Easy, make-it-your-own fish taco bar

fish tacos - how to set up a fish taco bar

I was recently asked for my recipe for fish tacos. “It’s not so much a recipe,” I said, “as it is a collection of ingredients.” Which makes it great for feeding a group with diverse tastes or dietary needs: just set up your fish taco bar and let guests create their own.

And much of it can be done ahead of time: everything except for the avocado can be sliced, chopped, or mixed ahead of time. The fish can be seasoned ahead of time, but will taste best if it’s made just before serving.

Then everything gets laid out buffet style for everyone to make their own.

If you have some grain-free (gluten-free or low carbing) guests, they can simply assemble everything on a plate without the tortilla and eat it with a fork. Dairy-free: leave off the sour cream and cheese. Don’t like spicy: leave off the adobo sauce. Vegetarian: leave off the fish. Whole30 compliant: skip the tortillas and leave off the sour cream and cheese. There’s still plenty of flavor there!

The part that is (sort of) a recipe is the adobo-cream spread; the original recipe I started with called for 1 c. of sour cream, 2 canned chipotle peppers seeded and diced, and 1/4 t. garlic salt. (That’s for 4-6 servings.) Now, instead of the peppers, I just use the adobo sauce from the can (this skips the dicing step; it’s also milder), and I eyeball the proportions. Stir till well combined; taste and adjust for taste. It should taste a little uncomfortably spicy, because it will be just one component.

This is the sauce, in a couple different brands I’ve found at Dillon’s…

for fish tacos; chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Note: if you’re making your fish strongly seasoned, you might want to opt for a simpler crema of sour cream with a little lime juice and salt, for contrast.

The fish can be either tilapia or mahi mahi. Plan on about 4 to 5 oz. per person. Just season with salt and pepper; optional but nonessential additions might include ancho chili powder and/or cumin. If you’d like a more intensely-seasoned fish, here’s a great recipe: Baja Fish Tacos on epicurious.

Then, either pan-fry the fish (easy if you’re just cooking for one or two), or bake them in the oven according to package directions (quicker¬†for more people).

Then I lay out all the ingredients for people to make their own. In addition to the fish and the adobo cream sauce, I put out:

  • warm corn tortillas — small or street taco size
  • thinly sliced cabbage, sprinkled and tossed with a little lime juice or rice vinegar,
  • thinly sliced or small-diced avocado
  • thinly sliced or small-diced mango (optional, but nice)
  • coarsely chopped cilantro

Other optional additions which I don’t use but you might like:

  • a Mexican cheese, like shredded Monterey Jack or crumbled Cotija
  • diced onions
  • diced tomatoes
  • plain sour cream
  • Ranch dressing

I like to smear the adobo cream (or plain sour cream) down the middle of the tortilla and put the fish on top of that, so that the juices from the fish mingle with that to make a nice sauce. It also keeps the fish juices from making the tortilla soggy.

Enjoy! ūüôā

 fish taco photo: Creative Market

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