Sunday, October 5, 2008

Baja Fish Tacos

Having grown up in southern California, I love fish tacos. I've only ever had them in restaurants, though... so I thought it was about time that I tried making them myself. Luckily, these are so simple to make. When I went in search of a great fish taco recipe, I decided to turn to none other than Susan of Food Blogga, who lives in San Diego. Being so close to the Mexican border, she's had the opportunity to taste some of the best fish tacos around.

This recipe is so easy as is - but you can simplify it even more if you're short on time. Use a store bought salsa if you don't want to make pico de gallo from scratch. Bottled hot sauce can also be used in place of the chilies de arbol sauce. Use store bought guacamole or simply dice the avocado if you don't want to dirty up your food processor making the avocado sauce. And for those who won't eat anything with mayonnaise, please make the mayonesa sauce - just go light on the sauce when you assemble the fish tacos - it's just not the same if you don't use the it. (My husband, the mayo hater, didn't even notice that I snuck some mayonesa sauce into his fish tacos!)

These were delicious. The next time I make fish tacos, I think I'd like to try Susan's baked fish taco recipe instead (which can be found here - just scroll down). I don't really like frying things in my kitchen, and I'm sure they'd still taste just as good without the extra calories.

If you're a fan of fish tacos - or even if you've never tried them - you need to try these now! :) This is a wonderful weeknight meal for those who are busy because you can put it together in no time (and you can make everything except the avocado sauce ahead of time). Thanks Susan, for sharing this awesome recipe with us!

Baja-Style Fish Tacos
from Susan of Food Blogga, as seen on NPR


Makes 24 servings, enough for 6 to 8 people

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried whole Mexican oregano, rubbed to a powder* (I didn't have any so I just used regular oregano)
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces (1 bottle) cold beer, plus more to thin the batter if necessary
2 pounds firm, meaty fish (I use halibut or Pacific sea bass) (I used halibut; tilapia also works well)
A little squeeze of fresh lime juice, from 2 to 3 limes
Canola oil, for frying

Serve with:

24 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed (you can substitute flour tortillas, but the corn imparts a more authentic flavor) (I used flour tortillas)
Avocado sauce (recipe below)
Lime wedges
Mayonesa secret sauce (recipe below)
Salsa de chilies de arbol (recipe below)
Pico de gallo (use your own favorite recipe, or try this one)
Finely shredded green cabbage (not lettuce)
Cilantro leaves (optional)

For the batter, whisk together the flour, baking powder, garlic, cayenne, mustard, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in the beer until there are no lumps. (The batter can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Cut fish into pieces the size and shape of your index finger. Sprinkle with some lime juice and salt.

Pour oil into a deep, wide pan to the depth of 2 inches and heat over medium-heat to 350 degrees (if you have a deep-fry thermometer). Otherwise, test the heat by dropping a little bit of the batter into the oil. It should quickly bounce to the surface and be surrounded by tiny bubbles.

Pat the fish dry with paper towel. Check the thickness of the batter by dipping a piece of fish in it; it should be the consistency of medium-thick pancake batter, coating the fish easily and dripping very little. Add a little beer or water if it seems too thick.

Add a few pieces of fish to the batter. Using tongs, lightly swish each piece until thoroughly coated. Remove fish, letting excess batter drip into the bowl before gently placing in the hot oil. Cook a few pieces at a time until they float and the batter is set but still light in color, about 2 to 3 minutes. If a piece sticks to the bottom of the pan, just leave it, and it will release itself.

Remove the fish to a rack to drain, reserving the frying oil. At this point the fish can be cooled and refrigerated, uncovered, if you're preparing ahead.

When you are ready to serve, reheat the oil to 350 degrees, and quickly refry the fish a few pieces at a time for about 1 minute until crisp and golden brown.

Heat tortillas on a dry griddle for 1 minute per side or, using metal tongs, simply hold over an open flame until warmed and slightly charred. (I wrapped my tortillas in foil and warmed in them in the oven at 375F for 10 minutes.)

To serve, place refried fish, warmed tortillas and condiments on a table so guests can make their own tacos. To assemble tacos, hold a tortilla in your hand, and spread a spoonful of avocado sauce on it (you can use diced avocados or guacamole instead). Place a piece of fried fish on top and sprinkle with a little lime juice. Drizzle with some mayonesa sauce, a few drops of chilies de arbol sauce (you can use bottled hot sauce instead) and some pico de gallo (or store bought salsa). Top it off with some shredded green cabbage and fresh cilantro.

*Whole Mexican oregano can be found in the Mexican food section of most major supermarkets or in Latin American markets.

Avocado Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1/4 ripe avocado, peeled
Pinch of salt
A few drops of lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water or milk
2 cilantro springs, stemmed and chopped (optional)

Place the avocado, salt and lime juice in a small food processor. Add 1 tablespoon water or milk (for a slightly creamier consistency) and pulse. Add more liquid as necessary until sauce is the consistency of thick cream. Add the cilantro and pulse until just blended.

Mayonesa Secret Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon water or milk

Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl and slowly stir in vinegar. Add water or milk until the sauce is thick and creamy.

Chilies de Arbol Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

1 garlic clove, smashed with the side of a large knife
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup dried chilies de arbol (about 30 chilies), stemmed**
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Pour canola oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add smashed garlic and cook 4 to 5 minutes until golden and aromatic. Place in a small food processor.

Wearing gloves, seed the chilies (unless you want hotter sauce, in which case, leave the seeds), and place in the processor. Process until well pulverized. Add water and salt and puree until as smooth as possible. Scrape into a bowl and add the vinegar. Let stand at least 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or vinegar as necessary.

**Chilies de arbol are thin, red chilies about 3 inches long, and can be found in the Mexican food section of most major supermarkets or in Latin American markets. These small chilies are big on heat, so use this sauce sparingly.


  1. These look delicious! I've always wanted to make fish tacos. I'll definitely have to make this!

  2. Wow, I'm so glad you posted this - I was planning on making fish tacos tomorrow night and this recipe looks even better than the one I was going to try :)

  3. I also love fish tacos, I will be sure to turn to this recipe when I am craving some! Thanks for sharing, nice pics. as usual!

  4. I love fish tacos! I am going to have to make them now that I see how easy it is!

  5. Your tacos look great, I went to college in San Diego, so I am very familiar with the fish taco!

  6. These look great. I love, love fish tacos and lime!

  7. Oh these look great!! I love fish and I love tacos- I can't imagine that I wouldn't love love fish tacos. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  8. I have never had a fish taco! And know I'm realising I'm missing out big time! This looks delicious!

  9. I think you're right! I do need to try these now!

  10. this is something new to me and i'll definitely give it a try... thanks for sharing... great site, btw... :)

  11. YUM! That's look wonderful. I love fish tacos! Thanks for the great recipes.

  12. Funny you made fish tacos. I have been craving them like mad lately. We keep meaning to go out to our favorite fish taco place but haven't had time. I might just make them instead! YUM!

  13. Mayonesa secret sauce! - The fish tacos I've loved always had a sauce of some sort I've never been able to duplicate - hoping this is it! Fish have always been broiled, though so I'm going to try this with broiled sea bass - I LOVE sea bass. Thanks!! - I'm new to your blog and loving it!

  14. My favorites! These look so good!

  15. I went to college in San Diego and this is what we lived on!! These really are that good and are a must try!! Thanks for the reminder of what were really fun days :)

  16. I had these at these at a restaurant in Philadelphia last month and have been dreaming about them ever since. I'm so excited to try this out.

  17. You're quite welcome, Jaime! I'm so glad you made them and that they turned out so well. After looking at your pics, I'm craving a fish taco for dinner tonight.... :)

  18. Thanks for this recipe. There are only a few places in Chicago that serve this and the best ones are a bit far, unfortunately.

  19. Those fish tacos look nice and fresh and good!

  20. I really like fish tacos and these look so fresh and good!

  21. I'm born and raised in SD, and there's nothing that compares to the Baja style of fish tacos. I've looked through a bunch of fish taco recipes claiming their Baja style, but THIS is it-I can tell just by reading it! Thanks for sharing it!

  22. These were so delicious! The batter was perfect, & the sauces were so good. Thanks for these recipes.