Cocoa-Rubbed Fish With Fresh Oranges and Crunchy Benne Seeds

Cocoa-orange fish being prepared
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
6 servings

Cocoa powder transforms both savoury and sweet dishes. Its luxurious earthiness adds depth to proteins, like the fish in this recipe. Be sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder; swapping out the benne seeds with sesame seeds and maple sugar with light brown sugar is fine. Any variety of hot chile flakes works here, too. Other fish fillets, such as wild Alaskan salmon or snapper, can be substituted for catfish.

Related: Our Most Popular Fish Recipes

Black Food by Bryant Terry Cookbook

Reprinted with permission from BLACK FOOD: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House.

Photographs copyright © 2021 Oriana Koren

Black Food:  Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora, Amazon, $54

Love this cocoa-orange fish recipe? Try one of these whole fish recipes next!




Cocoa Rub

Tbsp kosher salt
tsp benne seeds
tsp dried bird’s eye chile flakes
Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
tsp maple sugar
tsp caraway seeds


lb oranges (about 2 medium)
lbs catfish fillets
Tbsp olive oil


Step 1

To make the rub: In a large bowl, combine all of the rub ingredients and mix well. This seasoning can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.

Step 2

To prepare the fish: Slice the oranges into 12 slices and set aside.

Step 3

Adjust the oven rack to the top position and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Step 4

Carefully rinse the fish and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Place the fish on a large sheet pan and liberally sprinkle both sides with the rub. Drizzle with the oil, then place the orange slices on top of the catfish fillets.

Step 5

Place the sheet pan on the top rack and roast until the catfish is moist and gently flakes, about 8 minutes. (If using a thicker variety of fish such as salmon, the cooking time will be about 12 minutes.)

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