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Whip up a batch of these tacos de pescado and get ready for an all-out fiesta. Tender halibut filets are marinated in a bath of smoky, spicy, citrus bliss before being grilled to crispy perfection. Top with pineapple salsa and let the al Pastor magic happen!
My tacos de pescado are ideal for your next backyard barbecue and a great way to jazz up Taco Tuesdays. This easy recipe requires only 15 minutes of prep time and easily accessible ingredients.
I use corn tortillas for these al pastor fish tacos too, making them naturally gluten-free. I love making this recipe once the weather starts heating up, but honestly, it is undeniably delectable any time of the year.
Table of Contents
- Halibut – Mild and slightly sweet, this flakey white fish adopts the flavor of the marinade with ease. If you need to substitute, go with cod or haddock.
- Pineapple Salsa – A combination of tropical fruit, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and spices creates an intensely flavorful and fresh fruit salsa.
- Orange Juice – Forms the bright, citrusy base of our marinade.
- Vinegar – Use plain old white vinegar or replace it with apple cider or malt vinegar.
- Garlic – Adds a zesty, zingy, peppery punch.
- Achiote Paste – Gives al pastor fish tacos their deep, earthy, peppery flavor and bright red color. Shop for achiote paste at your local Mexican market or learn more about it, like how to make it, here.
- Chili Powder – Click the link for a DIY version or find it in the spice aisle.
- Mexican Oregano – Adds tones of licorice and citrus. If none is available, try subbing in marjoram with a pinch of coriander.
- Warming Spices – Cumin, cinnamon, and cloves add a warming, aromatic element to the marinade.
Opt for the Stovetop or Grill
Fish tacos al pastor taste best when the fish has been pan-seared or grilled. While you could also cook it in the oven, I love the way the fish comes out when it has been seared or grilled best. You’ll lock in all of that yummy flavor all while giving the exterior a crispy crunch.
- Prepare the Halibut. Cut the halibut into a total of 8 pieces, measuring about 1 ½ inches each. Set aside.
- Make the Marinade. Combine the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, achiote paste, chili powder, salt, Mexican oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and clove together in a blender and puree until smooth.
- Marinate the Fish. Pour half of the marinade into a container, add the halibut pieces, then pour the rest of the marinade over the top. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour. You can also use a sealable bag for this step.
- Prepare the Salsa. Combine the pineapple, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Mix to combine and set aside.
- Stovetop Method: Place a large skillet over medium-high heat along with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Pan-sear the halibut until it is crispy with a slight bit of char on it. It doesn’t take long — about 2 minutes per side should do the trick.
- Grill Method: Make sure the grill has been scraped clean, then heat your grill to medium-high, or about 400 degrees F. Use a brush to apply a bit of oil to the grates before adding the halibut. Grill for 2 minutes, then use a fish spatula to gently release and flip the fish over. Grill for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the fish is slightly charred.
- Warm the Tortillas. On the stovetop or grill, warm your tortillas over an open flame to make them soft, pliable, and a bit charred.
- Assemble & Serve. Add a piece of halibut to each tortilla and top with pineapple salsa. Finish your tacos de pescado with a nice squeeze of fresh lime juice and enjoy!
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Al pastor fish tacos basically translate to “shepherd style” fish tacos. This might seem a bit confusing, but stay with me.
“Al pastor,” when it comes to taco meat, refers to a particular way of marinating and cooking meat. The term came about in the 1900s when Lebanese merchants introduced their intensely delicious way of preparing lamb shawarma. Mexicans began referring to these Lebanese lamb cooks as “al pastor” or “shepherd” and used the term as they adopted their style of cooking and applied it to preparing pork.
Fish tacos al pastor uses the same bright, tangy, achiote-laced marinade that you see in more common pork-based Tacos Al Pastor Recipes. In addition to the spicy marinade, al pastor cooking also includes quickly searing the meat (or fish, in this case) to produce irresistible crispy and crunchy edges as well as the traditional pineapple salsa toppings.
I like to use halibut for fish tacos al pastor. However, any lean, flakey white fish is a great choice. Tacos de pescado recipes can include halibut, snapper, mahi mahi, cod, tilapia, bass, and even catfish. These fish are ideal for their accessibility, mild flavor, and quick cooking time.
Check out my posts for Beer Battered Fish Tacos (Baja Style) and Mahi Mahi Tacos with Fruit Salsa for some examples.
Tacos de pescado pair perfectly with all your favorite Mexican condiments and side dishes and summertime favorites. Here are a few recipes for inspiration:
– Sweet Potato and Corn Salad
– Street Corn Recipe
– Strawberry Salsa or Fresh Peach Salsa
– Fire Roasted Salsa or Roasted Salsa Verde
– Authentic Guacamole
– Refried Beans or Black Beans and Corn
– Mexican Salad with Vinaigrette
Fish Tacos al Pastor Style
- Slice halibut into (8) 1 1/2 inch slices. Set aside.
- In a blender add the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, achiote paste, chili powder, salt, Mexican oregano, cumin, cinnamon and clove and puree until smooth.
- Pour some of the marinade in a container and transfer fish on top. Pour remaining marinade on top to cover. Alternately you could use a sealable bag. Marinade in refrigerator for 1 hour.
- In a bowl, mix together the pineapple, red onion, cilantro, the juice from 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high, add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Pan sear the halibut for 2 minutes per side and edges are slightly charred and crispy.
- Clean grill grates and heat to medium-high (400°F). Brush grill with oil and grill fish for 2 minutes. Using a fish spatula, gently release fish from grill grate, carefully flip and grill until slightly charred, 2-3 minutes.
- Heat tortillas until pliable and slightly charred over open flame on stovetop or grill. Add a piece of grilled halibut, top with pineapple salsa and squeeze quartered lime wedges on top.
- Achiote paste can be found in most Mexican markets, or you can make your own achiote paste. It creates the authentic deep red color and flavor that al pastor is known for.
- Mexican oregano is a relative of Lemon Verbena and is native to Mexico, with notes of mild licorice and citrus. Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family and most often is used in Greek and Italian recipes. Mediterranean oregano is the one most found in spice racks at supermarkets.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.