Baja Fish Tacos

Baja Fish Tacos

The Baja Peninsula is likely not the first place fish was cradled in a corn tortilla, but it might be the most well known. 

What are Baja Fish Tacos?

Baja-style fish tacos are characterized by strips of firm white fish dipped in a thin batter and fried until crisp. They are served on corn tortillas, often doubled up to support the tacos’ ample contents, with crunchy wisps of shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and a creamy mayonnaise- and crema-based sauce. Sometimes a thin, spicy chile de arbol salsa is drizzled on top for heat, but you can also use your favorite Mexican hot sauce. 

What Kind of Fish to Use for Baja Fish Tacos

When selecting fish for Baja-style fish tacos, stick with whatever is freshest. Any firm-fleshed white fish such as halibut, grouper, cod, or snapper is a good choice. When you cut the fish into strips, keep in mind that they should be just a bit longer than the diameter of the tortilla so the fish peeks out appealingly over the edge.

The Secret Ingredient for a Flavorful Batter

The batter for these fish tacos is lightened with Mexican lager and flavored with a squirt of yellow mustard, which adds a light golden color, salt, and acidity. Some taqueros even add a bit of chicken bouillon to their batter for an umami boost.

Baja-style fish tacos are best eaten immediately after frying, as the sauces and the fish’s own moisture will start to soften the crisp shell of batter. These tacos need no accompaniment except a healthy squeeze of lime juice and a Mexican lager to wash it all down.

“The zip in the batter from the beer and mustard were the standouts for me. The batter also stays crisp for a long time, so you can casually fry the remaining batches without worrying about sog outs. Place fried fish on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and hold at 200°F while frying remaining batches. The chipotle sauce is simultaneously savory, slightly spicy, and tangy. The pico de gallo bridges the gap between the sauce and fried fish, adding the perfect amount of freshness.” —Spruce Eats Test Kitchen

Two fried fish tacos made with corn tortillas and topped with a creamy chipotle sauce and pico de gallo A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Pico de Gallo

  • 6 medium plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored, seeded, and finely diced

  • 1/2 cup finely diced white onion

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish

  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon fine salt

For the Chipotle Sauce

  • 2/3 cup crema Mexicana

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 canned chipotle peppers plus 4 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can

  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

For the Fish

  • Canola oil, for frying

  • 1 pound skinless cod fillets

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour, divided

  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) cornstarch, divided

  • 1 cup light Mexican lager (such as Modelo)

  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard

For the Tacos

  • 12 (5-inch) yellow corn tortillas

  • 2 cups finely shredded green cabbage

  • Lime wedges, to serve

  • Your favorite Mexican hot sauce, to serve

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the pico de gallo and chipotle sauce ingredients.

    chipotle sauce and pico salsa ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  2. Make the pico de gallo: Stir together the tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined; set aside.

    pico salsa ingredients combined in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  3. Make the chipotle sauce: Add crema, mayonnaise, chipotles and adobo sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt to the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth and well combined, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    chipotle sauce ingredients combined in a food processor

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  4. Gather the remaining ingredients for fish and the tacos.

    fish taco ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  5. Prepare the Fish: Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a medium Dutch oven; heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 365 F.

    oil preheating in large dutch oven over burner

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  6. Cut cod into 5- x 1/2-inch wide strips; season evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt.

    strips of cod on a baking sheet

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  7. Whisk together baking powder, garlic powder, oregano, pepper, 3/4 cup (90 grams) of the flour, 1/2 cup (65 grams) of the cornstarch, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in beer and mustard until smooth.

    fish taco batter whisked together

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  8. Whisk together remaining 1/4 cup (30 grams) flour and remaining 1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch on a large plate. Dredge 3 to 4 pieces of cod in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Coat evenly in batter, allow excess to drip off.

    piece of flour coated cod being dredged in batter

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  9. Add battered cod to hot oil; fry, flipping occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature.

    pieces of battered cod frying in hot oil in dutch oven pot

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  10. Transfer fried cod with a spider strainer or slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cod, flour mixture, and batter.

    removing cod from frying oil and draining pieces of cod on paper towel

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  11. While cod fries, heat a medium nonstick or cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium; add tortillas and heat until warm, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Transfer to a platter and cover with a damp towel; keep warm.

    corn tortillas being warmed in large cast iron pan with clean dish towel off to side to keep warm

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

  12. To assemble, divide cabbage and fried cod evenly among tortillas. Spoon pico de gallo over top; drizzle with chipotle sauce and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges and hot sauce as well as any extra chipotle sauce and pico de gallo.

    assembling of baja fish tacos with fried cod, cabbage, chipotle sauce, and pico salsa

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

Recipe Tips

  • If your local grocery does not carry Mexican crema, try a Latin American supermarket or sub sour cream in a pinch. If you can’t find cod, substitute another firm, mild white fish like haddock, pollock, sea bass, or snapper.
  • When frying fish, it’s important to maintain the correct temperature; adding the battered fish will cause the temperature to drop, so feel free to toggle your heat up and down while cooking to keep your oil at or around 365 F.
  • Battering the fish can be a messy endeavor. Use one hand to coat the fish in the flour mixture and the other hand to coat it in the batter. Wearing disposable gloves can also keep you from having to wash your hands constantly.

How to Store

  • These are best enjoyed the same day, and leftover fish will not keep well in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Leftover chipotle sauce and pico de gallo, however, can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days.

Make Ahead

The Pico de Gallo and Chipotle Sauce can both be made up to two days ahead. The dry components of the batter and the flour mixture can also be measured out and kept covered at room temperature so they’re ready to go. 

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