Discover the Magic of Spice Rubs: FFF's Top Three Favorite Spice Rub Recipes!

Spice Rubbed Tilapia for your New years Resolutions!
Twenty Minute Dinner: Spice Rubbed Fish Fillets

You just can’t have a frugal cooking blog without at some point featuring spice rub recipes. (( I’m pretty sure there is a law somewhere requiring frugal foodies to use spice rubs!)) The Mother of all Spice Rubs is Spike Seasoning, which boasts 39 ingredients – no, I am NOT making that up! – and has been around since my mom was a kid.

Spice rubs are so very handy, healthy and frugal, whether you just use them as a shortcut to spice up a dish or as a rub.  I use three rubs pretty frequently and try to keep them mixed up and on hand. Even in the dead of winter (hello – right now!) these rubs will make you feel like you are having a backyard barbecue. So here, beloved frugal readers, are Donna’s Top Three Spice Rubs of all time – with a bonus: Donna’s Techniques for cooking Spice Rubbed Fish Fillets!

Fish is on many “I Should Eat More of” Lists. White fish fillets are perfect as a canvas for spice rubs! Here’s an easy, budget-friendly fish recipe to do just that – and only takes just 20 minutes total time.  Using small fish that are lower on the food chain is an environmentally friendly thing to do – they are sustainable fish, AND – more good news: they’re less expensive than larger varieties. For this technique, you could use tilapia, snapper, trout, cod or any other firm white fish fillets.  (Pictured above is tilapia.)  This technique is one that can be used with most any spice rub – try one of our three different  spice rubs with different flavor profiles – Indian Tandoori Spice Rub,  Southwest Chile Cumin Spice Rub and Jamaican Jerk Spice Rubs. All three are delicious – but feel free to use your own creation or purchased spice rub. Just make sure to watch the salt content so your fish isn’t too salty.


Serves 4
Prep and cook time – 20 minutes

3 tablespoons Spice Rub
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 white fish fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Mix spice rub with cornstarch and then coat one side of each fish fillet with 2 teaspoons of spice mixture, pressing down with fingers to adhere spices to fish. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet. Place 2 fillets in pan, spiced side down. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned on bottom. Carefully turn fillets over, so that uncooked side is down. Cover and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until fillets are cooked through. Repeat this process to cook remaining 2 fillets. Serve warm with spiced side up on rice or pasta.

1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper to taste

Other food bloggers do white fish:
White Fish en Papillote, Guilty Kitchen
White Fish Citrus Salad, The Kitchn
Grilled Halibut with Southwestern Rub, Kalyns Kitchen
Panko and Mustard Crusted Fish, The Perfect Pantry
Harissa Braised Fish, The Perfect Pantry
Fish Picatta, Serious Eats
Tilapia with Pimiento Sauce, Simply Recipes
Baked Fish with Chorizo, Yum Sugar

— posted by Donna


  1. says

    I was just reading in the current issue of Cooks Illustrated about how adding a small amount of cornstarch to a rub can give a better crust on a grilled meat or fish.While doing some research on the internet, I came upon your blog and am so impressed by your lovely skillet cooked fish. Thanks for the spice rubs. I have a few that I use all the time, but will add yours to my repertoire.

  2. says

    What a gorgeous photo of the fish. I love the sound of all your rubs. However I’m wondering why you add the cornstarch? (That would make the recipe less suitable for me, so I’m curious about how it improves the recipe.)

    • says

      Kalyn – One way to saute a fillet is to season with salt and pepper and then just lightly dredge in flour or cornstarch right before placing in oil in skillet – making a nice crispy brown crust. I like just a tiny bit of cornstarch with the spice rubs, because it gives it a little more of a crust and also holds the spices on the fillets better. You can skip the cornstarch and the taste will still be just as delicious, but you will lose more of the spices in your pan before the fish is done.

      Thanks so much for your kind comments – it means a lot to me coming from such an accomplished and experienced blogger such as you!


  3. Amy jane says

    Tip. . well not sure it counts as a food tip, but perhaps just a health tip . . eat 1 fish oil tablet every day to get those omegas/essential good fat and to strengthen your heart! (that’s what I do! yay for having heart disease in your family ;)

  4. says

    You are right ~ I need to eat more fish! I heard somewhere that we need fish at least 2 times per week to get all those great omegas that we need. Thanks for the spice rub recipes!


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