How to Make Blackened Tilapia with a Veggie and Quinoa Saute

  • By Jackie Sun
  • March 30, 2014

Weeknight Meals via @cooksmarts: Blackened Tilapia #recipeThis month, we traveled to Asia to jazz up fried rice with red curry paste. Then we went to Italy for pappardelle and balsamic vinegar. We round up our discovery of new ingredients with a trip to the south for Cajun seasoning to add some kick to a light and flavorful Blackened Tilapia.

Cajun cuisine has its roots in rustic French cooking, which is adapted to the local and available ingredients of Louisiana. With simple prep methods, Cajuns like to cook their meals in one big pot. Different from Creole cuisine, which is more refined and uses less spice than Cajun cooking, Cajun food is all about living off the land and cooking seasonally.

“We didn’t measure out the Cajun seasoning for the fish, we just coated the fish with the seasoning. Good stuff, yum.” -Heather

Blackened Tilapia #recipe via @cooksmarts
One method of Cajun cooking, called blackening, is a great way to seal in the moisture of the meat, while creating a flavorful crust. This flavoring is made with a combination of spices – salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and thyme – known as Cajun seasoning.

Traditionally, the way to blacken meat, such as fish, is to dip it in butter, then rub Cajun seasoning all over it. The fish then goes into a screaming hot cast-iron skillet, which browns the milk solids from the butter and chars the spices, giving the fish the blackened look and the technique its name.

“Good flavors, easy to prepare, and very colorful.” -Susan

Of course, we like to keep things simple, and we don’t want to set off the smoke alarm in our kitchen, so we bake our Blackened Tilapia. We still have all that amazing, spicy Cajun flavor, and we also keep it healthy with no added fat. Just sprinkle on Cajun seasoning and pop it in the oven, and dinner is ready in less than 15 minutes!

Our light and healthy Cajun meal is incomplete without our delicious vegetable and quinoa saute, dressed in a vinaigrette that features Cajun seasoning.

“This is such a great meal! It was delicious and very flavorful! We added a little extra Cajun seasoning to the fish and an additional clove of garlic to the vegetables.” -Katie

Prepping Smarts:

Make this quick and easy meal even faster by doing a lot of prep ahead of time. Check out our prepping how-to’s:


How to Rinse and Dry Fish

See how easy it is to quickly get fish ready for cooking.


How to Chop Broccoli

Watch this video to learn how to chop broccoli for a variety of tasty uses.


How to Make a Vinaigrette

Vinaigrettes are a wonderful way to dress up not just salads, but proteins and vegetables too, and they're very easy to make.

Equipment Smarts:

Using a saute pan is an efficient way to saute your veggies and quinoa.

Buy this 5 quart saute pan from Cuisinart on Amazon
For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’.


If you don’t want to buy the Cajun seasoning from the store, experiment with making your own, which is a good way to control the spice level. Just combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, paprika, and cayenne.

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Blackened Cajun Tilapia Recipe with a Veggie and Quinoa Saute

Cajun seasonings give tilapia a fun, spice kick. While fish is baking, you'll create an easy veggie and quinoa saute that's flavored with a Cajun vinaigrette.

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 20 min

Total time: 35 min

Serves: 4


  • Tilapia - 4 to 6 fillets (~1¼ to 1½ lbs.)
  • Garlic - 3, crushed or minced
  • Broccoli - ¾ lb., chopped
  • Chickpeas - 1 cup, rinsed & drained
  • Quinoa - ⅔ cup, uncooked (or 2 cups cooked)
  • Cajun or blackening spice - 2 tsp. + 2 tsp
  • Red wine vinegar - 3 tbs
  • Oil - 3 tbs. (like olive or grapeseed)
  • Water - ½ cup
  • Corn kernels - 1½ cups
  • Lemon - ½, wedges



  1. Tilapia – Rinse and dry fish. Lightly salt and pepper.
  2. Garlic / Broccoli / Chickpeas – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
  3. Quinoa – {May already be done from yesterday} Combine quinoa with 2x the amount of water in a saucepan. Add in a generous dash of salt. Bring to a boil covered. Lower heat, keep covered, and cook until liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
  4. Make vinaigrette – Whisk together first part of Cajun spice, garlic, red wine vinegar, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place tilapia onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle second part of spice mix over fillets. Bake in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. While fish is baking, heat a skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and then water with a sprinkle of salt. The water will help the broccoli cook faster without burning. You can also pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes as well. Saute broccoli in pan for 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add in beans, corn, quinoa, and vinaigrette. Toss until vegetables are cooked through. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper right out of the oven. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy with veggie and quinoa saute.


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