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This 15-minute blackened grouper recipe is effortless for a weeknight and perfect for guests. Savor flaky grouper fillets coated in a blend of spices and masterfully seared in a cast iron skillet.
What is Blackened Grouper?
Grouper is a popular fish found in temperate waters from the Mid-Atlantic States and Florida to South America.
The name grouper describes a diverse family of fish with red and black grouper being the most popular.
Raw grouper meat is white, mild, and flaky and cooked in a variety of ways including grilling, blackening, in fish sandwiches, and more.
What Does Grouper Taste Like?
Grouper fish has a mild taste and is slightly sweet. Its flesh is tender and flaky, and it easily absorbs seasonings and marinades becoming even tastier when cooked.
In this blackened grouper recipe, we blacken it in a hot cast iron skillet. It creates a charred and flavorful crust on the outside, while remaining tender and juicy within.
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Blackened Grouper Origins
The origins of blackened grouper can be traced back to chef Paul Prudhomme. He was the owner of K-Paul`s Louisiana Kitchen in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
In the 1980s, he developed the “blackening” cooking technique. It consists of dredging a fish fillet in a spice blend, butter, or oil, and cooked it in a very hot cast iron skillet.
The spices impart flavors without overwhelming the fish and the high heat quickly seals the flavor.
Timing is everything with this deceptively simple recipe. Just a few seconds separates blackened from burnt.
In his famous cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, he offers the following advice for blackening fish
“Because this method is simple, any variation will make a dramatic difference. Be sure the skillet is hot enough and absolutely dry. Be sure not to over season – – the herbs and spices should highlight the taste rather than hide or overpower it. You don’t want to overcook the filet – – there’s a big difference between blackened and burned. Avoid a burned, bitter taste by wiping out the skillet between batches.”
Discovering Blackened Grouper in Florida
While in Florida exploring the local food specialties, we learned about Florribean cuisine and its connection to blackened grouper.
Florribean cuisine is a fusion of flavors and ingredients incorporating elements from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
A favorite fish amongst chefs, grouper is prepared with varying styles. The blackened grouper is often made with a spice mixture rub consisting of paprika, onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper.
Finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, the blackened grouper can be accompanied by a delicious mango salsa.
Blackened Grouper Recipe – How To Make Blackened Grouper
- Grouper fillets (6 oz each)
- Butter, melted
- Vegetable oil
- Lemon, cut into wedges
Blackened Grouper Seasoning Ingredients
- Sweet paprika, (smoked paprika can be used to add more smoky flavors to the fish)
- Cayenne pepper
- Ground black pepper
- Dried oregano
- Ground cumin
- Garlic powder
- Brown sugar
- Sea salt
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPES: If you want to try other simple fish and seafood dishes, see the traditional recipes below.
Blackened Grouper Recipe Tips
How To Cook Blackened Grouper
- Use of Oil – For this blackened grouper recipe, you want to use a high-heat cooking oil. Avocado oil is popular due to its high smoke point and neutral flavors. Other options are vegetable oil or canola oil, which we use in this grouper recipe.
- Use of Butter – Butter coats the fish, which helps the blackening seasoning stay put while cooking. In this recipe, we melt two tablespoons of butter to coat both sides of the grouper fillet. For a healthier version, you can use clarified butter or Ghee which doesn’t contain lactose and has a higher smoke point.
- Grill – Cooking blackened grouper on the grill can add delicious and smoky flavors. Make sure your grill is preheated to high heat before placing the grouper on the grates.
To prevent the delicate grouper fillets from falling apart on the grill, consider using a fish basket or a grill pan.
- Cast-Iron – This is the style we use for this blackened grouper recipe to ensure a hot sear and beautiful crust on the grouper fillets.
- Oven Baked – An alternative way to make this blackened grouper recipe is in the oven. In this case, preheat the oven to 400°F (about 200°C) and bake the groper fillets for about 10-12 minutes. You can also use the papillote method by wrapping the fillets in aluminum foil and baking them at the same temperature and time.
- Grouper sandwich version – In many towns in Florida and throughout the Gulf Coast, you’ll find blackened grouper sandwiches. The blackened grouper is prepared in the same way, topped with a mayonnaise based sauce and stuffed in a buttery bun. This sandwich version is another delicious way of eating the grouper fish.
How Long To Cook Blackened Grouper
The cooking time for blackened grouper depends on the thickness of your grouper fillets. As a general guideline, cook each side for about 3-4 minutes.
To ensure your fish is well cooked, we recommend using an instant read ThermoPro meat thermometer.
Insert into the thickest part of the fillet and once it registers 145 °F (about 62°C), your grouper is ready.
Keep an eye on the fish and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
What Goes With Blackened Grouper
Creamy mashed potatoes or a refreshing coleslaw salad can complement the spicy kick of the blackened grouper.
Other traditional dishes that go well with blackened are rice and asparagus.
For a Florribean style dish, you can have it with plantain fritters or Moros, a traditional Latin rice and bean dish.
In Miami, you find blackened grouper prepared with a delicious mango salad. This adds a tropical twist and bursts of sweetness to the fish.
Feel free to experiment with different tropical fruits like pineapple or papaya to provide an exotic touch.
How Spicy is Blackened Grouper?
Blackened Grouper can have different levels of spiciness, depending on how much cayenne pepper you use in the blackened seasoning.
Cayenne pepper is the main source of heat in the seasoning, and its spiciness can range from mild to very hot.
If you prefer a mild spice level, you can reduce the amount of cayenne pepper in the blackened seasoning.
If you enjoy some heat, you can use the recommended amount of cayenne pepper indicated in the ingredients list. This amount adds a kick without being overpowering.
Blackened Grouper Recipe Substitutes
- Blackened grouper seasonings – If you don’t have paprika, you can substitute with chili powder, or crushed red pepper flakes.
- Grouper – If you cannot find grouper, you can use another fresh fish like mahi mahi or red snapper with firm white fish fillets. The key is to make sure the substitute fish is flaky and firm.
Blackened Grouper Step by Step Instructions
Prepare the Blackened Seasoning
Prepare the homemade blackened seasoning by combining the dry spices in a small bow. Mix well.
Prepare and Season the Grouper Fillets
Pat dry the grouper fillets using paper towels. Brush both sides of the fillets with the melted butter. Sprinkle a generous amount of the homemade blackened seasoning over both sides of each grouper fillet.
Heat Cast Iron Skillet and Cook Grouper Fish
Heat cast-iron skillet with oil and add the seasoned grouper fillets. Grill on both sides. Once cooked and the fish flakes easily, serve with a slice of lemon wedge.
Blackened Grouper Recipe
Blackened Grouper Ingredients
- 2 grouper fillets 6 oz each
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ lemon cut into wedges
- Start by making the blackened seasoning. In a small bowl combine the paprika, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, dried oregano, ground cumin, garlic powder and brown sugar. Mix well. Set the seasoning aside.
- Pat dry the grouper fillets using paper towels. This helps to ensure a crispy crust. Brush both sides of the fillets with the melted butter.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of the homemade blackened seasoning over both sides of each grouper fillet. Use your fingers to gently press the spice mix into the fillets.
- Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and let it heat up for a few minutes. A cast- iron pan is ideal for achieving that perfect blackened crust.
- Add the vegetable oil to the preheated skillet and carefully place the seasoned grouper fillets in the skillet.
- Cook the fillets undisturbed for about 3 minutes on each side. The spice blend will create a golden colored flavorful crust and turns to a beautifully blackened fish.
- Use a fork to check the doneness of the grouper fillets. The fish should flake easily and the internal temperature on the meat thermometer should be 145 °F (about 62°C)
- Once the blackened grouper fillets are cooked, remove them from the skillet.
- Serve the lemon wedges and a refreshing mango salsa on the side.
- Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to your level of spiciness.
- Make sure the cast-iron skillet is properly preheated before adding the fillets, to ensure a good sear and crust.
- Make sure not to overcrowd the skillet. Cook the fillets in batches if your skillet is too small.
- Before cooking, be sure to turn on your kitchen exhaust fan or open a window.
- Store any leftover blackening seasoning in an airtight container for future use.
More Local Food Experiences and Recipes
Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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