We love a classic seafood taco. Often lightly battered and fried, usually served with a lime-kissed slaw, we know what to expect from seafood tacos, whether we’re ordering in or searching for recipes to make at home. But food lovers who venture into unexpected taco territory will be handsomely rewarded with unforgettable combinations of flavors and culinary traditions.
Between cod, halibut, rockfish and wild Alaska pollock, seafood offers up a plethora of options when you want something mild and flaky and perfect for tacos. Wild salmon and spot prawns are fair game too, for nontraditional taco recipes.
Here are 8 recipes that will have you crafting the perfect taco in new and unexpected ways:
Crispy Fish Tacos with Kimchi Mayo
Crunchy, tangy, spicy and sweet, these lightly fried white fish tacos from Dish Magazine are given a Korean-inspired treatment, marinated in classic Korean flavors then topped with a creamy kimchi mayo and fresh veggies. As this recipe is from a New Zealand chef, you’ll just have to make a simple conversion: 600 grams is equivalent to approximately 1¼ pounds of fish, which will make enough for four servings. We recommend using a mild fish like rockfish or wild Alaska pollock.
Chipotle-Rubbed Salmon Tacos
Meaty wild salmon holds up perfectly to a sweet and smoky chipotle spice rub. Top off these healthy tacos from Food & Wine Magazine with schmear of avocado, a light and crunchy apple-cucumber salsa, and a heaping handful of fresh shredded cabbage.
Tandoori Fish Tacos
Grilled or baked, these fish tacos from Easy Cooking with Molly are marinated in an Indian-inspired, tandoori marinade. The heat of the tandoori spices are balanced out by the cool, creaminess of yogurt. If you’re grilling on an open flame, we recommend grilling on a cast iron skillet to keep things easy. Any white fish will do, but a firmer fillet with bigger flakes — think cod or halibut — seems like a good choice for this taco.
You can buy tandoori spice powder at your regular grocery store or an Indian grocer, or make your own spice blend with ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. Here’s a recipe from Rachel Ray for a basic homemade tandoori blend. Made with chickpea flour, this recipe is gluten-free, but you can use regular wheat flour or whatever you have on hand to form the batter.
Fish Al Pastor
Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara’s al pastor tacos aren’t made with pork — they’re made with white fillets of fish. While her recipe for VICE calls for grouper, you can use an alternative like halibut or cod instead.
You’ll have to make a few adaptations to the recipe, as it’s written up in grams rather than teaspoons; more importantly, it completely fails to tell you how long the fish is supposed to sit in the marinade itself! Marinate it for at least one hour so that the flavors have time to infuse, and no more than three.
Salmon Poke Tostada *
Okay, we know tostadas aren’t tacos, but they’re close enough for us to want to share this recipe for salmon poke tostadas from Richard Blais. And really, you could use a hard shell taco shell instead; having a flat tostada simply lets you load it up with more toppings.
Also, the culinary alchemy required to make the recipe’s “passionfruit yolks” could absolutely be replaced with a sweet and tangy mango puree, or a salsa that you think could match this fruity and sour profile.
Smoked Salmon Delicatessen Tacos
Food Republic’s recipe for smoked salmon tacos takes its cues from Mexican cuisine but fuses it with New York deli culture to make a distinctly modern yet familiar breakfast or lunch idea for a special occasion. Or for a regular occasion, if you happen to be the kind of person who keeps roe and caviar around the house: The briny and refreshing salsa that tops these tacos is made from salmon roe mixed with tomato, fresh serranos, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Spot Prawn “Ceviche” Tacos **
Take a cue from Billy Parisi and give your taco a shrimp ceviche treatment — but use your Pacific spot prawns! The recipe isn’t technically a ceviche, because you’ll be parboiling the prawns for just 60 seconds: That means you’ll let them partially cook in boiling water so that they are no longer raw before you finish “cooking” them in their acidic marinade. The benefit of this is that you’ll only have to let them sit in their lime juice mixture for half an hour before being able to enjoy them, rather than having to wait several hours.
Salmon Breakfast Tacos
You could make these salmon breakfast tacos from A Food Lover’s Kitchen from scratch, but honestly they’re a perfect low-maintenance vehicle for last night’s dinner. Made with cooked salmon (as opposed to smoked salmon), it makes for a protein-fueled meal, filling enough to be brunch.
*Consuming raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness. Therefore, we recommend only using cooked salmon in this recipe. For any raw or semi-raw preparations, be sure the salmon has been properly frozen previously.
*Though the fish in ceviche is “cooked” by acid, it is still considered a raw form of seafood. Officially, we cannot recommend that you eat our salmon raw; and are required to inform you that consuming raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness. There's a physiological change that wild salmon experience when they move from freshwater to saltwater (and back again), which makes them more susceptible to parasites found in freshwater. While we follow modern flash-freezing processes that help to kill off the parasites, we definitely recommend cooking our salmon before eating it. Here's an article with a few more details on our thoughts behind this.