I always forget how good, healthy, and easy fish tacos are until I make them and vow to do it more often. They're remarkably adaptable to any type of not-too-expensive fish you might find in your local market. You can use any kind of white fish fillet, like sole, snapper, catfish, or tilapia. I prefer saltwater species, but sometimes the freshwater farmed fish are more economical.
The textural contrast between lightly crispy fish, supple corn tortillas, and soft avocado is a big part of this simple recipe's success.
Quick Fish Tacos: Watch the Video
Recipe Tester's Notes
I always imagined fish tacos would be a fussy, messy affair, perhaps involving deep-frying or the necessity of a grill — certainly nothing I could just decide to make on a whim and pull together on a weeknight.
I was so wrong! The fish for these tacos is incredibly simple to prepare. It's dredged in flour and pan-fried for a few minutes on the stovetop — literally, minutes. The whole meal was so fast and easy that I smacked myself for not trying it sooner.
I used fillet of sole because that's what the fish vendor at my farmers market recommended — although the vendor said she preferred rockfish for tacos when she can get it. Really, any flaky white fish will work here — I've added a few options to the ones Vanessa originally listed.
If you, too, have never made fish tacos at home because you thought they'd be tricky to pull off, wait no longer — this meal is a keeper.
- Emma, March 2014
For the slaw:
4 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small carrot, grated
2 to 3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 whole jalapeño chile, seeded and minced (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
Sugar, honey, or agave nectar (optional)*
Freshly ground black pepper
For the fish:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika or chipotle powder
1 to 1 1/2 pounds snapper, sole, tilapia, rockfish, or catfish fillets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Torn cilantro leaves
Make the slaw: Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Massage and squeeze the cabbage with your hands to help it release its liquid and begin wilting. Transfer the cabbage to a strainer, place in the sink or over another bowl, and set aside to drain for about 15 minutes.
Using your hands, squeeze the cabbage of its excess liquid one handful at a time, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the carrot, scallions, and jalapeño if using. Toss to combine. Add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and garlic and toss to combine. Taste and season with a sweetener, salt, or pepper as needed.
Make the fish: Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a shallow container. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then dredge it in the flour mixture until evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a heavy (preferably cast iron) pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the fish in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Cook undisturbed until golden-brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula, carefully flip the fish, but don't worry if it falls apart a bit. Continue cooking until the second side is golden brown and the fish is opaque and flakes apart easily in the thickest part, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the fish to a clean plate and flake into large chunks.
Heat the corn tortillas, one by one, in a heavy, dry pan, until soft and warm. Wrap them in a clean kitchen towel as you go. (Alternatively, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and warm them in the microwave for a few seconds.)
Serve the fish with the tortillas, slaw, cilantro, avocado, lime, and salsa on the side, letting each diner assemble his or her own tacos.