prep time does not include marinating.

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©Carlsbad Cravings Original

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Reader Interactions

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  1. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Jen! I absolutely love blackened fish! And you know I feel the same as you about pineapple! One divine meal !

    • Julie says

      Can u replace the talipia with another fish like cod or haddock??? I don’t like talipia!!!

  2. Kimberly says

    Oooh, these look SO good! I love the pineapple cucumber salsa idea, a nice change up from the mango salsa we usually use with our fish tacos!

  3. Tami G says

    Wondering how this would be for shrimp tacos?

    • Jen says

      Hi Tami! I love the idea of shrimp tacos! I think the marinade would be fine but I would only use about 1/3 of the spices as shrimp are much more delicate and don’t require nearly as much. Hope this helps. Let me know if you decide to make them with shrimp!

  4. Lindsay says

    I’m not a huge fan of fish (working on it though) and I want to try making these! They look great!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Lindsay! Maybe this recipe will help convert you as there is a lot more going on than fish 🙂 Let me know if you end up trying them – I hope they win you over!

  5. Therese says

    Hi Jen! My Family LOVES fish tacos! So trying these was a no brainer. I knew these would be a hit! What I didn’t know is that my family would keep eating them and eaten them and eating them even after saying they were full! They would take a breather and then get more!!! After being in a food coma from these DELISH tacos the verdict was in! They no longer want the traditional beer batter fish tacos. They want THESE fish tacos from now on!!!!! 🙂 And I agree!! So much healthier and lighter! And addicting ! 🙂 I have a women’s retreat next month and these are now on the menu!! ( Along with your Chipotle Ranch Chicken Taco Flatbread Pizza, your Pineapple Red Curry Chicken Stir Fry and the Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes 🙂 ) Next time I make these I’m going to make burritos and add your yummy Cilantro Lime Rice with Black Beans to the mix! SOOO Good!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your comment Therese!!! I can just visualize everyone in a food coma then picking up one more taco – hahaha! I am thrilled these were such a hit that they no longer want beer battered fish tacos – that is amazing! YAY! And I am loving your idea of making these into tacos with my Cilantro Lime Rice- drooling over here! Your women’s retreat sounds so fun and how lucky are they to have you come up with the menu! I love that your menu includes some of my personal favorites – we definitely are foodie kindred spirits 🙂 Thanks for making my day Therese!

  6. Lucy says

    HI! I have never cooked blacken fish before. but your recipe ingrediants just sounded so yummy. I live in China and I just ordered some kind of white fish that is frozen from Vied Nam. It was a much larger fish fielet than you showed in your post. Plus a bit thicker…but I went ahead. I followed everything almost to a tee…..but I wasn’t for sure how to tell if they were completely cooked or not. Any tips on that? I made these while my family were out. Just waiting for them to come home and try them. I think they are flavorful. Thanks! I will try and get all the other ingrediants to make the salsa!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lucy all the way from China! That is awesome you ordered he fish and were able to make it – I hope your family loved it! As far as testing for doneness, if you have a meat thermometer, the center of your fish should reach 145 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can cut the fish in the thickest part – the fish should be opaque and flake easily when you nudge it with a fork. Hope this helps!

  7. Lucy says

    Thanks for your reply, Jen. I will use a meat themoter next time as well as the visual. My family loved the blackend fish for the tacos! Now they are waiting for me to not only cook them again, but get the ingrediants for the pinneapple cucumber slaw and the avacado crema! Your food photogoraphy is beautiful and makes me want to try all of your recipes!! Thank you for posting!

    • Jen says

      I am so happy your family loved them and I think they will love them even more with the Pineapple Cucumber Slaw and Avocado Crema – can’t wait for you to try it all together! Thank YOU for trying my recipes and commenting!!

  8. Holly says

    doing 21 day fix…are these approved.??..because they look amazing!!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Holly, I don’t know if they are approved for that or not but I do know you will love them!

  9. Valerie Chappell says

    Hello from Georgia!
    My family and I love your recipes. I am planning on making these tacos this weekend for company; any suggestions on what to serve with them?

    • Jen says

      Hi Valerie from Georgia! I love hearing your family is enjoying my recipes, thank you! I would serve with my Cilantro Rice and Black Beans. You can make this rice in a rice cooker if you have one to make it extra easy – just substituting onion powder/garlic powder, etc. A simple green salad along side or my Roasted Corn with Chipotle Lime Butter would also be delish. Have fun with your company!

  10. Valerie says

    Great suggestions, thanks.

  11. Tricia says

    How far ahead can you make the crema? Worried about it discoloring if I make it the night before…

    • Jen says

      Hi Tricia, you can make it a few hours before but it will discolor somewhat if left overnight. Hope that helps!

  12. Lindsay S. says

    These are awesome! Made them tonight for my family. We are in vacation in Florida and have not been impressed with the bland fish tacos we’ve had here. These are flavorful and we will absolutely make again when we return to Ohio! Thank you for this recipe!!!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Lindsay! I’m so happy you were able to fill your fish taco cravings with this recipe! I’m just sorry the Florida fish tacos have been disappointing but at least you can bring this recipe home with you 🙂

  13. Amy E says

    These look amazing! We have made so many of your Mexican recipes, and love them! I make one of your recipes at least once/week :). Was wondering if I could make these if I don’t have a cast iron skillet? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Sorry for the delay Amy, I have been super behind in comments! I am so happy you are enjoying my Mexican recipes, thank you! Yes, you can make this without a cast iron skillet, just be aware that the fish won’t be as “blackened” but still delicious!

  14. Lainie says

    Hi Jen!
    I love all your recipes! Planning to try this as my family loves fish tacos. I have never made fish before because I hate the smell when it cooks. Does Tilapia smell bad when it cooks? Lastly, any suggestion as to where to buy the tilapia? Do you buy it fresh from a grocery store? Or buy it frozen? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lainie, I am so happy you are enjoying my recipes, thank you so much! Tilapia is a more mild fish so its not nearly as fishy smelling when it cooks and I promise any smell is so worth it! I usually buy fresh from the meat counter at my grocery store but I have also bought it frozen from Costco and it is also delicious! Fresh will always be better but Costco is less expensive and still good. I am excited for you to cook fish for the first time – hopefully you will be hooked!

  15. Andrea says

    Does it matter what kind of mayo you use for the crema?

    • Jen says

      whatever you have on hand will work great!

  16. Emilia says

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you for greate inspiration! I’m planing to make this recipe this evening and I’m wondering if cumin in the recipe means the hole seed?
    /Emilia from Sweden

    • Jen says

      Hi Emilia, it is ground cumin – I will change the recipe to specify. Enjoy!

      • Emilia says

        Thank you so much!!! =D

  17. Jillian says

    Can’t wait to have this tonight! Have you ever tried smoking the fish in this marinade? Thinking about doing that..

    • Jen says

      Hi Jillian, I haven’t tried it but if you do please let me know how it turns out!

      • Jillian says

        I made these last night and they were FANTASTIC! I did end up smoking them at 400 degrees for 12 minutes – will certainly make again!

        • Jen says

          Awesome! I’m so happy you love them and that smoking them worked well! thanks Jillian!

  18. Katharine says

    How long will the cream and salsa last for? I was hoping to prep everything the night before for dinner the following day. I have made this dish before and it was delicious. I don’t want anything being made before to hinder of ruin the deliciousness. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Katherine, I’m so happy you enjoy this recipe! The salsa can last a couple days and the Avocado Crema can last overnight as well but it is best made just a few hours in advance as it will change color overnight – not a huge deal/color difference but just a heads up.

  19. Kristin says

    I made this tonight and it was sooo Soo good!! I am a huge fan of fish tacos and make them quite often…so it was great to change it up! Loved the little addition of the cheese. Great creamy flavor…even without the Avocado crema (avocados weren’t ripe). I have leftovers for tomorrow and I can’t wait to eat more! Definitely adding this recipe to our weekly rotation. Thank you so much!!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Kristin, I’m so happy these made the “weekly rotation” – the ultimate compliment! Thank you!!

  20. Jessica says

    These sound amazing! I was just wondering if you think I should increase the recipe size for 5 people? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jessica, yes I would 1 1/2x or 2x the recipe for 5 people so everyone can at least 2 tacos. Enjoy!

  21. Yvonne says

    What’s the measurements for the spices?

    • Jen says

      They are all listed in the recipe 🙂

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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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