These ultra flavorful tacos are made in just 30 minutes with seasoned white fish, an incredible 2 ingredient sauce, and any toppings you’d like! Try it out for a Friday meal, a taco bar, or fun family dinner!
This is one of my Seafood recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
If there’s one food I’m almost always in the mood for, it’s tacos… okay, and pizza… but today we’re just talking about tacos!
I’m a sucker for all things taco, and you can make them out of so many different types of foods! Carnitas, beef barbacoa, sweet potatoes, etc.
But now that we’re coming up on Spring, I tend to get in the mood for fish tacos. Something about seafood just seems light and refreshing!
Plus it’s a nice way to get extra nutrients and vitamins, in a fun, family-friendly dinner idea. And did I mention this meal only takes 30 minutes?
How to make pan-seared white fish tacos?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Combine spices. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but combining the spices first helps ensure an even distribution.
- Add citrus, then spices. Adding some lime juice not only adds flavor, but helps the spices really stick on the fish.
- Sear the fish. Tilapia doesn’t take long to cook, just a few minutes per side.
- Assemble tacos. Top with anything you normally love on tacos.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy these fish tacos, is in a taco bar, or a fish taco grazing board. Just set out the cooked and chopped fish, some flour tortillas (or corn if you prefer), shredded cheese, taco crema, avocado, lime wedges, jalapeños, tomatoes, mango salsa, purple cabbage, and cilantro… and let everyone make their own tacos!
Variations of this recipe
- Fish – please feel free to swap the tilapia for your favorite white fish, such as tilapia, cod, haddock, snapper, or halibut, or mahi mahi.
- Other protein – alternately, this recipe would also be delicious with shrimp or even chicken!
- Crema – if you’re not a fan of taco sauce, you could use a pureed red salsa (or salsa verde if you prefer), or try out this avocado crema for a refreshing twist.
- Tortillas – my family prefers the texture of flour tortillas, but if you prefer corn, please feel free to use what you’d like.
This recipe works best with a white fish, such as the tilapia used. White fish has a mild, almost buttery sweet flavor, with hardly any fishy taste, so it works well to let the spices and flavor shine through. If you don’t want to use tilapia (I know some people aren’t fans), please see the “variations of this recipe” section above where I detail other fish varieties that work well.
Of course, the sides and/or toppings are up to you and your tastes, but I’ll share what we like to serve with fish tacos.
Cilantro lime rice, creamy jalapeño dip, Mexican street corn dip, mango salsa, creamy avocado dip, and of course, some classic margaritas!
Making fish tacos ahead of time
I think the flavor of white fish is best when made right before eating, but parts of this recipe can be prepped/made ahead!
How to prep ahead for this recipe:
- Seasoning – the seasonings for the fish can be combined and stored at room temperature.
- Taco crema – the crema can be made, and kept refrigerated.
- Toppings – any toppings can be chopped and kept refrigerated in different containers.
Leftover cooked fish should be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed within 3 days.
Leftover taco crema should be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed within 4-5 days.
Any leftover toppings should be refrigerated in separate containers.
My Favorite Spatula for Fish!
I love this spatula that’s made specifically for delicate foods, like fish. It’s thin, with a beveled edge, and a wide surface so you can easily turn the whole filet, without it breaking.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 – 3 tsp taco sauce
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 16 oz tilapia filets
- 1 lime quartered you'll only use one quarter of the lime for this part
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- soft taco sized flour or corn tortillas
- colby jack or Mexican blend shredded cheese
- red cabbage or shredded lettuce
- salsa or pico de gallo
- sliced jalapeños
- chopped avocado
- minced fresh cilantro
- In a small mixing bowl, add sour cream and taco sauce, then whisk well to combine. Cover and chill until you're ready to assemble and serve the tacos.
Season the fish
- Combine cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until blended.
- Pat the tilapia filets dry with paper towels, then squeeze the lime quarter wedge over the top of the fish. Season with seasoning blend, on both sides.
Pan sear the fish
- Heat a large skillet over MED HIGH heat. I like to use a nonstick skillet, or a cast iron pan that's well seasoned so food doesn't stick to it.
- Once the skillet is hot, add the olive oil. Add tilapia in a single layer, leaving a little space in between each filet. Try to avoid overcrowding the skillet, or the fish may sort of steam, instead of getting golden and crispy on the edges.
- Cook the tilapia for about 4 minutes on one side, then flip over and cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side. This time is approximate, as all stovetops and skillets heat differently, and your filets may be a different thickness than mine.
- The fish is cooked when it's white and opaque, with golden brown color and slightly crispy edges. It should also flake easily when pierced with a fork.
- Transfer cooked fish to a cutting board or bowl, and gently break apart the filets, into bite-sized pieces.
- Assemble tacos per your tastes, using any of the above topping options (or your favorites), and drizzling with the taco crema.
Want to save this recipe for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own recipe box!
- I’ve estimated that this recipe would make about 8 tacos, with each taco using approximately 2 oz of tilapia. But as always, feel free to divide this recipe up into as many servings as you’d like.
- If you’re not a fan of tilapia, this recipe also works well with cod, halibut, haddock, snapper, or even catfish.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.
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