Fish tacos in Mexico, Baja Style, with recipes for chipotle tartar sauce, Mexican sliced cabbage, pickled onions and avocado salsa

Fish tacos have been on my dinner plate for three consecutive days and on my mind even longer, but blogging has taken a back seat to the World Cup. This is my first attempt to “speed blog” and get a fish taco post up before the next soccer game in one hour. I think I can do it.

From what I have read about fish tacos, I learned they became popular on menus in Baja, and spread to the mainland of Mexico, perhaps following the tourists. Fish tacos prepared in the Baja style are now all over the west coast of Mexico. This way of preparation involves an easy beer batter, sliced cabbage, pickled onions, avocado salsa, and thin mayonnaise and sour cream salsa. I’m sticking to tradition, except for substituting chipotle tartar sauce for the mayonnaise salsa, which is lackluster in taste when compared with the zing of chipotle chile.

At the La Cruz Fish Market, Martin recommended Chocho when I asked for a fish for tacos. Chocho? He saw me hesitate, but assured me it was a great choice. I had never heard this name before and don’t know what it is called in English. Here’s what it looks like.

Whatever it is, Martin always steers me right, and this was no exception. The fish was perfect for tacos, with great texture and flavor. If I can learn the English name, I’ll include it later. You probably won’t find chocho in your market, so ask your fish monger to make a recommendation. Please refer to the web page for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (see Links at top of page) for guidance in purchasing sustainable seafood choices or to The Pescatarian’s Dilemma.

Remember to trim out the dark strip of meat down the center of the fillet if it is present. Not all fish have this, but the mystery fish called Chocho does.

Baja Style Fish Tacos      12 tacos, serving 4 to 6

The elements for this recipe are chipotle tartar sauce, pickled onions, sliced cabbage, avocado salsa, corn tortillas and battered, fried fish. Garnish with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.

Chipotle Tartar Sauce Double the recipe found on the page for Fish Sandwiches.

Avocado Salsa — Process one avocado with canned, pickled jalapeños and pickling liquid in a blender until smooth. How much jalapeño and liquid is your call, depending on the heat level you like. I used  about 1/3 cup jalapeño with liquid, plus a few tablespoons of water to thin the salsa. (This reminds me of the story in one of Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher’s books about someone on the east coast of the U.S. receiving a box of avocados from California before they were well known in the east. She discarded all but the seeds, boiled them for hours, and then reported to the sender that they never did become tender.)

Pickled OnionsPeel and thinly slice one red or white onion, or both for an attractive color combination. Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Turn off heat, add onion slices for 30 seconds only, then drain immediately in a colander. For each cup of sliced onions, add 4 tablespoons of cider or white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, 1/4 teaspoon of Mexican oregano and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Vinegars can vary in their acidity, so test to see if your pickled onions need more water or vinegar to suit your taste. Stir to blend and let sit at room temperature for one hour or longer before serving.

Sliced CabbageBlend two cups of thinly sliced cabbage, green or red, with the juice of one small lime and salt to taste.

Prepare lime wedges, sliced tomato and chopped cilantro for garnish.

Beer-Battered Fish Fillets

  • 1 lb. (1/2 kilo) boneless white fish fillets, cut cross-wise if necessary so they are not more than 3/4″ to 1″ (20 – 25 mm.) thick and cut into 3″-4″ (75 – 100 mm.) length pieces
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) beer
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 12 warm corn tortillas
  1. Pour oil into a skillet to a depth of about 1/2″ (12 mm.) and heat until shimmering.
  2. Stir together beer, flour and salt.
  3. Coat fish pieces well with batter.
  4. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Time to assemble your tacos. Game time! Buen provecho!

Today’s catch at La Cruz Fish Market

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27 thoughts on “Fish tacos in Mexico, Baja Style, with recipes for chipotle tartar sauce, Mexican sliced cabbage, pickled onions and avocado salsa

  1. Stephen

    Hello :) just came back from a trip to Mexico!
    I wanted to inform you “cooking in mexico” that the “chocho” fish is actually a Golden Trevally… & chocho has a somewhat sensual meaning.
    Hope this helps!

  2. Pingback: Corn tortillas, old world and new « Cooking in Mexico

  3. Amy

    hey there, Love the blog the recipes look delish:)
    Headed down to Puerto Escondito in a few weeks and will be staying in a place where I can cook and buy fresh local ingredients. I have never been to Mexico and Iam wondering if there was one thing I should prepare while Iam there that would send my taste buds into a whirlwind…. what do you think it would be?

    1. Hi Amy,
      Since you will be on the coast, you can’t go wrong preparing fresh fish in any style. I have always thought that it almost doesn’t matter how the fish is prepared, as long as it is fresh. Tell the vendor how you want to fix it — tacos, ceviche, a la veracruzana, and he will recommend the type of fish best for your recipe. Remove any red strips of meat as soon as you get it home, and to be extra sure that it is kept plenty cold until cooked, place it in a dish of ice, with a plastic bag between the fish and ice so it doesn’t sit in water if the ice melts before you prepare it. (Sometimes fridges in rentals aren’t super cold.) Check out the fish recipes in the recipe section at the top of any Cooking in Mexico page. I love them all — Baja Fish Tacos, ceviche, fish filets poached in coconut milk, coconut fish filets with tropical fruit salsa. I would recomment that last one if you only cook fish one time. Buen viaje y buen provecho!

  4. Pingback: Featured Food Blog: Cooking in Mexico | Yummly

  5. Oh my, you have a very nice blog. That fish is absolutely beautiful. I’ve not seen anything like it outside of a fancy aquarium in MI USA. LOL. We do have a couple of Mexican restaurants (aside from the chains) where I live. My favorite place, their best is tacos de lengua. My daughter lived in Spain for 4 years and the owner of our neighborhood place would tease her about her “bad” Spanish. Daughter loves the fish tacos there…

  6. Casey Storer

    Its me :)
    These look fantastic
    I typically Grill the fish on BBQ
    I really like the Idea of the Pickled Onions
    To me the key is fish that is fresh and the Lite Slaw the crunch plus the tenderness of the fish is Amazing
    You have a daily reader that will test EVERYTHING

    1. Hi Casey,

      You must be quite a cook to be up for testing everything! Yup, you are right — freshness is the key to the best fish. As long as it is not overcooked, it doesn’t make any difference which recipe you use — it will turn out great.

  7. Hi Kathleen, great review. Thank you.
    Where do you get the ingredients for the Mango Ice Cream. Do you know where we can get a reasonably prices ice cream maker?
    Why don’t we work on somthing for your blog.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I buy raw milk with cream from a family in La Cruz. Costco has organic sugar. Farm-fresh eggs are from Mascota, though I want to find a source closer to home.
      Mangoes are from another family here in La Cruz. They will only have them until the end of July.

      I don’t know where you can buy an ice cream maker in Mexico — probably somewhere in Guadalajara or Mexico City. Ours came back with us when we returned from a trip north.

      I’d love to do a write-up on Pie in the Sky. We can do it whenever you want, though perhaps you would rather wait until high season. Let me know when.


  8. Vicki in GA

    Cougar, that is a cute story.

    I had catfish, coleslaw, and hush puppies for dinner – with a gallon of sweet tea.
    Of course, I use Texas Pete’s Peppa Sauce on my fried fish and puppies.
    Yes, I love the photos and great recipes.

  9. Vicki in GA

    seriouscougar – first, I love the name.
    Second, catfish? Bass? Cabbage?
    Are you by chance a Southern Belle?

    I love fried catfish with coleslaw.

    1. Hi Vicki:

      My names comes from the fact that my husband is 2 yrs. younger and he teases me that I am a ‘cougar’ – LOL. So I go at it seriously!!!! That’ll teach him.

      We live in the country in South Central Texas and also love catfish and any type of cabbage incl. coleslaw. Luckily we have one of our ranch tanks (TX for pond) that was stocked with channel and blue cats years ago. They now range from babies to up to 20 lbs. We prefer the 2-3 lb. size for eating as they are more tender. The huge ones take a little longer cooking and are better baked.

      I love these recipes on this blog because it gives another dimension to cooking that I often don’t take the time to do. And I love the friendly banter back and forth between friends and family.

      Aren’t the photos FAB!!!!?

  10. Now these sound easy and great but I’ll have to use bass or catfish which is what we have on the ranch. Russ caught a ‘hog’ (humongous) catfish when he was here but threw it back since he was leaving in the morning and too little time left to do it.

    I do pickled onions all the time and cabbage is a staple around here. Have a big crock (I use a stainless steel pot) going right now that I will ‘can’ when finished. I add caraway seeds since we like the caraway seeds in it.l

    Thanks for the great photos which have my mouth watering. Going to fish again in the next few days.

  11. Lorin Johnson

    You’re making me very hungry for Mexico again. I’ve never tried making the pickeled onions though they serve them at our favorite taco place. I would never have thought to make the avacado sauce that way either. Remember to try the new Baja Burrito place in San Pancho next time. It’s clean and excellent with large portions of great fish and shrimp.
    Because of your blog, I hit the new taco truck twice last week and Jerry came home from another spot with tostadas de pollo.
    Good job on getting that done during the world cup!

  12. Vicki in GA

    Love fish tacos!
    Great recipe.

    I lived in San Jose del Cabo, Baja, for about six months when I turned 40….geez…25 years ago! On warm evenings, I’d head downtown and get fish tacos from a little taco stand, drink beer, and watch the novellas. Oh, my, I do miss Mexico.

  13. steve means

    Hello Sandra Lee, a friend recommended we check out your blog. Little did I suspect that it would be competing with Cuisine magazine! Very impressive. My family spends a lot of time in Bucerias in the winter. We will have to give this a try.
    Steve Means

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Steve, but I’m Kathleen, not Sandra Lee. You may have confused her name with mine on the most recent comment she wrote to me. Cuisine Magazine? What a comparison — thank you!

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