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How to Make Fish Tacos

Tacos are always a family favorite, and now fish tacos are a popular and good option for adding fish to your diet. Learn to fry, bake, or grill the fish and serve it with a variety of tasty flavors.

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What Are Fish Tacos?

Probably the most iconic version of this Baja California specialty consists of a corn tortilla filled with strips of deep-fried, mild-flavor whitefish and a cabbage mixture similar to coleslaw, although some aficionados prefer lettuce to the cabbage mixture. Pico de gallo and avocado are standard accompaniments. Given the popularity of regional Mexican food in recent years, fish tacos have become increasingly common on the restaurant scene. Now, home cooks are discovering how easy they are to make. Here is what you will need to make 6 servings (2 tacos each) of the classic street-food version:

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen firm-flesh whitefish fillets, such as cod, red snapper, halibut, tilapia, or catfish
  • Cabbage mixture (see recipe below)
  • Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed according to package directions
continue reading below

1. How to Cook the Fish.

A great fish taco starts with well-prepared fish. Regardless of the method you choose, first thaw the fish, if frozen. Rinse the fish under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Deep-frying the fish is the most authentic method, but there are easier, less messy ways to go. Here are some options:

Battered, Deep-Fried Fish

  • Cut fish into bite-size strips, about 3/4 inch wide.
  • In a small bowl combine 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1 tablespoon paprika, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Add 1 cup beer and 1 egg that has been lightly beaten. Stir until the batter is combined but still slightly lumpy.  
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. In a large skillet,= heat about 1 inch of cooking oil to 375 degrees F.
  • Place an additional 3/4 cup all-purpose flour in a shallow dish. Dip the fish pieces, one at a time, into the flour, turning to coat and shaking off excess flour. Next, dip each piece into the batter. Fry fish, four pieces at a time, in hot oil for 2 to 4 minutes or until crisp and golden, turning once halfway through frying time. Drain on several layers of paper towels. Keep fried fish warm in the oven while frying remaining fish.

Rub for Baked or Grilled Fish

In a small bowl stir together 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Set aside.

Baked Fish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the fish in a single layer on a greased shallow baking pan. Brush the rub on all sides of the fish. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes (for 1/2-inch-thick fish fillets) or until fish just begins to flake when tested with a fork. Cut fish into bite-size pieces.   

Grilled Fish

Brush the rub on all sides of the fish. For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 4 to 6 minutes (for 1/2-inch thick fillets) or until fish just begins to flake when tested with a fork, turning fish once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on greased grill rack over heat. If desired, wrap tortillas in a foil packet and grill alongside the fish. Cover and grill as directed.) Cut fish into bite-size pieces.

In a medium bowl stir together 2 cups packaged coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, and 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice.

3. Assemble the Fish Tacos.

To serve, divide the fish into six portions and halve each portion to get 12 pieces. Fill each corn tortilla with 1 piece of fish and 2 to 3 tablespoons cabbage topping. Serve with one or more of the following accompaniments:

  • Pico de gallo
  • Chopped tomatoes and crisp cooked bacon
  • Avocado slices or guacamole
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • A mixture of black beans, corn, and tomatoes
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