Chimichurri Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have become a weeknight dinner mainstay in our home this year. Eugene and I feasted on them near-daily during our honeymoon this past January, and I came back home to New York craving that absolutely perfect combination of fresh flavors, smoky and spicy toppings, and crisp morsels of flavorful fish. Simultaneously light and filling, they have the added bonus of being incredibly quick and easy to prepare.

Even better? As long as you stick with local, fresh ingredients, they are also an incredibly affordable option (making the weekly indulgent downright smart!).

I've taught a few different fish taco recipes in my cooking classes, but this chimichurri variation is my new favorite!

I start by making a very simple chimichurri sauce packed with fresh parsley, cilantro (not traditional, but I love the freshness), garlic, vinegar, chili flakes, and lime. Everything is blitzed together in the food processor or blender and is ready in less than a minute. 

Then I take fresh white fish (whatever is on sale--I've used everything from pollack to mahi mahi), cut it into small pieces, and dust it in a seasoned flour mixture.

I use smoked paprika and turmeric to give both gorgeous color and a smoked, almost sweet, flavor. In addition to giving the final dish that gorgeous golden hue, turmeric is also one of the best spices there is in terms of nutritional value (Dr. Oz is a huge proponent of it for its known anti-inflammatory properties).

These are lightly pan-fried in a little bit of hot oil for just a minute or so on each side until cooked through and flaky. (Btw, you could stop at this step and you would have homemade fish sticks. Cool, right?) I then break them up into smaller pieces, pile them into a bowl, and that's basically it!

Warm up tortillas--I love soft corn, but flour, whole wheat, sprouted grain, will all work too--and place a few toppings on the table. Instead of sour cream, I recommend using a tangy Greek-style yogurt and some diced avocados, but you can really add whatever you want based on your tastes or what's on sale at the store. To be honest, the chimichurri sauce adds so much flavor that you really don't need much else for a satisfying dish!

This is the kind of weeknight dinner recipe that comes together in minutes, but which you can really feel good about. It's fast and convenient, yes, but it's also fresh and good for you. Pile on fresh vegetable toppings or swap out grilled shrimp or chicken for the fish.  Eat it for lunch, serve it to your family, or invite friends over and make it for a crowd. I've made this for everyone from my students to my husband to my parents and have never had a single person not be thrilled with it.

Note: This homemade chimichurri sauce will keep well in the fridge for at least a week. I recommend storing it in a clean jam jar or a sealed mason jar; no need to "can" it, but do make sure it's sealed up nice and tight. If you'd like, you can also freeze it for later use.

This sauce is a fantastic marinade or topping for chicken, pork chops, skirt steak (really, any kind of steak), grilled vegetables, baked potatoes, rice, or even pasta. You can use it as a sandwich spread (whisk it with some mayo or yogurt to tone it down), and I sometimes even toast baguette halves and spread it with the sauce as a Latin take on garlic bread.

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Chimichurri Fish Tacos
Serves 4-6 as a main course. 

Print this Recipe

For the fish:
1 1/2 lbs firm white fish (such as pollock, mahi mahi, tilapia, cod, halibut, etc.)
3/4 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
1 rounded tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Grapeseed, olive, coconut, or vegetable oil for frying

For the chimichurri:
1 cup fresh parsley with only the bottom two inches of stems removed (about 1/2 average sized bunch)
1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 rounded tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons apple cider (or other mild) vinegar
Juice of 1 whole lime
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off

For serving:
Soft corn or flour tortillas
Plain Greek-style yogurt (preferably full fat)
Fresh cilantro, diced avocados, lime wedges 

Prepare the chimichurri:
Combine the parsley, cilantro, and garlic in the base of a food processor and pulse repeatedly until coarsely chopped. Add the paprika, red pepper, vinegar, kosher salt, black pepper, and pulse again until evenly distributed.

Transfer the ingredients to a medium sized bowl and add the cup of olive oil. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. Taste and adjust seasoning (remember that this is meant to be used a marinade or condiment sauce so it should have a strong flavor).

Transfer to a clean glass jar or other air-tight container and top off with olive oil so that the oil covers it completely (this will keep it from turning brown). Either use immediately or store in the refrigerator. Will keep well for around one week (often longer). This sauce can also be frozen.

Prepare the fish:
Rinse the fish in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 2-3 inch pieces.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, smoked paprika, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and pepper until evenly combined. Take each piece of fish and dredge in the flour mixture.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Fry the coated fish in batches in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Place the fried pieces on a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with Kosher salt. 

Assemble the tacos: Warm tortillas on both sides of a frying pan or over a flame. Top each tortilla with a scoop of Greek yogurt then 2-3 tablespoons of the chimichurri sauce (stir before scooping it out to distribute the oil). Add one or two pieces of fish and garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado, if desired.

Serve immediately with lime wedges.

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