What Is a Baja Fish Taco?
Baja fish tacos are a popular type of taco originating from the Baja California region of Mexico. They typically consist of battered and fried white fish, often cod or halibut, that is served inside a soft flour or corn tortilla. The flaky white fish is usually accompanied by a variety of flavorful toppings and creamy sauce, which can include shredded cabbage (ideally this fish taco slaw is made with green cabbage, red cabbage, or a combination), fresh pico de gallo (a vibrant tomato salsa), a fish taco sauce (like this Baja sauce), and sometimes slices of avocado or guacamole.
Baja fish tacos are known for their combination of textures and flavors – the crispy fried fish contrasts with the soft, warm corn tortillas, and the toppings provide a mix of freshness, creaminess, and tanginess. These tacos are often enjoyed with a squeeze of lime for an added burst of citrusy flavor.
The popularity of Baja fish tacos has spread beyond Mexico and can now be found in various parts of the world, particularly in regions with a strong influence on Mexican cuisine. They have become a favorite among seafood and taco enthusiasts for their unique and delicious combination of ingredients.
The beer is SO yummy in the batter, it adds a yeasty, malty depth of flavor that I adore in this recipe. The alcohol evaporates off anyway in the hot oil, but if you prefer, you could use non-alcoholic beer instead (or club soda – which won’t give flavor, but will still make air bubbles in the batter).
Grab these Tools
Ready to whip up these tacos? Here’s what you’ll need to make the magic happen:
- Large Bowl: For mixing your beer batter.
- Slotted Spoon: Helps transfer the fried fish from the skillet, draining excess oil.
- Paper Towels: To place the fried fish on, ensuring they aren’t too oily.
- Tongs: To flip the fish while frying and ensure an even golden hue.
- Meat Thermometer: To check the oil temperature as well as the internal temperature of the fish.
Gather Your Ingredients for the Baja Fish Taco Recipe
Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need for the next Taco Tuesday.
- All-purpose flour: The foundation of our batter, giving it body and structure.
- Kosher salt: To season and enhance the flavors of our batter.
- Ground black pepper: Adds a touch of spiciness to the batter.
- Beer: Gives the batter a unique depth and bubbly texture. Go all in on authenticity with a Mexican beer (I used Sol). Nothing hoppy or bitter like IPA.
- Firm white fish fillets (like cod, haddock, or halibut): Our main star! These fish provide a meaty, juicy base for our tacos.
- Vegetable oil: For frying our fish to crispy perfection.
- Small corn tortillas: The vessel for our taco fillings. I also make them with flour tortillas.
- Slaw for fish tacos: Adds a fresh and crunchy texture.
- A creamy white sauce: A drizzle of Baja sauce adds a creamy and zesty kick to the flavor profile.
- Lime wedges: For that final touch of zesty freshness.
What Fish is Best for Fish Tacos?
Is cod or tilapia better for fish tacos? Basically, you’ll want to opt for white fish that is firm and holds up well to the frying process. The most commonly used and recommended types of fish for Baja Fish Tacos are:
- Cod: This fish has a mild flavor and flaky white flesh, making it a popular choice.
- Halibut: A bit pricier than cod, but its firm texture and sweet taste make it a favorite for many.
- Haddock: It’s flaky with a slightly sweet taste and works beautifully for fish tacos.
- Tilapia: A more budget-friendly option that is widely available and still delivers a good flavor.
- Mahi Mahi: Also known as dorado, this fish is meaty and flavorful, making it a good choice for tacos.
How to Make the Best Baja Fish Tacos: Easy Step-by-Step Directions
Time to craft these bad boys!
- Mix dry ingredients: In a sizable bowl, blend the flour, salt, and pepper.
- Add beer to batter: Stir in the beer until your batter is silky and lump-free.
- Prep the frying pan: Get your vegetable oil hot and ready in a deep skillet over a medium-high flame.
- Dip and fry: Submerge the fish strips into the beer batter, shaking off the excess. Once the oil’s hot, fry the fish until they’re a golden shade of delicious. Remove and drain.
- Assemble your masterpiece: On your warmed tortilla, lay down a base of Baja sauce, then pile on the fish, slaw, and any extras you fancy.
- Serve with a flourish: Present your tacos with lime wedges for a final spritz before the big bite!
Variations and Substitutions
Switch things up with these alternatives and swaps.
- Flour swaps: Replace all-purpose flour with all-purpose gluten-free flour for wheat-free friends.
- Beer alternatives: Gluten-free or not a fan of beer? Use sparkling water for a light, crispy batter.
- Fish variety: Venture beyond white fish. Try shrimp, tilapia, or even marinated tofu for a plant-based twist.
- Tortilla choices: Swap corn tortillas for flour ones or go for a low-carb version with lettuce wraps.
- Add heat: Incorporate a splash of hot sauce or finely diced jalapeños into the Baja sauce for an extra kick.
- Additional toppings: Garnish with fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, or a sprinkle of queso fresco to enhance the flavor palette.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Keep the sizzle in your Baja Fish Tacos with these savvy storage strategies.
- Don’t make the batter too far in advance: Add the beer just before frying the fish to maintain the air bubbles that make the batter light and crisp.
- Fish prep: Cut the fish into strips a day before, storing them in a sealed container in the fridge.
- Tortilla tricks: Warm tortillas can be kept in a covered ovenproof dish in a low oven until ready to serve.
- Storing leftovers: If you happen to have any leftover fish (unlikely, I know), store it in an airtight container in the fridge and consume it within 2 days.
- Reheating fish: Best done in the oven or an air fryer to retain crispiness. Avoid using the microwave, as it may make the fish soggy.
- Baja sauce: It tastes even better after the flavors meld. Make it a day ahead, store it in the fridge, and give it a good stir before serving.
Expert Tips and Tricks for Perfect Baja-style Fish Tacos
For the perfect taco, it’s essential to blend culinary art with a touch of food science. Let’s dive into some insider knowledge to elevate your taco-making game.
- Batter Consistency: Aim for a batter akin to pancake batter. Strike a balance for crispy exteriors and perfectly cooked fish inside, not too thick for doughiness, not too thin for poor coating.
- Oil Temperature: Fry at 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C). Low temp leads to greasy fish, and high can burn before cooking through. A cooking thermometer helps maintain the sweet spot.
- Rest Your Batter: Let beer batter rest for 10 minutes before using. Flour swells, yielding a cohesive batter for better adhesion to the fish.
- Warm Tortillas: Heat tortillas for pliability; a griddle or gas flame imparts a slightly charred flavor, enhancing the taco experience.
- Beer Selection: Light beers like lagers create crisp crusts due to carbonation. Experiment with ales or stouts for deeper flavors.
- Fish Temperature: The fish interior should reach 125ºF for perfect flakiness.
- Avoid Overcrowding: Work in batches; overcrowding cools oil too quickly, resulting in greasier fish.
- Adjust for Cold Ingredients: If beer and fish are very cold, add more cooking time and test one piece first to ensure doneness.
- Maintain Oil Temperature: Bring oil back to 375ºF between batches for crispy exteriors.
For a deeper dive, click over to the cooking school article on The Science of Deep Frying I wrote for Chatelaine magazine.
What To Serve With Baja Fish Tacos
I like to keep it simple with Baja Fish Tacos. They don’t need much to be perfect.
- Toppings: I always serve with a side of lime wedges. A fresh squeeze of lime juice elevates the fish’s flavor and offsets the richness of the fried fish. A pinch of chopped cilantro and some pickled onion is also delicious. Cabbage slaw is necessary for freshness. And finally, you definitely need a drizzle – this Baja sauce is a no-brainer, but cilantro lime crema, avocado crema, or simple sour cream are all great choices.
- Side Dishes: Pair with a side of Mexican rice, beans, or a light salad to balance out the meal.
- Drinks: A cold beer, margarita, or a refreshing agua fresca complements the rich flavors of the taco.
Too long didn’t read? Or just a few Qs left? I’ve gathered answers to the most common inquiries to make sure your Baja adventure goes swimmingly. Still curious? Feel free to drop a comment below!
When it comes to preparing baja fish, you’ll typically use fillets of white fish such as haddock or cod. These fillets are coated in a light, seasoned batter and deep-fried to achieve a crispy, golden texture. The fish is then served in warm tortillas and topped with a variety of fresh and zesty toppings, such as cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, Baja sauce, and lime wedges, which add extra flavor and texture to this delicious dish.
While any white, flaky fish works well, the most commonly used fish for Baja Fish Tacos is cod or halibut. Some also prefer using mahi-mahi or tilapia.
Absolutely! You can use sparkling water or non-alcoholic beer to achieve that light, crispy batter. Alternatively, club soda works well too.
While traditional Baja fish tacos use soft corn tortillas, you can certainly use flour tortillas or even lettuce cups for a low-carb option.
A classic sauce for Baja Fish Tacos is a creamy Baja sauce made with mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, and seasonings. Some variations include chipotle or sriracha for a spicy kick.
For the best Baja fish tacos, top them with crisp shredded cabbage slaw, zesty pico de gallo, creamy avocado or guacamole, tangy pickled red onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. These toppings bring out the perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Try These Delicious Fish Recipes For Your Next Meal
- Spicy Fish Tacos – Imagine biting into a crispy and flavorful fish taco that’s pan-fried to perfection. To top it off, there’s a dollop of tangy and creamy lime crema that elevates the flavors to a whole new level. This recipe is not only easy to make but also a crowd-pleaser and a top favorite among my blog readers.
- Potato Fish Cakes With Cod – It’s a classic Atlantic-Canadian dish that’s crispy, perfectly seasoned, and full of flavor. It’s the ultimate comfort food that always reminds me of home.
- Fish and Kale in Tahini Sauce – Tahini, garlic, and lemon juice make the sauce for seared haddock served with wilted kale. Fried shallots and toasted pine nuts add crunch. Serve with fluffy Turkish bread.
- Baked Salmon With Mayonnaise – A delicious and healthy recipe where salmon is baked in a creamy and well-balanced sauce that results in a melt-in-your-mouth fish.
- Cajun Honey Butter Salmon – This recipe features flaky salmon with a tasty Cajun spice rub and pan sauce, perfect for a quick and easy 10-minute meal.
Baja Fish Tacos
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 ¼ cup beer
For frying fish
- 1 pound firm white fish fillets like cod, haddock or halibut, cut into strips
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Stir in the beer until smooth. Let it rest for 10 minutes to hydrate the flour (to help the batter stick to the fish) and relax the gluten (to maximize the tenderness of the coating).
- Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or work over medium-high heat.
- Dip the fish strips into the beer batter, letting the excess drip off. Carefully add them to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fish to a paper towel-lined plate.
- To assemble the tacos, spread a spoonful of Baja sauce on each tortilla. Top with a piece of fried fish, some cabbage slaw, and lime wedges on the side. Tell everyone to squeeze the lime over the tacos just before eating.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough (around 350°F/175°C) for crispy fish.
- Warm your tortillas on a hot griddle for a few seconds on each side for that perfectly soft and pliable texture.
- Serve the tacos immediately to enjoy the full crunch of the fish.
Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD