A super simple blackened fish taco recipe served with a creamy avocado lime sauce to drizzle on top. Firm white fish is coated with a spicy seasoning blend and pan-fried until lightly charred on the surface for maximum flavor.
This fish taco recipe is inspired by a food adventure just south of the border in Baja California, Mexico. My husband and I stopped at several small seaside villages like Puerto Nuevo for langosta (lobster) and pescado (fish). The food in Baja is incredible. Street cart vendors selling elotes and tacos al pastor, carnitas, carne asada, lengua, and most restaurants have whatever your heart desires.
This recipe uses a Mexican-inspired spice blend that works with any type of fresh fish. This time I choose to Mahi Mahi for its lean flakey texture, which is a match made in heaven rolled up in a corn tortilla and all the taco fixings. Taco Tuesday is never going to the be the same from here on out!
Ingredients for the blackening seasoning
The best blackening season combines smoked paprika, brown sugar, garlic, onion, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. It layers on a flavor explosion that takes a mild white fish to bold and rustic in taste.
If you want more heat, just add more chili pepper, or better yet, some cayenne pepper. If you’re following a Paleo or Whole30 diet, you can omit the brown sugar. The sweetness is there to balance the savory seasonings and helps to brown the surface more quickly.
Mahi Mahi only requires a few minutes to cook before it gets dried out, so keep an eye on it. Start with a nice hot pan by pre-heating over medium-high heat for a few minutes until you can feel the heat rising. I use a cast iron skillet, however, stainless steel or nonstick pan will work too.
Press the fish against the pan
Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and then heat until almost smoking. Carefully add the fish and gently press on the fillet with a spatula for a few seconds so the flesh can make direct contact with the hot pan.
This also helps release some of the moisture from the surface of the fish so the meat can brown evenly. Flip the fish and finish cooking. This process takes about 5 to 6 minutes max.
Avocado lime sauce
A quick avocado lime sauce can be made using a blender to create a smooth and creaming topping. It’s a simple combination of sour cream, ripe avocado, cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice and zest, and serrano peppers.
Crema or plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for the sour cream. Any type of pepper can be used, just adjust the amount to your heat tolerance, this sauce is mild. The fresh, tart and creamy sauce cool down the spices on the fish for a tasty pairing.
- Pico de gallo
- Mango Salsa
- Lime wedge to squeeze on top
- Shredded cabbage- Green or red
- Crema- A mild Mexican white sauce similar to sour cream
More Mexican recipes
Why do you add brown sugar to the seasoning?
The sugar not only adds a sweet molasses flavor but also speeds up browning on the surface of the mahi mahi. The desirable brown pigments appear at around 200°F (93°C) when the fructose in the brown sugar caramelizes to create a beautiful quick crust.
Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado Lime Sauce
Avocado Lime Sauce
- ½ cup (120 ml) sour cream
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water
- 1 avocado, medium-sized and ripe
- ¼ cup (4 g) cilantro leaves, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice, fresh
- ½ teaspoon lime zest, about 1 lime
- ½ teaspoon minced serrano pepper, seeded
- 1 ½ teaspoons (3 g) smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons (5 g) dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon (1 g) garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon (1 g) onion powder
- ½ teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon (1 g) cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds Mahi Mahi filets, cut lengthwise into smaller pieces if needed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 corn tortillas, 6-inch
- 8 lime wedges
- 1 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 cup green cabbage, sliced thin
- cilantro, for garnish
- Add sour cream, water, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and serrano pepper into a blender.
- Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add more water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate.
- Combine paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin, chili pepper and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle seasoning evenly over both sides of the fish filets.
- Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add fish to pan then cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the desired degree of doneness. The surface will blacken in color quickly so keep a close eye on the fish.
- Warm tortillas according to package directions.
- Divide fish evenly among tortillas.
- Serve with lime wedges, tomatoes, cabbage, and cilantro.
- Spice blend makes: 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon.