You know you’ve made a good recipe when your partner says to you “I’m so glad we FINALLY have a go-to fish taco recipe!”. These cornmeal crusted tilapia fish tacos are LEGIT.
We’ve been playing around with various fish taco recipes for years, never settling on one until we created this recipe. And now we eat these homemade fish tacos on the regular. Inspired by a WW recipe, we love that these crispy fish tacos are light, healthier, and darn delicious.
If you’re looking to spice up your usual taco night routine, these tilapia tacos are a great choice! You’d also love these easy turkey and black bean tacos, and this delicious sheet pan veggie tacos with chimichurri too!
Why You’ll Love These Crispy Fish Tacos
Time: It will take you about 25 minutes to make cornmeal crusted fish tacos.
Neutral oil: needed for pan-frying your tilapia. Canola oil or vegetable oil are great options!
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
STEP 1: Make breading: Mix together cornmeal and seasoning on a dinner plate and set aside.
STEP 2: Prep fish: Pat thawed tilapia fillets dry with a paper towel. Press each fillet into the cornmeal mixture to create a thin and even coating on each side. Move the fillets around to also cover the edges. Set breaded fillets aside.
STEP 3: Pan fry fish: Place ~⅓ C of oil into a large skillet to create an even, thin layer across the entire bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until a small drop(s) of water sizzles. Cook 2-3 fillets at a time until golden brown on each side and internal temperature is at 145°F (~2mins per side).
STEP 4: Eat! Break fillets into smaller pieces and serve with your favorite tortillas and toppings.
Severing Suggestions for the Best Homemade Fish Tacos Experience
Pick a High Quality Tortilla
It may sound simple, but choosing a good tortilla makes a big difference! Whether you prefer corn tortillas or wheat tortillas, these cornmeal crusted tilapia fish tacos will be delicious.
Taco Toppings for Fish Tacos
One of the beauties of making homemade fish tacos is that you can put on whatever toppings you like! Here are the taco toppings I usually pair with this tilapia taco recipe:
- Shredded cheddar cheese – not needed, but awesome with these
- Cabbage slaw – shredded cabbage on tacos adds the perfect crunch to your bite!
- Salsa – I love using a fresh red salsa on these. Tomatillo or salsa verde is also great!
- Avocado – I mean, avocado on tacos is always a hit.
- Cilantro – adds a nice herby punch to your tacos.
Side Dishes for Tacos
Fill out the meal by adding a couple of sides to go along with your cornmeal crusted fish tacos. Here are a few of our favorites that we rotate in with this meal:
- Corn – grilled corn, Mexican street corn, or even a ‘steamers’ bag of frozen corn
- Beans – black beans or pinto beans, either regular or refried, are my go-to side dish for taco night. Top with cheese if desired
- Chips and salsa – a classic taco night appetizer and/or side
- Guacamole – you can never go wrong with guacamole. Enjoy with chips or on your taco
- Grilled vegetables – I know, I know, I’m a vegetable pusher… but adding a side of veggies to your meal is a great way to create a balanced meal. We’ve enjoyed grilled peppers and grilled zucchinis with these, but get creative with your favorite veggies.
- Side salad – keep it simple or go elaborate, but having a crunchy side salad along with these cornmeal crusted tilapia fish tacos is a nice addition!
Do I have to use tilapia for these cornmeal crusted fish tacos? While I like and recommend making this recipe with tilapia, you do not need to if you’d prefer a different fish! Cod is another popular choice for fish tacos. If you are using a fish other than tilapia, note the thickness of the fillet. If you have a thicker fillet, this is important for a few reasons. Your breading-to-fish ratio will likely be heavier on the fish (so less of a crispy bite than noted for the tilapia in this recipe). The cooking time will also be longer than noted in the recipe due to a thicker fillet, so make sure to use an instant read thermometer to ensure your fish is fully cooked.
Why do I have to pat the fish dry with a towel?
‘Moisture’ is the sworn enemy of ‘crispy’. If you want crispy fish for your cornmeal crusted fish tacos, and of course you do, you need to remove the surface moisture from the fish before coating the fish in cornmeal. If you skip this step, your cornmeal coating will turn out soft and mushy. No thanks.
How can I tell when the fish is ready?
Aside from a set of sharp knives, the most important kitchen tool for making repeatedly delicious/quality proteins is an instant-read thermometer. With a standard kitchen thermometer, it may take 5-10 seconds before you get an accurate temperature reading. During that time, your hands are right above a hot pan of oil, which means two things can happen: 1) your hands get uncomfortably close to very hot oil and you may get hurt, or 2) you pull the fish out of the pan too quickly to save your hands.
With an instant-read thermometer, though, you’ll know your accurate temp instantly and can act accordingly. If you don’t have one, they’re relatively inexpensive and something I would recommend adding to your kitchen tools.
What if I don’t have Southwest seasoning for the crust? No problem! You can substitute the Southwest seasoning for your favorite taco seasoning blend instead.
Is cornmeal gluten free / is this taco recipe gluten free? Generally, cornmeal is considered gluten free, meaning you can make these fish tacos gluten free! Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from corn. However, it’s always a good idea to double check the packaging for a gf marking if you’re serving these fish tacos to a family member or friend with celiac. Checking the label can tell you if the brand of cornmeal you’re looking at is processed in a facility that also processes wheat products. Also make sure to verify your toppings (primarily the tortillas) are gluten free if that is of concern to anyone who may be enjoying this recipe.
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Cornmeal Crusted Fish Tacos
- 6, 3 oz tilapia fillets thawed if using frozen fish (size is approximate)
- 4 tablespoon cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon Southwest seasoning
- ⅓ C neutral oil + additional as needed*
- Tortillas and desired toppings for serving
- Mix together cornmeal and seasoning on a dinner plate and set aside
- Pat thawed tilapia fillets dry with a paper towel
- Press each fillet into the cornmeal mixture to create a thin and even coating on each side. Move the fillets around to also cover the edges. Set breaded fillets aside.
- Place ~⅓ C of oil into a large skillet to create an even, thin layer across the entire bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until a small drop(s) of water sizzles
- Cook 2-3 fillets at a time until golden brown on each side and internal temperature is at 145°F (~2mins per side)*
- Break fillets into smaller pieces and serve with your favorite tortillas and toppings