CRISPY FRIED BAJA FISH TACOS THAT ARE BETTER THAN ANY RESTAURANT WITH A ONE STEP DUNK BATTER!
I am beyond giddy for you to make these fried Baja Fish Tacos because I honestly think they are some of the best you you will ever eat in your entire life – and right in your own home! They are wonderfully crispy with a depth of flavorful spices, texture packed between the cabbage and the crema and still wonderfully light and fresh!
Watch: How to make the Best Fish Tacos
What are Baja Tacos?
There are Fish Tacos and then there are BAJA FISH TACOS! Growing up and still living in San Diego (Carlsbad is a coastal city in northern San Diego), I have devoured my share of Baja Fish Tacos – they are everywhere! You’ve probably seen them at Rubios, Mexican restaurants, or if you’ve ever visited San Diego or ventured as far as the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, you’ve probably sunk your teeth into some rendition of these Baja Fish Tacos.
They all have similar components but truly authentic Baja Fish Tacos are always fried (never blackened), served on corn (not flour) tortillas, with thinly sliced cabbage, pico de gallo, creamy white sauce and plenty of lime. That’s the way its done. And that’s the way it should be. Because it is DELICIOUS.
Baja Fish Tacos Ingredients
Best Fish for Tacos
The best fish tacos start with your favorite white fish. You can a little pricier halibut known for its sweet, mild taste and large flakes (my favorite for this recipe) or mahi mahi, also known for its sweet flavor and firm texture. Less expensive options include tilapia which is mild and flaky and cod which is delicate, firm yet flaky.
Baja Fish Taco Batter
What sets this fish taco batter apart is the use of Ritz crackers which create a delightfully salty, buttery tasting batter. The cracker crumbs are combined with panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch, flour, baking powder that promotes browning and crispiness, egg to glue the batter to the fish and Sprite whose bubbles create a lighter and airier texture. Lastly, the fish taco batter is adeptly seasoned with chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne and salt.
Pico De Gallo
Pico de Gallo is a fresh tomato made with tomatoes, white onions cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice and salt. It takes minutes to whip up and can be made ahead of time.
White Sauce for Fish Tacos
White sauce for fish tacos is a must have cooling, tangy, and creamy that marries all of the flavors and textures together. White sauce for fish tacos is made with mayonnaise, sour cream and lime juice, then seasoned with cumin, garlic and hot sauce. It’s quick and easy to make but packs a dynamic punch.
How to Make Baja Fish Tacos
- Prep Fish: Slice fish into ¾ x 4 inch strips. Don’t worry about them being perfect or terribly uniform, just error on the side of slicing thinner so we keep our nice ratio of batter to fish.
- Make Batter: super quick whisking of all the ingredients for you to coat the fish in later. The Ritz lend a wonderfully buttery taste to the tacos, the panko lends a nice crunch and the spices add a depth of subtle flavor without tasting overpowering – even with the cayenne pepper – they will not taste spicy – just flavorful.
- Pat dry the cut strips of fish. (Don’t skip! This step is necessary to ensure the batter sticks!)
- Coat: Add your fish to the batter all at once and stir coat!
- Fry: we don’t need to deep fry, just an inch or so of vegetable oil works beautifully. Once hot, add your battered fish a few at a time and fry until golden, about 2 minutes on each side.
- Warm Tortillas: You will want to use warm corn tortillas. You can achieve this by microwaving 2 tortillas at a time between slightly dampened paper towels so they are warm and pliable or you can pan fry them as shown by heating 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a seasoned skillet over medium heat and cooking each tortilla for about 20 seconds, making sure you don’t overcook so they stay soft and not crispy.
How to make this Fish Taco Sauce Recipe
Finally, assemble the fish tacos with thinly shredded cabbage, fresh Pico de Gallo, freshly squeezed lime juice, Creamy White Sauce and a drizzle of hot sauce to taste. But above all, don’t skip the white sauce! This Fish Taco Sauce brings all the components together and is so heavenly I actually doubled my original recipe to give you what is listed there now. Because you will want more Fish Taco Sauce!
To make this creamy white sauce, simply whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 tablespoons lime juice and splashes of ground cumin, garlic powder and salt.
And the eat!
What goes with the Best Fish Tacos?
You can be as simple or as indulgent as you would like to be with these Fish Tacos. Here are some topping and side ideas:
- a big side of chips and homemade salsa and/or guacamole
- pico de gallo
- salsa verde
- Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Corn Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Lime Butter
- Southwest Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing
- Southwest Orzo Salad with Chipotle Honey Lime Vinaigrette
- Fruit Salad with Honey Citrus Dressing
- Pina Colada Fruit Salad
- Grilled Pineapple with Brown Sugar Orange Glaze
- Mexican Street Fries with Salsa Ketchup
- and top it all of with Churros!
Fish Taco Toppings
- Cabbage: Thinly sliced green cabbage adds the quintessential fresh crunch.
- Pico de gallo: This fresh tomato salsa adds a vibrant, punchy freshness. You can use the homemade pico de gallo recipe in recipe card or store bought.
- Lime: Use lime wedges to add freshly squeezed lime juice if additional tanginess is desired.
- Cilantro: If you skip the pico de gallo, load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead.
- Guacamole: Use your favorite recipe or my guacamole recipe (amazing!) or you can even use store bought.
- Avocados: Chopped or sliced avocados are the easiest avocado option and add a wonderful creaminess.
- Salsas: Store bought salsa is always an easy topping or get fancy with my homemade restaurant salsa, salsa verde, avocado salsa, charred corn salsa, mango salsa, or pineapple salsa or strawberry salsa.
- Jalapenos: Ramp up the heat with chopped or sliced jalapenos or hot sauce.
- Pickle onions: Tangy, punchy fantastic red onions take minutes to make or use store-bought.
Baja Fish Taco Recipe Storage
All of the components for Baja Fish Tacos should be stored separately. Store the cooked fish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For best results, don’t stack the fish directly on top of each other because this will make it soggy. Instead, store in a single layer and place a piece of parchment paper in between each layer.
Baja Fish Tacos originated in Ensenada, a coastal city in Baja Mexico, about 75 miles south of the border of California. It is a stones throw away from where I met my Patrick when it was safer to travel to Baja. But that’s another story. Ensenada is still considered the destination for fish tacos.
Thankfully, Ralph Rubio, a then SDSU student, couldn’t leave Baja Fish Tacos in Baja after love-at-first-bite on a spring break surfing trip in Ensenada in the 1970s. I was able to meet Ralph Rubio at a private cooking demonstration and tasting at a Carlsbad Rubios (see IG pic HERE. Carlsbad is actually Rubios headquarters) where Ralph described his epiphany while at his favorite Mexican fish taco stand:
“Why didn’t someone open a restaurant like this in San Diego?” He thought to himself, “Well, maybe I could do it.”
Shortly after, with the help of his family, Ralph converted an old Orange Julius stand and San Diego was introduced to Baja Fish Tacos. He described how in the beginning, business was so slow that he would lay on the roof of his first restaurant and come down to make individual orders as they came in. It didn’t take long though for his Baja Fish Tacos to catch on like wildfire and he eventually opened the now famous Rubios Coastal Grill with over 190 restaurants.
Baja sauce, commonly used in Baja-style fish tacos, has a creamy and tangy flavor profile with a hint of spiciness that marries all the textures and flavors together. It is creamy from the sour cream and mayonnaise, tangy from the lime juice, and spicy from the cayenne with a depth of flavor from chili powder, cumin, onion powder and garlic.
Baja-style food, associated with the Baja California region of Mexico, is characterized by fresh and flavorful cuisine with a focus on seafood. It typically features dishes like fish tacos, ceviche, and tostadas, prepared with ingredients like locally caught fish, shrimp, and shellfish. Baja-style cuisine often incorporates a variety of vibrant and zesty flavors, including citrus, chilies, and herbs. It’s known for its fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean influences, offering a combination of spicy, savory, and refreshing taste experiences, often served in a casual, beachfront setting.
LOOKING FOR MORE TACO RECIPES?
- Chili Lime Chicken Tacos
- Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos
- Asian Caramel Pork Tacos
- Red Curry Beef Tacos
- Blackened Fish Tacos
- Tacos Al Pastor
- Turkey Tacos
- Baked Fiesta Ranch Chicken Tacos
- Buffalo Chicken Tacos
You might also like these Mexican Favorites:
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Best Fish Taco Recipe (with Fish Taco Sauce)
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- 1 1/2 lbs. halibut, mahi mahi or other firm white fish
- 15 corn tortillas, 6-inch ( I love La Tortilla Factory)
- Vegetable oil
Fish Taco Batter
Pic de Gallo
- 4 Roma tomatoes diced
- 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, minced
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- salt to taste
- Whisk the White Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Pico de Gallo
- Combine the Pico de Gallo ingredients together in a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Tortillas (Microwave or Pan Fry)
- MICROWAVE: Heat tortillas in the microwave by placing 2 tortillas between two slightly dampened paper towels and microwaving for 40 seconds. Place warmed tortillas on a plate with a paper towel in between and cover with a towel. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
- PAN FRY: Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a seasoned skillet over medium heat. Add tortilla and cook until its golden and starts to brown in spots, about 20 seconds, then flip and cook until other side is golden. The tortilla should still be soft and pliable, not crispy.
- Place warmed tortillas on a plate with a paper towel in between and cover with a towel. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, adding additional oil as needed after every couple tortillas.
- Mix all the batter ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Slice fish into strips approximately 3/4” wide x 4″ long (they don’t have to be exact – error on the side of thinner). Pat fish very dry and add all of the fish to the batter and gently stir to coat.
- Fill a 12-inch pan with about 1 inch deep oil and heat to 375 degrees F.
- Working in batches, fry fish until golden, flipping halfway through. Place on paper towels.
- Add fish to tortillas (I use 2 strips per taco) and top with shredded cabbage, Pico de Gallo, freshly squeezed lime juice and White Sauce. Drizzle with hot sauce/salsa to taste and garnish with avocados if desired.
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