There is almost an endless variety of spices you can use when baking tilapia. The mellow-flavored whitefish is found around the world and is used in many types of cuisine, from Asian to Mexican. Spices that pair well with baked tilapia also come from around the world. When it comes to choosing which spice blends are best, it all depends on the exact flavor you want for the dish.
Asian spice blends range from mild to fiery in flavor. Lightly sprinkle tilapia with Chinese five-spice powder – a mix of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and black pepper – to give the fish a bold kick of spicy taste. Dust the fish with ginger powder for a hint of bite that pairs well with sweet or salty sauces, such as teriyaki or soy sauce. Sprinkle the tilapia with garlic salt, ginger powder, ground turmeric and black pepper to create a moderately spicy flavor.
Complex spice blends are the hallmark of Cajun cooking, especially when it comes to something as versatile as baked tilapia. Lightly coat each fillet with cayenne pepper, garlic salt, black pepper, white pepper and ground cumin for a sharp bite with a smoky background taste. Sprinkle the fish with chili powder, hot paprika, red pepper, onion powder, garlic salt and lemon pepper to give it a fiery flavor that pairs well with everything from rice to okra.
Italian cooking is known more for its herbs than its spices, but there are still a few spice combinations that give tilapia a hint of Italian flavor. Sprinkle the fish with roasted garlic powder and onion powder for a slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with any Italian herb blend. Dust tilapia fillets with garlic powder, celery salt, black pepper and ground cumin to give the fish a hint of smoky flavor.
Chili peppers are as important to Mexican cooking as garlic is to Italian. Dust tilapia with chili powder and garlic salt to give the fish a mild bite with a smoky background flavor. Sprinkle tilapia fillets with chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder and sweet paprika for a strong smoky taste that pairs particularly well with tomatoes. Lightly coat the fish with habenero powder, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic salt and black pepper to create a fiery flavor that enhances the taste of more mellow foods, such as rice or beans.
Indian cuisine is known for its fiery, yet sophisticated, spice blends. Sprinkle tilapia with ground coriander, ground cardamom, ground cumin, black pepper and white pepper to create an Indian masala blend that gives the mellow fish a punch of hot flavor. Lightly dust the fish with ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground caraway, ground fennel seed, ground mustard seed, black pepper and red pepper for a flaming hot bite that pairs well with simple side dishes, such as cashew rice.