Crispy Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Avocado Salsa Verde

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Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-4Apologies for going MIA unannounced last week and leaving you with nothing but Tastemade videos. That was the worst, but it couldn’t be helped. I had to go on a last-minute vacation to Guatemala.

Just to give you a little back story, my roommate and I actually planned this Central American adventure a couple months ago. We’d been coveting a stay at Hotel Atitlan since Logan’s godparents shared photos from their trip last spring, and in early March, we giddily booked ourselves a room for the week leading up to Easter. Since I live for vacation, I was pretty pumped. #Logena2k14!

Then some life complications happened, work stuff came up for both Logan and me, and adult Spring Break was unceremoniously scrapped. This was a tough pill to swallow, but I eventually came to accept it, reminding myself that there were other exciting things on the horizon. Like Cinco de Mayo and the return of Jack Bauer.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-2After working so hard to get over the loss of my vacay, I was quite surprised to receive a call from Logan late Thursday afternoon informing me that he had never cancelled our hotel room, and he thought we should just throw caution to the wind, buy some plane tickets, and head to Guatemala! Needless to say, this induced an immediate panic attack on my part. I couldn’t possibly just pick up and peace out with only three days notice. I had plans for the coming week, I hadn’t gone to the gym yet, and some of my crop tops needed dry-cleaning. Plus, I had to blog, dammit!

As per usual, my roommate talked me off the ledge, and an hour later, flights were booked, the hotel was confirmed, and the dry-cleaners had been called.

It was on.

Hotel-Atitlan-Panajachel-GuatemalaWe arrived at our hotel on Lake Atitlan, just outside Panajachel, on Monday afternoon. It was a foggy day, and I was concerned (the forecast predicted seven straight days of thunderstorms), but as soon as I got a load of the view from our room, I relaxed. Brightly colored botanical gardens extended to the banks of the huge lake, and through the fog, you could see the outlines of the three enormous volcanoes on the opposite shore. Some peacocks and a giant parrot casually wandered the property, people were drinking cervezas on the covered terrace by the pool, and I could hear strains of LMFAO coming from what appeared to be a party boat on the lake. LMFAO was right, it was on and poppin’. YES. (Sing it.)

Lake-Atitlan-Panajachel-GuatemalaThe next five days in Panajachel were blissful. By some miracle, the forecast was total bullshit, and we had perfect, sunny weather the entire week. There were breakfasts overlooking the lake, followed by strolls through the garden, naps in the sun, afternoon cocktails, more naps, and candlelit dinners. We visited a nearby nature preserve, did some intense zip-lining, and explored the town, which was in full Holy Week celebration mode. I also read three books from cover to cover, cultivated a sweet base tan, and got to listen to Logan speak very bad Spanish everyday, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. (I could write a whole post on his attempts to communicate that he wanted the cheese on his nachos very melted.)

IMG_0724Were there a few vacation hiccups throughout the week? Sure, but honestly, they only made the experience that much more memorable. I am very grateful for the entertainment provided by the giant Jesus statue at the base of our bed, the “masseuse” that gave me a full body Indian burn, and the disturbing number of ridiculously loud children staying at the hotel. Last but not least, I’ll probably never forget the fight Logan and I had over the outcome of the Hunger Games trilogy (which he finally finished reading) at dinner one night. I imagine our fellow diners were quite confused as to who this “Peeta” was, and why Logan kept calling him a “giant loser.”

Like I said, I live for vacation.

sunset-lake-atitlan-guatemalaAs you can imagine, returning to real life after such a glorious getaway has been a struggle. Vacation withdrawal is at least on par with Birthday Princess Comedown, and it can get ugly unless certain steps are taken to ease the transition. The fact that it’s finally spring in NYC helps, as does listening to LMFAO Pandora (Guatemalan party boats have renewed my appreciation for pop/hip hop circa 2007-2011) and eating Crispy Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Avocado Salsa Verde.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-3Dear God. These tacos.

These babies were loosely inspired by the hole-in-the-wall taco joint that Logan and I frequented last week, and put simply, they are my life’s happiness in a tortilla. The ultimate spring break for your taste buds. Just to break it down, warm tortillas are spread with a generous layer of creamy, spicy avocado salsa verde, then topped with a heaping portion of crispy tilapia, cabbage and radish slaw, and sweet and tangy mango salsa. Each fully loaded bite is packed with so many mind-blowing flavors and textures, it’s almost too much deliciousness to bear. I feel the need to share my roommate’s adamant claim that these tacos are the best thing I’ve ever made. I don’t think he’s kidding.

In case you need another reason to party with these tacos, I’m thrilled to inform you that they happen to be thong bikini-friendly and Dude Diet approved (assuming you respect the serving size, of course). The fish is lightly breaded in seasoned whole wheat Panko and baked to crispy perfection, providing you with some whole grain goodness and eliminating the need for oily fatness. There are also tons of veggies involved, along with heart-healthy avocado, and antioxidant-rich mango. Gluten-free friends, feel free to swap flour tortillas for corn and use gluten-free Panko, and those of you counting carbs should definitely try lettuce wrapping these bad boys.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verdeI’m aware that some peeps are going to take one look at the recipe for these tacos and want to murder me Hunger Games style. Take a deep breath. Yes, the ingredient list is long and there’s a decent amount of steps involved in bringing these tacos to life, but you can totally do this. In fact, you probably already have a lot of the building blocks in your fridge/pantry, and with a little bit of planning, pulling off this fabulous meal is surprisingly easy. I swear on Logan’s life.

If you plan to serve these at an upcoming spring/summer dinner party (do it), you can make the mango salsa, salsa verde and cabbage slaw in advance, and then just bread the fish and pop in the oven 10 minutes before serving. Done and done. De nada.

Spring Break 4ever. I’m gonna go drink a Corona on my fire escape.

Crispy Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Avocado Salsa Verde: (Serves 4)

1¼ cups whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
¾ teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
2 8-ounce tilapia filets, sliced into sticks about 1-inch by 3-inches
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 cups thinly sliced white cabbage
4 medium-size red radishes, julienned
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 6-inch soft flour tortillas
For the Mango Salsa:
1 mango, diced
½ cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
Pinch of salt
For the Avocado Salsa Verde:
½ pound tomatillos (about 4 medium tomatillos), coarsely chopped
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeno, chopped (This will be decently spicy, friends. If you don’t dig heat, seed the jalapeno first.)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1 lime, juiced

Preparing your Crispy Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Avocado Salsa Verde:

-Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

-Start by preparing the Mango Salsa. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the salsa. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-1-Moving on to the Avocado Salsa Verde. First, you need to remove the husks from the tomatillos.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-2-Once husked, you’ll need to wash the tomatillos. (They have a weird sticky film on their skins, so make sure you rinse it all off, capiche?). Coarsely chop those bad boys.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-3-Place the chopped tomatillos in a blender or food processor with the avocado, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and a pinch of salt.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-4-Process until you have a coarse purée. Pour into a bowl and season with a little more salt if necessary. Press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the salsa verde and set aside until ready to use.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-5-Now it’s time to prepare the coating for the crispy tilapia. In a small bowl, combine the panko, chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika and salt. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick pan. When hot, add the bread crumb mixture and stir to coat with the oil. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring regularly, for 2-3 minutes until they literally smell like toast (careful to not to burn them), and remove them from the heat. Set aside.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-6-Pat the tilapia filets dry and slice them into sticks about 1-inch by 3-inches thick.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-7-In a shallow bowl, beat the egg whites until slightly foamy.

-Time to bread your fish! I like to set up an assembly line for this: fish, egg whites, breadcrumbs, prepared baking sheet. Do it.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-8-Dip each piece of fish in the egg-whites.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-9-Shake off any excess, then coat it in the seasoned breadcrumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-10-Place each piece of breaded fish on the baking sheet about an inch apart.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-11-Transfer the breaded fish to the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the fish is opaque throughout.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-13-While the fish is cooking, combine the cabbage, radishes, lime juice and salt.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-16-Last, but not least, warm the tortillas. I like to do this by placing the tortillas on the eye of the burner for about 10 seconds on each side until they get slightly charred. Use tongs, obviously. (If this scares you, you can also do this in a hot pan or microwave them, okay?)

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-14-To assemble your tacos, spread a generous amount of salsa verde on the warmed tortillas and add a couple pieces of fish to each taco.

Crispy-Baked-Tilapia-Tacos-with-Mango-Salsa-and-avocado-salsa-verde-step-15-Top with the cabbage mixture and mango salsa. Serve immediately.



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  1. Patricia van Dyke on August 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

    does anybody know the nutritional info on these?

  2. K L on July 14, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I made this today. It was delicious! Thank you for the recipe. 🙂

    • Serena_Wolf on July 15, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Oh my god, those look beautiful!! So glad they were a success!

    • Kay Battista on March 17, 2017 at 10:33 am

      this should be a magazine cover.

  3. Jenny on April 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I made these last night. They were a flavor party! I had never had tomatillos uncooked before, but the avocado salsa verde was amazing. It made way more than I needed and I used the leftover as a dressing for quinoa salad for lunch!

    • Serena_Wolf on April 26, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Jenny, thrilled to hear that these were a success! I meant to make a note about the large quantity of salsa verde in the recipe and suggest repurposing leftovers for dipping, salad dressing, etc., so I’m very glad that you made such creative use of it!! Love that stuff.

  4. Sarah on April 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

    These look amazing! I am actually writing down the ingredients now because I am about to head to the store & will be making these tonight! Thank you

    • Serena_Wolf on April 23, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      YES. So excited for you to make these! Hope you love them half as much as Logan did.

  5. Dixya Bhattarai RD on April 23, 2014 at 9:09 am

    you have a good roomie there…i cant wait to make these and celebrate my version of Spring break in Dallas 🙁

    • Serena_Wolf on April 23, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      I have a very good roommate, you’re right. And fish tacos for Dallas “Spring Break” are mandatory!

  6. Kiara Sexton on April 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I’ve been e-stalking you for awhile. This post looked lonely so I need to tell you I have bookmarked this to make tomorrow. It’s not quite thong-bikini weather in Toronto the kitchen gets hot, you know?

    • Serena_Wolf on April 23, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Hahaha I appreciate the e-stalking very much, thank you! For the record, I highly recommend wearing a bikini while cooking these tacos just to give them the full vacation effect.

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