Beer-Battered Fish & San Diego-Style Fish Tacos

CATEGORIES: Kate, Latin, Seafood

Last summer, there was about a month there where the only thing I could think about was fish tacos. Unfortunately for me, according to my friend Amy, the closest place I could find them was in New Orleans and no matter what I did, I couldn’t convince my husband that we needed to take a day trip to The Big Easy so I could find Amy’s street vendor fish tacos. Left to my own devices, the internet, and some experimentation, I came up with two very different, very tasty fish taco recipes. And, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, you get both of them this week!

There are kind of two schools of thought in the fish taco world–fried and broiled or grilled. And I truly love them both. My first encounter with fish tacos was in Logan, Utah, my hometown, at a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called El Toro Viejo. These were the non-fried, cilantro-and-lime-heavy fish tacos served in flour tortillas. Believe me, it says a LOT about these tacos that, as a teenager, I wasn’t super keen on fish and yet I would eat these over just about anything else in Logan.

On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got your fried fish tacos. I didn’t have these until a few years later when I was in San Diego. I ordered a fish taco, expecting the El Toro experience, and got a taco with fried cod in it. I wasn’t so sure. And then I tried it. And I was.

I can’t say which one I like better, although the grilled tacos are (naturally) far healthier and cooking with hot oil is always an adventure, so we eat the grilled version more often. But for a special treat, these fish tacos are always a guaranteed hit. Also, if you’re not at all interested in fish tacos but you do have a hankering for fish and chips, you can just make the fish and then serve it with these or these fries and some malt vinegar and suddenly, you’re in England and not Mexico. That’s right, this recipe is a true culinary passport…

Making these tacos doesn’t have to be a completely kitchen-trashing experience (although I’ve toyed with the idea of posting pictures of what mine looked like after I made these. And then I decided against it for fear that someone might call the health department). Get your toppings ready–dressing, Pico de Gallo (or Mango Pico de Gallo), pre-shredded cabbage (think cole slaw mix), and crumbled cheese–ahead of time,

or you can even use pre-made pico or fresh salsa. That way, all you have to do is fry your fish and tortillas and the mess is minimal.

When you’re ready to cook your fish, heat your oven to the lowest setting so you can keep it warm when it’s done cooking. Rinse and pat dry 1 lb. cod fillets and then cut into 1-2-ounce strips.

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and then, in a separate container, whisk together 8 oz. cold beer (or O’Doul’s, in my case) and 1 egg

and add the beer mixture to the flour mixture. Whisk together.

You’ll definitely want a candy or frying thermometer, then cooking this fish because the oil needs to be hot–375 degrees, if you’re interested. Heat 3-4 inches of canola oil in a heavy pot. Lightly dust each piece of cod in flour and then dip it in the beer batter

Drop into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, for about 7-8 minutes. You might want to test a piece–just cut it open and see if it flakes with a fork.

Remove the cooked pieces of fish from the oil and drain on a paper towel.

Stick the plate in the preheated oven.

Now…this step is going to sound a little weird, so just trust me here. You’re going to be using corn tortillas, but they need to be cooked a little so they don’t crack and so the corn flavor doesn’t overwhelm everything else. In the hot oil, cook as many tortillas as you have pieces of fish, just for 1-2 minutes–you want them to be a little crispy but still bendable. I know, I know, caloric, fat-ridden disaster, right? Yeah, probably. But, like I said, this is a rare, rare treat around our house, and really, those tortillas are so small that as long as you only have 1-2 tacos, you’re really not doing that much damage. Or so I like to think… 🙂

Anyway, when you’ve cooked your tortillas, you can assemble your tacos–1 tortilla, 1 piece of fish, a spoonful of pico de gallo, a drizzle of the amazing dressing (you’ll get a perfect drizzle if you keep it in one of those millions of squeezy plastic water bottles you probably have lying around), a big ol’ pinch of shredded cabbage, and a sprinkling of Cotija cheese and you’ve got a serious fiesta going on.

Stay tuned on Friday because I’ll be posting my grilled fish taco recipe! And you thought you’d never see more than two recipes in the seafood section of Our Best Bites!



  1. I made this for dinner tonight and it was excellent! I had never had fish tacos before…they never sounded good to me before. Anyway, thanks for the recipe! I used canned mangoes. Where I live, they are hard to find ripe and I wanted to make this tonight so I went to the hispanic foods section and found canned mangoes. They are excellent and you can't tell the difference in the salsa.

  2. I love both fried and grilled fish tacos (really looking forward to your grilled fish tacos recipe later). I made both kinds of tacos before, but I was just wondering if you've ever tried a baking method. Maybe your baked fish stick recipe in a taco?

  3. Ignore this if you're one of those people who has to cook everything from scratch, but we have fish tacos several times a month at our house (they're a family favorite), and we just cook frozen beer-battered fish fillets, which we cut up and top with pretty much the same stuff you suggest, except I always add avocado if I have it. I like them the best in white corn tortillas heated on a non-stick pan, but my kids like flour tortillas better. I'm always looking for healthier foods, so I make my dressing with fat-free plain yogurt, fresh lime juice, chopped cilantro, and tobasco. Oh, and we love Herdez Salsa Verde on any kind of tacos!

  4. I have been looking for an excuse to go and buy a bottle ob beer, for the garden. I told by a nursery employee that a lid sitting in your garden would attract the underground grubs and kill them. My hubby raise those eyebrows way up at that >;-[

    He loves fried fish, maybe this would nudge him over line to the wild side?

  5. Kate,
    Yep, I'm a east coast transplant to Louisiana. Moved here about 6 years ago. I'm in BR.

    I'll be in New Orleans in June so I am excited to try the Taqueria on Magazine Street! I'm giddy just thinking about it… I thought that I had given up good Mexican when I moved here!

  6. Della, my had some bizarre Mongolian Grill aversion, so I never ate there growing up. It wasn't until college when I discovered the wonder of Mongolian Grills! Oh, if only my childhood hadn't been so deprived… 😉

  7. This is a little off subject, but did you ever eat at Amy's Mongolian Barbecue in Logan,Ut? They closed down several years ago, but Amy's was a family favorite of ours! We would drive over from Bear Lake just to go there!

  8. knittergirl–Yeah, cooking with oil can be a little scary, but having a candy thermometer helps a lot. As long as you don't let the oil get hotter than 375 (and heck, mine accidentally got a LOT higher than that the other day and nothing bad happened), you should be totally fine. And you can always keep a fire extinguisher handy. The ONLY times I've ever seen grease-related fires are when people walked away from the oil while it was on the stove.

    Lisa–I just talked to my friend and she said that it's Taqueria Corona. There's one on Magazine Street and another one near Metairie. Are you in Louisiana, too?? 🙂

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