Baja Fish Tacos

baja-fish-tacos-2

Many years ago, Michael and I rented a convertible and drove up the California coast. One of our favorite stops was La Jolla, where we strolled around town and stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant with great food and breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean. I don’t know if it was the scenery, the margaritas, or the fact that we were on vacation, but the fish tacos were out of this world. To recreate them at home, I came up with this version made of crispy beer-battered cod tucked into corn tortillas with a cabbage slaw and smoky chipotle sauce. I’m happy to say they come pretty darn close!

What I love about this recipe is that it’s easy enough for a weeknight dinner but also festive enough for company. You can prepare most of it ahead of time, and then just lay out all of the components for everyone to help themselves. Most of the ingredients are pretty straightforward, except maybe the canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. If you’ve never had them, get ready to add a new staple to your pantry! They’re small peppers (usually red jalapeños) that have been dried and smoked, and they come in a spicy tomato sauce that has a smoky flavor. You can find them in the Latin section of most supermarkets.

Begin by making the slaw, which is a combination of shredded red cabbage (which you can buy pre-shredded in a bag), chopped red onions, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, oil and salt.

Next, make the chipotle sauce by combining the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, mayonnaise, lime juice and garlic in a mini food processor or blender. I use three peppers for a spicy sauce; of course, use less if you prefer a milder sauce.

When you’re ready to fry the fish, prepare the beer batter by whisking together the flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Slowly pour in the beer, whisking all the while.

Cut the cod into 1-inch wide x 4-inch long strips.

Then dip the fish into the beer batter.

Pan-fry the fish until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. As you can see, there’s no need to deep fry the fish. I use about a 1/2-inch of oil, which is plenty as long as you flip the fish midway through.

If you’re wondering if you can skip the beer batter and frying altogether and just grill or pan-sear the fish, the answer is yes but the tacos won’t be nearly as good. Fried fish has a wonderfully crispy texture and depth of flavor that really can’t be achieved any other way. It’s worth it! Plus, even fried, the tacos are still amazingly light and fresh.

When the fish is golden brown, drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Warm up the corn tortillas (I do it in the microwave), then assemble the tacos with a generous amount of chipotle sauce, a heap of cabbage slaw and a piece of crispy cod. Serve with lime wedges, lots of napkins and enjoy!

For a party, serve with Margaritas, Roasted Garlic Guacamole and Roasted Tomato Salsa with tortilla chips, and Tres Leches Cake.

The slaw and chipotle sauce for this recipe are adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Baja Fish Tacos

Print Recipe
Servings: 4
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cabbage Slaw

  • 5 cups (or one 10-ounce bag) shredded red cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Chipotle Sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from one lime
  • 2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (canned), roughly chopped, plus 1-2 teaspoons sauce (see note below)
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped

For the Beer Batter

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup beer

For the Fish and Tortillas

  • 1-1/2 pounds skinless cod, cut into 1-inch wide x 4-inch long strips
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas, warmed
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Toss the cabbage, red onion, cilantro, vinegar, oil and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotle chiles with sauce and garlic in a blender or mini food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Gradually add the beer, whisking until the batter is smooth with no lumps. Set aside.
  4. In a medium skillet, over medium heat, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1/2-inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F, or when the end of a wooden spoon sizzles when dipped into the oil.
  5. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, dip the fish strips in the beer batter and coat on both sides. Let the excess batter drip off, then fry the fish in the hot oil until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  6. Smear each tortilla with a generous amount of the chipotle sauce, then top with the cabbage slaw. Lay one piece of fish inside each tortilla and serve with lime wedges.
  7. Note: 3 chipotle peppers and 2 teaspoons sauce will give you a spicy sauce. Use less for a milder sauce. You can freeze any leftover chipotle peppers from the can.
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  • Dee

    `I recently bought cod on sale and have been looking for a different recipe. This looks great!

    Can’t wait to try it and will let you know how it comes out.

    Love this blog!

  • Caroline

    Awesome recipe! How long to cook each side of fish? Thanks

    • Jenn

      Hi Caroline, About 2 minutes per side. Enjoy!

  • Tom Biggs

    Your recipes are fantastic, and so easy to prepare!
    Long may they continue!

    • Jenn

      Thank you, Tom :)

  • Liz

    Hi Jenn,
    I love fish tacos! Can I use any other kind of fish besides cod? What about halibut?

    • Jenn

      Hi Liz, Yes, you could use halibut or another firm white fish. Cod is a good choice, though, because it holds up to frying and is pretty inexpensive.

  • These sound fantastic!! I love the colors! They make me wish for warmer weather…it’s still freezing cold here in upstate NY :(

  • Candi

    Having people over Sunday and I am making these with your shrimp tacos!! Thanks for continuing to inspire me! Can’t wait for those margaritas they look mouth watering! You are the best!!!!!!

  • Erin

    I made these tonight and they were outstanding! Thanks for such a delicious recipe.

  • Kelley c

    I have to admit, I always thought fish tacos sounded gross. Then I saw your recipe and pictures and totally became obsessed with making them! They looked so good and i just HAD to try it! I finally made them tonight and I have to say, they were fantastic! Great flavor, easy to make!! Fish tacos are forever changed in my mind!! Thank you for a great recipe!!

  • Jackie

    My husband made these tonight for meatless Good Friday and I am not a fan of fish tacos, but these are amazing. The beer batter totally rocked and I am wondering if it would be good on chicken tenders as well. Will definitely make these gain!

  • Jane Palmer

    These fish tacos are so good. I normally don’t do fried fish, but had to try these an they are awesome. Love the slaw and chiptole sauce. Thanks, Jenn.

  • SUz

    Just found your site! We had these for dinner and they were a big hit, even with my picky son. They were easier and quicker to make than I initially thought. I used tilapia instead of cod. Thanks for sharing.

  • I made this tonight & they were amazing! Definitely a keeper recipe. The only thing I added was some sliced avocado. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mo

    Just made this. It was a hit! Absolutely delicious- all the flavors worked together. Three cooks in the kitchen working to put this dinner on the table, so it took a bit for us to coordinate our efforts but it was well worth it! I’m 3 for 3 so far with the recipes from this website, and I will keep coming back! ;)

  • Claudia

    This was one of the best recipes I have ever tried! My husband and I were thrilled with how they came out! They taste just like the fish tacos at Cheesecake Factory! Thank you!

    • Jenn

      You’re welcome, Claudia! I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed!

  • Cristina Lynch

    Made these tonight and they were a huge hit. My two year old ate 3 pieces of fish and my hubby said the tacos were better than Rubio’s… High praise indeed. These will surely grace our table again. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  • Kelly

    These are amazing!!!!!!! My favorite fish tacos for sure! The sauce is just incredible.

  • Tashia

    Great baja fish taco recipe

  • Tashia

    Great recipes

  • Nan

    Love this recipe. We make it often. Thanks.

  • Lisa

    Wow! I made this tonight and was blown away. It was so easy to make! We visit Key West and there’s a little food cart called Garbo’s that makes fish tacos-this recipe reminds me of them. And truth be told, I don’t typically like fish! Amazing recipe-thanks so much for sharing!

  • Ray Diaz

    I just made this Recipe for me and my girlfriend and she said its the best thing she has ever eaten thanks for the awesome recipe its was delicious

    • Jenn

      Wow, Ray. That’s quite a compliment! I’m so glad she loved it :)

  • H

    I made this just now. It even tasted better with the yellow corn tortilla available at Whole Foods. Throw in the seed just like your instruction and it was perfect!

  • Todd

    I’ve been making this recipe for a while exactly as listed. I have to buy the chilies en adobo from amazon, but everything else is pretty easy to get your hands on. My one note is that sometimes I have a hard time getting the batter to stick to the fish when frying, and I feel as though I have better luck when I let the batter “rest” on the fish for a little while before frying. Am I the only one?

  • Jen

    Seriously delicious! I wouldn’t change a thing! My husband had never tried Fish Tacos before and now knows what he has been missing. The flavor is tremendous!

  • Suzannah

    I’ve made these about 5 times now and we love them!! I thought I liked spicy food, so the first time I made the Adobo sauce per Jenn’s instructions, but it was too spicy for me. Now I just use one pepper and taste before adding anything else. It seems like brands vary on the heat.
    I also had some sugar or honey to the slaw. I just like the added sweetness with the heat of the sauce.
    Lastly, one time I was set to make these and I didn’t care for the look of the fish selection (I live in MO.) so I bought Van de Kamps, frozen, beer battered fillets. It wasn’t exactly the same as the homemade, but it was still a fantastic dinner. I really think the sauce and slaw make the taco, so if you can’t get your hands on fresh fish, you still need to try this recipe!

  • Paula

    This is a fantastic version of fish tacos, and very authentic in its flavors. I used halibut and baked it rather than frying – mainly because I enjoy it better that way. The chipotle sauce is amazing, and I am trying to find other dishes to use it for.

  • Jen

    Seriously delicious! I wouldn’t change a thing! My husband had never tried Fish Tacos before and now knows what he has been missing. The flavor is tremendous!

  • Janet lester

    Have made this dish almost weekly. Instead of cod…substituted red fish or speckled trout that were in the freezer. Nice recipe to use for fresh caught, filleted fish in the freezer from husbands fishing trips. We love this! Also good to serve with the black bean and corn salad.

  • Ingrid

    This was DELICIOUS!!! My husband and I loved them! Thank you for posting!

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