Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

Lovers of fish tacos fall into two camps: fried and not-fried. I tend toward the fried side as I really like the crunch, but in this case the marinade brings enough flavor to the party to make up for any lack of crunch.

Fish Tacos


  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • Zest from 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 7-inch round flour tortillas, recipe below
  • Crema (recipe below)
  • Shredded red cabbage
  • Lime wedges


  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup for kneading and rolling)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup lard
  • 1/2 cup cool water


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Pulse the garlic, cilantro, lime zest, cumin, salt and pepper in a small food processor for 20 seconds. Then, with the processor running, add the tequila.
  2. Place the tilapia fillets into a 1 gallon zip-top bag, add the paste and move around to coat each fillet. Work as much air out of the bag as possible, seal and aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat an electric non-stick griddle to 375 degrees F. (I really like the griddle for this but in a pinch you can do this in a cast iron pan parked over medium heat for 10 minutes.)
  4. Brush the griddle with the olive oil and cook the fillets 3 minutes per side or until just cooked through and opaque. Cut into strips and serve in warm tortillas with crema, shredded red cabbage and lime juice.


  1. Combine 9 ounces flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor, pulsing 2 to 3 times.
  2. Add the lard in 4 to 5 chunks and pulse 10 times or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the processor running, add the water in a steady stream until a ball of dough begins to form, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of flour on a clean surface. Remove the dough from the bowl of the processor and knead for 2 to 3 minutes or until most of the flour has absorbed and the dough is less sticky.
  4. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. Evenly divide the dough into 8 pieces and form into round balls. Roll each ball into 7-inch rounds with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Keep all dough balls covered with a tea towel.
  6. Heat an electric non-stick griddle to 375 degrees F.
  7. Place the tortillas, 2 to 3 at a time, onto the griddle and cook for 4 minutes per side or until light golden. Hold for up to 2 hours at room temperature wrapped in a barely damp tea towel. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Microwave for 1 minute in the damp tea towel to reheat.


  1. Place heavy cream in a microwave-safe 16 ounce glass jar and microwave on high 30 to 40 seconds or until cream is just under 100 degrees F. Add the buttermilk, close jar and store in a warm place for 24 hours. The cream will have thickened to the consistency of thin yogurt.
  2. Add the chipotle chile and salt and process with an immersion blender, in the jar, until smooth, approximately 20 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Alton Brown's Flour Tortilla Recipe


Add yours
  1. 1

    Alton chose tilapia because it is a sustainable fish that takes marinade well. I have made this with mahi mahi and salmon as well. The salmon of course adds a different flavor to it but the tilapia works just fine. Alton constantly preaches to ask your fishmonger for sourcing.
    Here in Texas you will always find soft corn tortillas used for fish tacos, usually doubled up so they don’t fall apart. I do applaud this particular tortilla recipe if you’re going to use flour torts, though. The recipes with baking powder make a thicker tort that is too thick and heavy for anything but meat tacos.
    BTW, Mango jalapeno salsa also works well in lieu of the pepper crema.

  2. 2
    Christian McBain

    Listening to all you guys complain about “tilapia” is making my head hurt. Here’s a quick lesson on the dreaded “TILAPIA” – “Tilapia is the common name for nearly A HUNDRED different species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish inhabiting shallow streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes, and less commonly found living in brackish water. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisanal fishing in Africa, and they are of increasing importance in aquaculture and aquaponics.” So tilapia is a catch all name for a WIDE variety of fish, and just like other fish not all tilapia are equal. Sure there are tons of tilapia on the market that were raised/farmed in less than sanitary conditions and should be avoided. That doesn’t mean that all tilapia are trash fish raised in filth on terrible farms. Do some reading, there are plenty of sustainable, ethically raised, and even wild caught tilapia on the market. Tilapia when farmed and raised properly is one of the most sustainable fish on the planet, and could really help easy the burden on our increasingly over fished oceans. I am an environmental engineer by trade with a focus in biochemistry and sustainability, and if people would stop fear mongering over tilapia, take the time to educate themselves about where their fish come from and the standards used to raise/farm them. Then we could easily find more sustainable alternatives to our current fishing industries. Not all tilapia are created equal but some of them are absolutely delicious and greener more sustainable alternatives to over fishing.

  3. 4
    Joe Eck

    I’m just going to throw this out there given how many comments there are regarding tilapia being less than desirable. I like the idea of a sustainable fish supply, don’t like the idea of fish raised in unsanitary conditions and I’m not well read enough on the topic to know if tilapia falls into any or all of those categories. What I DO know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is this recipe works very well with smaller catfish (1 to 2 pound range), bluegill, crappie, and smaller bass. These fish are available in our Midwestern lakes and rivers. Most farmers have small ponds. So if you know a farmer, ask them if they mind if you reduce their bluegill population. I know not everyone fishes, and not everyone lives near a place to fish so this is really throwing a hint out there for all that do. take the kids fishing, bait a hook. Your patience will be rewarded.

  4. 5

    ROFLMAO. Everyone here complaining about tilapia being junk fish. If there is ANYTHING we have learned on good eats, its sustainable fish are important to preventing a total ocean collapse.

    You can get better quality tilapia by checking the MANDATED country of origin label on all fish sold in the US. Don’t want garbage fish? Then dont buy from skeptical asian sources.

    The real problem is the marinade is WAY too salty. All we could taste was the how overpowering salty the fish was. I would cut the salt in half.

    • 7
      danny orlando

      Tilapia is a junk fish with no flavor or texture and more fat than a hamburger and plenty of bacteria. A wild caught fish with structure like haddock, halibut or mahi-mahi would be a much better choice.

  5. 9
    Donna Huswick

    Just an fyi, not all fish marketec as tilapia IS tilapia, but it doesnt matter to me. It IS a garbage fish, farmed in less than sanitary conditions.

    • 10
      danny orlando

      Donna, you are right. Tilapia is an unsafe and unhealthy fish. We are not fish snobs, but educated cooks. A fish like Dolphin would do much better because it is a meatier more dense fish.

  6. 11

    I see we have some fish snobs here tonight. Tilapia works just fine for fish tacos. I make fish tacos all the time with them. Turn out great and my kids love them. This recipe sounds better that what I make though so will try. I prefer mahi mahi myself but the kids like the lighter taste and flakiness of the Tilapia.

  7. 12
    Gwen Christie

    Since I have to be gluten-free, I use corn tortillas. Also, a jicama slaw is great! Since I am a southerner, I like freshwater fish in my fish tacos too.

    • 13
      Doug Veronda

      Hey Gwen, I love the name Gwen. You can use any fish/seafood that you love. I love ahi (yellowfin tuna) I love making steaks with it and wasabi the the rice and salad … the works. It’s great.
      But here in SD we may not have the time and we make a Fish Taco.
      We have the beans we have the rice, the shredded cabbage, the onion, the tomato, the chilantro and hot sauce.. It’d good anytime.
      Gwen, You gata do your thing.

  8. 14

    I’d like to make these for my family, which has two kiddos…any recommendations on what I could sub the tequila with that would replace its bite?

    • 15

      The tequila is used in the marinade, so the full 1/4 cup will not be in the final dish. Since that 1/4 cup produces at least 4 servings, and you remove the fish from the marinade before cooking, and the cooking itself will burn off some (not all) of the alcohol – I would not worry about serving to children.
      If serving someone with strict medical / religious requirements, I would just omit from the marinade and give the fish a good dose of lime juice when I flip the pieces while cooking.
      You could try cactus nectar or agave juice as a substitute – neither will likely have the “bite”. You could try rosewater to duplicate the floral notes of tequila, again will be missing the alcohol “bite”.

  9. 18

    If Tilapia isn’t good enough for you what is a fish that is, but
    is also cheap, readily available, and sustainable?
    And that won’t over power the dish.
    And by the way you CAN get good quality “un-china” tilapia!
    Tilapia is perfect for THIS dish since it won’t fall apart and has a subtle flavour.

    • 19

      We use in San Diego Yellowtail, Mahi Mahi, ahi tuna you can put any good quality seafood in a ‘fish taco’ Yea squid/lobster is good too. It’s a fish taco. Use the best and it will taste the best.

  10. 21

    Tilapia? Not a shot. They’re an awful trash fish that mostly comes from farms in China these days.

    Use fresh cod, haddock, monkfish, or any other wild caught, mild white fish.

  11. 23

    Tilapia!!! What!?! Say it isn’t so, AB. Tilapia is terrible. Cod is the best choice, or any other wild caught white fish. Never, ever tilapia. I always ask in restaurants, and if they say they use tilapia I either order something else or leave.

  12. 25

    Alton, we don’t all have your fancy pants kitchen appliances. Immersion blender? Alternative??
    Can I just dump it in a blender?

    • 26

      As Alton might say, you can DO anything you want- they’re you’re groceries… Try it with a blender but have some paper towels on hand or you take your security deposit into your own hands!

    • 28

      So the goal is to get the pepper well combined with the dairy. Any equipment or method that gets you to a smoothness that makes you happy is acceptable. I think the immersion blender is recommended just from an ease of use standpoint – no major set-up and the one one item dirtied is easily just rinsed off. Using a regular blender will probably be fine, with basically one cup of liquid you’re not really getting good utilization. Personally, if I were in the wilderness-cabin scenario and did not have easy access to an immersion blender I’d just mash the heck out of the pepper with a knife – same way you would make a paste out of garlic. Stir that into the dairy and I think I could live with the variable texture – after all you’re eating it on a bunch of different textures so non-blended pepper chunks are more of a visual thing anyway.

  13. 29

    I had some great ones off a food truck on Kauai too but the fish was Mahi Mahi. Tilapia is a nasty Asian farm fish. I wouldn’t use it.

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