Easy fish tacos that are also Whole30 compliant? Not too good to be true. These are simple to put together, making them great for a weeknight dinner. Cook them up quickly on the stove and add your favorite toppings.
Do you find fish tacos intimidating? I have, and because of that I haven’t tried to make them before. I’m always afraid the marinate won’t be right or I won’t cook the fish correctly. But I love them and decided to get over my fear and dive into things head first.
One issue I had was I didn’t know which fish to use for fish tacos. Here’s what I found.
Which Fish is Best for Fish Tacos?
There are several articles out there with recommendations, including this one from Food & Wine. But I knew I had to test some out on my own, so I also picked up several different kinds of fish from the grocery store to see which held up best.
I narrowed it down to sole, lingcod, cod, and rockfish. I knew I wanted a white fish, so salmon was out, and while I love halibut it would be too expensive.
Of the fish I tried, the rockfish turned out the best. It held up well, had a good flavor, and was cheaper than anything else – hey, fish can be expensive! If you can’t find rockfish, or if rockfish is expensive in your area, cod or lingcod (which is actually not a type of cod) will work just fine.
Next I had to decide how I was going to make the recipe. Corn Tortillas? A no-grain tortilla? Lettuce wraps?
In the end I settled on a Whole30 compliant version of fish tacos. I really wanted to take that on because I’m always looking for recipes I can make when doing a Whole30.
I tried a couple different variations of this recipe, mostly with or without date paste as sweetener, but the marinade with the date paste definitely tasted better. And don’t be intimidated by making date paste! The one in this recipe is a super simple version you make in the microwave – it takes 5 minutes. Seriously.
And speaking of, let’s get to the recipe. First up, the date paste.
How to Make Date Paste:
To start, cut the pit out of the date and chop the date into small pieces. Put the pieces in a single layer in a medium-sized microwavable bowl, then pour the water over the date. Place the bowl in the microwave and set it for 3 minutes.
While it’s heating up, be sure and check it every 30 seconds or so to make sure the water isn’t bubbling up over the bowl. You may want to stop it at the 2 minute mark and poke the dates with a fork to see how soft they are. They should be VERY soft, so if they’re still a tad hard in the middle put them back in the microwave until they completely soften.
Once the date piece are softened, take the bowl out of the microwave and use a fork to mash up the date with the remaining water. This may look kind of gross, but I promise it will make the marinade magic.
Now you’ll add in the rest of the marinade ingredients.
How to Make the Marinade:
This marinade was inspired by this recipe on Delish, with some changes. For this step you can use the same bowl you used to make the date paste. Measure out the oil, cumin, and chili powder with measuring cups and spoons and put them in the bowl with the paste. Juice the limes (using a fork or a juicer – whichever is easiest) and put the juice in the bowl as well. Stir everything together and you’ve got your marinade!
Once the bones are removed, salt both sides of the fish, place the pieces in a large dish (like a 9×13 baking dish), and pour the marinade over the fish. Flip the fish over once or twice and cover with plastic wrap (or whatever cover you choose). Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to marinate.
At this point is where you’ll want to make your coleslaw if you’re not using some that’s already prepared. I love this recipe with my Kohlrabi, Kale, and Carrot Coleslaw, which is also Whole30 compliant.
Once the 30 minutes is up in the fridge, take the fish out and let it warm a bit on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes. This just helps the fish cook more evenly in the pan, whereas if you cook cold fish (or any cold meat), the outside cooks faster than the inside and you either get super rare meat on the inside or way overdone meat on the outside. Nobody wants that.
How to Make Easy Fish Tacos
Now comes cooking up the fish. Take your cast iron skillet, pour a tablespoon of oil into it, and set it over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, place half of the fish in it and let it cook for 4 minutes without moving the fish. If you move the fish, you run the risk of breaking it into pieces, which makes it more difficult to flip. Just let it lie.
After 4 minutes, flip the fish over with a spatula and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. It’s okay if there’s a little char on the fish (the black stuff, as in the picture on the right above). If you pieces of fish are thinner, lean toward 3 minutes, if they’re thicker, lean toward 4 minutes. You’ll know it’s done with the inside of the fish is opaque and flaky.
Once the first pieces of fish are cooked, remove them from the pan and place them on a large plate with a paper towel underneath to absorb some of the oil. Then you’ll pour in the other tablespoon of oil and cook the remaining fish the same way.
First wash and dry the lettuce leaves. Get them on a plate and start piling them up with several small pieces of fish (just break the fish off from the larger pieces you cooked). Top with coleslaw and salsa, if desired, and you’ve got your Whole30 compliant easy fish taco.
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If you try this Whole30 Easy Fish Tacos recipe (or any other recipe) then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it went in the comments below. It totally makes my day to hear how a recipe worked out for you.
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Recipe for Whole30 Easy Fish Tacos
Whole30 Easy Fish Tacos
- 1/4 water
- 1 date pitted
- Date paste
- 2 large limes
- 1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 pounds white fish rockfish, cod, lingcod
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 head of lettuce green leaf or bibb
- salsa optional
- A sharp knife
- A cutting board
- A medium microwavable bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- A fork
- A citrus juicer
- A large dish (like a 9x13 baking dish)
- Plastic wrap
- A cast iron skillet
- A spatula
- A large plate
- paper towels
For the date paste:
- Chop the date into small pieces using a sharp knife and cutting board, then put the pieces in a medium microwavable bowl. Pour the water over the dates pieces and make sure they are covered in a single layer on the bottom.
- Microwave the date pieces for 3 minutes, checking at the 2 minute mark to make sure the pieces are softening and the mixture isn’t bubbling over the sides of the bowl.
- Once done, remove the bowl from the microwave (carefully if it’s hot) and use a fork to mash up the dates and remaining water. Keep mashing until the large chunks are gone and a thick paste is formed.
For the marinade:
- Measure out the oil, cumin, and chili powder with measuring cups and spoons and put them in the bowl the date paste is in. Juice the limes using a fork or a juicer and put the juice in the bowl as well. Using a fork, stir everything together until well combined.
- Place the fish pieces in a large dish (like a 9x13 baking dish) and salt both sides, then pour the marinade over the fish. Flip the fish over once or twice and cover with saran wrap (or whatever cover you choose). Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the tacos:
- Take the fish out of the fridge and let warm on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Place a large cast iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to heat.
- Take out half the marinated fish and place in the skillet. Cook for 4 minutes on one side, then flip with a spatula and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side. Cooking time for thinner pieces of fish may be less. The inside of the fish should be opaque and flaky.
- Once the fish is cooked, remove it and place it on a large plate with a paper towel underneath it to absorb some of the oil. Pour in the other tablespoon of avocado oil, then cook the remaining fish the same way.
- To assemble the tacos, wash and dry the lettuce leaves then break off several small pieces of fish and place in the leaves. Top with coleslaw and salsa, if desired.