This blackened haddock gets its delicious dark crust from a cajun-style seasoning that's made with simple pantry ingredients.
It's fish that's pan-seared to perfection and delivers a burst of flavor with every bite –especially with some fresh lemon juice squeezed on top. Yum!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Great taste – each bite offers wonderful, bold flavors. Plus the textural contrast between the charred crust and the flaky interior is a total delight.
- Quick and easy – no marination, no long preps. A few minutes of making seasoning and pan-searing and you have a restaurant-quality dish ready.
- So many pairing options – you can enjoy it as is or pair with rice, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes or salad. Or even make tacos with it.
- Customizable heat – if you like more or less spice, you can always adjust the seasoning ingredients.
- Pantry friendly spices – it's very likely that all the spices you need are already sitting in your pantry.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- Haddock fillets – can be fresh or frozen, but should be skinless. If using frozen, thaw completely before you put the seasoning on. Since haddock has delicate flesh, I cut longer fillets into halves or thirds for easier handling.
- Cooking oil – olive oil or any neutral smelling oil.
- Paprika – because the blackened seasoning is incomplete without it. Adjust quantity to your spice preference.
- Chili powder and cayenne – both these add a different dimension to the heat component. Just like with paprika, you can adjust the quantities to your preference.
- Garlic and onion powders – we can't put fresh garlic or onion, so using powders instead for that aromatic touch.
- Ground cumin – to complement the heat with some warm and earthy flavor.
- Dried herbs – I prefer a combo of dried thyme and oregano, but either of these on its own will work too. Don't use fresh herbs.
- Sugar – light or dark brown. The tiny amount of sweetness helps balance the other flavors – but without being prominent.
- Salt and ground pepper – the two essentials in our everyday cooking.
- Lemon slices/wedges – some fresh lemon juice on that cooked fish is a must!
How to make blackened haddock
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to blacken your haddock on stovetop. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Step 1: In a bowl combine all the seasoning ingredients (that includes paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt, ground cumin, onion powder, chili powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, brown sugar) and mix well.
Step 2: Now coat your haddock fillets/pieces with this spice mix using one of the two methods:
Method A – Sprinkle the seasoning on both sides. Use hands to press it down on the haddock.
Method B – Spread the seasoning on a plate. Place fish on top and press down gently to coat, then flip and repeat. It's the method I prefer – see the photo above.
Step 3: Heat olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Lay the fillets in – they should sizzle on contact. Don't crowd the pan. Cook undisturbed 2 to 3 minutes on one side.
Step 4: Flip, then cook another 2 to 3 minutes (internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C is the goal). When cooked, the exterior should have a slightly charred appearance and the fish should easily flake with a fork. Plate the haddock and squeeze some lemon juice on top. Add extra lemon on the side, sprinkle some parsley and enjoy.
- Fish sticking to pan – heat the pan and oil properly. You want the fish to sizzle on contact. Don't move or turn it too early – let a crust develop. Nonstick pans are easier to work with, but seasoned cast iron skillets give better charring.
- Overcooking or undercooking – the thickness of your haddock can influence cooking time. Keep a close eye, especially if the pieces are thin. If unsure, use a meat thermometer (aim for 145°F / 63°C).
- Too spicy or mild – adjust the amount of cayenne and paprika in your next batch. It's always a good idea to season, cook and test one piece, then adjust and proceed with the rest.
- Fish breaking apart – use a thin spatula for flipping. And handle with care as haddock is a delicate fish.
- Blackened but not fully cooked – if the charring is happening way too fast, reduce the heat, but not a lot.
- Oil splattering a lot – thaw the fish completely before you begin or it will release moisture in the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Some splattering is normal since you are cooking at medium-high heat. A splatter guard (not the pan lid) can be helpful. If it's too excessive, turn down the heat a little.
Substitutions and variations
- Fish options – haddock is the star ingredient here but other white flaky fish like cod, pollock, halibut or tilapia will all be good substitutes. Cooking times will be slightly different though.
- Adjust the heat – reduce the amount of paprika and cayenne if you prefer less heat. You can also omit cayenne entirely.
- Lemon replacement – lime slices/wedges will work in a pinch.
- Smoky touch – sub regular paprika with smoked paprika or use a combo of both.
- Different dried herbs – a combo of dried rosemary and marjoram instead of oregano and thyme will give a slightly different but equally nice flavor profile.
What to serve it with
- Baked or mashed potatoes – to balance the spicy kick from haddock.
- Sautéed asparagus or green beans – cooked with a touch of garlic.
- Coleslaw – some crunch and sweetness for a refreshing contrast.
- Quinoa salad – tossed in a lime or lemon dressing.
- Rice – white rice or a light-tasting pilaf.
- Fresh mango salsa – for a refreshing, tropical touch.
- Avocado salad – to help cool the palate.
- Corn on the cob – slathered with butter and a sprinkle of salt.
- Garden salad – lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and onions tossed in a citrusy dressing.
Storage and reheating
- Storage: Once the leftovers cool down, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Won't recommend freezing as the texture of the fish changes when it thaws.
- Reheating: Preheat oven to 275°F / 135°C. Place leftovers on a baking dish, cover with foil and leave in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Reheating in a microwave might not be the best option but if pressed for time, microwave at 50 percent power in 30-second spurts until warmed through.
Just so you know
- The cooking technique of 'blackening' comes from cajun cuisine. The goal here isn't to burn the fish to a black color but to create a dark, spiced crust, packed with flavors.
- For those who may be new to cooking with haddock – it’s a white, flaky fish that's mild in taste and works great with various seasonings and cooking methods.
- If you want to try more blackened dishes, feel free to use this recipe of spice mix on other proteins like chicken or shrimp. But be mindful of the cooking time.
- 12 ounces (340 g) haddock fillets - skinless – cut longer fillets into halves or thirds (Note A)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil - or any cooking oil
- 4 lemon slices or wedges
For blackened seasoning rub
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper - more or less to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder - not garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder - (Note B)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar - light or dark
- some chopped fresh parsley
- In a bowl combine all the seasoning ingredients (paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt, ground cumin, onion powder, chili powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, brown sugar) and mix well. Break any lumps with the back of a spoon.
- Now coat your haddock fillets/pieces with this seasoning using one of the two methods:Method A – Sprinkle the seasoning on both sides. Use hands to press it down on the fish.Method B – Spread the seasoning on a plate. Place fish on top and press down gently to coat, then flip and repeat.You may not need all of this seasoning mix. Just ensure each fillet is coated completely and evenly.
- In a skillet/pan (I prefer non-stick), heat olive oil on medium-high heat. When hot, lay the fillets in – they should sizzle right away. Don't crowd the pan. Cook undisturbed 2 to 3 minutes on one side (depending on thickness).
- Flip, then cook another 2 to 3 minutes (internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C is the goal). When cooked, the exterior should have a slightly charred or blackened appearance and the fish should easily flake with a fork.
- Plate the blackened haddock and squeeze some lemon juice on top. Add extra lemon on the side, sprinkle some parsley and enjoy (I love it with my buttered basmati rice).
- Step-by-step photo instructions
- Recipe troubleshooting
- Substitutions and variations
- Serving ideas
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