Fish Tacos

Fish tacos recipe prepared with fresh fish fillets, corn tortillas, salsa, avocado, and coleslaw.

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Photography Credit: Jaden Hair

In Mexico, practically every meal is accompanied by a stack of fresh warm corn tortillas, much in the way that bread is served here in America. As you eat, you can wrap whatever is on your plate in a fresh tortilla, and voilá, you have a taco.

Almost everything tastes good in a taco smothered with fresh salsa, and that goes for fish as well. Preparing a taco is much like preparing a sandwich; it’s all in the assembly. For these fish tacos you will be preparing and then assembling the fish, the tortillas, the salsa, and the cabbage or lettuce.

Fish Tacos Recipe

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  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of very fresh fish fillets - (Good fish for tacos are firm fish like swordfish or halibut)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 doz corn tortillas (3 tortillas per person)
  • Vegetable oil or butter (optional, depending on how you heat your tortillas)
  • Cabbage (or iceberg lettuce)
  • Cider vinegar
  • Salt

Method

1 Prepare the salsa: Either use store bought or make your own. (See above link for Mango Salsa, which is especially good with fish.)

2 Prepare the cabbage and avocado: Thinly slice cabbage. Put in a small serving bowl. Sprinkle with cider vinegar (about a Tbsp) and salt (about a tsp). Mix in the vinegar and salt. Peel avocado and remove seed. Chop and reserve for later.

3 Heat the tortillas: Unless you have made fresh tortillas from scratch, you will need to soften them somehow. One way to easily soften and heat a tortilla to simply heat it in the microwave for 20-25 seconds on high heat, on top of a napkin or paper towel to absorb the moisture that is released. We often will heat two tortillas at once in the microwave, heating them for a total of 40 seconds.

Another way is to heat a well seasoned (black) large cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or spread a half a teaspoon of butter on one side of one tortilla. Place tortilla in the pan (butter side down if you are using butter).

As the tortilla sizzles, flip the tortilla with a spatula so that the other side gets some of the oil or butter from the pan. Continue to flip every 10-30 seconds until the tortillas begins to develop air pockets, about a minute. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the temperature.

You can skip the butter or oil if you wish and just heat the tortillas up on the skillet without them. We have found that the flavor of packaged tortillas benefits from heating them with a bit of oil.

Remove the tortilla from the pan and place it folded on a plate. If the pan is large enough you can prepare two or more tortillas at once. Continue until all the tortillas (estimate 3 per person) are cooked. Set aside.

4 Cook the fish: Rinse the fish fillets in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a large stick-free skillet to medium high heat. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Place fish on skillet.

Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillets. A thin fillet may take only one minute on each side to cook. A thicker fillet may take a couple of minutes. Fish should be still barely translucent when cooked.

Break off a piece and test if you are not sure. Do not overcook the fish. Remove from pan when done to a separate plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5 Assemble the fish tacos: I think tacos are best when you assemble them yourself. Place the plate of tortillas, the plate of fish, the salsa, the cabbage, and the avocados on the table and let everyone assemble their own.

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Showing 4 of 34 Comments

  • SUZIE BELL

    these are absolutely delicious and i don’t live in baja! all fish are soaked in cold water for the final cleansing! very very good!

  • LJ

    I’m glad to see you used corn tortillas in your recipe. Traditional Baja Fish Tacos are NEVER served in flour tortillas!

  • jo

    I am road testing recipes tonight as a test run for The hungry Traveler class next week.
    I’m following your slaw instructions but since only have 1 microwave in the pro kitchen and 10 kids to make tacos, i was going to try something I had seen before about lightly sprinkling them with a tiny bit of water, stacking them together, wrapping in foil and then tossing in a low oven as the fish cooks. Cross your fingers.
    All the research I have seen for baja, which is the kind I am trying for does have the white sauce. I bought crema at my local store that has a great Spanish section and I might try the other persons suggestion about pureeing it with some chile. In a nod to my British husband I am frying the fish (halibut filet) in beer batter.
    Thanks for your suggestions everyone!

  • neal

    Why do you soak the fish in cold water before cooking?

  • elise

    Tim – I’m so glad you liked it!

    Neal – the fish handlers at Whole Foods, where we buy our fish, recommend that one soaks the fish in cold water before cooking as a final cleaning for the fish.

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Fish Tacos