Looking for a meal that’s both straightforward to whip up and packed full of fresh flavors? Try these easy tilapia fish tacos. They’re naturally gluten-free, and topped a red cabbage slaw, fruit salsa, and cilantro lime crema. These tacos are on the table in under 20 minutes, perfect for an easy weeknight meal.
If you haven’t cooked with tilapia before, it’s a freshwater fish, often farm-raised, and is recognized for its mild and slightly sweet flavor. If you don’t love overly fishy tasting seafood, this is the fish for you. Its firm texture ensures that it holds up well during the cooking process, which means you won’t have to deal with it breaking apart in the skillet, a common issue with some other fish types.
With a mix of spices like chili and garlic powder, the tilapia has a balanced, flavorful taste without being overly spicy. The added red cabbage slaw is not to be missed either – it introduces a fresh crunch, while the peach mango salsa lends a hint of sweetness to contrast the seasoned fish.
Whether you’re hosting a weekend get-together or need something quick and tasty for a weeknight dinner, these easy fish tacos fit the bill. With our provided tips and step-by-step photos throughout this post, even if it’s your first time making them, you’ll get it right, ensuring a delicious meal for any occasion.
You’ll love this recipe because:
Table of Contents
- Tilapia Filets – When purchasing tilapia, look for fresh or frozen fillets with a clear, firm texture. Avoid filets with a fishy or off odor. Freshwater tilapia from responsible sources is usually a safer and more sustainable choice. I personally like to buy frozen tilapia loins from Regal Springs at Wild Fork Foods, which are thick and high-quality.
- Spices – I like to use a combination of chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper for my spice mixture. It seasons otherwise mild tilapia to become really flavorful.
- Olive Oil – Use extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. For a neutral taste, you could use avocado oil or another high smoke point oil.
- Red Cabbage – Choose a cabbage head that feels heavy for its size, indicating freshness. The leaves should be crisp, not limp. You can use green cabbage as a substitute, but will have a slightly different taste and crunch.
- Lime Juice – Freshly squeezed lime juice offers a brighter flavor compared to bottled versions, which are somewhat muddled. Plus, you’ll want the lime zest for the cilantro crema, too. If limes aren’t available, lemons can be a substitute, though the taste will be slightly different.
- Gluten-free Corn Tortillas – Check labels to ensure they’re truly gluten-free if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. I like to use both yellow corn and white corn tortillas depending on what I’m in the mood for. I char them over the flame of my gas stove top for about 15 seconds until the sides are just lightly charred. You can also place them in the oven or the microwave to soften them if you prefer.
- Peach Mango Salsa – You can use any fruit salsa that you’d like, homemade or store-bought. I used my peach mango salsa recipe for these fish tacos, which pairs perfectly with the tilapia. My pineapple salsa or black bean corn salsa would also be delicious, too!
- Fresh Cilantro – Choose bunches with bright green leaves, avoiding those with yellowed or wilted leaves. If you’re not a fan of cilantro or think it has a soapy taste, just omit it from the crema.
- Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt – I used sour cream for this cilantro crema recipe, but I’ve also used Greek Yogurt as well and both work great! If using Greek yogurt, it provides a tangier, less rich alternative to sour cream. Vegan versions of both are available if you’re avoiding dairy.
- Lime Zest – Zesting a lime provides an intense lime flavor without the additional liquid. When zesting, avoid the white pith which can be bitter.
While there are a few components to these tilapia fish tacos, the steps are so simple and can be ready in under 20 minutes. Just get your fish cooking first while you combine the cilantro lime crema and cabbage slaw ingredients.
For the ingredient list with measurements, full instructions, printable recipe, and additional notes, please scroll down to the recipe card.
Yes, other white fish like cod, mahi-mahi, or halibut can be substituted for tilapia. Just ensure they’re fresh and adjust the cooking time based on thickness.
Absolutely! You can use vegan sour cream or a cashew-based cream as a substitute. Just season it according to the recipe for similar flavors. You can also leave out the cilantro crema and use some other sauce instead on your tacos. This recipe is meant to be versatile.
It’s best to store components separately. Keep the cooked tilapia in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Assemble the tacos fresh when you’re ready to eat.
Certainly! The cilantro-lime sour cream sauce and peach mango salsa can be made a day in advance, and the tilapia spice mix can be prepped ahead too. This will make assembling the tacos quicker when you’re ready to serve.
hints & tips
- Storage: Place leftover tilapia in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Ensure that components like the slaw and salsa are stored separately to maintain freshness.
- Freezer Option: I don’t recommend freezing these fish tacos for best results. Instead, make as much as you need for dinner that night or store the fish in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Reheat: For best results, reheat the tilapia in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through. Avoid microwaving, as this can make the fish dry out. The remaining ingredients can all be served chilled.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know! Please rate it and leave a comment below. You can also share your pictures and tag @adashofmegnut on Instagram.
Tilapia Fish Tacos
For the Fish:
- 1 pound tilapia filets (about 3-4 filets)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Cabbage Slaw:
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Cilantro Lime Crema:
- 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt (dairy-free alternative if needed)
- 2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 small gluten-free corn tortillas
- 2 cups fruit salsa (I recommend my peach mango salsa recipe)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
Prepare the Fish:
- In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
- Pat the tilapia filets dry with paper towels. Evenly sprinkle the spice mix on both sides of each filet.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tilapia filets.
- Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Prepare the Slaw:
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the shredded red cabbage, lime juice, and kosher salt.
- Toss well to combine. Set aside for flavors to meld.
Prepare the Sauce:
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream or greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, lime zest, and salt.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Assembling the Tacos:
- Warm the corn tortillas over a gas flame until charred on the edges or by placing them on a hot skillet for a few seconds on each side until they’re pliable.
- Place a portion of the cooked tilapia on each tortilla.
- Top with a generous helping of the slaw and fruit salsa.
- Drizzle with the prepared cilantro-lime sour cream sauce.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges on the side.
- Gluten-Free: If you have celiac disease or are gluten-free for other reasons, be sure to double check that all of your ingredients are gluten-free. Most corn tortillas are gluten-free, as they usually contain just corn, salt and water, but always confirm before purchasing.
- Dairy-Free Option: To make this recipe dairy-free, either omit the cilantro lime crema or substitute the sour cream with a dairy-free sour cream or greek yogurt alternative. Everything else is dairy-free as listed in the recipe instructions.
- Salsa Variations: You can use any salsa you like for this recipe, but I find that fruit salsas go so well with this tilapia taco recipe! My peach mango salsa is what was used in the photos of this recipe and so good! You can also try my pineapple salsa instead.
- Tilapia Thickness: My tilapia filets were on the thicker side, if yours are thinner, you may need to only cook them for 2-3 minutes per side. Be sure not to overcook the tilapia as it can get rubbery. While tilapia is recommended, feel free to substitute with other white fish like cod, halibut, or mahi-mahi.
- Storage: Store any leftover fish separately from the tortillas to keep the tortillas from getting soggy. Reheat fish in a skillet or oven for the best texture. I don’t recommend microwaving the fish to reheat.
- Prep Ahead: The cilantro-lime sour cream sauce can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge. This will allow the flavors to meld and develop even further. The red cabbage slaw can also be prepared in advance. It’s crunchiest on the first day, but will store well for a few days in the refrigerator.