Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia

Breaded tilapia on top of creamy Cajun spinach pasta.

This is your dream weeknight fish recipe: Healthy, made with only five ingredients, fast prep time, quick bake time, and hardly any dishes at the end! Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia can be made in less than 15 minutes and is practically guaranteed to be everyone’s favorite way to eat tilapia after just one crunchy bite.

I could eat this tilapia every single day for the rest of my life, and I would still enjoy it. Part of the reason I love it so much is because there are so few dishes involved, but the flavor is simply incredible, too! My parents eat a lot of tilapia and when they tried this five-ingredient baked tilapia with Cajun seasoning, they were raving about the texture and flavor. (And they aren’t huge fans of spicy foods, either!)

Two breaded tilapia filets on top of a pile of Cajun pasta and spinach.
This baked Cajun tilapia is tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside, thanks to those tortilla chip crumbs!

Ingredients for Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia

This baked tilapia comes together with just five ingredients (that you most likely have in your kitchen already!).

  • Tilapia loins
  • Salted butter
  • Olive oil (or your preferred neutral oil)
  • Cajun seasoning—Make your own no-salt Cajun seasoning from a variety of spices, or buy this blend!
  • Tortilla chips—I like Mission’s tortilla chips for this, but you can use whichever brand you prefer.
The five ingredients for cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia.
You only need five ingredients to make this easy, low-prep baked tilapia recipe!

Quick Tips for Prepping Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia

We always have a bag of tortilla chips in the pantry, and I never knew what to do with the crumbs at the bottom of the bag. Now, I can confidently say that this baked tilapia recipe is the best way to use up the crumbs at the bottom of the tortilla chip bag.

Making the Cajun Butter Sauce

The Cajun butter seasoning is a huge part of what makes this tortilla tilapia so delicious. When I first made the recipe, I started out with more butter and just a drizzle of olive oil to get the butter a bit spreadable. To make things simple (and more quantifiable), I’ve increased the ratio to 1:1, butter to olive oil.

If you want to use more butter and less olive oil, be my guest! I don’t normally recommend experimenting with my recipes (baking is a science, after all!). Cooking, however, is an entirely different story. If you want to make your sauce thicker and spicier, add in an extra teaspoon (or two) of the Cajun seasoning.

Can I Make This Sauce Lower in Fat?

Yes, you can! Like I said above, I regularly use less olive oil if I want the sauce to be more spreadable rather than pourable. You can reduce the olive oil to one teaspoon with little change in the final flavor.

How Spicy Is this Cajun Tilapia?

Not too spicy, but it depends on the Cajun seasoning you use. My parents have very low spice tolerances, and they thought one teaspoon per loin was a perfect, mild amount of spice. Update: They have since tried this recipe with only one teaspoon total of another brand of Cajun seasoning and thought it was plenty spicy. Please use discretion if it’s your first time using that specific brand of Cajun seasoning!

If you’re like my husband and like especially spicy things, I’d recommend adding another teaspoon or two of seasoning to ensure it’s spicy enough for your liking.

A bowl of cajun butter sauce.
Cajun butter sauce comes together in a matter of seconds and is customizable to your spice preferences.

Crushing the Tortilla Chips

Crushing tortilla chips is pretty straightforward, but there’s always the question of how crushed and to what size. Do I mean pulverized? Do I mean only partially broken?

I like to take a healthy amount of enjoyment in crushing the chips, but I don’t completely pulverize them. You are welcome to use a food processor, but that will give you super fine crumbs that won’t have nearly as much texture as hand-crushed crumbs. (Plus, it’s just another thing to wash.)

For easy cleanup, place the chips in a plastic bag or in the center of a large piece of parchment paper, then fold over half of it. As you use your rolling pin to roll over the chips, focus on the largest pieces. Break the largest pieces into crumbs no larger than a pea. The rest of the crumbs will follow suit and be a bit smaller than that.

Bonus tip: If the rolling pin doesn’t make direct contact with the tortilla chip crumbs, you don’t need to wash it later!

A hand holds tortilla chip crumbs.
The tortilla chip crumbs should be varied, with none larger than a pea.

Can I Use Another Fish instead of Tilapia?

You can, but I recommend using tilapia, as it pairs best with the tortilla chips. The coating is still good on salmon and mahi mahi, but it really shines on tilapia.

Can I Use Tilapia Fillets instead of Loins?

Sure, just keep an eye on the bake time! Tilapia fillets are less thick but a bit wider than tilapia loins. Bake fillets for about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F/60°C.

Can I Make This with Frozen Tilapia that I Haven’t Thawed?

I have made this recipe a few times with frozen tilapia. Keep in mind that it will take a few minutes longer to bake (closer to 15).

The overall flavor and texture turns out great, but it’s a little harder to get the tortilla chips to stick to the fish. The butter and oil freeze to the fish almost immediately after you spread it on. That makes it impossible for all of the tortilla chip crumbs to adhere to the tilapia (especially the sides!). There will still be a good coating, but it works best if you use fully thawed fish.

See the next question for details on how to thaw your tilapia quickly!

What’s the Best Way to Thaw Tilapia Loins?

I like filling a medium large bowl with warm water in the sink and letting my packaged tilapia loins lay in the water for about half an hour. You can change out the water as often as you’d like. (I usually change it once it gets ice cold to help speed up the process.)

What Sides Go Well with Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia?

Pretty much anything! I’ve served this baked tilapia with roasted vegetables and white rice, and I’ve also served it with salads and mashed potatoes. Tilapia is a mild fish, so it pairs well with a lot of your typical dinner side dishes.

Two breaded tilapia filets on top of a pile of Cajun pasta and spinach.
I’ve eaten this fish with white rice the most, but it also works well with mashed potatoes and pasta tossed in a bit of olive oil!

Dish Cleanup: A Piece of Cake

I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.

My Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia recipe has a cleanup rating of a 1. I cannot emphasize enough how easy the cleanup for this baked tilapia is. The only three things you need to wash are your whisk, your bowl, your knife, and your measuring spoons. (You’ll likely have even fewer dishes than in the photo if you mix everything together in one bowl rather than measuring the ingredients separately.) That’s it. If only every recipe was as easy to clean up as this Cajun tilapia one!

A plate, whisk, measuring spoons, and knife with a few small bowls on a counter.
This recipe is one of my favorites because of how easy the cleanup is.

Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia Recipe

Yield: 2 tilapia loins

Cajun Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tilapia

Two breaded tilapia filets on top of a pile of Cajun pasta and spinach.

Ready from start to finish in under 15 minutes, this Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia is quick, easy, and oh so delicious with hardly any cleanup!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 12 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tilapia loins (fresh or thawed)
  • 1 Tablespoon salted butter (14g), at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (14g)*
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (7g)
  • 10 tortilla chips, about 1/3 cup or 30g

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (not parchment paper, as it may burn!).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, olive oil, and Cajun seasoning until fully combined.**
  3. Crush the tortilla chips in a plastic bag or between two sheets of parchment paper with a rolling pin.
  4. Place the tilapia loins on the lined baking sheet and spread the seasoning mixture evenly over the top of both pieces. Sprinkle with the tortilla chip crumbs, then lightly press to the loins to make sure they stick.
  5. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 140°F/60°C. Serve with a starch and a vegetable for a complete and healthy meal!

Notes

*Feel free to reduce the olive oil to 1 or 2 teaspoons to cut down on total fat.

**If you like spicy foods, feel free to another teaspoon or two of the Cajun seasoning to get your preferred level of heat!

This fish is best eaten immediately after baking with all that crunchy goodness, but you can store any leftovers in the fridge for up to three days. For best results, reheat in an oven or air fryer (not the microwave!).

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 403Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 1274mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 46g

The nutrition facts are estimated and may vary based on specific ingredients used.

Thanks for trying out my Cajun tortilla chip-crusted tilapia recipe! Please consider rating this recipe so others find it, too.

I’d love to see how your tilapia turns out: Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @floralapronblog to share with me, or use the hashtag #floralapronbakes.

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