Habanero Cheese Grits With Pan-Blackened Fish Recipe

pan blackened fish with grits
Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD
Total Time: 50 min
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Servings: 4

Nutrition Highlights (per serving)

410 calories
19g fat
26g carbs
36g protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving  
Calories 410
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 75mg 25%
Sodium 560mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 4g  
Includes 0g Added Sugars 0%
Protein 36g  
Vitamin D 1mcg 5%
Calcium 171mg 13%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 900mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Pan-blackening is an easy stovetop technique for preparing fish. Made with olive oil, as ours is, pan-blackening is a healthy alternative to deep-frying and can be used with any type of fish fillet.

Pan-blackened fish is paired here with spicy habanero cheese grits and with fresh vegetables to cool things down a bit. Pumpkin seeds and avocados can be included on a low-FODMAP diet when they are used as garnishes rather than main ingredients. Delicious!


  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound cod or another firm white fish (four 4-ounce fillets)
  • 2 1/4 cups reduced-sodium, low-FODMAP chicken broth (no garlic or onions)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked corn grits
  • 1/2 cup shredded habanero cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced Romaine lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens (green part only)
  • 1/2 medium avocado, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, in wedges


  1. In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, ground chile, ground mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt.

  2. Sprinkle the spice mixture on both sides of each fish fillet. Spread the mixture evenly to the edges of each piece.

  3. In a medium saucepan, stir together the chicken broth and grits; cover the pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the grits to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook the grits, stirring occasionally, until they are thickened and tender about 20 minutes. Remove pot from the heat, add half of the habanero cheddar, and stir until the cheese is melted.

  4. While the grits are cooking, in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, warm the garlic-infused oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil in the pan is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water, add the fish fillets. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until thin edges become pale and opaque, then flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Check each fillet at its thickest point to be sure that it is done all the way through. Cooked fish is a solid white color and flakes apart easily. For best results, the entire surface of each fillet should make contact with the pan, so you may wish to cook the fish in two batches.

  5. In each of 4 bowls, place a mound of cheese grits to one side. On the other side, arrange the lettuce and tomatoes. Top the vegetables with the cooked fish. To garnish, sprinkle each bowl with 1/4 of the remaining habanero cheddar, scallions, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Serve with wedges of lime.

Ingredient Variations and Substitutions

In addition to cod, thin fillets of tilapia, haddock, catfish, or sole can be used for this recipe.

If you don't care for spicy food, substitute plain cheddar cheese for the habanero cheddar.

For a dairy-free dish, omit the cheese. Instead stir 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes into the grits, or more to taste.

Cooking and Serving Tips

Purchase fresh or "previously frozen" fish on the day you plan to serve it. If using frozen fish fillets, remove them from the freezer the night before and allow them to thaw in the refrigerator until it is time to prepare the meal.

Grits might take more or less time to cook, depending upon how finely they are ground. Defer to the cooking time suggested on product packaging, if available.

This recipe yields 4 s servings, each offering 3 ounces fish, 1/2 cup grits, and 1 3/4 cups salad.

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By Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD
Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD, is a nutrition expert with expertise in GI disorders. She is a leader in using the FODMAP approach with IBS patients.