These Mexican-style Baja Fish tacos are fast and easy to make year-round because they’re pan-fried, not grilled. They feature seasoned, lean, white fish, flour or corn tortillas, and a flavorful cabbage slaw drizzled with Greek yogurt crema.
I remember the first time I ever heard of a fish taco. My parents and youngest brother moved from Chicago to San Diego in the late 80s, and the first time we visited, they raved about the fish tacos at this little place called Rubios. The owner brought the recipe to Southern California from Mexico. I had recently moved from Chicago to Boston and couldn’t even fathom the thought of fish on a taco.
What. The. Heck? To me, tacos were still something of a meal that came out of a yellow box. You added ground beef, shredded cheese, some lettuce, and voila!
How times (and tastebuds) have changed! I’m pretty sure you can find fish tacos on menus across the country today. They’re also very easy to make at home. Here’s what you should know.
What Are Fish Tacos?
As the name suggests, they are tacos made with fish. They’re a nice twist on traditional beef, chicken, or bean tacos. Fish tacos are super easy to make and light and healthy tasting. You can grill, pan-fry, or batter and fry your fish before adding it to a warm tortilla.
These tacos are delicious with mango salsa or pico de Gallo.
Traditionally, fish tacos are topped with a shredded cabbage slaw and a drizzle of Mexican Crema, a cool, creamy yogurt or sour cream-based sauce. If you don’t feel like chopping cabbage, just grab a bag of shredded cabbage in the produce department.
What Kind of Fish is Best?
There are no rules about the kind of fish to use! Any of these work well:
- Lean white fish like cod, flounder, haddock, Mahi-mahi, or tilapia
- Shrimp or lobster
A firm fish works best when grilling your fish because it holds together better. Thin, lean fish like flounder can be hard to grill because it tends to fall through the grates.
I prefer a white fish in my fish tacos, and to get around the grilling problem, I pan-fry mine. A cast iron grill pan works beautifully.
I also discovered that my Panini Press works well too. Both are quick and easy ways to cook the fish and the tortillas. Nothing falls through the grill, cleanup is easy, and you’ll get those nice grill marks on your tortillas.
I’ve included ingredients and quick recipes for the pico de Gallo, cabbage slaw, and crema below. But if you don’t want to prepare these from scratch, here are some time-saving hacks for these.
- Instead of making pico de Gallo, check the prepared produce department for a container of pico de Gallo (or fruit salsa). You can also use jarred or fresh roasted salsa in a pinch.
- If you don’t feel like shredding cabbage, grab a bag of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix from the produce department. Then, add the chopped red onion (or a scallion), cilantro, honey and lime juice.
- Mexican crema is so good and refreshing, so I hope you don’t skip it! But if you want a shortcut, look for a good-quality chipotle ranch salad dressing. Or just use plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Baja Fish Tacos
- 1 lbs tilapia or firm white fish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 salt or to taste
- 4 flour or corn tortillas 8 inches in diameter
- 2 cups shredded Napa Cabbage
- 2 tsp lime juice
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 Tbs minced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
Pico de Gallo
- 1 large tomato seeded and diced
- 1/2 small red onion diced
- 1/2 jalapeño minced
- 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- zest and juice of 1/2 lime
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- optional – 1 Tbs chopped cilantro
- Season the Fish
- Combine the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder and salt in a bowl.
- Coat the fish with the rub/marinade and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make Pico de Gallo (if desired) and Cabbage Slaw.
- Pico de Gallo
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir to combine, season with salt and pepper.
- Let sit at room temperature, for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
- Cabbage Slaw
- Combine lime juice, honey, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Toss with shredded cabbage, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Zest and juice 1/2 lime.
- Stir yogurt and honey into zest and juice.
- Add salt to taste, and cilantro if desired.
- Heat a large nonstick pan, or a panini press to medium-high heat. Grill the fish on the first side over direct heat, until the fish starts to turn opaque – 2-3 minutes.
- Turn the fish, and grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes more.
- Remove the fish from the pan and set aside on a plate.
- Grill the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side, or until they have light grill marks, and are heated through on both sides.
- To serve, center 1 piece of fish on each tortilla, top with Cabbage Slaw, and Pico de Gallo.
- Add a dollop of Mexican Crema, fold in half, and serve immediately.
Do you ever make fish tacos?