Tilapia Tacos

Living and eating in the Midwest as a child, I know I had my fair share of fish from time to time, especially when a favorite dish for my mom to prepare for four young children is fish sticks. But tacos were always traditional Midwest Mexican fare: either soft flour tortillas stuffed with meat, potatoes and peas, then pan-fried (which are, to me, still the best tacos ever), or hard-shell corn taco shells loaded with a mixture of beans, meat (again) and Mexican spices, or sometimes chorizo. Grated cheese, pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce are common garnishes for both types of tacos.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s when I encountered fish tacos. I don’t know why it took so long, when my childhood diet included fish sticks, and the aforementioned tacos. My mom had treated us to taco dogs (hot dogs wrapped in corn tortillas, then fried). Why hadn’t the fish stick wrapped in a tortilla made it’s appearance?

This first encounter with fish tacos was at Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria, the first restaurant to serve this menu item in Kansas City. My sister, who had experienced fish tacos in her travels, raved about them. I gave them a try and was somewhat enamored. But I still stuck with Rudy’s delicious spicy pork and bean stuffed burritos and tamales.

When I began cooking for a household of three (my dear sweet mom moved in with my husband and I when she retired from teaching), I started looking for nutritious, interesting recipes using tilapia, which could be very economical. My Tilapia Tacos quickly became a regular dish in the rotation at our dinner table.

Read on for the method to my Tilapia Taco madness topped with a broccoli slaw and cilantro-lime cream!

Taco Ingredients:

  • 6 tilapia filets or 4 tilapia loins
  • 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil for marinade
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (if desired)
  • 8 soft corn tortillas

Broccoli slaw ingredients:

  • 1 small package of prepared broccoli slaw
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar

Cliantro-lime cream:

  • 1 bunch of cilantro, rinsed and shaken dry
  • 1 8 oz. container Greek yogurt (or sour cream, if preferred)
  • 1/2 tbsp lime juice

In a small bowl, mix the oil with the cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, and if desire, the cayenne. Whisk together until mixed well. Place tilapia in a quart-sized sealing bag and pour oil and spice mixture over it. Seal and refrigerate (laying flat) for 30 minutes. Flip the bag over half way through so the marinade gets to all the fish.

While waiting for fish to marinate, rinse the broccoli slaw and place in a medium-sized bowl. In a small bowl, whisk sugar and vinegar together until sugar dissolves. Pour over broccoli slaw and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the cream dressing, pat the cilantro dry with a paper towel. On the cutting board chop the bunch of cilantro starting half-way up the stem and working toward the leaves at the top. If your not familiar with chopping up cilantro, here’s a great tutorial from Cookthink.com, although it’s not exactly the method I use.

Pour the yogurt into a small bowl, add the cilantro and lime juice, and stir it up. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

If the 30 minutes (give or take) for the marinating tilapia is up, remove it from the fridge. Place a 8-10 in. non-stick (or use a cooking spray like Pam) fry pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add the fish. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until sides are opaque. Flip and cook other side for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Cut the fish up into bite-sized chunks and check for doneness. When fish is cooked through, remove to a plate and allow to cool slightly.

Wipe pan out carefully with paper towels and return to heat. Using tongs, warm each tortilla, one at a time in the fry pan. Do not burn unless you like that slight char like I do. Place the tortillas on plates, spoon the fish into the center, top with the broccoli slaw and cilantro-lime cream. You may also wish to garnish with sliced avocado and pickled red onions. Enjoy!

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