Tilapia Fish Tacos – Chelsea’s Messy Apron



These tasty Tilapia Fish Tacos start with charred corn tortillas and are loaded with a saucy cilantro-lime slaw, taco-seasoned Tilapia, and a scoop of guacamole. These light, flavorful tacos are packed with good-for-you ingredients!

Try some of our other favorite seafood tacos — these Shrimp Tacos and these Fish Tacos are our personal favorites!

Overhead image of Tilapia Fish Tacos

Our Favorite Tilapia Fish Tacos Recipe

These insanely flavorful tacos bring all the right flavors and textures. They’re pretty easy to make — especially if you prepare the sauce ahead of time (which only makes it that much more flavorful!).

This Tilapia Fish Taco Recipe has four main components — tortillas, slaw, fish, and toppings. We’ll break down each below.

Process shots-- images of the tilapia being prepped and seasoned


We like thin corn tortillas or crunchy taco shells best for these Tilapia Fish Tacos. My family enjoys Mission’s® extra-thin corn tortillas or these crispy Siete® taco shells — we’re obsessed with them and they are great in this recipe! (Bonus — they’re made with good-for-you ingredients and naturally grain/gluten-free — perfect for healthy meals!)

If you are going after Crispy Tilapia Tacos, definitely reach for the crunchy shells!

If using corn or flour tortillas, I recommend charring the tortillas for the best flavor and texture. To char, work with one tortilla at a time, leaving the rest in the bag so they don’t dry out too quickly.

Process shots: making the slaw for Tilapia Fish Tacos.

Tilapia Fish Tacos Slaw Mix

The slaw is simply shredded green cabbage with our practically famous Cilantro-Lime Sauce. We use this to sauce up the slaw and to drizzle atop everything at the end.

  • Angel hair coleslaw. Nothing fancy here — just a store-bought package of coleslaw works great here! If you check the ingredient list, it should list only green cabbage–that’s what we want. Most coleslaw mixes are in the produce section of the grocery store near other packaged salad mixes. (Or make this recipe by thinly slicing your own green cabbage.)
  • Cilantro-Lime Sauce. The sauce combines cilantro, lime, jalapeño, mayo, and sour cream to create an explosion of flavor!

Process shots: Air frying the fish; flaking it apart and added to the tacos

The Fish

  • If using frozen, be sure to thaw the fish overnight in the fridge. If you forget, a cold water bath will do it quickly (here’s a quick how-to).
  • Pat the fish dry, drizzle with olive oil, and press in the seasonings. The seasoning blend is quite mild, but for spicy tacos, add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper to the mix.
  • Then cook. You can pan-fry the fish or use the air fryer. See the recipe card for both methods!


 How do you know if your fish is fully cooked? The best way to tell is by testing it with a fork. Pierce the fish at an angle, at the thickest point, and twist gently. The fish flakes easily when it’s done and it will have also lost its translucent (raw) appearance. A good rule of thumb is to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees.

Image of three Tilapia Fish Tacos, ready to be enjoyed

Tilapia Fish Taco Toppings

With the slaw and sauce ready, you really don’t need a whole lot of other toppings.

  • Lime wedges. A squeeze of lime over the tacos adds a nice fresh flavor.
  • Cilantro. We love the citrusy touch this herb adds.
  • Cotija cheese. This cheese is fairly salty, adding the perfect finishing seasoning to the tacos.
  • Guacamole or a ripe avocado. This adds an immense amount of creaminess and flavor to the tacos.
  • An extra drizzle of cilantro-lime sauce. The remaining sauce finishes everything off beautifully!


While homemade guacamole is amazing, store-bought is great too and saves a lot of time! We love this store-bought guac.

Overhead image of the tacos ready to be enjoyed

Tilapia Fish Tacos FAQs

1Is tilapia a good fish to eat?

Fish is one of the best sources of protein and tilapia is no exception! It’s packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and is a good source of healthy fats the body needs to function!

2What kinds of fish make good tacos?

Typically lean and flaky white fish fillets make the best fish tacos. This is because they are relatively inexpensive, so it makes sense to pair them with other ingredients in a taco. Plus, they are mild in flavor and cook quickly.

The most popular types of fish for fish tacos include tilapia, mahi-mahi, bass, cod, catfish, snapper, and halibut.

3How do you cook tilapia for this recipe?

We love Air Fryer Tilapia Tacos — the fish is outstanding after being air-fried — crispy on the outside and tender inside! Simply place the fish in the air fryer and let it work its magic for about 7-10 minutes.

You could also prepare Grilled Tilapia Tacos by cooking the fish on a grill top or outdoor grill.

Otherwise, bake or pan-fry the tilapia before flaking it apart and adding to the charred tortillas and saucy slaw!

4How do you make fish tacos with tilapia?

The full recipe is below but here’s a quick overview:

  • Prepare the sauce and toss with the slaw.
  • Prepare and cook the fish.
  • Char the tortillas.
  • Assemble everything together and enjoy promptly!

More Favorite Seafood Recipes

Tilapia Fish Tacos

These tasty Tilapia Fish Tacos start with charred corn tortillas and are loaded with a saucy cilantro-lime slaw, taco-seasoned tilapia, and a scoop of guacamole. These tacos are light, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you ingredients!

Tilapia Fish Tacos

These tasty Tilapia Fish Tacos start with charred corn tortillas and are loaded with a saucy cilantro-lime slaw, taco-seasoned tilapia, and a scoop of guacamole. These tacos are light, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you ingredients!



  • 1 pound fresh tilapia (~3-4 filets)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, fine sea salt, pepper
  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) angel hair coleslaw or 1.5 cups shredded cabbage
  • For serving: guacamole or avocado, extra-thin corn tortillas (we love Siete’s crispy taco shells) Optional: lime wedges, cotija cheese (Note 1)

Sauce (Note 2)

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (+ 1 tsp. zest) (3 limes)
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup regular full-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat works great)


  • START WITH THE SAUCE: Add the juice and zest to a powerful blender or mini food processor along with the cilantro, seeded coarsely chopped jalapeño, and mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste (I add 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper). Blend until smooth. Add in the sour cream and blend once more to combine. Taste sauce and adjust to personal preference as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  • PREP THE TILAPIA: If frozen, thaw according to package directions and then pat dry with a paper towel. If fresh, rinse under cold water and then pat dry. Mix together seasonings in a small bowl.

  • COOK TILAPIA: See Note 3 for pan-frying. Here’s how to air fry: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, add fish to a large plate. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over all the fish, rubbing into each filet on both sides. Sprinkle evenly with the spice mix, pressing the spices to adhere to the fish. Once filets are evenly and well coated in spice, lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray. Add filets to the air fryer basket in a single layer. (We can only fit 2 filets at a time in our air fryer.) Cook for 7-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork (or registers 145 degrees F). Once cooked through, remove to a plate, flip on the other side, and use a fork to break apart into pieces. Season if needed with additional salt.

  • ASSEMBLY: While the fish is cooking, set out the remaining ingredients. Pour the bag of coleslaw into a bowl and use tongs to toss with 1/2 cup of the sauce. Set aside. Char the tortillas (Note 4) or set out the hard tortilla shells. Divide slaw evenly among tortillas then add the fish. Add a scoop of guacamole or thin avocado slices to each taco. Drizzle on more sauce to taste preference. Squeeze a lime wedge over each taco and sprinkle on some cotija cheese (if using). Enjoy tacos promptly!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Serving suggestions: We love charred corn tortillas or Siete® hard shells best in this recipe. To keep things quick and easy, buy pre-made guacamole or mashed avocado.
Note 2: Sauce: This sauce is great to make ahead of time because it gets more flavorful as it sits. It lasts about 5-7 days in the fridge. This will make more sauce than you’ll use on these tacos, but we love having some extra in the fridge to add to other dishes throughout the week. 
Note 3: Pan-fry tilapia: Heat 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in the large NONSTICK pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add tilapia. Fry (working in batches as needed) 3-5 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Flip and cook until cooked through (opaque and easily flaking with a fork) about 3-5 more minutes. Remove fish from the heat and season with additional salt, if needed.
Note 4: Here’s how we char the tortillas:

  1. Spray both sides of the tortillas with cooking spray. I use an olive oil-based spray (canola works as well) and give each side a good spritz.
  2. Very lightly char each side of the tortilla over an open flame on the stovetop. If you don’t have an open flame, warm for 10-15 seconds in a skillet.
  3. Immediately remove the tortilla from the heat and fold in half. Place under a towel (keeps them warm and soft!) and repeat until all the tortillas are charred.

Nutrition information does not include any of the serving suggestion ingredients.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 391kcal | Fat: 30.2g | Cholesterol: 79.6mg | Sodium: 261.3mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 1.3g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.