If food transformed into foam and served on porcelain plates is a stronghold of modern haute cuisine, then fish tacos are the best beach party you’ve ever been to.
They are eaten out of hand, assembled at the table, and can turn any gathering of respectable people into a party full of unruly friends and riotous laughter. There’s no pretense here. Just kick off your shoes, grab yourself a drink, and let’s have a good time!
I mean, really, what’s not to love about fish tacos? A crispy breading, loaded with chili and citrus, encasing tender, flaky white fish? Nope, it’s perfect.
And the crunchy tang of lime-honey coleslaw that balances the heaviness of fried food? All I can say is, “I’ll take more of that, please!” And the cumin, garlic, and citrus crema that adds a little creaminess to every bite? I love it all, and I want you to love it, too.
BATTER VS. BREADING
There is a difference between battered fish tacos and breaded fish tacos.
- Batter is liquid based—often beer. You quickly dip fish in a beer flour bath, then fry it.
- Breading is when you dip the fish in a liquid, usually milk or buttermilk, then press it into a dry coating of panko, bread crumbs, or a flour mixture.
Baja-style fish tacos are usually made with a batter. I tried that with this recipe, and I just preferred the texture and crunch of the breaded fish better. I also found the breading stayed on the fish better than the batter did.
TIPS FOR BETTER FRIED FISH
For this recipe, I coat the fish in milk, bread it, then fry it. I like to bread all of the fish before I start to fry it. I do this for two reasons:
- Letting the breading sit on the fish for a few minutes before frying it helps the breading adhere better to the fish.
- Breading gets your fingers messy. It’s easier to bread all the fish, clean up my mess, then fry it.
WHAT IS THE BEST FISH FOR FISH TACOS?
Firm-fleshed white fish is usually the best choice for breaded fish tacos. They are mild in flavor, and the they hold up well to frying. Two of my favorites are cod and walleye.
When testing this recipe, I used two different brands of frozen fish that I thawed at home. I noticed a pretty significant difference in the quality of the fish between the brands. I used the store brand from both my regional grocery and a Whole Foods in the area.
The cod from my regional grocer wasn’t as thick or firm; it kind of smooshed apart when I pressed on it, and it didn’t stick together well when I fried it. The 365 brand Wild Caught Cod Fillets from Whole Foods was firm, held its shape when gently pressed, and held up to frying.
If you’ve made battered or breaded fish in the past, and it didn’t turn out the way you thought it should, it might have been the brand. Try sourcing from a different company next time, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
HOW TO PREPARE THE FISH
I like to cut the fish portions on the bias (a diagonal cut). This cut provides longer strips that fit well in the taco shell. Make each cut about an inch thick, and you’ll have the perfect piece every time.
WHAT IS THE BEST OIL FOR FRYING?
High heat oil is best for frying food. Good choices are canola, safflower, and sunflower oil.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH FISH TACOS?
Honestly, two to three tacos are pretty filling even for big eaters, but if you like to present your friends and family with a feast, then serve these tacos alongside any of these tasty sides.
- Jicama Salad
- Mango Avocado Salsa
- Watermelon Salad with Cotija, Jicama, and Lime
- Mexican Fruit Cocktail
Don’t forget the drinks! I often serve festive non-alcoholic drinks at parties, but I always provide a selection of spirits such as vodka, gin, or tequila alongside those drinks. That way my non-alcohol-consuming friends can enjoy a zero-proof cocktail and still feel like they are part of the celebration, and those who want to add a little booze to their drink can imbibe to their liking! I’m only making one drink, and everyone has options. It’s a win-win.
- Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca
- Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca
However, if you’re all booze all the time, then try any of these tasty concoctions.
- Blender Piña Colada
- Classic Margarita
CAN I MAKE FISH TACOS AHEAD OF TIME?
Let’s say you want to throw a party, and fish tacos are on the menu. You can make almost every component at least two to three days ahead of time, then do the final bread and fry just before serving.
For the crema, mix it all together, and store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. Some of the liquid may separate during that time, but don’t worry. You can just give it a quick stir.
For the taco slaw, I prefer to chop everything up and keep the fresh ingredients in one container, then make the dressing and store it in another. This is because the color from the purple cabbage will bleed into the other ingredients. Do this up to two days before the party. Then, just before serving, give the dressing a good shake and toss it together with all of the vegetables and herbs.
For the fish, thaw and slice it to size 24 hours before the party, and make the flour mixture up to a week in advance. Half an hour before you want to serve the tacos, bread and fry them. Dinner’s ready!
NEED MORE TACOS IN YOUR LIFE?
- Sous Vide Fish Tacos with Fall Apple Slaw
- Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos
- Grilled Fish Tacos with Strawberry Pineapple Salsa
- BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos
- Hawaiian SPAM Tacos with Pineapple
- Beef Tacos de Lengua