These smoky and savory blackened redfish tacos are an easy and delicious meal with bright pico de gallo, a refreshing cabbage slaw, and mouthwatering cilantro lime crema on lightly charred tortillas.
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Why You'll Love Blackened Red Fish Tacos
Do you love fish tacos? I sure do. These are the best fish tacos I've made and I can't wait for you to try them.
I've made these fish tacos with slight variations for many years. I make them with cod, tilapia, red snapper - whatever I have on hand!
They are super versatile and customizable.
Try a tropical mango pico de gallo or pineapple pico de gallo or a sweet and savory roasted pineapple habanero salsa. Use corn or flour tortillas.
Add avocado or sliced jalapeno or cotija cheese - this taco should be all about what you love to eat.
They're made with fresh ingredients for a bright, flavorful dish.
Plus, they're easy and quick, making them perfect for a weeknight dinner.
These are great for events like parties, family gatherings, game nights, and tailgates, too. Just prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time and pan-fry or grill the fish a few minutes before it's time to eat.
With a smoky homemade blackening seasoning, crisp, colorful slaw, fresh salsa, and a drizzle of tangy, creamy lime and cilantro crema, these delicious fish tacos are the perfect choice when you want something flavorful, filling, and healthy.
What You'll Need for Blackened Redfish Tacos
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- Red Fish I recommend using red fish for this recipe, but you can just as easily use tilapia or red snapper. If you want to use cod, check out the times and temperatures in this blackened cod tacos recipe. You can use fresh fish or defrosted frozen fish.
- Blackening Seasoning Keep reading for the full list of ingredients in our homemade blackening spice recipe, or you can use a jar of your favorite storebought variety.
- Tortillas I like to use soft tacos size of flour or corn tortillas. Both flour and corn tortillas can be blackened on a gas stovetop.
- Oil You can use either olive oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil to cook the fish.
- Cayenne Pepper You can adjust the amount of cayenne pepper depending on your personal preferences.
- Thyme Using dried thyme adds a floral, savory flavor to this blend of spices. I don't recommend using fresh thyme here.
- Oregano I recommend using dried oregano, too. It gives the spice blend a subtle earthy flavor. Plus, using all dry ingredients increases the shelf life of the finished seasoning blend.
- Black Pepper Freshly ground black pepper is best for this recipe. It is much more flavorful than pre-ground pepper and adds a nice kick to the seasoning blend.
- Garlic Powder Having a well-blended spice mix allows the fish to be evenly coated, so I opt for garlic powder in this recipe. Many people also add onion powder, so feel free to do so if you enjoy it and have it on hand.
- Paprika I used sweet paprika in my blend, but smoked paprika or hot paprika would work as well.
- Kosher Salt I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt for all of my savory recipe development. If you don't have kosher salt on hand, use only half of the salt recommended in this recipe.
Pico de Gallo
You can use your favorite store-bought pico de gallo or make one recipe of this pico de gallo. The ingredients needed are:
- Tomatoes I like to use roma tomatoes, but you can use globe tomatoes if you'd like.
- Onion White onion is my recommendation for this recipe, but a red onion or yellow onion will work just as well.
- Fresh Cilantro Check out this article on how to prep, cook and store fresh cilantro for guidance on picking the best bunch and storing your cilantro properly.
- Lime Juice Fresh lime juice is best, but you can use bottled lime juice if you don't have access to fresh limes.
- Jalapeños Devein and deseed the peppers for a milder salsa.
- Salt I always use kosher salt. It's less salty per teaspoon than table salt or sea salt, making it easier to taste for seasoning as you go without oversalting.
- Red Cabbage I recommend using shredded red cabbage in these tacos. You can use green cabbage or a coleslaw mix, though, if it's what you have available.
- Lime Juice This adds brightness to the cabbage that really wakes up the dish. You can use bottled lime juice if you don't have fresh limes available.
- Salt Just a pinch of salt here also makes this component of the tacos really flavorful and lively.
Cilantro Lime Crema
- Sour Cream I recommend using full-fat sour cream for this recipe.
- Mayonnaise If you have Mexican crema on hand, you can also use that in place of the sour cream and mayo here.
- Garlic Fresh garlic is key to this recipe. If you can't get fresh garlic for any reason, try using jarred garlic instead.
- Fresh Cilantro I would not replace this with anything else. If you don't have access to fresh cilantro, a simple garlic lime crema will be delicious.
- Lime Juice Feel free to use bottled lime juice if that's what you've used for the other parts of the dish.
- Salt Again, I always recommend kosher salt. It is less salty per teaspoon than sea salt or table salt.
How to Make Fish Tacos
Step One: Make the salsa. It's best to make this a little bit in advance for the flavors to develop. If you have time, you can make it a day or two ahead of time.
Step Two: Make the blackening spice blend. Add all of the spices to a small bowl and mix until the ingredients are combined.
Step Three: Thinly slice the cabbage and dress it with the juice of half a lime, about 1 tablespoon.
Step Four: Make the cilantro lime crema.
Step Five: Pat the fish dry on a paper towel-lined plate to remove as much moisture as possible. Generously coat with the blackening seasoning on both sides. To secure the seasoning, pat the fish with your hands.
Step Six: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Cook the fish in the hot skillet for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a dark crust forms and the fish is cooked through. It should flake easily when it is ready.
Step Seven Optional, while the fish is cooking: char your tortillas over the burner of a gas stove. This can also be done directly on the grates of a grill.
Step Eight Assemble the tacos! Transfer the fish to a warm tortilla, topping with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage slaw, and cilantro lime crema to taste. Serve with lime wedges.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Outside of the upper west coast of Mexico, California is best known for its fish tacos, particularly southern California and coastal areas of the state.
Fish tacos are great with vegetable sides, salads, potatoes, rice and beans, and lots of other dishes. Check out the "What to Serve with Fish Tacos" section below for ideas!
Blackened fish is made by seasoning any type of fish with blackening seasoning, which typically contains cayenne, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and a handful of dried spices like oregano and thyme.
Variations and Substitutions
Different Kind of Fish Mild white fish like tilapia, mahi mahi, halibut, and cod will work well in place of red drum. You could also try fried walleye or fried perch. If using a thicker piece of fish, be sure to cook it for a few minutes longer on each side.
Different Salsa You can prepare the fish tacos with mango salsa, pineapple salsa, or a salsa verde for different flavor combinations. Try them all to see what you like best!
Creamy Slaw In place of the cabbage simply dressed with lime juice, you can make a creamy slaw by combining green cabbage or coleslaw mix directly with the cilantro lime crema.
Garnish You can add any of your favorite toppings to the fish tacos to suit your tastes. Some of the best toppings are pickled onions, sliced avocado, jalapeños, green onion, and cotija cheese.
Simple Fish Tacos Have a friend or family member who isn't fond of blackening spice? Keep it simple with a salt and pepper seasoning on the fish.
How to Store
Fridge Store the components of this dish separately so your tortillas don't get soggy. You can refrigerate the fish for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.
Salsa will also last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. I store the cabbage without adding lime juice or it can wilt.
Freezer You can store cooked fish in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months. Tortillas can freeze for about 2 months, too.
I do not recommend freezing pico de gallo or raw cabbage. Their texture will not be crisp and fresh when they are defrosted.
Reheating Reheat the fish in a pan with a bit of oil until it is heated through. The internal temperature should reach at least 125 degrees F before serving.
What to Serve with Fish Tacos
Not sure what to serve with the red fish taco recipe? Try the suggestions below!
Corn This creamy, bright, smoky Mexican corn is much like elote but it's served in a bowl to eliminate the mess. This recipe is often referred to as esquites.
Salad Try serving a Greek green salad alongside this fish taco recipe. It's a bright, fresh, flavorful side.
If you're feeling like switching things up, you can actually add all of the ingredients from the fish tacos to a bowl of lettuce for a taco salad!
Beans and Rice Serve beans and rice with these tacos for a tried and true traditional side.
- Cook time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Start with 2 to 3 minutes per side. If the fish flakes easily with a fork, this is a good indicator it is done. You can also check with an instant-read thermometer. Fish should be served at 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add butter for richness if you'd like. If you feel like the dish needs a little richness, you can brush each piece of fish with melted butter before adding the spice mix.
- This spice mix can be adjusted to your personal tastes. Add onion powder if you'd like, swap the cayenne for chili powder if you're sensitive to spice, or bump up the cayenne powder if you want things really hot.
More Seafood Recipes to Try
Blackened Redfish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema
- Cutting Boards
- 1 pound redfish or other white fish, like tilapia
- 12 tortillas soft taco size, corn or flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or neutral oil like avocado oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 recipe blackening seasoning see note 1
Pico de Gallo
- ½ cup pico de gallo or prepared salsa of choice, see note 2
Cilantro Lime Crema
- ½ cup cilantro lime crema see note 3
- ¼ head cabbage small shredded
- 1 lime juice of
- kosher salt to taste
- Make the salsa. It's best to make this a little bit in advance for the flavors to develop. If you have time, you can make a day or two ahead of time.
- Make the blackening spice blend. Add all of the spices to a small bowl and mix until the ingredients are combined.
- Thinly slice the cabbage and dress it with the juice of half a lime, about 1 tablespoon.
- Pat the fish dry on a paper towel-lined plate to remove as much moisture as possible.
- Generously coat with the blackening seasoning on both sides. To secure the seasoning, pat the fish with your hands.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Cook the fish in the hot skillet for 2-3 minutes per side, or until a dark crust forms and the fish is cooked through. It should flake easily when it is ready.
- Optional, while the fish is cooking: char your tortillas over the burner of a gas stove. This can also be done directly on the grates of a grill.
- Assemble the tacos. Place the fish in a warm tortilla, top with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage slaw, and cilantro lime crema to taste.
- Homemade blackening seasoning can be replaced with 8 to 9 teaspoons of jarred blackening spice from the store.
- I use about 2 tablespoons of salsa per taco.
- You can also use prepared Mexican crema from the grocery store mixed with 1 tablespoon lime juice and ¼ cup fresh cilantro.
- Fridge Store the components of this dish separately so your tortillas don't get soggy. The fish, salsa, and crema will all last for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Freezer You can store cooked fish in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months. Tortillas can freeze for about 2 months, too.
- I do not recommend freezing pico de gallo or raw cabbage. Their texture will not be crisp and fresh when they are defrosted.
- Reheating Reheat the fish in a pan with a bit of oil until it is heated through. The internal temperature should reach at least 125 degrees F before serving.