Baja Fish Tacos

5 stars based on 13 votes

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

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.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    This is an AMAZING recipe!! I find it works much better using a deep fryer for the fish, but that’s probably because I don’t have great pans. Made this a couple times now for guests and they all loved it. Can’t wait to make it again.

    - Michael on August 26, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these last night with Tilapia. Delicious – it will definitely become a staple in my house. And the beer batter was brilliant (plus a great way to use that stray bottle of lager in the back of the cupboard).

    - Sally Gill on August 14, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn, these fish tacos rock! Loved the sauce and cabbage. I just grilled the cod because I was short on time, and it was still delicious. One question- I have a lot of sauce left. How long will it stay fresh in the fridge? Thanks!

    - Yvonne on August 13, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Yvonne, Glad you liked them! I would say the sauce would keep well for about a week.

      - Jenn on August 14, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    First time making fish tacos and these were good! Recipe was easy to follow, and easy to make.

    - Nancy on August 9, 2014 Reply
  • I made this recipe this evening for my girlfriend and she loved it. Great cabbage with the oil and vinegar. Awesome chipolte sauce!!!

    Here’s the down side girl. Your beer batter recipe sucks. It was runny and I should of known better. I’ve made beer batter recipes many times in the past. I kept adding flour to it with only a half bottle of beer. I also added an egg to the flour. Insert a better beer batter recipe for fish. Here’s the trick: Dip the fish in the batter and then roll it into the flour and then dip into the hot oil!!! Yeah!!!!

    I know, I know, stupid me..should of known better. Oh well.

    I also bought Arctic Cod and it’s great. Tempura batter would be good with this recipe. I also fried my cod fillets in coconut oil.

    Another thing I did (I too used to be a chef in my family’s restaurant, Sauté) was to marinade the cod with fresh lime and lemon juice with Himalayan pink crystal sea salt. Put it into a glass bowl and let it set at room temp. for 2 hours and swirl it. The lemon-lime juice actually cooks the raw cod.

    Follow this and you can’t go wrong, you will please your guests. Serve with Bock beer or lager. Side tip: black beans or refried with Mont. Jack. cheese over the top as a side dish, serve with lime wedges

    - Anasazi on August 9, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these last night and they were so good. I did substitute sparkling selzer water for the beer, as I don’t like beer and added some old bay seasoning to the batter, otherwise I made the recipe as listed at it was delicious.

    I have tried a bunch of recipes from your Blog and they all turned out well and are delicious.

    - DonnaA on August 3, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Fantastic recipe, amazing flavour!! Careful how many peppers you put in the sauce, easy to get some heat. Excited to try this with homemade corn tortillas next time.

    - Michael on July 30, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My friend at work told me about your blog the other day and I LOVE IT! I made the Baja fish tacos tonight and my husband LOVED them so much! Better than any restaurant he said! Thank you so much! I am not big on cooking but your website has inspired me with your recipes and pictures!! We are going to make the Thai peanut dressing/salad this weekend and my husband wants to try the middle eastern kabobs this weekend as well. Thank you for making this awesome website! I want to make that white birthday cake sometime too!

    - Amanda Spell on July 23, 2014 Reply
    • Welcome to the site, Amanda! So glad you and your husband liked the tacos. Sounds like a delicious weekend ahead — those recipes are some of my absolute favorites! Enjoy and please let me know how they turn out :)

      - Jenn on July 24, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    In love!! I made these beauties tonight and fell in love. These are Soooo good and easy! Thank you for your website and super easy but yummy recipes.

    - April Thomas on July 19, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My boyfriend and I had these last night for dinner…he requested them again for dinner tonight.

    The chipotle sauce was the best part and I feel like it could go on so many things!

    I warmed the tortillas up directly over the flame on the stove (we live in a teensy apartment…no room for a microwave!) and I feel like that added a great flavor/extra crunch. Loved it.

    - Kathleen on July 8, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    California Fish Tacos: This recipe has become a regular in our menu rotation. Easy to make, fun to assemble and so tasty. Thank you!

    - Nan Wills on July 7, 2014 Reply
  • Made the Baja Fish Tacos…they were outstanding! Used a tempura mix since I had it…they rocked!!!! Will definitely be making these again!!! Thanks

    - RenalBean61 on June 30, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made your fish tacos for dinner tonight and they were simply superb thanks for the recipe

    - Ann Lawn on June 12, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these fish tacos last night and my husband and I agreed that they were hands down the best fish tacos we’d ever eaten. The sauce is incredible. Can’t wait to make them again!

    - Carol K. on June 7, 2014 Reply
  • Hi Jen, I have a package of frozen mahi mahi that I must use up and wonder if they’ll work in this yummy sounding recipe. And if so…. would you suggestion any modifications??

    THANKS!

    - Alison on April 25, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Alison, Mahi mahi will work fine without any modifications. I hope you enjoy it!

      - Jenn on April 25, 2014 Reply
  • Do you remember three name of the Mexican restaurant you had these tacos? Thanks!!

    - connie on April 24, 2014 Reply
    • I wish I did, Connie, but it was a long time ago!

      - Jenn on April 24, 2014 Reply
  • Great recipe! However, last time I had fish tacos this good I was digging my toes in the sand at Cabo.
    It’s just not the same, looking out the window at the last of winter. :-)

    - Norm on April 24, 2014 Reply
  • This was DELICIOUS!!! My husband and I loved them! Thank you for posting!

    - Ingrid on February 1, 2014 Reply
  • 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.

    - Janet lester on November 14, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Jen on November 8, 2013 Reply
  • 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.

    - Paula on November 7, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Suzannah on November 7, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Jen on November 7, 2013 Reply
  • 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?

    - Todd on November 4, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - H on October 27, 2013 Reply
  • 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

    - Ray Diaz on October 26, 2013 Reply
    • Wow, Ray. That’s quite a compliment! I’m so glad she loved it :)

      - Jenn on October 26, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Lisa on October 8, 2013 Reply
  • Love this recipe. We make it often. Thanks.

    - Nan on October 8, 2013 Reply
  • Great recipes

    - Tashia on September 22, 2013 Reply
  • Great baja fish taco recipe

    - Tashia on September 22, 2013 Reply
  • These are amazing!!!!!!! My favorite fish tacos for sure! The sauce is just incredible.

    - Kelly on August 6, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Cristina Lynch on July 27, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Claudia on June 26, 2013 Reply
    • You’re welcome, Claudia! I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed!

      - Jenn on June 26, 2013 Reply
  • 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! ;)

    - Mo on June 9, 2013 Reply
  • I made this tonight & they were amazing! Definitely a keeper recipe. The only thing I added was some sliced avocado. Thanks for sharing!

    - Laura on April 30, 2013 Reply
  • 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.

    - SUz on April 2, 2013 Reply
  • 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.

    - Jane Palmer on April 1, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Jackie on March 29, 2013 Reply
    • 5 stars

      This is a reply to an old question, but this batter works very well with chicken tenders. In fact it works so well it is on our meal rotation. Best if you marinate the chicken in buttermilk with a bit of salt and any other spices of choice. If you don’t keep buttermilk like I do, keep a can of powdered and mix it up as needed or you can make your own with a milk base. Easy to put the chicken in the milk in the morning and it will be right after work.

      - Steve on August 2, 2014 Reply
  • 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!!

    - Kelley c on March 28, 2013 Reply
  • I made these tonight and they were outstanding! Thanks for such a delicious recipe.

    - Erin on March 22, 2013 Reply
  • 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!!!!!!

    - Candi on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • These sound fantastic!! I love the colors! They make me wish for warmer weather…it’s still freezing cold here in upstate NY :(

    - Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I love fish tacos! Can I use any other kind of fish besides cod? What about halibut?

    - Liz on March 21, 2013 Reply
    • 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.

      - Jenn on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • Your recipes are fantastic, and so easy to prepare!
    Long may they continue!

    - Tom Biggs on March 21, 2013 Reply
    • Thank you, Tom :)

      - Jenn on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • Awesome recipe! How long to cook each side of fish? Thanks

    - Caroline on March 21, 2013 Reply
    • Hi Caroline, About 2 minutes per side. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on March 21, 2013 Reply
  • `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!

    - Dee on March 21, 2013 Reply

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