Ready in 40 minutes, these tilapia fish tacos are light, refreshing, and super flavorful. Loaded with seasoned flaked fish, crunchy cabbage, Cojita cheese, and a delicious creamy, tangy fish sauce, this Mexican-inspired recipe has it all!
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Fast, Fresh, and Fully Loaded!
Tilapia fish tacos are one of my favorite Mexican food recipes to make when I’m looking for a flavorful way to enjoy fresh or previously frozen fish. Using healthy ingredients makes it easy to say yes to a second helping!
It’s loaded but isn’t heavy and has all the elements of a really good taco! Seasoned, light, and flaky baked fish, crunchy cabbage, lime juice, Cojita cheese, and the best cool and creamy fish taco sauce recipe with a bit of heat for a kick!
All of this is wrapped in a flour or corn tortilla for a deliciously satisfying bite. This bang bang shrimp taco is another favorite for all the same reasons!
You can cook the fish using my baked tilapia recipe or use the stove, grill, or air fryer, and below I’ve included directions for each method.
Why This Recipe Works
- The flavors. There is no shortage of tasty topping options in this tilapia fish tacos recipe, but even if you wanted to enjoy the flavor of the fish all on its own you could. It’s that good!
- Easy to make. The fish cooks in minutes. Just enough time to whip up a sauce and prepare your toppings. Dinner is done!
- Customizable. As with any sort of taco, the toppings are plenty but totally optional. You can even swap the type of fish you use!
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Tilapia filets: Be sure all bones are removed. Tilapia is a mild white fish so cod, rockfish, or halibut can be used in its place.
- Seasoning: Cumin, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper is all the fish taco seasoning this needs. Cayenne is spicy, so you can adjust the amount used depending on your tastes. If you want to omit it completely, you can replace it with a milder chili powder or even paprika.
- Unsalted butter: Adding butter with a drizzle of oil onto the filets and allowing it to melt as they bake is just brilliant. It adds that necessary buttery flavor.
- Tortillas: Flour tortillas or corn tortillas, it’s up to you. If you’re setting up a taco bar, it might be worth having both that way people can decide for themselves.
- For the sauce: A combination of mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, garlic powder, and sriracha sauce is a must-have condiment. It adds a creamy flavorful finish.
- If you have prepared homemade taco seasoning or a fajita seasoning blend on hand, feel free to use it.
- You can swap the sauce with some cilantro lime crema if you prefer it.
- Use this tilapia fish tacos recipe with salmon, shrimp, flounder, or Mahi Mahi instead.
- Want fried fish instead? Use the method in my fish and chips recipe for perfectly battered fillets.
How to Make Fish Tacos
- Make the sauce. Before you begin, combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set it in the fridge to chill until you’re ready to use it.
- Combine the dry rub seasoning. In a shallow bowl, add the garlic powder, salt, cayenne, and cumin. Stir to combine.
- Dredge the filets. Pat each piece dry with paper towels. Getting rid of excess moisture will help the seasoning stick better, therefore a more flavorful fish. Coat each piece of tilapia on both sides and lay them flat in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet lined with foil and nonstick spray.
- Butter and bake. Drizzle each seasoned filet with oil and dot with small pats of butter. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 25 minutes until no longer translucent.
- Assemble. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm the tortillas one at a time. Once one is ready, lay it flat and spread the fish taco sauce on the inside. Add the tilapia, followed by the cabbage, pico de gallo, and any other additional toppings. Do this with the remaining tortillas.
- Serve. Enjoy tilapia fish tacos immediately with extra toppings on the table including a couple of lime wedges.
Fish Taco Toppings
Fish taco toppings are fresh and healthy and add not only flavor but texture to every bite. I like to set out bowls of everything that way people can top theirs how they like.
Other Ways to Cook the Fish
- Grill: Cook for 2-3 per side over medium-high on a lightly oiled grill.
- Air Fryer: Preheat to 370°F and lightly grease the basket. Cook in a single layer (in batches if necessary) for 6-7 minutes.
- Stovetop: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook filets for 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd the pan.
- To brown the edges of the fish, place them under the broiler for an extra 2-3 minutes.
- Look for tilapia fillets that are thinner that way they won’t take too long to cook. The faster you can eat these the better!
- For convenience, buy pre-shredded cabbage from the grocery store.
If you’re not using a deep-fried batter to coat, a light, flaky, and delicate fish is great. Whitefish is a popular choice because it’s lean, budget-friendly, and cooks fast. They’re also mild in flavor and can take on whatever season you add.
An accurate way to tell is by sticking a thermometer into the thickest part of the filet. It should have an internal temperature reading of 140°F. Another way to tell is that it should no longer be translucent and will flake easily with a fork.
I don’t recommend cooking it ahead of time, but you can certainly season it ahead of time. It cooks fast anyway, so you’re not saving much time there and I would worry that by the time you reheat it, it’ll be overcooked.
Keep it stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and use it on everything!
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Tilapia Fish Tacos
Fish Taco Sauce
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 3 Tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sriracha sauce , plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 pounds tilapia filets , bones removed, or other white fish *see notes
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter , cut into small slices
Tortillas + Toppings
- 12 6-inch flour or corn tortillas
- Finely shredded cabbage
- Pico de gallo , optional
- 2 medium avocado , sliced
- 4 ounces cotija cheese
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
Fish Taco Sauce
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, garlic powder, and sriracha. Chill until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a shallow bowl, stir together cumin, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne.
- Dredge the tilapia in the spice mixture until well coated on each side. Place on baking sheet.
- Drizzle tilapia with olive oil and dot with butter. Cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until flakes easily with a fork and is no longer translucent in the center. A digital thermometer should read 140°F at the thickest part. To brown the edges, broil an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Tortillas + Toppings
- In a small skillet over medium-high heat, warm the tortillas. Lay 1 tortilla flat and spread the sauce on the inside. Add tilapia and top with cabbage, pico de gallo, if using, avocado, cotija cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
- Grill. Preheat a grill to medium-high, lightly oil the grates (or use a grill basket), and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Air Fryer. Preheat an air fryer to 370°F. Lightly grease basket. Add fish in a single layer and cook 6 to 7 minutes. You may have to do this in batches.
- Stovetop. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the fish in a single layer, and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Be careful not to crowd the pan. You may need to do this in batches.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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