Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Cabbage Slaw

Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Cabbage Slaw Recipe

A few years ago, I went to Hawaii for my birthday. We ate lunch on the beach every day, and every day I had the same perfect dish: just-caught-fish tacos served up with pineapple and pickled veggies, fresh guacamole, salsa, and crisp onion rings. This is my homemade version of the comfort food I love. I took out the onion rings so I don’t have to feel guilty about eating this once or twice a week, but with the sweet-tart crunch of the Creamy Chipotle Cabbage Slaw on top, I don’t even miss ’em. Feel free to add guac and salsa to yours.–Daphne Oz

LC Just Like In Baja Note

Okay, so this fish taco isn’t exaaaaaaactly like the real deal that we’ve experienced in Baja, but close. You can always make it a touch more traditional by doubling up on the tortillas. See, thin, delicate corn tortillas have a tendency to fall apart due to the moisture from the hot fish. A second tortilla wrapped around the first deftly keeps your fish and slaw from dropping in your lap.

Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Cabbage Slaw Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 4


  • For the slaw
  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage (1 medium to large cabbage)
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 3 large scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (discard the seeds and ribs if you want less heat)
  • 1/2 cup store bought or homemade mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (preferably full fat) or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, or 1/8 cup freshly squeezed lime juice plus 1/8 cup Champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the fish
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 pound mild white fish (such as cod, halibut, or tilapia), cut into 4 fillets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • For the assembly
  • 8 small corn tortillas, warmed (or 16 tortillas if you want to be authentic)
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)


  • Make the slaw
  • 1. Combine the cabbages, carrots, onion, scallions, and jalapeño in a large bowl.
  • 2. In a medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, lime juice or lime juice and vinegar, sugar or honey, and the cumin and chipotle powder, if using, until smooth and creamy.
  • 3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving and up to 2 days. (If refrigerating for more than an hour or so, drain off any liquid that pools at the bottom of the bowl prior to serving.)
  • Cook the fish
  • 4. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, chipotle powder, and 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Pat each fish fillet dry and lightly dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour.
  • 5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat and place 2 fillets at a time in the pan. Gently panfry for 3 to 6 minutes, until the underside of the fish turns opaque. Use a spatula to flip the fillets and cook until opaque throughout. Place on a paper towel–lined plate, drain the remaining oil from the pan, and repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining 2 fillets.
  • 6. To serve, for each fish fillet, heat tortillas in a clean skillet in batches with the 1 remaining tablespoon oil, flipping them once, then place them on a plate.
  • Assemble the tacos
  • 7. Cut each fillet in half and divide the fish evenly among the tortillas. Toss the slaw to recombine and then add a spoonful to each taco along with some cilantro, if desired.

Gluten-Free Variation

  • Simply skip the step where you dredge the fish in flour and instead sprinkle it with the chipotle powder and salt.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews

We loved this slaw!. We made it two days in a row, and we will make it again. The second time, I substituted good olive oil for the mayo and our tasters ate it all, with compliments. I cannot help but futz around with this type of recipe. I will add other vegetables, like jicama and cucumber. Lena will make it again, too, and next time hers will be without the red onion, which she thought too “vibrant.” A delicious slaw. Thank you!

Testers Choice
Suzanne Fortier

Jul 30, 2013

I am torn. I love fish tacos and have been making, and eating, them for years. This is not my idea of a fish taco. HOWEVER, if I had to rate the chipotle slaw alone, I would give it the highest rating, it’s that darn good. And that is the problem. The slaw is so flavorful, with just enough bite from the jalapeño and depth of flavor from the cumin and chipotle powder, it completely overwhelms the fish. I would be inclined to try the slaw with a pork taco, pulled pork sandwich, or as a side dish with–you guessed it–pork. It really needs something that can stand up to all of those flavors. Making the slaw is pretty straightforward. I used 5 cups green cabbage, 1 cup shredded carrots (2 carrots), about 2/3 cup red onions, and about ½ cup scallions. I used goat’s milk yogurt in place of the Greek yogurt. Although it’s much thinner, it did not yield a watery dressing, even after some time in the fridge. I used the juice of 2 limes, and added the cumin and chipotle powder, which I would not suggest omitting. If you are sensitive to spicy foods, you could do without the jalapeño, or use less. I thought it was the right amount, but I like my food to bite back! I went to the neighborhood Farmer’s Market and bought a fresh-off-the-boat filet of weakfish, or squeteague as my Dad used to call it (the Native American name for this common sea trout of Narragansett Bay). It is delicately flavored, but holds together well in the frying pan. I cooked the filets for 4 minutes on the first side and 3 on the second. It was lovely. I just lightly brushed my tortillas with a trace of oil and grilled them on my grill pan before assembly. Forget the cilantro. You can’t even taste it with all the other flavors going on. So? So, then I ate 4 tacos all by myself. (See? I told you I was torn.) Both the pepper mixture and the slaw yielded at least twice the amount required for the recipe, which should be noted. It’s perfectly fine with me, though, as I have a lovely pork butt in the fridge, which I intend to slow cook. That cabbage slaw will come in very handy.

Testers Choice
Sue Davis

Jul 30, 2013

How would I describe this recipe? Simply delish! I used a nice Pacific cod which was the perfect compliment to the bold chipotle slaw. My intention was to make the recipe exactly as written. I must say I was on track to do so until I saw the basket of market fresh cherry tomatoes on the counter. At the last moment I added a handful of these flavor bombs, diced in half, to the slaw. We really enjoyed the freshness and bright flavor the tomatoes added to the slaw as well as the beautiful coloring. I did find that the recipe made much more chipotle dressing than required to dress the slaw. This worked perfectly for me as I used a bit of the remainder sauce to dress the tortilla before layering the pan fried fish and slaw in the tortilla. As my kids like white extra-sharp Cheddar cheese on their fish tacos, I made half the batch with the addition of the cheese. Both versions were divine. My teenage daughter said we should have these much more often. Some augmentations which would be fun to try in the future: Add jicama for crunch and a way to tone down the sauce, should it be too spicy for your diners. Although totally out of the norm for Baja style fish tacos, I enjoy a garnish of fresh tomato salsa on my fish tacos and, if I’m really hungry, a slice of avocado as well. I also plan to make the slaw separately to serve with other dishes – grilled/fried/baked chicken, pork roast, pulled pork, and just about any seafood plate. This slaw would be the perfect zesty side dish or salad for picnics or buffets. The ingredients are available year round, which makes this recipe good for any day of the year.

Testers Choice
Ayanna Fews

Jul 30, 2013

I love fish tacos and these were really good. I used tilapia and it held up really well to the frying. I think that a little more salt could be used in the flour/chipotle mixture, but this was fixed with a light salting after removing the fish from the oil. I especially liked the slaw, and think that it really made the dish. The slaw held up nicely after the initial refrigerator time. The next day it was also okay, but did require some mixing because there was more liquid. The flavors were still there and undiluted. If you like things a bit spicier you could definitely increase the chipotle, or add a nice spicy salsa. Although the recipe didn’t include these items, I think that the addition of a nice salsa and even guacamole would really bring together the flavors. The tacos are good on their own, but these items would just take it to another level. This was a really good fish taco, one that I will definitely be making again in the future.

Testers Choice
Cindi Kruth

Jul 30, 2013

We really enjoyed these fish tacos. I made them with cod, the special at the fish market that day. It looks like there are a lot of ingredients for the slaw, but the recipe is straightforward and simple and comes together quickly and easily. Since there was chipotle powder on the fish, I left it out of the slaw. With the slaw only resting for 20 minutes I didn’t refrigerate it because I didn’t want ice cold slaw going onto my hot fish. Otherwise I followed the instructions exactly. We liked the slaw so much I was glad I didn’t decrease the recipe, even though we had about half of it left over. We just ate it with some burgers the next night. Weeping wasn’t much of a problem, even on the second day. There was just a little liquid which I simply stirred back into the slaw. Since my preference is for crunchy tacos I tried mine in store-bought crispy shells and I liked those, too.

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Jul 30, 2013

Overall this was great, and making it as the recipe states gives the perfect amount of heat. I first made a lunch version of this dish with a very good friend who is a caterer. We both agreed the recipe was amazingly easy, healthy, flavorful, and fast. The texture of the fish was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. It was almost like it was lightly fried, but I used only one tablespoon of oil so it’s much healthier than frying. I couldn’t wait to make it again that night for my family, knowing that something this easy and this delicious would be a hit. It was extra late when we got home and everyone was hungry. In trying to speed up an already quick and simple recipe, I cut my pound of halibut into 1-inch pieces rather than the 4-ounce filets that the recipe called for, so each piece had much more seasoning than if I’d left it as whole filets. This took the perfect amount of heat in the original recipe and made it way too much. Then I added the chipotle powder and cumin to the slaw which made things a little spicy, too. The combination was too much heat. My son, who has started speaking in movie references a little too often, compared it to “Texas Pete on more steroids than Stallone.” After adding sour cream, the heat from the tacos was a little more bearable. But the real proof that the tacos were amazing was that everyone kept eating the fish and drinking milk every so often to cool off our burning tongues. I will make this again, following the recipe exactly next time. I decided to use flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas just because it’s what my family always prefers.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Jul 30, 2013

I did not expect to like this recipe as much as I did. I have my own idea about what a fish taco is supposed to be, but the fact is, this made for a really tasty dinner. The slaw holds pretty well, so it could be made a couple of hours in advance. I made it 1 hour ahead, and it did not get “weepy” in the fridge. The next day, however, the leftover slaw did have some excess liquid. The fish, on the other hand, does not hold well, so make just what you plan to eat in one meal. The chipotle powder in the slaw was not at all overwhelming. The slaw did have a kick to it, but that was more from the jalapeño, and will vary depending upon how much you use and how hot your jalapeño is. Lately I’ve been getting unusually hot ones.

In frying the fish, I went ahead and cut the fillets into the final size serving pieces, before frying them. This made it a bit easier to fit them in the pan, and saved the trouble of trying to divide the cooked filets. I used snapper, as it was the best option in my market. My filets were fairly thin, so the lowest end of the frying time given, 3 minutes per side, was perfect. The composed taco of sautéed fish and crunchy slaw had a great balance of flavors in which no one component overwhelmed the others. A very enjoyable dish, and a nice reminder that sometimes a recipe that isn’t following the rules can be a winner.

Testers Choice
Patton C.

Jul 30, 2013

While there are a few tweaks I’d make, based on my personal taste, I think this recipe rates as a Testers’ Choice. I used tilapia fillets and they were perfectly cooked at 3 minutes a side. I thought every component needed more salt, so I added salt to the fish while it was cooking and even sprinkled some salt on the corn tortillas while they were warming. I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas, so I cooked them a little longer than probably intended by the author in order to give them a little crispiness and some brown spots. I didn’t care for the Greek yogurt in the slaw and would try sour cream next time—I thought it had an odd tanginess that didn’t really go with the rest of the flavors. I would also try to substitute one of the vinegar options for half of the lime juice. I did add the cumin and chipotle powder to the slaw—that, to me, is what made it. Without those flavors it would have been bland (except for that jalepeno!). I made the slaw about an hour before serving and it held together well, and even the next night it had only weeped a little and the liquid was easily mixed back together with the slaw. I thought the sauteed onions and peppers were a great addition, and the second night, we even added avocado.

  1. These fish tacos look amazing and delicious!!! Yum!!!

  2. bkhuna says:

    What kind of bait do you use for “just caught-fish tacos”? I’d think a bottle of Bohemia.

  3. I would just like to report that the slaw, which is over-the-top delicious, goes really well with some pulled pork. Wow.

  4. ruthie says:

    Yes! This is almost exactly my fish taco. Never liked the battered version — the batter gets soggy and ick! I do give my fish a bit of a ceviche treatment first and fry them in coconut oil. Those two steps really make a fish taco for me.

    • Beth Price says:

      How do you do your ceviche treatment, Ruthie? Would love to try that the next time I make them.

      • ruthie says:

        It’s not a true ceviche. I don’t want to cook the fish that way, but I put fillets in a zipper bag with some sliced onion, a few cracked peppercorns and a good squeeze of lime juice (I salt them before frying) — maybe as much as a tablespoon per fillet. I only leave it there for about 10 minutes, while I prep the rest of the stuff so it’s all ready when I start to fry the fish. I like the little tang it gives the fish with making it taste pickled. And frying in coconut oil gives it a light tropical kind of hint. Works for me anyway. ;) Oh, and I usually use snapper or tilapia. Sometimes I fry the onion from the marinade until crispy and use it for a garnish.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          That sounds quite lovely, ruthie. Me and my husband really love fish, gonna definitely try it this way, thank you!

  5. Amy says:

    These were EXCELLENT! Serving size 4 though? No way. 2 at best :)

  6. Tim says:

    If you salt your cabbage and let it drain in a colander for a couple of hours before adding the dressing you won’t get that weeping.

  7. Herbietea says:

    Just made the coleslaw and it’s delicious. Substituted chipotle powder for smoked paprika, as that’s all I had, and I omitted the cumin. It’s my favorite coleslaw. (Every time I try a new one, I’m never quite happy, but I will need to search no further in the future.) Thank you!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re so welcome, Herbietea! Lovely to hear that you fancy it as much as we do! Really looking forward to hearing which recipe from the site you try next.

  8. Erin says:

    I made a variation (a wide variation) of this last night and it was DELICIOUS!! My youngest daughter initially said, “ewwww fish tacos??? I’m NOT eating THAT! I will make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!!” I told her she HAD TO at least try it! So, that is where the variation came in.

    All 5 of us are overweight, 4 are obese. We are trying to eat healthier, preferably Paleo-type eating or GF at least. So, I made my slaw which is close to this recipe. I added the lime juice, 1/4 of a very thinly sliced red onion, and one jalapeño. My slaw also includes celery seeds. I didn’t bread the fish nor did I use oil in the pan. I used a GOOD non-stick pan. I did not have the spices here either. We just got snow and ice. Our roads are pretty bad so I didn’t go out. I just made do w what I had. I used taco seasoning. It was pretty good but I believe the cumin & chipotle powder would have been better. Will do a review when I can do it up RIGHT!! :)

  9. Erin says:

    BTW, my daughter loved it! She ate until she couldn’t eat another bite! And I don’t mean PB&J!!

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