15 Best Types Of Fish To Use In Tacos

Some foods get their brief moment in the sun; others are timeless. While they may seem subject to the food trend train, tacos will never go out of style. This traditional Mexican dish has been adapted in many ways. It's hard to think about everything people have eaten in the humble tortilla. (More exciting to consider all the things we will continue to eat as well).

Fish tacos originate from the Mexican state of Baja California. Mainland Mexico has a considerably long coast, but as a mini 800-mile peninsula itself, every point in Baja California is no more than 50 miles from a body of water. Unsurprisingly, seafood as a taco filling came from this region. Additionally, Baja is close to California, so the fish taco (often referred to as Baja fish tacos) spread throughout America by way of the Golden State.

There are many ways to prepare fish tacos, and it all starts with that sea-dwelling protein. Not just any finned creature will do. We are breaking down the best fish to use in tacos so you can rock your Cinco de Mayo celebrations and beyond. Grab some tortillas and limes, and layer your fish tacos with texture and flavor. Don't forget the slaw!


When it comes to tacos, you can never go wrong with mild, flaky white fish, and cod is the ultimate representative. Of the round white fish, cod stands apart for its large, dense flakes and impeccably clean flavor. It gets praised for not having a "fishy" taste. You may even detect a hint of sweetness. Similarly to being the go-to choice for fish and chips, cod is highly preferred in beer-battered fish tacos recipes. In an exclusive interview, Richard Blais gave seafood tips to Tasting Table, mentioning cod and other members of this family of fish are "fantastic fish to fry" for tacos.

The one downfall of specifically Atlantic cod is that it has been overfished, putting populations at dangerously low levels, especially around New England. The species is much better managed now, but there is also an alternative in the Pacific cod, which is a different species but has higher marks in sustainability.


Traditional Baja fish tacos are made with battered and fried whitefish and served on corn tortillas with cabbage, pico de gallo, crema, and lime wedges on the side. Richard Blais calls out all members of the cod family as good for fried fish tacos. This includes haddock, hake, and pollock. All of these fish made our list of the best types of fish for frying, but remember that these species are not necessarily interchangeable.

Haddock is a great alternative to cod in a battered fried taco. This Atlantic species do have smaller, more delicate meat than its cousin, but don't let that steer you away from this fish. Haddock holds up well in batters, and you'll get an even more tender bite than with cod. It's all a matter of your preferences. Cod or haddock will make a great choice if you want to lean into the origins of fish tacos. Hake and pollock could be pan-fried for tacos, but they are not well-suited for deep-frying. These fish are even more delicate and are prone to falling apart in the fryer.


Affordable and readily available, tilapia is a popular fish across the country. As another neutral-tasting fish, tilapia can be a vehicle for many different flavors, acting as a canvas for those who are a bit new to making fish tacos from home. It lends well to pan-frying, a great application for this fish in tacos. You can build dimension through elements like a crunchy slaw and a creamy sauce.

When pan-frying tilapia, remember that its fillets are rather delicate. To avoid a common mistake when making pan-fried fish, don't move the fillets around too much in the pan. Just touch the fish with your spatula to flip once halfway through cooking and then again to remove it from the pan. You are putting the fish into tortillas, so it is okay if it breaks apart some. But you still want to have distinct pieces. You don't want the fish to completely fall apart. A good fish taco will have a good chunk of fish in every bite.


Salmon may not be the most traditional taco filling, but it is hard to deny the appeal. This pink-fleshed fish is the number one consumed fish in the United States and ranks second of all seafood only behind shrimp, per data from the National Fisheries Institute. Salmon is popular, ubiquitous, and versatile, so why not eat it in a tortilla?

With a high-fat content, salmon does not do well with frying in a lot of oil. It'll get too greasy — an unappetizing look for this beloved fish. However, grilling and pan-frying are great ways to prepare salmon. Take our recipe for fried salmon tacos. It may say "fried," but this recipe involves coating the salmon in oil and a spice mix and searing it until the fish blackens. The salmon will easily flake apart once cooked, and you'll have the ultimate taco filling. Toppings like avocado, pickled red onion, and fresh herbs would make great additions to a salmon taco, and you can experiment with different sauces and salsas.

Mahi mahi

Big and colorful with a unique look, dolphinfish (more commonly known by its Hawaiian name, mahi mahi) is a popular tropical fish species that shouldn't be overlooked. Despite its name, mahi is not related to the mammal dolphin. They got this name because these fish swim ahead of sailing ships much like dolphins.

Mahi mahi has dense, meaty flesh. It has the thickness of swordfish but the flakiness of halibut. The meat is more prominent in flavor than either fish, with a touch of sweetness on the end. Given the heartiness, it does well on the grill, but you can also pan-sear it. However, getting a little char from the grill can add an extra dimension to this fish when using it in tacos. Next time you crave grilled fish tacos, see if you can get your hands on some mahi. Pair it with a bright, fresh salsa using tropical fruits like mango or pineapple. The sweetness will greatly complement the fish.

Acadian redfish

Popular in many parts of the country, perch is not a singular species but a group of fish that fall under the Perca genus. You'll want to learn some of the names of those fish because if you go to the market looking for "perch," you might leave empty-handed.

In New England, Acadian redfish (also known as ocean perch) is the reigning species. They have brilliant-colored skin that ranges from red to orange skin and strikingly large eyes. New England is crawling with these fish, which tend to congregate in the Gulf of Maine. Pan-fry or grill the fillets; when they are cooked, the fish will break into big pieces that easily go into a taco, ready to be topped with your favorite fixings. Acadian redfish are caught year-round in plenty, making them a budget-friendly choice for taco night. However, unless you live in New England, you might have to buy this fish online. It is not widely found in supermarkets outside the Northeast region.


Red snapper is a seafood that may not seem that special at first glance compared to other similar fish, but it has features that set it apart. What makes the red snapper so unique? Other than its beautiful rosy color, red snapper's white flesh has a briny flavor with a subtle nutty quality. Both pepper and butter make it all the more complex. This fish is enjoyed in so many ways, both raw and cooked. You can pan-sear or grill it, which both work well for tacos. However, you will miss out if you don't try this fish fried in a tempura-style batter.

For a guide, use our recipe for tempura red snapper banh mi. After frying the snapper, you can use the Banh mi vegetables (which include cabbage, cucumber, red onion, pickled carrots, and pickled daikon) as a slaw for your tacos. It is the perfect balance of delicate yet substantial textures. If you really want to work with this dish's flavors, you can still make the sour tomato jam and swap the baguette for tortillas.


Did you know that all halibut are flounder but not all flounder are halibut? Sounds confusing, but essentially it comes down to this concept. Flounder is another one of those overarching terms to describe a group of fish, in this case, a particular type of flatfish. Technically, halibut is a type of flounder, but this fish has big differences from what is commonly labeled as flounder.

Flounder most often refers to a type of fish that is incredibly flat. They might be named by their characteristics, such as yellowtail flounder or blackback flounder, but flounder also does include similar species like sole and dabs. These fish have thin fillets that cook quickly and gently flake apart once cooked. Flounder are great for tacos, especially when pan-fried. Halibut, on the other hand, is not the best choice for tacos. These fish are huge with thick, meaty fillets, making them better suited for fish sandwiches than tacos.


Fusion cuisine comes when components and cuisines from varying cultures merge into a dish. Catfish in a taco seems like a good example of fusion food. Take the concept and elements of a taco from Mexican cuisine and add fried catfish, a traditional ingredient in Southern soul food. Although you might see versions that skew more towards adapting the catfish to Mexican flavors, you will also find recipes leaning into those Southern classics, like topping the tacos with a mayo-based slaw or serving them with a side of sweet potatoes.

In either case, you can see how the dishes draw inspiration from both cuisines. Try our recipe for catfish nuggets as a taco filling. After you fry the fish, you can dress your tacos up with a sauce of your choice and your favorite toppings. For a more Southern feel, try adding remoulade, a more forwardly flavored version of tartar sauce.


If you really love grilled fish tacos, swordfish is another excellent choice. One of the meatiest fish in the ocean, swordfish are mighty athletes. They swim very fast (up to 50 miles per hour) and can grow up to 14 feet in length, and weigh around 1,200 pounds. That is on the extreme end of its expectancy, but this fish is a fierce predator that moves vigorously through the sea. All that activity makes a dense flesh that screams for the grill. Unlike other fish, the cross-sections of this animal (commonly referred to as "steaks") won't fall apart under high heat.

The best kind of grilled swordfish results from marinating the fish in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. You'll get a beautifully tender fish that will taste great in a taco. The grill marks are a bonus for the presentation. If you cut the swordfish into 2-inch pieces, you can grill them on skewers with vegetables. Imagine the experience of eating grilled steak or chicken tacos but with a much more delicate flavor. Swordfish will be certain to shake up your usual fish taco routine.


Who says that taco fillings have to be cooked? All our suggestions thus far have been fried, seared, or grilled. The vast majority of fish tacos will be prepared in one of those methods, but some fish are not meant to be cooked before consumption. Tuna is the biggest example. If you have high-quality tuna, cooking it would be a waste. Tuna has a rich flavor and fat content that gets lost when the proteins are heated.

There are many varieties of tuna, but preparation methods are generally similar. With yellowfin or big eye, this fish should only be heated to get a brief sear on the outside (if at all), but the interior should remain very pink. This is a style referred to as seared ahi tuna in Hawaii. Otherwise, it might be served raw but marinated, as in an ahi tuna poke bowl. Either of these applications would make an exciting taco filling giving you a chance for some Mexican-Hawaiian fusion.

If you'd like to try more of a Japanese influence, see if you can find some of the coveted bluefin tuna. You'll want to dress the fish with some sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Top the taco with sriracha mayo and sesame seeds. A rich fish like bluefin doesn't need much to shine.


A member of the sea bass family (Serranidae), grouper is prized in Florida and throughout the Gulf region. Over 85 of all these pouty-mouthed fish landed in the United States come through the Sunshine State, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and it is favored among commercial and recreational fishers.

There are over 400 grouper species, but black and red are the most popular. Like many other white-fleshed fish on this list, grouper has a mild taste, making it a great choice for tacos. It has firm, large flakes with a subtle sweetness. You can pan-sear grouper or use it as a substitute for beer-battered fish tacos instead of cod or haddock. With grouper, you have to be on the lookout for seafood fraud. As a more expensive species, grouper is one of the most commonly mislabeled fish. If you see a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Black sea bass

Sea bass (or black sea bass) is a migratory species. Depending on the time of the year, you can find this fish from Florida to Maine. Although these fish can grow up to 9 pounds, you'll mostly find them in the market between 1 to 2 pounds.

With shimmering black skin, sea bass is well-suited for pan-searing. Additionally, both whole and filleted, black bass is an excellent grilling fish. If you grill the whole fish, the white flesh will easily lift from the bones once it's cooked, and you will have juicy fish ready to pile into your tortillas. With a delicate flavor, sea bass is a great companion for fresh slaws, salsas, and lots of acids, like lime.

Grilling sea bass with the skin on will allow for a crispy texture and help protect the tender fish. However you can also remove the skin if you prefer, but be extra careful not to overcook the fish, as it can easily dry out this way.


Just as Acadian redfish is the perch of choice in New England, rockfish is the go-to on the West Coast. There are over 100 species known as rockfish, but the most prominent is called the Pacific Ocean perch. Caught from Alaska down the Pacific coast to California, this variety of rockfish has a lot of similar characteristics to its Atlantic perch cousin. These slow-growing deep-water fish can live for a long time (almost 100 years), building flavorful meat as they grow.

In the kitchen, you can approach rockfish like you would other perch species. Pan-fry or grill the fillets and flake the meat after it's done. The small fish are a good size for whole-fried or grilled preparations. Rockfish has a sweet flavor with subtle nutty notes. It pairs well with bright, citrusy slaws and mango salsa. Give it your own spin. Choosing the fish and preparing it to its best potential is only one part of the equation. Fish tacos are the perfect vehicle to test out your skills in building up unique flavor profiles.