Serve fish tacos that are light, fresh and tasty

Joe Keller/America's Test Kitchen via APCalifornia-style fish tacos start with white fish such as cod or haddock and are topped with pickled onions, jalapeños and cabbage.

A surfside treat, California fish tacos feature battered and fried crispy white fish and sprightly pickled vegetables. When done right, they feature a lively mix of textures and flavors.

This recipe may look involved, but the components come together quickly, so invite your friends to help. The frying uses a mere 3/4-inch layer of oil (no splattering vats).

We made an ultrathin batter by adding two sources of carbonation, beer and baking powder; they provided lift, and their slight acidity limited gluten development. Frying in batches helped maintain the oil’s temperature.

For toppings, we quick-pickled onion and jalapeños and then used the brine to brighten shredded cabbage. Slice fish on the bias if your fillets are not 4 inches wide. Serve with green salsa if desired.


Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 6

For the pickled onion and cabbage:

1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin

2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and sliced into thin rings

1 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and pepper

3 cups shredded green cabbage

For the tacos:

2 pounds skinless white fish fillets, such as cod, haddock or halibut

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup beer

1 quart peanut or vegetable oil

18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup crema

Combine the onions and jalapeños in a medium bowl. Bring the vinegar, lime juice, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in a small saucepan. Pour vinegar mixture over onion mixture, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Transfer 1/4 cup pickling liquid to a second medium bowl, and add the cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss to combine, and set aside.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.

Cut the fish crosswise into 4-inch-by-1-inch strips. Pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. Add the beer, and whisk until smooth. Add fish, and toss to coat evenly.

Add the oil to a large Dutch oven until 3/4 inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.

Remove 5 or 6 pieces of fish from batter, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, and add to hot oil, briefly dragging fish along surface of oil to prevent sticking. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees.

Fry fish, stirring gently to prevent pieces from sticking together and turning as needed, until golden brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, transfer fish to prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Return oil to 350 degrees, and repeat with remaining fish.

Serve the fish and pickled onions and cabbage with tortillas, cilantro and crema.

Nutrition information per serving: 699 calories; 307 calories from fat; 35 g fat (5 g saturated, 1 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 530 mg sodium; 59 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 33 g protein.