Weeknight Cooking

Low-Maintenance Fish Tacos

July 14, 2014
22 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Roasted fish is the key to zen fish tacos. By roasting, you can control the speed of cooking and keep the fish moist. Lost crunch from the frying can be made up for with pickled red onion (I usually make a huge batch and then use the leftovers for lunches and any other excuse I can find). The onions get a bowl, as does the avocado, which turns out to be conveniently soft and sliceable by 7-year-olds. Cilantro sprigs and lime -- I put them in a pile right on the countertop for serving -- and Cholula hot sauce on the table make up the rest of it.

If I make the onions ahead of time, I can have fish tacos ready in 15 minutes. While the fish, rubbed with cumin and ground ancho chile powder, roasts, I clean the cilantro and toast the corn tortillas in a dry pan. My kids slice the avocado and my husband pours lemonade and opens beers. You can guess who gets what. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • For the pickled onions
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 part water
  • 2 parts cider vinegar
  • For the fish tacos
  • 3/4 pound pollack or hake or other good white fish
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile or chipotle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pickled onions
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/8-inch slices, lengthwise
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and dried
  • 2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Hot sauce of your choice (we like Cholula)
  1. For the pickled onions
  2. Slice the onions very thinly and put them in a microwaveable container. Add the salt and sugar. Cover everything with 1 part water to 2 parts vinegar.
  3. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, and microwave for another minute. Cool, then refrigerate overnight (if you have time).
  1. For the fish tacos
  2. Heat the oven to 350° F. Season the fish with salt, then the cumin and chile. Lay the fish in a baking dish, and sprinkle with the olive oil.
  3. Meanwhile, set out the pickled onions. Slice the avocado and put it in a bowl (I like to squeeze a little lime juice over it so it doesn’t brown). Wash and dry the cilantro and pile it on your counter. Do the same with the lime wedges.
  4. When the oven is hot, bake the fish until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. While the fish roasts, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add as many tortillas as you can – probably just 2 – and toast for a minute or two on each side, just enough to warm through and leave a light toasting mark; be careful not to let them dry out. Keep the warm tortillas piled under a clean tea towel.
  5. When the fish is ready, serve it with the warm tortillas and all the fixins, and let everyone have at it, making their own dream fish tacos.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aquaphase
  • Stephanie Miskew
    Stephanie Miskew
  • Sarah E.
    Sarah E.
  • AntoniaJames
  • Miachel Pruett
    Miachel Pruett
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

44 Reviews

aquaphase July 19, 2022
Such a quick and easy recipe for hot summer cooking. I opted for mahi mahi, and the baking was a real game-changer. The texture paired perfectly with fresh corn tortillas, some leftover slaw mix, cilantro, lime and, of course, the avocado. This recipe will definitely be a part of my summer go tos.
Sherri S. August 15, 2020
Made this last night and thank you! The baking made this easy and will be one recipe I make again for a crowd. And love all the improvising in the reviews as I did as well, as we were out of avocados. Added a quick mix of a chipotle with mayo for sauce, feta cheese, a little coleslaw mix which I always serve with fish tacos (just add a little vinegar to soften ever so slightly). And the onions were amazing. Love the review about making it a gift - wonderful idea! Love the Food 52 Community for all the great inspiration!!
Amanda H. August 15, 2020
Thanks for your comment -- and so glad you're part of the community!
Stephanie M. July 21, 2020
Fabulous Summer recipe, Amanda, + the pickled onions are a REVELATION!!! My Hubby loves fish tacos + he couldn't get enough of these - you really covered all the flavor bases (the only sub --> we used flour tortillas which I heated + charred on the burner of our gas stove). And you're so right, beer is the only way to go! Thanks so much for the deliciousness - can't wait to make them again.
Amanda H. July 21, 2020
So happy to read your review. My kids are also obsessed with the onions!
Sarah E. May 5, 2020
Made this tonight for cinco de Mayo and it was phenomenal! I used cod, and white wine vinegar for the pickled onion as that’s what I had at home. Will add to the rotation for sure!
Amanda H. May 5, 2020
So glad to hear this!
[email protected] October 13, 2018
Two great recipes in one. Easy fish is terrific, but the Pickled Onion recipe is a family favorite. I always have a batch in the fridge and use them as a condiment, salad topping or easy side dish. Bonus, it is an easy way to use up and preserve some of my CSA inventory.
Amy January 23, 2018
I made this with tilapia and it was SO GOOD! Everyone loved it. The best part of this recipe though is the pickled onions! I have always loved pickled onions, but thought they were a delicacy served only in restaurants- I can finally make them on my own, and so easy. Thank you for this recipe..a winner all the way around.
Amanda H. January 25, 2018
Really happy to hear you enjoyed it -- thanks for letting me (and readers) know!
AntoniaJames July 18, 2017
Also excellent made with salmon - for convenience, I use the single portion frozen pieces that come in a six-pack at Whole Foods, each a bit over 1" thick. Getting to 145 F takes 15-18 minutes; I remove the thin end after 8. A drizzle sauce made with sour cream/Greek yogurt + lime juice + salt = so good. ;o)
AntoniaJames May 6, 2017
First, may I thank you for this recipe and your exhortations here and in the new cookbook for the pickled onions, which have earned superhero status in my kitchen.
Here's a tip for making them even better, when used for tacos: bruise cilantro stems and leaves (keep them on the sprig), and fresh oregano and stick them in the bottom of the vessel in which you're storing the pickles, along with a big pinch of cumin and smaller pinch of ground allspice (inspired by a much-loved Diana Kennedy recipe for something altogether different). I make the pickles in a Pyrex pitcher and then pour the hot vinegar + onions over the herbs and spices. I let them cool and then refrigerate them in wide-mouth pint Mason jars.
Another tip is to take a page out of Nancy Silverton's book. When making grilled cheese, put paper thin slices of cheese on one slice of bread, then a layer of pickled onions, followed by another layer of thinly sliced cheese, for an extraordinary dinner-worthy sandwich. ;o)
Amanda H. May 6, 2017
Thanks for the excellent tips!
AntoniaJames June 5, 2017
Pickled onions (and shallots) also raise any quesadilla's game: roughly chop them, toss with grated cheese -- I also throw in some feta for its sharp, briny taste -- along with some cilantro leaves and coarsely chopped stems.
Particularly good with onions made with fresh oregano. If you don't have them, crush a good pinch of Mexican oregano with black pepper to sprinkle on the filling once it's on the tortilla. Great tasting lunch or dinner in less than 10 minutes. ;o)
P.S. I've found that a pint jar of these, with an index card with the recipe and suggestions for use attached, makes a lovely, thoughtful gift for hosts. Everyone loves it!
Miachel P. April 19, 2017
I love this hack. Fish tacos are my comfort food but I haven't made them at home often because of The Bowl Situation™ you mentioned. :)
Thanks for the tip!
petrini.elisa February 25, 2016
great recipe, but question re the pickled onions.from the way it's written, it sounds like you use more than one onion per TBS salt and 2 TBS sugar?
Amanda H. February 25, 2016
good point -- I usually use 2 onions!
Chef D. December 10, 2015
Mmmmm fish tacos :D
george H. August 5, 2015
For keeping heated tortillas warm, this http://www.amazon.com/La-Mexicana-Tortilla-Warmer-Foam/dp/B00AFYKIP8 works better than dish towels. Basing my goal on what you buy on the street in San Felipe, Baja, Mexico, I agree with Joan-Downstairs. Definately needs shredded cabbage. Vendors there also drizzle a white sauce on top. Not sure what's in it but I use mayo, a small amount of mexican crema, lime juice and a little of my home made chipotle garlic salt http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chipotle-rub-15381 . Sauce should be pretty runny but not watery. Drunken beans http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/drunken-beans-12674 make a great side. I have found canned pintos work just as well as dry and cut preparation time. At least three cloves garlic. If you have the time make them early cook them almost dry and add another beer. once a party started late and I had to add extra beer twice. Greatly adds to richness. Both links from La parilla- the mexican grill by Reed Hearon http://www.amazon.com/La-Parilla-The-Mexican-Grill/dp/0811810348
Shortrib July 29, 2015
Wow! The pickled onions make this: crunch and punch! We loved it. Used a chili cilantro sour cream as well (from yesterday's sweet potato fries), and did the fish on the BBQ. No kidding, 15 mins to the table. Can't beat that!
TiffayNay June 25, 2015
This was very very good. I'm definitely going to make this again. I didn't have any good sauce to use so I whipped up my own with chile purée, mayo, lemon juice and chives.
Colette M. June 22, 2015
I am going to make these when I tail gate next. Will cook the fish on the grill and make the onions ahead of time!
Joan -. June 22, 2015
This seems like the easiest way ever to prepare fish for tacos. I'll try it this week with fish from the farmers market.
I like "old-school" toppings for fish tacos: shredded cabbage, a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of Mexican crema and onion with cilantro. I'll swap in the pickled red onions, though 'cuz they sound terrific. I may add some sliced carrots to the pickle, too.
Lori April 29, 2015
Just found the answer. I just brought mine to a boil on the stove top and estimated what I thought 2 minutes in the microwave might equal--about 6 minutes.
Amanda H. April 29, 2015
I think you could do even less because the liquid doesn't boil in the microwave, it just gets very hot. I was going to suggest bringing the liquid to a boil, adding the onions, and shutting off the heat.
Amanda H. April 29, 2015
p.s. I suggest this because you want the onions to remain a bit crisp.
Lori April 29, 2015
I don't have a microwave oven. How would you prepare the onions without one?
elf1 February 1, 2015
What a fab recipe...I am using hake as that is what I have in the freezer, the pickled red onion is a
real find. I will use them in lots of things...cheddar cheese sandwich comes to mind! Thank you!
C January 19, 2015
These onions are definitely my new must have in the fridge at all times item!