Worknight Dinner Recipe: Fish Tacos

by Maris Callahan on May 13, 2011

Two weeks ago I met my friend Laura for a casual dinner on a Saturday night. We met up without any clear idea of where we would go and a few minutes into our contemplation, Laura informed me that her birthday was Monday. She wanted margaritas.

Who was I to argue with an impromptu birthday celebration [or birthday "ambush" as Laura so eloquently phrased it]?

While tacos and margaritas are a perfect Saturday night plan, tacos are also a super simple weeknight dinner, whether you’re planning to host friends, cook for the family or impress a date. Growing up, tacos in my house were an Old El Paso affair, complete with a taco kit and ground beef cooked on the stove top. No offense to the yellow box, but these are much better. Don’t let them number of steps fool you – each step is relatively quick and uncomplicated.

Tacos have been part of Mexico’s culinary heritage for over a century. The folded corn or wheat flour tortillas can be stuffed with any number of fillings – while for Americans, it’s usually a matter of personal preference, in Mexico, each state claims their own version.

Fish tacos are said to come from Baja California, which is the northern tip of Mexico. Some versions of this recipe are made with deep fried fish but I found that cooking it on a stove top in olive oil is just as flavorful – and healthier – than any other version.

Fish Tacos
Adapted from
Serves 4-6

What You Need:

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
About 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
1 pound flaky white fish (such as mahi mahi or cod), cut into 4 pieces
8 fresh corn tortillas
Mexican crema, homemade or store-bought
Fresh Tomato Salsa
2 limes, cut into quarters


Marinate the Onion
Put the onion in a small bowl and pour in enough red wine vinegar to cover well. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or up to several weeks.

Marinate the Fish
Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, chopped cilantro, and jalapeño. Mix well. Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Cook the Fish
Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan (there is no need to add more oil). Season the fish with salt. Cook the fish for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turn over, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish into the pan with a fork, making sure to mix in all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Heat the Tortillas
Place four of the tortillas on a plate and sandwich them between two slightly dampened sheets of paper towel. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Place the warm tortillas in a towel-lined basket or plate and cover. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Assemble and Serve
To assemble the tacos, place a heaping spoonful of the marinated flaked fish onto the center of a tortilla. Top with the marinated onions. Serve accompanied by Mexican crema and salsa.

Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica May 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Wow that looks delicious. I can feel the crunch as I speak. I love the flavors in it and I always enjoy tilapia as my fish for fish tacos. Sometimes I like to mix it up and use catfish or trout but tilapia is my favorite! Great dish and hope you have a fabulous weekend!


Daryl May 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I love tacos but have never had fish tacos. These make me want to change that!


Christina @ Sweet Pea's Kitchen May 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Um, yes please!! These fish tacos sound incredible! I love mahi mahi tacos…I must make these soon!! :D


Erica May 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Perfect! I’ve made Josh fish tacos a few times using tilapia, but I need to try using some mahi! Mexican is the perfect food to celebrate with :)


Samantha @ Bikini Birthday May 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I’ve actually never had fish tacos before!


Three-Cookies May 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I didn’t know there was a Baja California is Mexico? And there is a New Mexico in the US:) US and Mexico seem to have a name sharing agreement, and a cuisine sharing agreement. Perhaps the cuisine sharing agreement is more unilateral:)


yummychunklet May 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm

These fish tacos look delicious. And birthday margaritas sound perfect right now!


Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking May 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Another wonderful weeknight recipe, Maris! I love these fish tacos… They look so flavorful and delicious. Great job and thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend. :)


Sawsan@chef in disguise May 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I love tacos but have never tried fish tacos before.
Your dish looks wonderful..I love all the flavors you combined in it and your pictures are just stunning..
Thank you for visiting my blog so that I can discover yours


Susan May 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Fish tacos have been on my list of things to try for a while now so I’m happy to have a tested recipe to try. They sound great!


natalie (the sweets life) May 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm

i LOVE fish tacos and eat them out all the time but have never made them at home…must change that! :)


Kate (What Kate is Cooking) May 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm

My mom loves fish tacos… I want to make these for her :)


Alana D May 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I am always slow to eat a fish taco because they are usually always too salty.These look good tho,i recently made some alot like this w/tilapia. Thanx for sharing.


Maria @ Scandifoodie May 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Oh I love this! I’m definitely giving this a go, it sounds so so good!


Gen May 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm

We looove fish tacos!!!!! The only problem is that we have to make pretty much everything from scratch….even sour cream! But it tastes so, so good!!! :D


Joanne May 14, 2011 at 12:41 am

I was definitely served Old El Paso tacos until the age of 18 when I left home. And never looked back.

And yet, I still haven’t made fish tacos yet! What am I waiting for?!?!? These look SO good!


Robyn | Add a Pinch May 14, 2011 at 2:57 am

Love fish tacos and haven’t made them in a while! These look scrumptious!


foodwanderings May 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

Believe it or not never had fish tacos before but always meant to make them. They look so full of flavor, I would even have them now for breakfast, but first got to have some coffee.:)


Roz May 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Fish tacos are the BEST!!!! I think its time to make them again soon. Thanks for the inspiration Maris. Have a great weekend.


Nicole@HeatOvenTo350 May 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I’ve heard fish tacos are amazing, but I’ve never been brave enough to try them. These look so delicious that I might have to get over my fears.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

OMG I adore fish tacos! They really only hit our shores in the last few years but they are so good. Yours look amazing Maris and yay to impromptu birthday celebrations!


Tasha May 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I love fish tacos and will have to give these a try. This version is a little different than what I usually see- I’m intrigued by the marinated onions instead of cabbage.


Tracy May 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm

These sound delicious! I’ve never made fish tacos before but these look irresistible! :-)


Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) May 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm

What lovely photos! My kids love tacos / quesadillas and I also find them to be a really easy (and affordable!) weeknight dinner. I like to put out a variety of toppings so the kids can fill them themselves. Such fun to assemble your own dinner!


Olga @ MangoTomato May 16, 2011 at 1:26 am

looks great. I think the only thing you are missing is avocado ;)


5 Star Foodie May 16, 2011 at 2:14 am

These fish tacos look really yummy for sure!


Heavenly Housewife May 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

These sound so good, and best of all, they wouldn’t ruin my diet (the one I’m supposed to be on).
*kisses* HH


Greg May 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Fish tacos rule!!!!!! Sorry, got a bit excited there. I saw you mentioned over at Sweet Caroline’s and just had to take a look. Great blog!


Greg May 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm

I meant to say another look. I love your wine Wednesdays!


Nami @ Just One Cookbook May 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I have never made fish tacos at home. Your recipe totally inspired me to try our next Mexican dinner night. Sorry my comment has been a little behind. I’m catching up on my reading here. :-)


Betty @ scrambled hen fruit May 18, 2011 at 1:17 am

Fish tacos are my favorite- I’ll have to try your recipe the next time we make them. It looks delicious! :)


Aggie May 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I absolutely love fish tacos. I haven’t made them in a while either. I love how you marinated the fish in ancho chile powder. I am making fish tonight over a quinoa black bean salad and was trying to figure out what to do with the fish…I think I’m going to follow your lead here!


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