If Southern California had to choose a signature dish it has to be fish tacos! Crispy, lightly breaded fish in a soft corn tortilla and all the freshest and most flavorful toppings. This fish tacos recipe has been perfected by my family and is a summertime favorite. I’m also sharing tips on how to properly defrost your fish, making a creamy white sauce and our family’s pico de gallo recipe. Get all the details on what toppings are a must with this fish tacos recipe!
The Best Fish Tacos Recipe
I have fond memories of weekends spent in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. I’d camp in a tent on the sand, shop in the outdoor markets and eat fish tacos at a tiny stand. The tacos were definitely a highlight! Those tacos were stuffed with freshly caught battered fish, chopped cabbage, a creamy white sauce and a pico de gallo salsa. And they literally cost about 50 cents each!
What’s better than cheap fish tacos? How about practically free? I love when my husband goes out fishing and comes home with dinner! The Pacific Ocean in Southern California provides yellowfin and rockfish that are perfect for taco night.
Even if you don’t have a fisherman in the family, you can still serve up a tasty fish dinner like we have in SoCal. Choose a firm white fish like cod. Here’s a tip on how to know if the fish is fresh – it shouldn’t smell “fishy”. Fresh fish won’t have any odor.
Tips on How to Defrost and Prepare Fish for Cooking
- All fish should be frozen shortly after being caught. The deep freeze helps to eliminate bacteria.
- When you’re ready to defrost fish, do not rinse with water (this can introduce bacteria). Simply remove from packaging and wrap in a paper towel. Place an additional paper towel at the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Set the wrapped fish on top and place in the refrigerator.
- The following day, replace the paper towels with fresh towels. The fish may take several days to defrost depending upon the thickness.
- Never defrost fish outside of the fridge! This is a slow process that keeps the fish fresh so make sure to plan meals ahead to allow 1-2 days for proper and safe defrosting.
Preparing The Fish Tacos Recipe
Making this fish tacos recipe isn’t quick, but it’s so worth it when you take that first bite of fresh beer battered fish! I do want to note that it’s also a messy process. Take the time to set up your cooking station for best efficiency. Wearing an apron to protect clothing from grease splatter is a must!
- Each fish filet will be seasoned and the dredged in flour to coat.
- Prepare the beer-batter just before cooking. Okay to do while your oil is heating since it only takes a few minutes to mix it up.
- You’ll want to stick with vegetable or canola oil for frying. These oils have low flavor transfer and are ideal for high temperatures.
- Set up your batter bowl and floured fish filets right next to the hot oil pan to minimize drips.
- After dipping the filet into the batter, allow excess liquid to drip back into the bowl before quickly moving into the oil.
- Be cautious that hot oil will pop when adding the filets. Have a Grease Splatter Screen nearby to quickly top your pan.
- Take care not to overcrowd the pan, leaving plenty of room between filets in the pan. You want the hot oil to bubble up on the sides of the fish to cook and brown the edges.
- Don’t flip fish until it’s a dark golden brown. You’ll need to check it occasionally to make sure it’s not burning.
- Flip carefully with Long Handled Tongs once you reach the correct brownness.
- Once done on both sides, remove to a paper towel lined dish.
- Remove all bits of floating breading from the pan before adding the next batch of fish.
- 8 pieces of white fish, like cod or yellowtail, defrosted properly
- 3 cups flour, divided
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of beer (preferably Mexican style)
- Cooking oil (vegetable or canola)
- Defrost fish properly in paper towels in the fridge 1-2 days before cooking.
- Remove fish from paper towels. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper.
- In a shallow dish, add 1 cup of flour. Dip each filet into flour until coated and set aside.
- In medium bowl combine 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt.
- Beat one egg and then add to the dry mixture.
- Slowly add beer to the mixture, and stir with a wire whisk until smooth and a thin batter is created.
- Heat cooking oil in a deep pan on the stove or in a fryer.
- Dip each filet into the batter, allowing excess to drip off. Carefully submerge into the hot oil. Use a mesh screen to cover pan.
- Cook until golden brown then carefully flip over.
- Move cooked fish to a paper towel to remove excess oil.
- Serve immediately.
Instructions for defrosting fish - Wrap each filet in paper towel and place in a paper towel lined casserole dish. Defrost only inside the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Replace paper towels on second day if fish is still frozen.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
White Sauce for Fish Tacos Recipe
This is our family recipe for fish taco white sauce. Or as my son calls it, “special sauce”. It’s a creamy and tangy addition that’s a must-have for this fish tacos recipes.
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic
- 1 tsp of Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Add a drizzle of milk if necessary to thin the sauce. Dollop onto beer battered fish tacos.
How to Top Your Beer-Battered Fish Tacos
A taco isn’t complete without these amazing toppings. Take the time to get all the sides ready in the fridge beforehand so that when the fish is ready to eat you can dig in. Or have adults team up in the kitchen – one person preps the toppings while the other operates the fish fry.
Everyone in my house tops their fish tacos in a different order. I listed these toppers in order of how I load them into the tortilla!
- Corn Tortillas – Skip the tortillas at the supermarket. If you have a tortilleria or Mexican restaurant in your area, pick them up fresh. When I had a gas stove, I warmed my corn tortillas directly over an open flame on the stove top with a pair of tongs. Now we have electric and I rely on a Comal (aka: cast iron griddle with low sides). Wrap tortillas in a tea towel or use a tortilla keeper so they stay warm.
- Breaded fish – Sharing this secret here…if you don’t have fresh fish to make this fish taco recipe, it’s okay to use frozen fish or fish sticks!
- White sauce (see recipe above)
- Avocado slices or guacamole – Mash up fresh avocados with salt and a squeeze of lime.
- Shredded cabbage
- Pico de Gallo – Chopped fresh tomatoes, cilantro leaves, white onion, finely chopped jalapeno, salt and lime juice. Get my authentic fresh pico de gallo salsa recipe to serve atop all your Mexican dishes.
- Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese – Crumble it in a zip-close bag and sprinkle on top of your fish tacos.
- Lime wedges to squeeze the juice on top
Mexican lager beer is an optional beverage choice, though I usually go with a margarita!
Side Dishes to Serve with this Fish Tacos Recipe
While a few heavily loaded fish tacos can fill you up, these are simple side dishes that you can serve on the side.
Pinto beans – I make them easily in the Instant Pot. Rinse and pick through beans, add twice as much water along with salt, pepper, chopped garlic and cumin. Set the pot for one hour and allow the steam to release naturally.
- Spanish Rice
- Jalapeno Poppers
- Mexican Corn – Make elote with corn on the cob. Or try this less-messy option – Cut fresh corn off the cob and heat in a large pan with butter, chopped red peppers, jalapeno, salt and pepper.
- Refried Beans
This post was originally published Apr 9, 2015 and has been updated and republished.