Taco making doesn’t need to be overly complicated or time-consuming. Like these easy tilapia fish tacos with mango salsa and slaw. Pan-fried tilapia is cooked to crispy perfection in 10 minutes and topped with mango salsa, cabbage slaw, and creamy chipotle sauce—fast and simple taco fixings that provide the all-important crunch, heat, acid, and sweetness needed to build the MOST delicious fish tacos.
Before we jump in any further, know that this recipe for easy tilapia fish tacos with mango salsa and slaw comes from a taco-obsessed household. Veggie tacos, with roasted cauliflower or sweet potato — yes. Shredded chicken, grilled shrimp. Yup. We are down with pretty much anything you can stick in a warmed up corn tortilla, so long as they’re served with lime wedges and some kind of creamy sauce.
Now that you’re up to speed on my family’s level of taco-affection, let me go on record to say that nothing beats crispy pan-fried tilapia fish tacos. Nada.
About this easy fish taco recipe:
Tilapia is my go-to white fish. It’s a firm fish that holds together well when cooking and lends itself to all sorts of seasoning, plus it crisps and blackens so nicely. It’s also quick to fry. Needing only 4-5 minutes per side, u
Tips for frying fish, so that it doesn’t stick to the pan:
- To start, make sure to remove excess moisture from your fish filets. Pat them down thoroughly with paper towels before adding the spice rub. This will curb sticking and ensure a crispy fish crust.
- Pre-heat the pan, dry, for a good 3-5 minutes, over medium heat. Flick in a few drops of water — if it sizzles, pops and evaporates, the pan is ready for the oil.
- Heat the oil. Like with the pan, you’ll want to heat the oil until it’s good and hot (but not smoking!), before adding the fish. This takes roughly a minute, so stay close by. And, be sure to use enough oil–the bottom of the pan should be generously coated.
- Use the right oil. For frying on fairly high heat, use an oil with a high smoke point….like canola or vegetable. Some oils, like extra-virgin olive oil, have very low smoke points and ruin quickly, resulting in a more acrid taste. I’ve used vegetable oil here.
- Leave them be! Place the filets into the pan and give them a few minutes to darken and really crisp up before flipping them over. Avoid the urge to move them around.
The first picture above shows the filets all dressed up in seasoning, a mixture of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, onion powder, kosher salt, and flour, which is gently rubbed into the fish until all sides are well coated.
Once the fish is cooked and crispy (second pic) break into smallish chunks for fish taco building.
On to the mango salsa…
With the subtle heat of the fish seasoning, the vinegary, crunchy slaw, and the creamy chipotle sauce, the addition of bright mango salsa is PERFECTION.
This mango salsa needs only four fresh, simple ingredients: ripe mango, chopped cilantro, red onion and lime (plus a good pinch of salt).
How to easily peel and cut a mango:
- Peel first, with a peeler. Much simpler to use than a paring knife, and you’ll save more of that coveted mango flesh.
- Slice lengthwise, along the tallest line of the mango, right along the large flat side of the pit. Get as close to that pit as possible. Do the same for the other flat side, then slice along the narrow edges of the pit.
- From here you can easily chop into small cubes for the salsa.
This very short video demonstrates the mango cutting technique.
A little crunchy slaw and creamy chipotle sauce and these easy tilapia fish tacos with mango salsa are ready to be enjoyed.
P.S. More taco inspiration? T
Easy Tilapia Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Slaw
- 4 medium-sized tilapia filets
- ~20 corn tortillas
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
Chipotle sauce for fish tacos
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- half to a whole lime depending on how juicy the lime is -start with half
- 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- white vinegar enough to cover
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp chopped cilantro plus more to serve
- 2 chopped mangos
- 4 tbsp chopped red onions
- the juice of 1 lime
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Combine thinly sliced cabbage in a bowl with enough white vinegar to cover, plus kosher salt. Let sit while the other fixings are prepared. When it's time to serve, drain the excess vinegar.
- Combine chopped mango, cilantro, red onion, lime juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Set aside for serving.
Creamy Chipotle Sauce
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, sour cream, chipotle spice, salt and lime juice until smooth and well combined. Set aside for serving.
- In a small bowl, combine cumin, chili, onion powder, cayenne, flour, and salt.
- Using paper towels, pat tilapia filets to remove any excess moisture and place them on a large baking sheet.
- Sprinkle roughly a teaspoon of the seasoning mixture onto each tilapia filet and rub it in using your fingers. Flip filets over and repeat with the other side.
- Preheat your frying pans (use two pans for four filets, so not to crowd the fish) dry, over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. At this point, add in oil (vegetable or canola) and let it heat up for a minute before adding the fish.
- Gently place the fish into the hot pans and cook for 4-6 minutes per side (depending on their thickness) over medium-high heat. *Adjust the heat if the pan begins smoking, or the fish appears to be burning.* Flip and cook for another 4-6 minutes until cooked through. The fish should be white and flaky. Gently break apart into small chunks. Set aside for serving.
- In a dry pan, over medium-high heat, add corn tortillas. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until hot.
- Load up warm tortillas with fish, mango salsa, cabbage slaw, and chipotle sauce. Serve with with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.