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it’s taco time

Recipe: tequila-lime halibut tacos

Afternoon thunderstorm cycles, the buzz of hummingbirds zooming through the neighborhood, and near-record heat for this time of year… You’d think it was summer. Wasn’t I just griping about spring? I think all of the seasons are over-achievers. At this rate, I’ll be skiing again by next week (which would be absolutely fine by me). It is what it is.

okay, tulips are spring

we’ve traded skiing for mountain biking

cooling off with thai iced tea and taro boba tea slush

kaweah walks in the morning or the evening to avoid the heat

either way, there is always plenty of sniffing (i.e. reading pee-mail)

Good things are coming into the markets now: asparagus, strawberries, English peas, ramps, fiddleheads, and halibut (to name a few). [Hey FTC disclosure:] I received a comped shipment of frozen wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, wild Alaskan halibut, and wild Alaskan cod fillets from Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) a few weeks ago. They describe the fish as wild, natural, and completely sustainable. My preparation of fish relies heavily upon my experiences with various types of fish. It’s based on if I have had it prepared a certain way in a restaurant, saw a recipe for a specific type of fish, or grew up eating that species of fish. I puzzled over how to prepare the halibut when I recalled a book I had purchased last year that would surely give me guidance.

good fish (it sure is)

I bought a copy of this book for myself because I was sending one as a gift to my friends in Seattle (Becky Selengut, the author, is also based in Seattle). It’s just so easy to change that 1 to a 2 under the quantity field. I like fish and seafood very much, but my knowledge of how to prepare it well is just enough to be dangerous and not enough to be confident. I know people go through life all the time like that in far more important arenas, but it makes me uncomfortable. So Good Fish was going to fix that. Lo and behold, there was a recipe for tequila-lime halibut tacos with red cabbage slaw. Get out! It sounded dreamy.

first the slaw: red cabbage, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, apple, mustard seeds, salt

shred the cabbage

toss the cabbage with kosher salt

Make the red cabbage slaw first, because that is the step that takes the most time. It’s all easy and straightforward, but squeezing the liquid out of cabbage is the rate-limiting step. At least it is for me. Becky explains that minimizing the liquid content of the cabbage concentrates the flavor. She sprinkles great tips and tidbits of information throughout this educational and highly entertaining book. The rest of the slaw is easy peasy. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss together.

squeezing the liquid out

pour in the olive oil

add the cabbage

season to taste

Now that the slaw is done, set it aside. You can make it ahead if you like, but the apples turn a deep pink color after several hours. It tastes the same though. So if you’re concerned with the aesthetics, make it fresh. If not – do what you gotta do. Next up is the marinade.

red onion, jalapeños, lime, salt, tequila, olive oil, and the halibut

prepped: onions, jalapeños, lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, tequila, salt

i put it all in a ziploc

Once the ingredients are prepped, it’s as easy as throwing everything into a ziploc bag. Well, I place all of the marinade ingredients in the bag first and then smoosh it around with my hands to mix it. Then I carefully add the fish to it. Let that sit for 20 minutes. I should note that I’ve done this twice now with Alaskan halibut from my local Whole Foods in Boulder and with the halibut from ASMI. I prefer to thaw my frozen seafood for 24 hours in the refrigerator and the result was beautiful pieces of fish when it was time to cook.

we grilled our fish

cook the marinade down

You can pan-sear or grill the halibut. We opted for the grill. Becky has a very nice tutorial on how to judge when fish is “just flaking”. That part is worth the price of the book alone (at least it was for me). You want to cook your fish until it is just flaking, and that will depend on the thickness of your fish and the heat output of your range or grill. Remove it from the heat at that point because it will continue to cook as it rests. And hopefully you have your eye on the marinade as it cooks down in a pan. Don’t even think of skipping that step because I like that finished marinade topping almost as much as I like the fish.

tortillas, marinade, slaw, guacamole, and the fish (small mishap with one piece)

I’ve always been partial to batter-fried fish tacos (beer batter is particularly awesome) over grilled fish tacos, but I think these have changed my mind. This is juicy halibut nestled in a tortilla (corn – I cannae resist the corn-lime-avocado combo) under a pile of tangy, bright, spicy, crunchy, herby, creamy toppings. It’s worthy of dinner guests, but only the ones you really like.

loaded with awesome

Tequila-Lime Halibut Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw
[print recipe]
from Good Fish by Becky Selengut

red cabbage slaw (see below)
tequila-lime marinade (see below)
1 lb. halibut fillet, skinned
1 tbsp high-heat vegetable oil (if pan-searing, omit oil if grilling)
corn or flour tortillas, warmed
guacamole (I used my recipe)
extra limes for squeezing

red cabbage slaw
3/4 lb. red cabbage, shredded (~ 4 cups)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and grated
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Make the slaw: Toss the red cabbage with the salt and place in a colander. Find a nesting bowl to fit in the colander, fill the bowl with water, and set it on the cabbage to help press water out. While that is sorting itself out, mix the grated apple, mustard seeds, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil together in a large bowl. Return to the cabbage and squeeze as much liquid out of the cabbage as you can. Give the squozen cabbage a rinse in water and squeeze the liquid out. Mix the cabbage with the rest of the slaw and season to taste with salt.

tequila-lime marinade
1 lime, zest and juice of (~ 1 tsp zest and 2 tbsps juice)
2 tbsps tequila (you know what to do with the rest)
1/2 tsp salt
2 small jalapeños, halved, seeded, cored, sliced into half rings
1 small red onion, cut into thin half moons (~ 2/3 cup)
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil

Make the marinade: Combine everything in a bowl or (my preference) a gallon ziploc bag and moosh it around.

Get your fish on: Place the fish in the ziploc bag (if using) and seal. If not using a ziploc, place the fish in a large pan and pour the marinade over it. Regardless of method, let it sit for 20 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade. Cook it up one of two ways: in a sauté pan (or grill pan) or on the grill. Pan: Set the pan over high heat and add the oil. Place the halibut in the pan and cook until browned on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the fish and cook another 4 minutes or until the fish starts to look like it is flaking (but isn’t quite). Becky suggests 8 minutes per inch of fish at its thickest point. Grill: Oil the grate and set the heat on high. When the grill is ready, place the fish on the grill or use a fish basket and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip the fish (I used a thin metal spatula to coax it from the grates) and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until just flaking (it really depends on the heat of your grill and thickness of the fish). Both methods: Remove the fish to a plate. Add the marinade to the pan (get a pan out if you grilled) and cook over high heat for 5-7 minutes. The liquid will bubble off and the onions and peppers will eventually char. When ready, place on top of the fish or on the side. Serve the fish with warmed tortillas (I prefer corn), guacamole, and don’t forget the red cabbage slaw you just made. Garnish with lime wedges. Serves 4.

30 nibbles at “it’s taco time”

  1. Jules says:

    This is such great timing! I just had my first fish taco last night and it was absolutely delicious and ever since I’ve been planning to make my own. Thanks for this fabulous recipe, the colours make the tacos look so fresh and zingy, I can almost taste it off the screen! Thanks again, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. j says:

    lol’d at rate-limiting step.

    tacos look yum. all looks very fresh and summery. or springy. up to you :)

  3. Villy @ For the love of Feeding says:

    Loaded with awesome indeed! And the photos in the beginning are fantastic!

  4. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    These are so unique! Great idea!

  5. Shri says:

    These look gorgeous!

  6. kelley {mountain mama cooks} says:

    Wow, these look amazing. I love the marinade and anything with purple cabbage gets a thumbs up in my book. Springtime in the mountains is unlike anything else. Enjoy it!!

  7. Christina says:

    This looks amazing! I didn’t realize you could cook the marinade, but I guess since the fish cooks a little in it it’s ok?

  8. Randi says:

    I’m making these tacos for dinner tonight! Thanks!

  9. Kim says:

    LOL – reading pee-mail….that is the funniest thing Ive heard all day…..

    Love the recipe toooo!!!!!

  10. Nico('s Tiny Kitchen) says:

    I love halibut, but it is so damn expensive! That slaw is calling my name, though.

  11. Rachel says:

    Wow, these look AMAZING! I’m pinning them so I’ll remember to make them soon!

  12. Maggie @MaggieCooks says:

    Yummy! those tacos look really good! Love your pictures :)

  13. Kat says:

    Wow, I can’t help drooling. I just love the tequila-lime halibut tacos with red cabbage slaw!
    OMG OMG OMG OMG. I don’t love this. I freaking love this!!
    Well done!
    If you submitted your tequila-lime halibut tacos with red cabbage slaw photos to , I’ll bet they will make you on the home page.
    Gosh, you have made me sooo hungry !

  14. Adrienne says:

    Just wanted to say I love your blog! I’d been following the delicious looking recipes for a while before I realized you were a fellow Boulderite (well almost). I’m so proud! :)

  15. Kristen says:

    Ah, of course you guys like to mountain bike after the snow is gone! The coolness level just continues to rise with you two. ;) I am trying to get my husband into mountain biking and it’s a slow process. Oh well, if he won’t come with me I know my pup will. I miss SW CO’s incredible singletracks but thankfully we have some good ones here in southern Indiana, where we now live!

    Also, this recipe looks so good! The charred onion/marinade mixture looks killer.

  16. jenyu says:

    Jules – welcome to the club! Fish tacos are addictive :) Thanks!

    j – :)

    Villy – thank you!

    Katrina – it’s a lovely combo, I really love it.

    Shri – thanks :)

    kelley – :)

    Christina – You can probably cook any marinade. I think the reason for cooking it down is to get the flavors into the onions and peppers, which taste amazing when they are done.

    Randi – yay!

    Kim – oh yes, as any dog owner knows…

    Nico – I think you can sub cod for halibut if that helps.

    Rachel – hope you enjoy them!

    Maggie – thanks!

    Kat – thanks, I submit to enough places, I don’t have the time to do that all day :)

    Adrienne – awww, you’re so sweet. Thanks!

    Kristen – you haven’t seen me mountain bike ;)

  17. Nicole {CFL} says:

    WOW, these look amazing!!!! I will have to try these this week {ok, maybe tonight!} Dinner solved. Love your website!

  18. HorseHeadMaskGuy says:

    Wow, nice colors in the meal. Jealous of your camera/picture quality too.

  19. Catchyourcode says:

    This recipe looks absolutely stunning! Where did you get such high-quality ingredients from???

    Thanks:) Sarah

  20. The Weekly Avocado « CARROTTALK says:

    […] used this recipe… I varied mine a bit, didn’t put apple in the slaw, but pretty much everything else I […]

  21. jenyu says:

    Sarah – my local Whole Foods store :)

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  24. Joshua says:

    How to make sure that you don’t overcook the salmon? It cooks so quickly on the grill! Apart from that, I love the recipe! :)

  25. jenyu says:

    Joshua – well, first, I used halibut, but okay – salmon works too. There are instructions on how long to cook the fish on the grill in the recipe itself. But if it’s cooking faster than that, then you should be checking the fish earlier and taking it off as it just begins to flake. Hope that helps!

  26. says:

    The salmon looks beautiful. I’d have never thought of making salmon tacos! Thanks so much for inspiration! :)

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  29. Alicia says:

    We have been making fish tacos for a while a home, using various recipes.

    I tried your tequila marinade for something different.

    It was amazing!!!!!! We used fresh caught halibut too and paired it with shredded red cabbage, and a tomato/mango salsa.

    It was one of the best fish tacos we have ever had. My fiance is still raving about it. He says his taste buds will never be the same

    The cooked down marinade was sweet and spicy and a great touch.

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