Fish tacos are a fresh, flavorful, and vibrant meal that highlights the bold flavors of Mexico! Flaky cod is coated in a dry spice rub, then pan-seared until crispy, flaky, and tender. Serve it inside warm corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, lime, and cilantro for the ultimate meal!
Fish tacos are a quintessential Mexican dish that is especially popular in places like Ensenada on the west coast. A typical fish taco features grilled or fried fish stuffed into a corn tortilla with cabbage, fresh herbs, salsa, and Mexican crema.
That’s exactly what we’ve done in this recipe! These classic fish tacos are made with flaky white fish fillets seasoned with a homemade fish taco spice rub, which adds smoky, savory, and spicy elements.
Finish your tacos off in Mexican fashion with a squeeze of lime to provide brightness and zest. Each bite is crispy, tender, spicy, and irresistible. Add some fish taco slaw and fish taco sauce for even more flavor!
This dish is perfect for a quick and easy weeknight dinner, entertaining guests, or a classic taco night.
Mexican seafood lovers will also want to try these Shrimp Tacos with Slaw, Ceviche Tostadas, and Blackened Fish Tacos.
Why You’ll Love These Fish Tacos
- Healthy: Compared to beer-battered Baja fish tacos, this recipe is much healthier. White fish is a great source of lean protein and the fish tacos are piled high with light, healthy garnishes.
- Affordable: Using a white fish variety like cod, red snapper, or tilapia keeps the cost of this recipe down. The other ingredients are also widely available and inexpensive in most places.
- Versatile: Switch up the fish or toppings, serve it as a bowl, or add any sauce you’d like. There are endless ways to make these fish tacos your own!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make the best fish tacos at home.
- Cod: Our favorite choice is cod for a rich, flaky, and tender fish taco filling. If you can’t find any, the closest replacement is haddock since it’s part of the same family. You can also use red snapper, tilapia, halibut, or other white fish varieties.
- Spices: The combination of chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper creates a spicy, savory, and slightly earthy fish rub. If you’re sensitive to spice, omit the cayenne.
- Olive oil: To sear the cod and add a rich flavor. Avocado oil or sunflower oil also work.
- Lime juice: Adds a bright, tangy, and citrusy element that complements the codfish perfectly. If you don’t have any limes on hand, use lemon juice instead.
- Corn tortillas: Store-bought or homemade corn tortillas are both great options. Just make sure to warm or toast them before serving! Swap in flour tortillas or lettuce wraps if you prefer.
- Taco Toppings: Like any delicious taco, the toppings are a huge part of what makes these tacos so good. Go classic with cabbage slaw or get more creative with toppings like mango salsa, cotija cheese, homemade lime crema, pickled red onions, or habanero salsa.
How to Make Fish Tacos
These tacos couldn’t be easier to make. Follow these simple steps and have delicious homemade fish tacos on the table in less than 20 minutes.
1. Make the Fish Taco Seasoning
Combine the spices and generously rub the mixture all over the cod or other white fish. Make sure it’s really rubbed on the fish for the most flavor penetration.
2. Cook the Fish: Four Options
There are so many ways to cook fish for these tacos.
- Skillet: Cook the fish in a heavy-bottomed skillet with some olive oil. Don’t touch the filets for about 2-3 minutes, or you run the risk of them sticking. You want a nice crust to form before flipping and cooking them on the other side.
- Grill: This fish comes out great on the grill. Since fish sometimes sticks to the grill or falls apart, we recommend cooking fish with the skin. If the fish is skinless, cook the fish on a piece of foil or use a grill pan. Cook the fish for about 3 minutes per side until it is cooked through and flaky. The exact cooking time is very dependent on the thickness of the filets. Thicker fillets will take longer.
- Oven: Another easy option for cooking fish is the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the fish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the fish for 8-12 minutes until opaque and flaky.
- Air fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. Cook for fish for 8-10 minutes until the filet is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.
- How to know when the fish is done: You’ll know they are done when they turn opaque and flaky. Once cooked, we love to add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brighten the flavor.
3. Assemble the tacos
Warm the corn tortillas in a dry skillet on the stove or wrapped in a towel in the microwave, then fill them with a piece of cooked fish. Serve your fish tacos immediately with your favorite toppings (see below for ideas).
Fish Taco Topping Ideas
For traditional fish taco flavors, you can’t go wrong with a handful of shredded green or red cabbage, fresh cilantro, fish taco sauce, or creamy chipotle sauce.
You can also experiment with different toppings like:
- Diced tomatoes
- Red or green salsa
- Avocado or guacamole
- Sour cream, Greek yogurt, Mexican crema, or a thin layer of mayo to balance the spice
- Pickled red onions
- Pineapple salsa
- Corn salsa
- Shrimp taco sauce (also tastes great with fish!)
To bulk these tacos up, pair them with a side of Mexican cauliflower rice or refried beans. They are also delicious with black beans, charro beans, or cilantro lime rice.
During summer months, we almost always serve these tacos with some Mexican street corn or street corn salad.
Storage and Reheating
If you end up with leftover fish tacos, here’s what to do:
- Fridge: Store the fish in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Keep the toppings and tortillas in separate containers.
- Freezer: You can freeze cooked fish for up to 3 months in the freezer. Just make sure it cools completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe bag or container.
- Reheating: To reheat the fish, add it to a skillet on low-medium until it’s heated through.
Recipe Ideas and Variations
There are so many ways to customize these tacos and make them your own.
- Baja-style: For Baja-style fish tacos, dip strips of fish in beer batter and fry them until crispy. Or lightly bread them in panko breadcrumbs and bake them in the oven. Top each taco with pico de gallo, cabbage slaw, and creamy chipotle sauce.
- Low-carb: Instead of corn tortillas, try serving the fish inside of lettuce wraps for a low-carb option.
- Make a bowl: If you don’t feel like tacos, swap out the tortillas for a bowl of rice, beans, fish, and garnishes.
- Shrimp: Instead of fish, try making these tacos with shrimp or another type of seafood. Follow the same instructions for cooking.
Tips for Making Fish Tacos
Don’t miss these tips to ensure the tacos turn out great every time.
- Choose firm fish: Use a firm white fish variety like cod, haddock, or red snapper so it holds up better during cooking and flakes easily.
- Don’t overcook: The fish should be opaque and flaky but still moist on the inside. Overcooking will result in a tough fish taco.
- Warm the tortillas: Don’t forget to warm the corn tortillas. This will greatly improve the overall taste and texture!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this fish taco recipe.
Can I make the tacos ahead of time?
We don’t recommend making these fish tacos ahead of time since they are designed to be eaten fresh. The fish and toppings will turn soggy and the tortillas will become hard again.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, this recipe is completely gluten-free since it’s made with corn tortillas and the fish isn’t breaded.
Can I use other fish to make these fish tacos?
Yes, you can use any fish you would like to make fish tacos. We suggest cod, haddock, snapper, halibut, tilapia, flounder, or even salmon, like in these salmon tacos.
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- 1 lb cod (or other white fish like red snapper)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/16 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 8 corn tortillas (warmed or toasted)
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage (or green)
- 1/4 cup cilantro
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- Nutritional Information
* 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.
These tacos can be made with any white fish fillets including snapper, halibut, haddock, or tilapia. You can also make these tacos with shrimp, salmon, or scallops.
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