Tilapia Fish Tacos

Piled high with Baja sauce and slaw

tilapia fish tacos

The Spruce Eats/ Leah Maroney

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 8 tacos

Tilapia fish tacos are the perfect way to mix up your Taco Tuesday or weeknight meal situation. They’re cool, creamy, and crunchy. The fish is blackened in the oven, then served with tangy Baja sauce and crisp cabbage slaw. A squeeze of lime juice finishes off the tacos with just the right zing for a taste of brightness.

It may seem like there are many parts to this recipe, but don't fear as it all comes together quickly. You can even make the sauce and slaw up to a few days ahead of time.

Ingredients

  • For the Fish:
  • 1 pound tilapia
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 corn tortillas (or flour, if desired)
  • Avocado
  • Queso fresco
  • Pico de gallo
  • For the Baja Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 package sazon or taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoons citron (fresh, chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno (chopped)
  • For the Cabbage Slaw:
  • 1 cup green cabbage (sliced)
  • 1 cup red cabbage (sliced)
  • 1/2 small red onion (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Fish

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    tilapia fish taco ingredients
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the fish on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the fish with the olive oil.

    tilapia on a baking sheet
  3. Mix together the garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

    seasoning for tilapia
  4. Sprinkle the fish with the seasoning.

    seasoned tilapia
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish is opaque and flaky.

    baked tilapia

Prepare the Baja Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    baja sauce ingredients
  2. Mix all of the Baja sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk until completely combined. Set aside.

    baja sauce whisked together

Prepare the Cabbage Slaw

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    slaw ingredients
  2. Toss together all of the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

    cabbage slaw mixed in a bowl
  3. Heat the corn tortillas in a skillet or over a gas flame until lightly charred, about 1 minute per side. Top the tortillas with the fish, Baja sauce, slaw, pico de gallo, avocado, and queso fresco. Enjoy with lime wedges and additional toppings if you wish.

    fish tacos

Recipe Variations

Use Different Types of Fish:

  • Tilapia is a popular fish because it is inexpensive and relatively mild, however, many other white fish will be amazing in this recipe. 
  • Cod, mahi mahi, halibut, grouper, or flounder are all great options. They are all mild, yet firm fish that pair well with the sauce and slaw. Find the fish that is the freshest and you can’t go wrong.


Tips for a crunchy slaw

  • Before combining the cabbage with the remaining slaw ingredients, place it in a colander and toss with the salt, massaging it with your hands. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  • This extra step helps the cabbage release excess liquid, which leads to a crunchier slaw that holds up in the fridge.
  • The slaw can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

What is Baja Sauce Made of?

  • Baja sauce is traditionally served on fish tacos. It’s creamy, yet light flavor goes perfectly with blackened, grilled, or fried fish. You will find some variation of it on most fish tacos in San Diego where many say the fish taco originated. 
  • The creamy base, typically sour cream or mayonnaise, is mixed with latin spices and lime juice. We used jalapenos, cilantro, and sazon seasoning. It’s typically not very spicy, however you can make it spicy if you wish.


What toppings go on fish tacos?

There are tons of topping options for fish tacos. Here are some of the traditional toppings you will find on fish tacos. 

  • Red onion
  • Cotija cheese or queso fresco
  • Cabbage slaw
  • Avocado chunks
  • Pico de gallo
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Baja sauce
  • Avocado lime crema



What sides go with fish tacos?

There are so many great side options. You can go heavier or lighter with the sides depending on what meal you are serving. They are great on their own for lunch or with these sides for dinner.



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