This Crispy Baked Fish Tacos recipe is made with the yummiest panko-crusted fish, zesty cilantro-lime slaw, a super-simple chipotle crema, and whatever other favorite toppings (hello, avocado) you love most.
So here’s the thing. I love a classic beer-battered, deep-fried, ultra-crispy-and-crunchy fish taco as much as the next girl. But most of the time when I opt for fish tacos, I’m going for something lighter and healthier! You know, a fish taco that’s big on fresh flavors, but mercifully low on the grease factor (and accompanying stomachache). A fish taco that’s perfectly balanced with all things hot and cool, crispy and tender, smoky and citrusy, saucy and herb. A fish taco recipe that’s naturally mild enough for everyone at the table to enjoy, yet can easily also be kicked up a spicy notch for those who like extra heat. A fish taco that’s legit do-able in my own kitchen, yet rivals the authentic taco shop just down the street. This is the kind of fish taco I crave.
Specifically — these fish tacos. ♡♡♡
We are completely obsessed with these tacos in our house, and I sincerely hope that now you’re going to love them too!
They are made with the the four main components that I believe are essential to the best fish tacos. First — good-quality fish, coated in a zesty toasted Panko crust, and baked in the oven (not fried) to crispy perfection. Second — that cool and crunchy and irresistibly delicious Cilantro Lime Slaw recipe that I posted yesterday. Third — a super-quick 4-ingredient blender chipotle sauce for drizzling on top. And last but not least — all of your favorite fresh toppings piled high on top which, for the record, I sincerely hope includes lots of avocado. Altogether, these tacos add up to taste ultra-fresh and flavorful, yet they still feel nice and light and healthy, which I love.
Also, while the instructions for this fish taco recipe may look a bit long in writing, they’re actually quite easy to make. If you have all of your ingredients ready to go, these fish tacos can easily be made in less than 45 minutes (or 30, if you’re moving quickly). They can also easily be adapted to be gluten-free or dairy-free, if you would like. And everything except the fish can be prepped in advance, if you’re planning to make them for a crowd.
Clearly, I’m a big fan. So if you love fish tacos as much as I do, I hope you’ll give this one a try!
Try to look for fish filets that are roughly the same thickness for even cooking. I also recommend cutting the fish into 2-inch chunks for a higher yummy-crust-to-flaky-fish ratio. ;)
Fish Taco Ingredients:
Alright, let’s making a shopping list! For this fish taco recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
Panko-Crusted Fish: I recommend a good firm white fish (such as halibut or cod) for these fish tacos, which we will cut into 2-inch pieces (for a maximum crust-to-fish ratio), dip in egg (to make the crust stick), coat with a crispy Panko topping (including toasted Panko breadcrumbs, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, s&p), and bake in the oven to crispy perfection.
Cilantro Lime Slaw: I shared my favorite fish taco slaw on the blog yesterday! It’s quick and easy to make with a bag of classic cole slaw mix (or you can make your own with shredded cabbage and carrots) and a quick blender sauce made of plain Greek yogurt (or mayo), cilantro, lime juice, green onions, garlic, cumin, s&p. If you would like a spicier slaw, feel free to blend a jalapeño into the sauce too.
Chipotle Crema: This quick fish taco sauce is optional — but highly recommended — to balance out these tacos with an extra touch of smoky flavor. It only takes an extra minute or two to make in the blender with Greek yogurt (or mayo), a chipotle chile in adobo sauce, lime juice and salt.
Tortillas: Feel free to use corn or flour tortillas, whichever you prefer.
Toppings, toppings, toppings: The more, the merrier, IMHO. ♡ Some sliced avocado is obviously a must. Then beyond that, I would highly recommend lots of chopped fresh cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, sliced radishes or red onions, maybe some extra sliced jalapeños if you would like a spicier kick…whatever sounds good.
How To Make Fish Tacos:
This fish taco recipe may look a bit long and complicated in writing. But hakuna matata — they’re actually quite simple to make. And if you have your ingredients all ready to go, they can be ready in less than 45 minutes (or 30 minutes, if you’re moving quickly!). Here’s how to make fish tacos:
Prep the cilantro lime slaw: Pulse all of the sauce ingredients in the blender, then toss the sauce with the slaw and pop it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Prep the chipotle crema: Toss the chipotle crema ingredients in the same blender and pulse until smooth.
Toast the panko. This is an optional step, but one that I highly recommend for maximum fish crispiness! Just spread the panko out on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 5-8 minutes until it’s toasted and golden. (Keep a close eye on it so that the breadcrumbs do not burn!) Then transfer the toasted panko to a bowl with the other seasonings and whisk to combine.
Prep the fish. Make a little assembly line to coat your fish, in this order: (1) the raw fish, cut into 2-inch pieces (2) bowl with a whisked egg (3) bowl with panko mixture (4) baking sheet. Using your right hand, dip the fish in the egg and toss to coat. Then using your left hand (this will prevent the ingredients from getting mixed and clumpy), transfer the fish to the panko mixture and gently press it on so that the fish is evenly coated. Use your left hand to transfer the fish to the baking sheet. Then repeat with the remaining fish.
Bake the fish. Pop the fish in the oven and bake until the cooked through. I highly recommend using a cooking thermometer to check the fish for doneness (it should reach an internal temperature of about 140°F, which will rise to 145°F as it continues to cook once it has been removed from the oven). But if you don’t have an oven thermometer, just check to be sure that the fish is opaque inside and flakes easily with a fork. Go ahead and roughly flake the fish into bite-sized pieces once it has been removed from the oven.
Assemble the tacos. Then comes the fun part! Fill a tortilla with a few spoonfuls of slaw, followed by fish and your desired toppings, then drizzle with the chipotle crema, and serve warm!
Detailed cooking instructions included in the full recipe below.
Feel free to get creative and customize your own fish tacos recipe to taste! For example, feel free to:
Make it gluten-free: To make gluten-free fish tacos, be sure to use gluten-free Panko (or your preferred gluten-free breadcrumbs) and gluten-free corn tortillas (or your preferred kind of tortillas). And of course, double-check that all of your other ingredients are certified gluten-free as well.
Make it dairy-free: Just use vegan mayo in place of the Greek yogurt in the slaw and crema. And omit any sort of cheese topping (or use vegan cheese).
Make the fish even crispier: I kept the fish recipe as light as possible below, which still results in a crispy crunchy crust. But if you would like a thicker and crunchier crust, just dredge each piece of fish in flour before coating it in the egg and panko mixtures.
Use a different fish (or shrimp): I almost always make cod fish tacos, since cod is so affordable and has the perfect texture for fish tacos. But feel free to use any other kind of fish (or shrimp) that you prefer. Halibut, mahi mahi, snapper, grouper, or salmon would all work great.
Add fruit: Some juicy fruit (such as mango, pineapple, orange, blueberries, etc.) would also be a delicious addition to these tacos.
What To Serve With Fish Tacos:
Looking for some ideas on what to serve with fish tacos? Here are a few suggestions!
This Crispy Baked Fish Tacos recipe is made with the yummiest panko-crusted fish, zesty cilantro-lime slaw, a super-simple chipotle crema, and whatever other favorite toppings (hello, avocado) you love most. See notes above for possible ingredient variations.
To Make The Chipotle Crema:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or mayo)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
To Make The Fish:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chili powder*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1 egg, whisked
1 1/2 pounds firm white fish, such as cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
optional toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños, crumbled queso fresco, sliced radishes, sliced red onions, etc.
To Make The Chipotle Crema: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
To Make The Cilantro Lime Slaw: Follow the directions here.
To Make The Fish: Heat oven to 375°F. Spread the panko out in an even layer on a medium baking sheet*. Bake for 5-7 minutes, giving the pan a gentle shake halfway through, until the panko is toasted and golden brown. (Keep a close eye on the panko so that it does not burn.) Transfer the panko to a medium bowl, and dust off the baking sheet for future use.
Add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper to the bowl with the panko, then whisk the mixture until combined.
Now, set up an assembly line with the (1) fish, (2) whisked egg, (3) panko mixture and (4) parchment-covered baking sheet. Using your right hand, dip a piece of fish in the egg so that it is coated on all sides. Then, using your left hand, transfer the fish to the panko mixture and gently press it on so that the fish is coated on all sides. Using your left hand, transfer the fish to the baking sheet. Then repeat the process with the remaining fish.
Bake the fish for 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and opaque and flakes easily with a fork. (Internal temperature should be 145°F*.) Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack, then use a fork to roughly flake the fish into smaller pieces.
To Assemble The Tacos: Fill a tortilla with a few spoonfuls of the slaw, followed by the fish, and any desired toppings. Drizzle with the chipotle crema and serve immediately.
*Chili Powder: I’m referring to the general chili powder sold in American grocery stores (not cayenne!).
*Crispy Panko: To make the panko even crispier, feel free to toss it with 1 tablespoon of oil before toasting it in the oven. I recommend letting the panko toast in the oven until it reaches a pretty deep golden brown for maximum crispiness.
*Fish Internal Temperature: The FDA says that the safe internal temperature for cooked fish is 145°F. I usually pull mine out of the oven around 135-140°F, since the temperature will continue to rise a few degrees more while the fish rests.