Crunchy Baja Fish Tacos that are oven-baked instead of fried! These delicious fish tacos are easy to make and served with a delicious cabbage slaw and creamy fish taco sauce.
Living in Southern California for years, I fell in love with Baja Fish Tacos from the very first bite. With their super crispy exterior, crunchy cabbage slaw, and creamy sauce - there is nothing better.
That was until I decided to take some inspiration from my favorite baked crispy fish recipe and turn it into amazing tacos. And they are so good! The fish is crispy and flaky. And combined with fish taco slaw and creamy sauce, this meal is hard to beat..
3 Reasons To Love These Baja Fish Tacos
- Baked not fried: Although we love the crunch of traditionally fried tacos, these baked baja fish tacos still have tons of crunch without the mess and extra oil from frying.
- Easy to make: Once you have the breading station set up, these tacos come together quickly. The fish only takes about 8-10 minutes to cook, which is the perfect time to prep the toppings.
- Crunchy, creamy, spicy: These tacos are the perfect combination of crunch from the breading, creamy from the fish taco sauce, and the perfect amount of spice. They are seriously delicious.
What are Baja Fish Tacos
Baja Fish Tacos hail from Baja California, a northern state in Mexico that borders California. Most likely these fried fish tacos originated in Ensenada, which is why they are also sometimes called Ensenada fish tacos or Ensenada-style fish tacos.
Now let’s talk about these delicious fish tacos. Typically they are made with fresh white fish that is beer-battered and quickly fried. They can be served naked, but more typically are served with shredded cabbage or curtido, pico de gallo, and a creamy white sauce. They are almost always served in corn tortillas.
In terms of fish, normally they are made with whatever fresh fish is available. This includes cod, snapper, mahi mahi, angel shark, tilapia, halibut, catfish, bass, and other firm white fish.
Ingredients and Swaps
Here is everything you need to make these crunchy Baja fish tacos at home.
- White fish: The base of these tacos is the fish. Make sure to choose a white fish that is firm, lean, and flaky. It should be mild in flavor and it’s important that it isn’t mushy at all. The most popular fish for Baja-style fish tacos are cod, snapper, mahi mahi, tilapia, and halibut.
- Flour and egg: Flour and eggs help ensure that the breading sticks to the delicate fish. Regular all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour works best.
- Spices: It’s important to season the flour to make sure the fish is packed with flavor. I like to add chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. If you want an easier option, simply season the fish well with salt and pepper before breading. Or swap in fish taco seasoning, regular taco seasoning, or blackening seasoning.
- Panko breadcrumbs: For the crunchiest breading, Panko breadcrumbs are the best choice. Regular breadcrumbs can be used as well but the exterior won’t be quite as crisp.
- Corn tortillas: Corn tortillas are the most authentic option for fish tacos in Mexico. If you prefer flour tortillas, that works as well. Or swap in lettuce wraps, jicama wraps, or alternative tortillas.
- Cabbage Slaw: Although these tacos can be served with simple shredded cabbage, I like to add fish taco cabbage slaw for even more flavor. Use shredded red cabbage, green cabbage, or a combination. Then add some cilantro, lime juice, and green onions.
- Creamy white sauce: Typically in Baja California, fried fish tacos are served with a creamy white sauce made from mayonnaise, sour cream or Mexican crema, lime juice, and kosher salt. Some versions contain chipotle peppers, Parmesan cheese, and/or chile peppers as well.
- Shortcut idea: Although I love making these fish tacos from scratch, if you are in a rush, swap in your favorite store-bought fish sticks or breaded fish filets. Make them in the air fryer and brush with olive oil for extra crispiness.
How to Make Baja Fish Tacos (Baked and Fried Options)
The idea of breading your own fish can feel intimidating, but it is actually easy as long as you get everything organized.
1. Prep the fish
In order to make really crispy baked fish, it’s important to prep the fish. Start by drying the fish really well with paper towels. This is especially important if the fish was recently defrosted or rinsed with water.
Then cut into into strips or chunks. Typically baja fish tacos have 1-2 long pieces of fish, so I like to cut the fish into strips. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Set up the breading station
To make this process as painless as possible, set your breading station before starting everything. First set up a shallow plate with the flour and spice mixture. Next to that, place a shallow bowl with the egg.
Finish with a shallow plate with the Panko breadcrumbs. Place the prepared baking sheet at the end of your assembly line.
3. Bread the fish
Now it’s time to start breading the fish. Start by coating the fish on all sides with the flour mixture. Then gently dip the fish in the egg mixture, letting any excess egg drip off. Finish with the breadcrumbs on all sides.
Place the fish on the baking sheet in a single layer, with some space between each piece. Repeat until all the fish pieces are coated in breadcrumbs.
4. Oven “Fried” Fish
If you want to bake the fish, make sure your oven is preheated to 400 degrees. Then spray the fish with cooking spray or brush with oil. This helps the fish to get browned and crispy.
Place the fish in the oven and cook for 6 minutes on the first side. Then carefully flip the fish, and cook for another 4-6 minutes until it is nicely browned and the fish is flaky.
5. Oil Fried Fish
If you prefer a more authentic fried fish taco, start by adding about 1 inch of oil to a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Once the oil is hot and shimmering (about 350 degrees), add a few pieces of fish to the oil.
Fry for 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove the fish and place on paper towels or a rack to drain. Continue until all the fish is fried.
Note on beer batter: If you prefer a beer batter for your fish tacos, combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour with the spices listed below. Then whisk in 1 cup of Mexican beer until the batter is nice and smooth. Dip the fish into this batter and then fry. Beer batter doesn’t use any breadcrumbs.
Best Fish Taco Toppings
There are almost endless options when it comes to toppings, but these are our favorites.
- Homemade fish taco sauce
- Avocado or guacamole
- Pickled red onions
- Pico de gallo
- Grilled corn or Mexican street corn salad
- Cotija cheese
- Sour cream
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage
- Creamy chipotle sauce
- Habanero salsa
- Avocado Salsa Verde
- Lime juice
Tips for Crunchy Fish Tacos Every Time
There is nothing worse than a soggy fish taco, so it’s important to follow these tips to make sure your fish is golden brown and crispy every time.
- Make sure the fish is dry: Dry the fish really well before dipping it in the flour.
- Add toppings when serving: If you add coleslaw, fish taco sauce, salsa, and other toppings before it’s time to eat, the batter will get wet and soggy. Add the topping right before it's time to eat the fish tacos.
- Sift the flour: One tip I learned when breading fish (or anything for that matter) is to sift the flour. It adds air to the flour and keeps the batter light.
- Don’t crowd the pan: Whether you are baking the fish or frying it, do not overcrowd the pan. This fish needs space to get crispy.
Side Dishes for Fish Tacos
There are so many side dish options for fish tacos, but these are some of our favorites.
- Refried beans
- Black beans or pinto beans
- Mexican cauliflower rice
- Cilantro lime rice
- Mexican street corn
- Corn on the cob
- Black bean salad
- Frijoles charros
- Spicy cabbage and corn slaw
- Chips and salsa
Storage and Leftovers
Store leftover fish in an airtight container for up to 4 days. For best results, reheat it in a 400-degree oven for 5-7 minutes until heated through. It also reheats very well in the air fryer. Store fish taco slaw and sauce separately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making homemade baja-style fish tacos.
Almost any fish can be used for fish tacos, but the best options are firm white fish. Think about using fish like cod, halibut, mahi mahi, snapper, tilapia, or haddock.
There are many different versions of baja sauce, but the most common is a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream (or Mexican crema), Parmesan cheese, lime juice, jalapeno or chipotle pepper, salt, and pepper.
Baja Fish Tacos
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- 1.5 lbs cod (or other firm white fish like halibut, snapper, tilapia, etc)
- 3 tbsp white whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 egg, whisked
- 3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 8 corn tortillas
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Set up the breading station with the fish, flour, and spice mixture, whisked egg, and breadcrumbs. Have a baking sheet with parchment paper ready. Then dip the fish into the flour so it is fully coated. Then dip in the egg so it is coated on all sides. Then cover with Panko breadcrumbs and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with all the fish. Spray the fish with olive oil cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil to help the breadcrumbs get crispy and brown.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
Fish taco slaw: Combine 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (or mayo), 1/4 cup Mexican crema (or sour cream), 1 lime (juice and zest), 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper in a large bowl. Then add 3 cups green cabbage, 3 cups purple cabbage, 1/3 cup cilantro, and 2 chopped green onions. Stir to combine.
Fish taco sauce: Blend 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt for a thinner sauce), 1/3 cup Mexican crema (or mayonnaise or sour cream), 1 tbsp honey, 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo (adjust to taste, just use the sauce for less heat), juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 small clove), and salt to taste.
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