These salmon Baja style fish tacos will have you craving them every single taco Tuesday. The perfect bar-food at home, inspired by my favorite San Diego taco restaurant. Ready in 30 minutes!
What is Baja Style Food?
Baja-style food refers to the style of cooking and ingredients from Baja California. The food of Baja California is characterised by super-fresh ingredients and seafood, with some well-known dishes including white fish tacos and seafood tostadas. Baja- style food represents an incredible fusion of Mexican and American cuisine.
This recipe was inspired by my favorite taco Tuesday spot in San Diego, South Beach Bar and Grill (link to restaurant page opens in new tab). Oh how I miss living close enough to walk there.
How the fusion came about
Over many years, Mexican food traditions have worked their way up the west coast of North America. Mexican cuisine influence itself comes from Spanish settlers and missionaries and indigenous farmers, then later during WWII, from various countries and continents including Europe, Asia, and other parts of North America like the US.
Baja cuisine is the embracing collection of ingredients from all these different parts of the world. You will find elements of Mexican cuisine, Asian cuisine, European and Mediterranean cuisine, and even American cuisine.
Mexican workers who crossed the border to the United States daily for work influenced the addition of American ingredients like flour in tortillas while tortillas are classically corn-based in Mexico. In this recipe, you will find flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, and ranch dressing - all American-influenced. Plus, a tempura batter which is also non-traditional, but inspired by my love for tempura and our trip to Japan. Exchange and mixing of ingredients has made a delicious fusion cuisine in Baja-style food.
How Do You Cook Fish for Baja Fish Tacos?
Baja fish tacos usually include fried fish; fish fillets dipped in batter and then pan-fried in oil. This method is really easy, and it only takes a few minutes to fry each fish fillet. When placed in the taco with the other ingredients, the crispy batter provides a tasty contrast with the flaky fish inside.
Note: The more traditional Baja-style taco uses mild white fish that swim through Baja. Tilapia, cod, and mahi-mahi work great in this recipe. I am using salmon from the Prince William Sound (read more here), some of the world's richest waters. It is a budget-friendly, nutrient-dense, mild salmon that works great in this recipe.
How Do You Make Batter Stick to Fish?
This particular batter doesn't have issues slipping off the fish. However, if you have any issues...
A trick for getting your batter to coat and stick to the fish is to first dip your fish fillet in a coating of flour. This helps the wet batter stick to the fish. Also, when transferring the fish from the batter bowl to the oil, do this slowly and carefully so that you don't lose any batter dripping off the fish.
What Can I Do With Leftover Fried Fish?
If you do have any scrumptious fried fish leftover, there's plenty of ways you can turn it into another awesome meal. You could use your fish to mix into a bigger dish like a pasta or paella, or even mixed into a fresh salad or with fried rice. I really like to incorporate fish into stews, pies, and soups like chowder.
If you have big enough pieces, you could also serve your fried fish in a burger! Simply process half salmon leftovers in a food processor with mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and spices. Pulse it to make a paste, then mix it with the rest of the salmon. You can add onion, breadcrumbs, and garlic, too.
How Can I Make a Quick Pico de Gallo Salsa to Go With My Tacos?
For a quick and easy pica de gallo, you will need:
- 1 ¼ cup finely diced tomato
- ¾ cup finely diced red onion
- 1 jalapeño, finely diced (seeds removed for a milder salsa)
- 1 lime juiced
- salt, to taste
Simply mix all together in a bowl, and you have a delicious fresh pico de gallo!
How to Make Salmon Baja Style Fish Tacos
To get to work on your tacos, you will need the following ingredients: all-purpose flour and ice water for the batter, salmon, flour tortillas, red cabbage, cheddar cheese, hot sauce, limes, ranch dressing, and Pico de Gallo salsa.
How Do You Make Tempura Batter From Scratch?
To make a simple tempura batter, all you need is two basic ingredients: flour and water. Make sure the water is actually ice water to ensure crispiness after frying. Simply mix 1 cup of ice water with 1 cup of pastry flour or all-purpose flour with a fork or chopsticks (photos 1 & 2). Only roughly mix or the batter will not be airy. Do not use a whisk.
As you can see in photo 3 the batter was too thick so I added more ice water (about 1 tablespoon) until it was the consistency of photo 4. Once mixed, the batter is ready!
If you don't fancy a tempura batter, a beer batter is also really popular and tastes great. For the beer batter, just mix 1 frothed egg white, 1 cup of dark beer, 1 cup flour, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
NOTE: If you have leftover batter, make sure you make these deep fried apples in cinnamon sugar. Such a treat and great to make if you are already frying up dinner.
The Fried Salmon
Start by prepping your salmon to be fried. Add enough oil to your pan so that the oil is about three inches deep. I like to use a smaller pot and fry the salmon in batches, rather than try to do it all at once in a big pan. Heat the oil to about 350-375F.
You do not need to remove the skin from the salmon if it doesn't bother you. However, if you prefer a skinless salmon, either ask your fishmonger to skin the salmon for you or you can skin a salmon filet yourself using this method from Fine Cooking.
In small batches (I do 1-2 pieces at a time), dip the fish slices into the batter (photo 5), and then immerse in the hot oil (photo 6). Cook for 1-2 minutes per side until the batter is a light golden brown.
Place the battered salmon pieces onto a wire rack (Photo 7), or a plate lined with a paper bag or paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Remove any excess floating batter in the oil, and continue until the whole batch is cooked.
Assemble The Tacos
Each person gets a serving of two tortillas. Assemble each taco in this order: cheese, cabbage, fried fish, ranch dressing, pico de gallo salsa, hot sauce, and finish with a squeeze of lime.
Your tacos are finished and ready to serve!
If you love salmon...
You'll love some of my other salmon recipes like:
And make sure to make these fried apples in cinnamon sugar with the leftover batter and oil!
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Salmon Baja Style Fish Tacos
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup ice water
- 1 ½ lbs. salmon Cut into 8-pieces (each piece will make a taco, 2-tacos per person) OR cod, tilapia, mahi-mahi
- flavorless oil, for frying like canola, vegetable, or sunflower seed
- 8 flour tortillas 6"
- ½ small red cabbage
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 pint pico de gallo or use the recipe in blog post for homemade
- 8 teaspoon hot sauce I use Valentina and truly believe it is the best
- 8 teaspoon ranch I know this sounds weird, but trust me
- 2 limes cut into 8 wedges total
- Add enough oil to your pan so it is 3 inches deep. I use a smaller pot and fry in batches. Heat to about 350-375F.
- Make the batter: Make sure the water is actually ice water to ensure crispiness after frying. Simply mix 1 cup of ice water with 1 cup of pastry flour or all-purpose flour with a fork or chopsticks. Do not overmix.
- In small batches (I do 2-pieces at a time), dip the fish slices in the batter and immerse into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side until the batter is a light golden brown.
- Place them onto a wire rack, or a plate lined with a paper bag or paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Remove floating batter and continue until the whole batch is cooked.
- Each person gets 2 tortillas. Top in this order: cheese, cabbage, fish, ranch, salsa, hot sauce, squeeze of lime.