These gluten free fried fish tacos are light, crisp, and juicy, topped with a zesty kale cabbage slaw. These easy crispy fish tacos will definitely be on rotation for your Taco Tuesday!Jump to Recipe
Why this recipe works
This recipe is:
- A healthier fry: Pan frying the tilapia in these tacos is a healthier alternative to deep frying. It helps reduce the amount of fat and oil used, without losing any of the taste! In addition, because we use a thinner fry batter, these fried fish tacos are light.
- Crunchy, Acidic Coleslaw: There’s nothing better than a crunchy, mayo-less coleslaw combined with a fried fish in a taco. This citrusy coleslaw adds a bite to balance out the potentially heavier fried taste.
- Gluten Free: In place of bread crumbs, these crispy fish tacos use gluten-free flour to make a light breading for frying. See more delicious gluten free recipes here.
I keep it clean in this recipe with healthy and fresh ingredients.
My favorite kind of fish for fried fish tacos is tilapia. It's the best fish for frying because the filets tend to be on the thinner side, meaning it cooks faster than thicker filets. It also has a great neutral taste and is on the leaner side. Tilapia should be easily available at your local grocery store.
You can use other flaky white fish filets in place of tilapia. The best substitution for tilapia is cod, but be aware that cod filets are typically thicker than tilapia filets and cooking time will be longer. Other white fish options to use as a substitute for tilapia are: catfish, halibut, striped bass, mahi mahi, trout or perch. You can use frozen or fresh fish, but make sure to thaw any frozen fish filets before using.
Use a one-to-one gluten free flour to make the breading of these gluten free tacos. I highly recommend King Arthur’s or Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free flours. Rice flour is also a good substitute for frying.
I tend to use a neutral oil like avocado oil when pan frying, since it has a high smoke point.
Kale and Green Cabbage
A kale and green cabbage coleslaw matches perfectly with these fried tilapia tacos. This no-mayo coleslaw is a simple lime juice dressing and helps add freshness and a crunch to the light tasting tacos. Substitute for store-bought broccoli or cabbage coleslaw.
To keep these tacos gluten free, use corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are naturally gluten free!
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Make the Kale Cabbage Slaw
Toss shredded kale and cabbage together with salt and lime juice.
Prep the Fish
Pat tilapia filets dry and cut into equal strips.
Mix chili lime seasoning and salt with flour in a shallow dish, and whisk egg in a separate shallow dish.
Dip each piece of tilapia into the flour on both sides and press to coat.
Shake to remove any loose flour and dip it into the egg mixture to coat both sides.
Next, dip filet back into the flour mixture.
Place fish onto a fresh plate. Repeat with all pieces.
Pan Fry the Tilapia
Heat oil in a frying pan. Prepare a baking sheet or wire rack lined with paper towels to drain fish on.
Using tongs, place 2-3 fish pieces in the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Transfer fish to prepared paper towels. Repeat with the other fish strips until all are fried.
Assemble the Tacos
Warm corn tortillas and top with coleslaw and one piece of fish. Garnish with lime wedges, guacamole, radishes or cilantro. Enjoy immediately!
The age old question of what to serve with fish tacos can be a tough one. So much so that I literally created a list of my top 40 sides for fish tacos, including rice, salsas, salads, desserts, and even drink options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
To summarize, my favorite ways to serve fish tacos are:
- With homemade corn tortillas.
- Drizzled with a spicy mango habanero salsa for extra heat.
- Topped with my go-to homemade guacamole.
- Next to healthier Mexican street corn or black beans.
- Drizzled with a fresh cilantro garlic sauce if you're as addicted to cilantro as me!
And if you need suggestions as to what to drink with fish tacos (because no meal is complete without drinks!) start with non-alcoholic pineapple agua fresca or orange agua fresca. If going the alcoholic route, my go-to is a skinny margarita (or skinny spicy margarita), classic ranch water cocktail, or a twist on another classic, a tequila mule.
Let the fish sit on a paper towel after pan frying: The process of removing the fried tilapia from the skillet and onto a plate or sheet pan with paper towel is really helpful. This allows the paper towel to soak up some of the oil left from pan-frying.
Cutting the tilapia helps it all cook evenly: Usually tilapia has two halves. One half is always about twice the thickness of the other, making it uneven to cook. To help, I suggest cutting the thicker piece in half lengthwise through the center, to create two equal length and thin, long pieces. These two pieces should equal the same thickness as the thinner side, meaning the pieces will all fry at a similar time. This helps in creating perfectly cooked tilapia.
Don’t skip the double-flour: Doing two layers of flour helps create a nice thin crust that becomes fried in the pan. Skipping the first layer of flour could result in a much less crispy fried fish.
A note about gluten free flours: Using different kinds of gluten free flours does not always work out 1:1. I’ve tested this recipe only using All Purpose Flour (non-gluten free) and gluten-free one-to-one flours from King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill. If using coconut flour, almond flour or oat flour, it may not crisp up the same when pan-frying.
Storage note: Fried fish tacos do not fare too well in the fridge. I highly recommend eating these fresh and immediately. If you do need to store leftovers, store fish and slaw separately in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, corn tortillas are naturally gluten free, making them great for those with celiac disease, or who are limiting gluten in their diet.
To make a gluten free version of fried fish, swap out regular flour for a gluten free kind. I highly recommend King Arthur’s or Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free flours.
King Arthur’s or Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free 1:1 flours work great for frying. Another good option is rice flour.
More easy taco recipes:
- Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos
- Grilled Swordfish Tacos
- Beef Barbacoa Tacos
- Cauliflower Tacos Al Pastor
- Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos
If you try this recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below so I know what you think! Follow Elise Tries to Cook on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and Subscribe via email to receive the latest recipes!
Gluten Free Fried Fish Tacos
- frying pan
- cutting board
- sharp knife
Kale Cabbage Slaw
- 1 cup shredded kale
- ½ head small green cabbage, shredded about 2 cups of shredded green cabbage
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Pan fried fish
- 2 tilapia filets
- ½ cup gluten-free flour I recommend King Arthur’s or Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free 1:1 flours
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon tequila lime or chili lime seasoning like tajín or Trader Joe’s
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup neutral oil
For the Tacos
- 6 corn tortillas 8”
- Guacamole optional
Make the Kale Cabbage Slaw
Toss shredded kale and green cabbage in a medium bowl with fresh lime juice and salt to combine completely. Set aside.1 cup shredded kale, ½ head small green cabbage, shredded, 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt
Prep the Fish
Pat tilapia filets dry on both sides.2 tilapia filets
- Cut the filets in half, down the middle (it typically separates towards the top, simply follow that line down to get two equal sized pieces). Next, slice the thicker half (usually one side is thin and the other almost twice the thickness) in the middle of the meat, so as to get two equally thin pieces. These two pieces should equal the same thickness as the thinner piece.
Mix chili lime seasoning and salt with flour in a shallow dish.½ cup gluten-free flour, 1 tablespoon tequila lime or chili lime seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt
Whisk the egg in a separate shallow dish.1 large egg
- Dip each piece of tilapia into the flour mixture and press to cover both sides completely with flour.
- Then, using one hand, shake the tilapia piece to remove any loose flour and dip it into the egg mixture to coat both sides. If egg is dripping from the piece once coated, give it a little shake to release the drip.
- Next, place the egg-y tilapia back into the flour, pat down to coat the first side, flip and coat the second side. Push down on both sides to make sure flour is fully coating the fish.
- Remove fish from the flour and place onto a fresh plate. Repeat with all pieces.
Pan Fry the Tilapia
When ready to pan fry the tilapia, heat a pan on the stove for 1-2 minutes on medium heat, adding neutral oil. (Just remember that pan-frying these thin pieces of tilapia only takes a few minutes, so be sure to be ready to eat very soon!)¼ cup neutral oil
- Prepare a cutting board or plate to the side of the stove, with a large piece of paper towel, to place fried fish once cooked.
- Once hot, use tongs to place 2-3 pieces of tilapia onto the oil. Make sure there is enough room for each to fry.
- Allow tilapia to fry for 1-2 minutes on the first side, until you can see the filet is cooked about halfway through on the side. The gluten free flour crust should also be a nice yellow-brown color.
- After frying for about 2 minutes, flip the fish to fry the second side, about another 1-2 minutes.
- Once fully cooked through, remove fish and place onto prepared paper towel. Repeat with additional pieces of tilapia until all are fried.
Assemble the Tacos
While all fried tilapia rests on the paper towel, heat all corn tortillas through, either directly on the stove, in the microwave, in a skillet or in the oven.6 corn tortillas
- Place coleslaw on top, using a slotted spoon so as to not get too much of the lime juice liquid.
- Top warm tortillas with one piece of fried fish each.
- Garnish with your favorite taco fillings like limes, guacamole, radishes, pico de gallo, sour cream, or cilantro. Enjoy immediately!