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Easy Grilled Fish Tacos are healthy and flavorful and can be made on a grill, stovetop or even baked in the oven. We top them with crunchy cabbage, a squeeze of lime and our tangy homemade fish taco sauce. Better than anything you’ll get at a local restaurant these grilled fish tacos are a simple meal to make any night of the week.
I have been a huge fan of fish tacos, ever since attending a friend’s family fish fry in high school. They cooked the fish outside in a big fryer until it was crispy and stuffed it into warm corn tortillas. While fried fish is certainly a tasty treat once in a while, it’s not good to eat it that way all the time. That’s why grilled fish tacos are the way to go! Pair them with Mexican Rice, Mexican Street Corn Salad and Slow Cooker Mexican Beans for the ultimate feast!
Modern Fish Tacos became popular in the 1950s in Baja California, Mexico where small stands and street vendors sold their delicious fresh food. That food included fish tacos, stuffed into lightly charred corn tortillas and topped with shredded cabbage and creamy sauces. Today you can find fish tacos, both grilled and fried, at taco stands around the country.
Which Fish is Best for Tacos?
Budget friendly white fish fillets that are lean, flaky and mild in flavor, are traditionally used in fish tacos. The most popular kinds of fish for grilled fish tacos are halibut, cod, tilapia, snapper and mahi-mahi (my personal favorite). Salmon is also sometimes used but it does have a stronger flavor profile.
How to Make Grilled Fish Tacos
- Marinate the fish. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice chili powder, paprika, cumin and garlic powder. You can also add some Mexican oregano if you have it. Put the fish in the marinade in a resealable plastic bag and gently massage it to coat the fish. Keep in mind that fish is more delicate than other meats so it’s important to be a little more gentle. Marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
- Prep Toppings. While your fish is hanging out in the fridge, shred some green or purple cabbage (I like to use both) and mix up the fish taco sauce.
- Grill. Grab your fish out of the fridge and bring it out to the grill. Gently place the fish on the grates directly over the heat and grill the fillets for a few minutes on each side. Transfer to a clean plate and go assemble your grilled fish tacos!
Fish Taco Sauce
There are lots of different sauces you can use to top your grilled fish tacos. I love making this tangy sauce that has sour cream, mayo, salsa, lime juice and garlic. It’s so good, so creamy and it perfect with the tender flaky fish and crunchy cabbage.
It’s super simple to make – just whisk together the ingredients and refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to use. This sauce is versatile and you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.
Top Tips for Grilled Fish Tacos
- Before starting, make sure to check the fish for bones. There’s nothing worse than biting into that luscious grilled fish taco and being stabbed by a pin bone!
- Don’t marinate for too long. 30 minutes is plenty to impart the flavor and any longer and the acid from the lime juice begins to cook the fish. Which is fine if you’re making Shrimp Ceviche, but you want your grilled fish tacos to get that grill action.
- When grilling fish, you want to make sure to have a long handled grilling spatula so you can easily flip your fish. Don’t use tongs as that can cause the delicate fish to break apart and fall between the grates.
- Remember that the cook time can vary based on a number of factors, like the heat of your grill and thickness of your fish. Keep a digital meat thermometer on hand. A safe temperature for cooked fish is 145 degrees F.
- To cook on the stovetop, heat a skillet to medium, melt some oil, and pan fry for a few minutes per side, or until cooked through. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment, and cook fish for about 10-15 minutes.
Fish Tacos are served in corn tortillas (grill them when you grill your fish!) with shredded cabbage and a variety of sauces. There is a delicious fish taco sauce in the recipe below that I make every time I cook grilled fish tacos. Here are a few other toppings you might like:
What to Do with Leftovers
Leftover grilled fish is great for making burrito or budha bowls with quinoa or rice and veggies. Or use it to top your bagels at breakfast!
Store leftover fish in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2-3 days, or freeze in a resealable freezer bag or container for up to 1 month.
Grilled Fish Tacos
- 1.5 pounds flaky white fish filets cod, tilapia, halibut, snapper, mahi-mahi
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 limes juiced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 white corn tortillas
- Toppings: Pico de gallo Shredded cabbage, lime wedges and fish sauce
Fish taco sauce:
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup salsa to taste
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Salt to taste
Grilled Fish Tacos
- Pat fish dry and check for bones. Place into a resealable plastic bag; set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, chili powder, paprika, cumin and garlic powder. Pour over the fish, seal the bag and gently massage to coat. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees F). Brush the grill grates with oil to prevent fish from sticking.
- Grill fish filets for 3-4 minutes per side, using a long handled grill spatula to turn. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the fish. Transfer fish to a clean plate and let rest for a few minutes before serving. *If using a more delicate fish like tilapia, I recommend using a grill basket or other type of grill pad to keep the fish from breaking and falling through the grates..
- To serve, break fish up into large chunks and place onto warm tortillas. Top with fish sauce, shredded cabbage, and any other desired toppings.
Fish Taco Sauce:
- Combine ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- To cook on the stovetop, heat a skillet to medium, melt some oil, and pan fry for a few minutes per side, or until cooked through.
- To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment, and cook fish for about 10-15 minutes.