Crispy Panko Fish Tacos

Sometimes, you find great food in unexpected places. Last summer, I attended the BlogHer conference at the Marriott hotel in San Diego. There was a poolside restaurant at the hotel that served some amazing fish tacos. A little hotel cafe is probably the last place I’d expect to find something noteworthy– which just goes to show, I should always keep an open mind! I wrote about the tacos in my travel notebook, making my best guess at the ingredients. San Diego is known for their beer battered Mexican fish tacos, but these tacos were exceptional– ultra light and crispy with a perfect flavor, creamy cool sauce, and perfect crunch from panko breadcrumbs. I’ve been planning for a year to crack this recipe, and this past weekend I finally had a chance to work on it. I’m so excited about how this one turned out!

Recreating that super cripsy, flavorful exterior was the most challenging part. I finally solved it by beer battering the fish with a spiced batter, then dipping each piece in panko breadcrumbs for an ultra crispy coating. I wanted a really light beer batter, so I made it tempura style, adding beer for flavor– the carbonation helps to make it nice and crisp. If you’re avoiding alcohol, you can make the batter alcohol free by substituting seltzer water for beer. This breading method allowed me to skip using egg in the coating, so those who are allergic to egg can also enjoy this dish.

Panko breadcrumbs are key to this recipe. These Japanese-style breadcrumbs have gained popularity in recent years due to their light, crispy texture. You can find them in most grocery stores, either near the breadcrumbs or in the Asian food section. If you’re having trouble locating panko, regular breadcrumbs will suffice, but the finish product won’t be quite as crunchy.

These tacos are pareve without sauce. If you add the sour cream (which I highly recommend), then of course it becomes a dairy dish. To keep these tacos dairy free, feel free to use a sour cream substitute for the sauce, like Tofutti. And if you like a creamier sauce, you can mix half mayonnaise, half sour cream– I like it that way, too.

You’re going to love these tacos, they’re like a fiesta in your mouth. I’m excited for you to try them! If you make them, please report back and let me know what you think. Enjoy!


Organic Panko Breadcrumbs

Frying Pan

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Crispy Panko Fish Tacos

Taco Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless white fish fillets - choose a firm white fish like cod or halibut
  • 1 1/2 cups cups beer (or substitute seltzer water)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil for frying (I prefer grapeseed)
  • 15 corn tortillas

Topping Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 ripe avocados, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Fresh lime wedges for garnish
  • You can add other taco toppings if you prefer-- salsa fresca, fresh chopped cilantro, jalapeno or hot sauce for a kick

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream (or 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup mayonnaise)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Salt to taste

You will also need

  • Medium and small mixing bowls, plate, large skillet, wire cooling rack (optional)
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 14-15 tacos
Kosher Key: Pareve with dairy sauce (easy pareve sauce modification)
  • Cut the fish fillets into chunks that are roughly 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the beer or seltzer, flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. The batter will bubble at first, then settle.
  • Pour the panko breadcrumbs into another bowl. Have an empty plate handy for the breaded fish.
  • Dip each piece of fish into the batter. When you pull the fish out of the batter, let the excess batter run back into the bowl.
  • After dipping in the batter, gently roll each piece in panko crumbs to coat. Leaving too much batter on the fish will lead to clumping, so make sure your fish is only lightly coated with batter before breading. Place the breaded fish onto the empty plate.
  • When your fish is breaded, heat 1/2 inch of cooking oil in a skillet over medium high. Fry the breaded fish pieces in batches of 6. If the oil is at the correct temperature, it should bubble and sizzle evenly—no splatters or popping.
  • Flip the fish when they turn dark golden brown. It will take 2-3 minutes per side for the fish to become golden and crisp.
  • While the fish fries, whisk together your sauce ingredients. Reserve the sauce.
  • Place fried fish pieces on a wire rack to drain, if you have one. This will keep the fish as crisp as possible. Use paper towels to catch the oil drips underneath the rack. If you don’t have a wire rack, you can drain the fish pieces on a double layer of paper towels.
  • When all the fish pieces are fried, assemble your tacos. Heat the corn tortillas in a skillet till they become warm, fragrant, and flexible. Place 2 pieces of fried fish in each taco. Top with a bit of shredded lettuce, some diced tomato, 2 slices of avocado, and 1 tbsp of sour cream sauce. Serve warm with fresh lime wedges.
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Category: Dairy, Entrees, Finger Foods and Dips, In the Kitchen, Nut Free, Pareve, Recipes, Slide Show

Comments (56)Post a Comment

  1. Brian says:

    As far as the type of fish used, would tilapia work as well?

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Brian! Tilapia will work, but try to get thicker fillets if you can– the thicker chunks of fish hold up better to frying. Enjoy!

  2. Stella says:

    Tori, I don’t remember this being served in Anne of Green Gables.


  3. barbara says:

    How deep should the oil be….an inch? Looks like a saute pan to me but cannot tell

  4. Elisheva says:

    Cannot wait to try this next week! Keep the 9 days menu ideas coming! Thanks so much!

  5. inessa says:

    This looks delicious

  6. Even though the fish is fried, the tacos do look light, fresh and delish.

  7. TJ says:

    Could these be baked instead of fried?

    • LindsayLB says:

      TJ, we just did them tonight. I didn’t batter them before breading, just did a little lime juice, then rolled in panko seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Bake on a foil lined cookie sheet at 375 for 20 minutes. We were using hake. Turned out great.

      Also, I think the Shiksa meant cabbage, not lettuce. It looks like cabbage in the photos, and that’s how I’ve always eaten the traditional baja fish taco.

    • Tori Avey says:

      Thanks Lindsay! That will teach me to draft out my recipes at 2 in the morning. Lettuce would be good too, but you’re right, cabbage is better. I’ve updated the post. ;)

  8. EdC says:

    Suggestions to make it gluten-free?

  9. Barry Scott says:

    Hi Tori. We made it last night and it was fantastic. Sallyanne doesn’t like cilantro but the sauce was great nonetheless. Another great recipe goes into the rotation.

  10. Yolanda says:

    I made this last night when I had a friend over. It was delicious! The change I made was to use coleslaw instead of lettuce and tomatoes. Amazing I will be making it again.

  11. carole says:

    Hey, I made these for my kids and I did a short cut- I used ready made fish sticks, and they kids loved them, thanks for all your recipes- I enjoy using them…

  12. Jill Greenlaw says:

    Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe. I can’t wait to make it tonight.

  13. Carlota says:

    My fish crumbled. How do u keep it from crumbling? I have not been able to keep it crisp and fried. I was sad… But I will try again!

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Carlotta, what kind of fish did you use? Cod is very sturdy, so if you didn’t use cod, try it– and make sure you cut wide chunks.

    • agedd says:

      To keep fish from crumbling, don’t turn it over for a long time. Cooking fish is kind of like cooking pancakes; you wait until they are pretty much cooked on one side before flipping over. Hope this helps you in your future cooking endeavors:)

  14. Brandon says:

    Made these for dinner tonight, made a few tweeks to suit the family and got rave reviews. Thanks for the recipie. Even my brother who doesnt like fish had one.

  15. Stephen says:

    I have made these a couple of times and have to say this is a dynamite recipe!! The light tempura-style batter with the panko coating is out-of-control. I am new to your blog and this was the 1st recipe I have tried from it. I cannot wait to try more! Thank you for such a wonderful resource.

    • Tori Avey says:

      Thrilled you like it Stephen! I work so hard to make sure my recipes go above and beyond, testing them multiple times in different variations till I get it right. It makes me so happy when readers comment me about their experience, so thank you!

  16. found your blog and love it-going to enjoy making these for lunch this week.

  17. Mike likes this recipe says:

    I found your website searching for panko fish tacos and I was not disappointed. The fish came out great, the sauce is absolutely delicious. Will make again, thanks for the great recipe!

  18. Risa Levine says:

    How can I modify this to be gluten free?

  19. Betty-Anne says:

    Hands down the best fish tacos I’ve ever made! I used fresh halibut. On my hot gas stove top they cooked very quickly, possibly just 90 seconds each side made them golden brown and they were perfection. That beer batter is superb…and the panko crumbs make it super light and it didn’t in anyway taste greasy or even fried. All the directions were perfect! And yes, cabbage, not lettuce :)

  20. Prissnboot says:

    Am wondering what a low sodium alternative to ggd breadcrumbs would be…corn flakes would be about 300mg once they were crushed. Would matza be too weird? I will find out tonight…..

  21. Rachael says:

    I used plain nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream and mayo for the sauce and cabbage in place of the lettuce. Thanks for the great recipe!

  22. Pam says:

    I want these tacos asap! Nothing beats a good fish taco and these look amazing.

  23. Mary Laird says:

    Sounds delicious!!!

  24. Sylvia says:

    I didn’t have beer and the only seltzer I had was lime flavor. Since the recipe calls for lime in the sauce I figured it wouldn’t be so bad. I also made a 50/50 sauce with mayo and plain greek yogurt. They came out delicious!! My family loved them! Thanks for this great recipe!

  25. 311Rocker says:

    Made the fish tacos tonight and they were delish! I made a fat-free Greek yogurt version of the sauce; otherwise, followed the recipe exactly. Tori, thanks for your recipes, this is my second meal from this site within a week and both have been fantastic!

  26. LC says:

    Best fish tacos. I love all of your recipes. This is my “go-to” recipe now for making fried fish. I make this for my kids instead of buying frozen fish sticks. Everyone always asks me for the recipe. This last time I had batter left over. I used it to make onion rings and added a bit of flour and baking soda. Phenomenal. Thank you!

  27. Elizabeth says:

    Just finished making these for lunch today. They were absolutely delicious! I cut the recipe in half, but they turned out perfect. Thank you!

  28. Tara H says:

    Used the halibut we caught in Alaska! This recipe was delish! My first time ever making fish tacos and it was a score! Tried some with and without the Panko and both were great! Sauce was really tummy too! I will use this recipe over and over!

  29. Cassie says:

    Can I use Italian bread crumbs or does it need to be panko?

  30. Rachael says:

    I can this around quite a bit. I cut out the flour ect completely. I use an egg/milk wash with salt pepper and a couple dashes of hot sauce. Then I proceed to take them from the wash, straight to the Panko and to the oil. (Not much healthier, lol, but I am cutting out the flour and keeping it simple.) I also use a small bag of dry cole slaw, SPICY ranch dressing, cilantro, tomatos, onions, and avocado…I mix these together in the bowl to coat with the spicy ranch. Then I put in a dash or 2 of lemon juice and lime. This is also a light recipe and the spicy ranch really brings everything together, surprisingly ^_^

  31. Tanya says:

    Tried this last night and LOVED it! We have a special place in our hearts for specific fish tacos at a fresh mex restaurant in Wrightsville Beach, NC – these fit the void (we live 4 hours away from it now)!!! Used Cod – went great. And I always sub Greek yogurt for sour cream. Put a tbsp of Duke’s mayo in to even out the ‘tang’ a little. Thank you! Thank you! :) :) :)

  32. Alyssa Holdsclaw says:

    My boyfriend’s mom has made these twice and they are absolutely fantastic! I had never had fish tacos before, but seriously: amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!

  33. Ruth says:

    These are absolutely delish. I have been perfecting beer battered cod for a few months now. I was skeptical about the beer batter. It was much thinner that I was used to. But, I loved them, my spouse loved them and a few of the kids ate theirs- which is actually a good sign. Maybe if they hadn’t doused them in salsa they would have like them more…their loss, my leftovers!
    I froze them and will reheat like a boxed fish at 425*.
    (These are not at all like pre-made “gorten’s”- those are merely ok. They are greasy and make my stomach feel weird)
    – I put lime juice, garlic, onion powder, salt, cumin AND a sprinkle of smoked paprika and let it sit for about 10 min. on the fish before i battered the cod. **

  34. Julie says:

    Amazing! Ive never battered/fried fish before, usually just pulled it from a bag. This was super easy, delicious and cheap. I will definitely make this again! Thanks foe this wonderful recipe :-)

  35. Nancy in NJ says:

    I searched the Food Blog Search engine for fish tacos and your recipe popped up. My husband and I tried it last night and they were excellent! The beer batter was just right and we love panko for adding a crispness that it’s hard to find. This summer when squash blossoms are plentiful, I think we’ll use that batter for them too. Many thanks for a great meal. Also, they came together much quicker than I had thought. Thanks again!

  36. Vicki in Tucson says:

    I was on a quest for fish tacos and in searching I found your site. So, I made the crispy fish tacos … Great recipe and easy to do. The sauce was a bonus and added an incredible flavor. Thank you for all the tips. I did make my own tortillas which I prefer over store brands.

    Dinner was delicious and your explanation so easy to follow. I can wait to try more. This recipe is a keeper and I will be making this again!

    … Happy cooking …

  37. tara says:

    Just made this for supper. We used bluegills. It’s going in my recipe book!!

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