dinnerMegan VanDykeFish, Tacos

Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw

dinnerMegan VanDykeFish, Tacos
Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw

When I think about fish tacos, I think of summer.  I think of fresh lime, cilantro from the farmer’s market, and an ice cold beer served alongside.  My favorite fish tacos are served at a recently opened restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The fish is perfectly crispy, and the toppings are both fresh and spicy. The kind of taco that leaves you satisfied but wanting more! A prickly pear margarita is a perfect compliment to the tacos.

In creating my own fish taco, I wanted something that was equally balanced, spicy, fresh, with a hint of citrus, but a little healthier. Instead of deep frying the fish, I opted to pan sear marinated grouper until it had just a hint of char on each side. The result was a nice flaky fish with great flavor from an hour hanging out in a citrus marinade.

I topped my fish tacos with homemade pico de gallo and a red cabbage slaw. A drizzle of sriracha crema provides just a hint of heat with the cooling dairy. Homemade flour tortillas really elevate these tacos, but on a busy weeknight a store bought variety would be absolutely fine. Just look for a tortilla with simple ingredients and very few preservatives. Flour, fat, salt, and water are the four ingredients for a perfect flour tortilla.

To start, begin by preparing the fish and toppings so they have time to marinade and intensify in flavor. For the pico de gallo, dice two tomatoes, I used vine ripened greenhouse tomatoes, along with half a white onion. You can adjust the amount of onion if you want a stronger onion flavor. Add a clove of minced garlic, and juice one lime directly into the bowl. Add a tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of cumin. I like to add a teaspoon of ground red pepper as well for some heat. Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the red cabbage slaw, mix a cup of shredded red cabbage with a quarter of a white onion, finely sliced. In a small bowl, mix together the juice of one lime, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and pour over the shredded cabbage. Mix well to coat the cabbage and refrigerate for an hour.

Prepare the fish. For this recipe I used fresh grouper, from the local fish monger, but any mild fish with a large flake would work well. I recommend tilapia, whitefish, or red snapper. To prepare your fish for the marinade, make sure the fish you are using is properly thawed if previously frozen, and dry it gently with clean paper towel. Arrange fish fillets in a shallow glass dish. For two servings, I used just over a half pound of grouper. In a small bowl, zest one lime and one lemon. Juice the lime and lemon zested into the bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, mix dry spices. Combine one tablespoon of cumin, one tablespoon of chili powder, one teaspoon of red pepper, and one teaspoon of garlic salt. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on both sides of the fish, followed by the dry spices. Make sure both sides of your fish are evenly covered. Pour the citrus juices slowly over the fish being careful not to wash away the spices. Marinate fish for one hour in the refrigerator.

While the fish, pico de gallo, and slaw are hanging out in the refrigerator, use this time to make homemade tortillas. This step can be skipped if you prefer to opt for store bought tortillas. We have some great options at the grocery store but fresh homemade is still better!

In a food processor with dough blade, combine two cups of flour and a pinch of salt. Pulse until mixed well. Add four tablespoons of very cold butter, cut into small pieces. Pulse food processor until mixture is the consistency of wet sand. While food processor is running, drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil into flour. slowly add warm water while machine is running, until a smooth ball of dough forms. You may need a little more or a little less than ¾ of a cup of warm water. Turn dough out only a floured surface and knead three or four times until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 16 small balls. Preheat cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Roll out tortillas as thin as possible on a floured surface. Mine were about 6 inches in diameter. Cook on a hot griddle 15-20 seconds on each side or until just browned. Bubbles will start to form just before the tortilla should be flipped. Butter one side of the tortilla and place it inside a clean folded kitchen towel. Homemade tortillas will keep for a few days refrigerated.

When tortillas are done, using the same hot skillet, cook fish 5 minutes on each side or until just starting to char and cooked all the way through. Fish will start to flake when cooked through.

Assemble tacos with fish, pico de gallo, red cabbage slaw, and a drizzle of sriracha crema (sriracha mixed with either sour cream or plain greek yogurt to taste). Serve with a lemon wedge to finish. Serve with your favorite local summer beer. For me this calls for a Grand Rabbits by Blackrocks Brewery in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, for Ryan it was a Bells Oberon. Choose your own favorite microbrew or a glass of iced tea. Enjoy!


Print recipes

Pico De Gallo Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 White onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon of red pepper (optional)


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small dish.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.


Red Cabbage Slaw Ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • 1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk lime juice, honey, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
  2. Toss with shredded cabbage and onions.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.


Fish Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound of firm whitefish (grouper, tilapia, red snapper)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of red pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon of garlic salt
  • Olive Oil


  1. Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl; cumin, chili powder, red pepper, and garlic salt.
  2. Whisk together lime zest, lemon zest, lime juice and lemon juice. Drizzle olive oil over fish.
  3. Cover both sides with dry ingredients in a shallow nonreactive dish.
  4. Carefully pour citrus juice over fish.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.


Homemade Tortillas Ingredients

Makes 16 small or 8 large tortillas

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 Tablespoons of cold butter
  • 3/4 cup of warm water


  1. Combine flour, salt, and butter in a food processor or mixer with a dough blade.
  2. Mix well until butter is incorporated and flour is the consistency of wet sand.
  3. With food processor running, add warm water a little at a time until a smooth ball of dough forms.
  4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead three or four times until smooth and elastic.
  5. Divide into 16 small balls.
  6. Preheat a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium high heat.
  7. Roll out tortillas as thin as possible on a floured surface, about six inches in diameter.
  8. Cook on hot griddle 15-20 seconds on each side or until lightly browned.
  9. Remove cooked tortilla to a clean kitchen towel. Butter one side of each tortilla if desired.

Sharing our culinary adventures in Cascadia with simple, sustainable & satisfying eats. Bon Appétit!