California Fish Tacos

Editors at "Cook’s Illustrated"

"Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients"

"Simple, satisfying fresh fish tacos from the West Coast combine fried fish, sliced cabbage, and a creamy white sauce in a corn tortilla. We chose mild but sturdy white fish for our tacos—we liked cod, in particular, for its clean taste, and its easy availability. Although this recipe looks involved, all the components are easy to execute and most can be made in advance. Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more to fry the fish. Fillets of meaty white fish like cod, haddock, or halibut work best in this recipe. Cut the fish on a slight bias if your fillets aren’t quite 4 inches wide. You should end up with about 24 pieces of fish. Light-bodied American lagers, such as Budweiser, work best here. Serve with green salsa, if desired."—The editors at Cook's Illustrated


Pickled Onions:

  • 1 small halved and thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 stemmed jalapeño chiles, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup pickling liquid from the pickled onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

White Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons milk


  • 2 pounds skinless white fish fillets, cut crosswise into 4-inch by 1-inch strips
  • Salt and pepper as needed
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 quart peanut or vegetable oil
  • 24 (6-inch) warmed corn tortillas
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves


Make the pickled onions: combine the onions and jalapeños in a medium bowl. Bring the vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and salt to boil in small saucepan. Pour the vinegar mixture over the onion mixture and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The pickled onions can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Prepare the cabbage: toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Make the white sauce: whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Assemble the tacos: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat oven to 200°F. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season it with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add the beer and whisk until smooth. Transfer the fish to the batter and toss it until evenly coated.

Add the oil to a large Dutch oven until it measures about 3/4 inch deep and heat it over medium-high heat to 350°F. Working with 5 or 6 pieces at a time, remove the fish from the batter, allowing any excess batter to drip back into the bowl, and add the fish to the hot oil, briefly dragging the fish along the surface of  the oil to prevent sticking. Adjust the burner, if necessary, to maintain an oil temperature between 325 and 350°F. Fry the fish, stirring gently to prevent pieces from sticking together, until it is golden-brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to the prepared wire rack and place it in the oven to keep it warm. Return the oil to 350°F and repeat with the remaining fish.

Divide fish evenly among the tortillas. Top the tacos with the pickled onions, cabbage, white sauce, and cilantro.

Excerpted from Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (Cook’s Illustrated). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Keller + Keller. 


6 servings