Fish Tacos

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Our absolute favorite fully loaded Fish Tacos! These tacos start with charred tortillas and are loaded up with robustly seasoned, flaky fish. They’re topped with a quick pico and creamy seasoned cilantro-lime sauce.

Love tacos as much as we do? Stick around for some other favorites! Try these chicken tacos, steak tacos, and healthy tacos.

 

Overhead view of two Fish Tacos.

Fish Tacos

The best fish tacos I’ve ever tasted came from a restaurant where I used to work. While the menu has changed a lot over the years, the fish taco recipe has remained the same– because it’s hugely popular. I’ve put my own spin on their recipe, making it a bit healthier by pan-searing the fish instead of deep-frying.

Other than that, the components are similar — charred corn tortillas, a saucy slaw, cilantro-lime rice, delectably seasoned fish, a quick pico de gallo topping, and a spiced sauce to finish everything off. It sounds like a lot, but I promise these fish tacos to come together quicker than you’d think and they are so worth it! In fact, we like them even better than the “famous” restaurant version. 

A lot of the ingredients overlap and the sauce serves dual purposes; it’s used to coat the slaw as well as top the tacos (just like in this mega-popular shrimp tacos recipe!).

Below, I’ll break down all the components of these fish tacos and offer a few short-cut preparation ideas and tips/tricks. 

Process shots: combine marinade ingredients; combine seasoning blend and mix into the marinade; add fish and let flavors mingle; cook the marinated fish and slice thinly for tacos.

The fish

Let’s start with fish. Don’t feel bad about using frozen fillets; did you know that 99% of the fish you find at the store–even at the seafood counter–was flash-frozen on the boat, the moment it was caught? Frozen fish is often ‘fresher’ than the other options!

  • If using frozen, be sure to thaw the fish overnight in the fridge. If you forget to thaw the fish overnight, it thaws quickly in cold water (here’s a quick how to)
  • Our favorite fish in these tacos is Mahi Mahi. Cod or tilapia also work well, but the cooking time will slightly vary.
  • Don’t marinate for too long. Fish is much more delicate than beef or chicken so if it is marinated for too long in this citrus-based marinade, the marinade will “cook” the fish (you’ll end up with ceviche!).

QUICK TIP

How do you know if your fish is fully cooked? The best way to tell is by testing it with a fork. Pierce the fish at an angle, at the thickest point, and twist gently. The fish flakes easily when it’s done and it will have also lost its translucent (raw) appearance. A good rule of thumb is to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees.

Process shots: all ingredients for the fish taco sauce placed in the food processor; a bowl of thinly sliced cabbage; add half of the taco sauce to the cabbage; toss to make a tasty slaw; create seasoned rice by adding lime zest and juice to cooked rice; stir to combine.

Fish Taco toppings

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how many of the ingredients overlap into the different toppings so there aren’t random bits of leftover ingredients. It’s a recipe where we use all of the cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, etc., not just a few tablespoons of everything. That makes me smile! Keep that in mind when looking at the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Since so many of the ingredients (particularly the seasonings) overlap from sauce to fish, I’ve listed them separately by use for clearer reading. 

  • Rice: We love rice in these tacos, but you can always leave it out. If you have leftover rice from a different recipe, here’s the perfect place to use it. 
    • To save prep time, we boil the rice instead of steaming it (6 minutes of cooking time!). Make sure to use basmati rice for this method to work.
    • Alternatively, purchase pre-cooked rice from the grocery store! Just warm it through and stir in some lime juice and zest. 
  • “Cheater” pico de gallo: Because we don’t want to overcomplicate this topping, we aren’t making an authentic pico de gallo. Instead, we use tomatoes and then the leftover cilantro and jalapeños from the sauce and leftover lime juice from the marinade. 
    • To save prep time, use pre-made pico de gallo from the store. Be sure to check the package to see if it is mild, medium, or spicy and then pick your preferred heat.
  • Saucy slaw: The slaw is simple — thinly sliced cabbage and half of the fish taco sauce (discussed below).
    • To save prep time, use pre-shredded cabbage (usually next to packaged lettuce mixes and coleslaw mix in the grocery store). 
  • Cotija or queso cotija: The sprinkle of cheese on top adds a subtle flavor, but most importantly, it finishes the seasoning on these tacos. Cotija is a salty cheese and gives these tacos that finishing punch of seasoning. If you aren’t using this cheese, I recommend adding a sprinkle of salt to the top of these tacos (to taste).

Save more prep time

  • Use a juicer. There is a lot of citrus in this recipe, so save time by using already juiced citrus or if you use citrus often, I recommend a good juicer; we have this one and love it! It will get you plenty of lime juice in mere minutes.
  • And a microplane.  With a good amount of lime zest in the recipe, the microplane makes everything easier and quicker.
  • Prep the sauce ahead of time. Breaking up the prep time always makes dinner assembly that much easier, plus the sauce has a chance to intensify in flavor. While you’re whipping together the sauce, make the marinade and store both in the fridge. Come dinner time, the rest of the prep will fly by!

Process shots: make cheater pico by mixing diced cherry tomatoes, cilantro, lime, salt and pepper; assemble tacos with the pico on top.

Fish Taco sauce

The sauce on these tacos coats the slaw and tops the tacos. It’s a total home-run sauce; we love it! While there are a good amount of ingredients, overall, it’s very simple to make. Everything goes into the food processor and pulse it until you’ve got the perfect fish taco sauce. A few notes:

  • We’ve tried regular, lite, and fat-free sour cream and there isn’t a very noticeable difference, so if you’re looking to cut some calories and/or fat, use fat-free sour cream.
  • We love Hellman’s/Best Foods® mayonnaise in the sauce (not sponsored). It has a robust flavor without being too sweet.
  • As for spiciness, I’d rate the sauce as mild with a tiny kick. If you like it extra mild, reduce or omit the jalapeño pepper and be sure to use McCormick® seasonings (we find them very mild). Alternatively, amp up the heat by adding in more jalapeño. You could also add in 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to increase the heat even more.

Overhead, up-close image of the finished Fish Tacos.

Corn tortillas

While I am a big fan of flour tortillas, I do think corn works best for these fish tacos. And charring the tortillas does so much for the flavor of the tortillas and texture of the taco as a whole.

Here’s how I quick-char the tortillas: Spray both sides of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and char the tortillas directly over the gas flames for a few seconds. Use tongs to flip until tortillas are lightly charred and soft. Immediately fold the tortilla in half (so it will fold into a taco nicely later) and set aside.

close-up view of Fish Tacos with all the toppings added.

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Fish Tacos

0 from 0 votes
Our absolute favorite, fully loaded Fish Tacos! These tacos start with charred tortillas and are loaded up with robustly seasoned, flaky fish. They're topped with a quick pico and creamy seasoned cilantro-lime sauce.
Print Recipe

Fish Tacos

0 from 0 votes
Our absolute favorite, fully loaded Fish Tacos! These tacos start with charred tortillas and are loaded up with robustly seasoned, flaky fish. They're topped with a quick pico and creamy seasoned cilantro-lime sauce.
Course Dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword fish tacos
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 780kcal

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 large lime (3 tablespoons juice + 1/2 teaspoon zest)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 of 1 large bunch of cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper (See Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup EACH: mayonnaise and sour cream (fat-free or lite works great)
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH: fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: paprika, ground chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, garlic powder

Fish

  • 12 ounces Mahi-mahi (or cod or tilapia)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil separated
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar not packed
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon EACH: paprika, ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt

Taco Toppings

  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 large avocado thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice (+ 1 large lime) optional
  • 1 cup diced cherry tomatoes + 2 tablespoons minced cilantro and any leftover jalapeño from the sauce if desired
  • 10-12 small extra thin corn tortillas (Mission makes these)
  • Queso cotija cheese
  • Optional: olive oil cooking spray, additional lime wedges, additional cilantro

Instructions

  • SAUCE: Add the lime juice and zest to a small blender or mini food processor along with the minced garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, mayo, sour cream, salt pepper, paprika, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder (see note 1). Pulse or blend until smooth. Give it a quick taste test and adjust as desired (extra jalapeño, extra salt/pepper, etc.)
  • SLAW: Add the thinly sliced cabbage to a bowl. Toss with half of the sauce and refrigerate to soften. Place the remaining sauce in the fridge to chill while preparing the rest of this dish.
  • (OPTIONAL) RICE: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water (I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt). Add the basmati rice and boil for 6 minutes (only basmati rice works well for this cooking method). Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add in the juice and zest of a lime and set aside.
  • MARINATE FISH: While the rice cooks, add all of the marinade ingredients (3 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and seasonings) to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add fish (completely thawed if frozen) to a shallow dish in a single layer. Spoon marinade evenly over all the fish. Marinate at room temperature for no more than 15-20 minutes.
  • COOK FISH: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, gently add fish, spooning any leftover marinade over the fish, and cook for about 3 – 4 minutes per side (6-8 minutes total) or until cooked to desired doneness (cook time will vary based on thickness of fish). The fish is done when it flakes easily. Remove fish to a cutting board and let cool slightly before slicing for the tacos.
  • CHEATER PICO: Dice the cherry tomatoes and add to a bowl. Add the minced cilantro and any leftover jalapeño from the sauce (if desired). Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime. Toss and set aside.
  • ASSEMBLY: Char the corn tortillas (See Note 2). Add the slaw and then a spoonful of rice. Add the fish next and pico on top. Top with thinly sliced avocado, extra cilantro if desired and a sprinkle of queso cotija if desired. If not adding the cheese, you may want an extra sprinkle of salt. Drizzle more sauce on top of the tacos and enjoy immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Add more of the jalapeño for a spicier sauce, and it add slowly if you're concerned about the heat. Overall, I'd rate the sauce as mild with a tiny kick. If you're worried about heat, reduce or omit the jalapeño and be sure to use McCormick® seasonings (we find them very mild). Alternatively, amp up the heat by adding in more jalapeño. You could also add in 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to increase the heat.
Note 2: Spray both sides of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and char the tortillas directly over the gas flames for a few seconds. Use tongs to flip until tortillas are lightly charred and soft. Immediately fold the tortilla in half (so it will fold into a taco nicely later) and set aside.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 780kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 1159mg | Potassium: 1043mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1915IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 6mg

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