Fish Tacos, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, May 30, 2011
Fish Tacos With Mango Salsa
Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos

Warm weather is prime time for fish tacos, but some recipes can do some serious damage to your beach-ready body. Try our lightened up versions  — even your favorite fried recipes can be made more bikini friendly.

Nutrition Facts
Deep-fried fish, super-sized tortillas and creamy sauces can equal fish tacos with thousands of calories per serving. A few simple swaps will save hundreds of calories:

  • Grilled or baked fish is much lighter and just as tasty. We recommend cod, halibut, mahi mahi or tilapia.
  • If you are going to fry, do it right with a light batter and oil at the proper temperature to avoid greasy tacos (see our recipe below)
  • Use smaller and lower-calorie corn tortillas.
  • Use flavorful low-calorie toppers like salsa, hot sauce and fresh vegetables in place of creamy sauces.

Instead of frying, bake fish with a crunchy panko coating. Top with a fresh mango salsa, bursting with flavor.

Panko-Breaded Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa (pictured above)
Yield: 4 servings

1 1/4 pound cod, cut into 16 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
1 1/2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil
8 corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup mango salsa (or salsa of choice – see tip below)
Shredded green cabbage
Nonstick cooking spray

Tip: Make your own mango salsa by combining chopped mango, jalapeno pepper, red bell pepper, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place flour, eggs and panko in a 3 shallow dishes and season with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs; transfer to wire rack. Drizzle with canola oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden, turning once.
Serve in corn tortillas topped with salsa and shredded cabbage

Nutrition Info Per Serving (2 tacos topped with 2 tbsp salsa)
Calories: 369
Total Fat: 7 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Total Carbohydrate: 45 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Sodium: 472 milligrams
Cholesterol: 107 milligrams
Fiber: 4 gram

Low-cal grilled fish leaves room for a dollop of creamy lightened-up sauce.

Grilled Fish Tacos
Grilled Fish Tacos With Charred Corn

Fish Tacos with Chili Mayo & Grilled Corn
Yield: 4 servings

4 ears fresh corn, husks removed
1 pound raw Mahi Mahi fillets
2 teaspoon canola oil
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups shredded green cabbage
Lime wedges

Spicy Mayo:
2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat grill or grill pan to medium high. Place corn on grill and cook for 4-6 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Season fish with canola oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Grill for 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and break up into chunks. For the spicy mayo, place yogurt in a small bowl lined with paper towel for 5 minutes to remove some of the excess liquid. In another small bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce and lemon juice; whisk to combine. Assemble tacos in tortillas with fish, cabbage and spicy mayo; serve with corn and lime wedges.

Nutrition Info Per Serving (1 piece of corn and 2 tacos topped with chili mayo)
Calories: 360 calories
Total Fat: 9.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Protein: 27 grams
Carbohydrate: 46 grams
Sodium: 245 milligrams
Cholesterol: 83 milligrams
Fiber: 6 grams

The trick to lighter fried foods is to make sure the batter is the right consistency and the oil is at the perfect temperature – otherwise you’ll end up with oil overload! Following this method, the fish will only absorb a small fraction of the oil. These crunchy tacos come in at 420 calories per serving, toppings included!

Fish Tacos
Beer-Battered Fish Tacos

Beer Battered Fish Tacos
Yield: 4 servings

2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces of dark beer
1 1/4 pounds cod, cut into 16 pieces

8 corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
Shredded green cabbage
Quick Pickled Veggies (recipe below)
Hot sauce (optional)

Equipment: deep-fry thermometer

Heat oil to 375-degrees in a pot or Dutch oven (use a thermometer to ensure proper temperature).  In a large bowl add flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in beer and mix until combined. Dip fish into batter, allow excess to drip off and transfer to hot oil. Fry fish for 2-3 minutes, turning once with tongs until puffed and golden brown. Remove fish from oil and place on a plate lined with paper towel and season with additional salt if desired. Serve immediately in warmed tortillas topped with Greek yogurt, cabbage, pickled vegetables and hot sauce, if desired.

Tip: Move the fish with tongs after adding to the oil to prevent the fish from sticking the bottom of the pot.

Nutrition Info Per Serving: (2 tacos topped with 1 tablespoon yogurt, pickled vegetables and hot sauce)
Calories: 420
Total Fat: 16 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 37 grams
Protein: 32 grams
Sodium: 232 milligrams
Cholesterol: 61 milligrams
Fiber: 4 gram

Quick Pickled Veggies
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and allow sugar to dissolve.  Stir in 2 cups of thinly sliced vegetables such as red onion, cucumbers and carrots, turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 3 days.

TELL US: How do you lighten up fish tacos?

More Recipes To Try:
Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo-Black Bean Sauce
Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (154)

  1. SusieBeeonMaui says:

    Mmm, that corn looks goooooood!

    For fish tacos, the lightest way I make them is baked. With tortilla and some toppings, less than 300 calories:

  2. Paula says:

    I make fish tacos with grilled fish and grilled corn tortillas. Shredded cabbage and sauce made with lowfat greek yogurt and lite sour cream mixed together or pico de gallo and lots of cilantro and lime wedges.

  3. zoncaparas says:

    ilove the way it was fish so much..healthy and easy to prep..cream dorie would be also better.

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  5. […] Recipes: Cod With Fennel, Dill and Tomato Miso Glazed Cod Beer Batter Fish Tacos […]

  6. Maxime says:

    I was able experiment this weekend and make some delicious fish tacos. I had some of my left over fish that I got online at where they have a wide selection of fresh seafood that delivers right to your door! The grilled mahi mahi tacos were delicious, can't wait to make them again!

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