Try these Ensenada-style fish tacos featuring tender corn tortillas filled with crispy tofu "fish", fresh pico de gallo, crunchy cabbage, and creamy chipotle mayo.
You'll be hard-pressed to tell they're completely plant-based!
If fish tacos are something you've been missing since going vegan, or maybe you just want to cut down on seafood, look no further. These Ensenada tacos made with tofu will satisfy every fish taco craving you could ever have!
History of the fish taco
Before we get into the story behind fish tacos, we should stress that Mexican food history can be a little muddy at times.
Well, let's take the fish taco. What most people think of is a dish commonly referred to as the "Baja fish taco" — beer-battered fish served in a corn tortilla and topped with spicy mayo.
But, fish tacos have been around for centuries! In fact, many indigenous communities living in the coastal areas of Mexico have been wrapping their catch of the day in stone-ground corn tortillas long before the invention of beer batter.
In any case, Baja fish tacos (or Ensenada-style tacos) are said to have originated in Ensenada, Mexico. In fact, most people consider Tacos Fénix to be the OG of beer-battered fish tacos.
What we found interesting was about 10-20 years before Tacos Fénix opened its doors, an influx of Japanese fishermen immigrated to the Baja for its rich biodiversity.
Of course, along with these fishermen came different ways of preparing foods. One method, in particular, was the way they battered angel sharks to eat (tempura-style). So, it could be that Baja fish tacos were influenced in some ways by the Japanese.
It's interesting to think how tradition, culture, and history tend to evolve over time. To us, this is what makes places like Mexico so incredibly (and surprisingly to many) multi-cultural.
What are Ensenada-style fish tacos?
In its most basic form, a fish taco is a piece of cooked fish served in a soft tortilla — simple as that. There are many variations from there, but let's stick to Ensenada-style fish tacos (or tacos de pescado estilo Ensenada).
Ensenada tacos start with fresh corn tortillas filled with beer-battered white fish. Toppings typically include some combination of cabbage, pico de gallo, guacamole, pickled veggies, and creamy chipotle sauce.
Fish tacos used to be one of our go-to meals before going vegan, so we decided it would be really fun to remake this dish completely plant-based!
We tried to keep the recipe as close to the original as possible, but fish-free of course. And we'll be honest with you, it's preeeetty hard to tell it's plant-based! But hey, you be the judge.
If you're like us, you'll enjoy your beer-battered vegan fish tacos with... beer! There's nothing that hits the spot quite like tacos and ice-cold cervezas.
There are a wide variety of toppings you can serve these tofu tacos with, but here are some ideas to get you started:
If you like to serve your Ensenada-style fish tacos with anything else, let us know in the comments! We're always up for more taste-testing.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: with a similar texture to fish, tofu is the perfect vegan option to emulate the experience of eating Baja fish tacos. Although tasteless on its own, we use salt and nori sprinkles to give the tofu a characteristic "sea" flavor.
Health: tofu is an excellent food that just about everyone can add to their diet, vegan or not. Containing all nine essential amino acids, tofu is considered a complete protein (and a 100-gram serving contains a whopping 8 grams of protein).
Taste: tacos Ensenada-style just aren't the same without a light, airy, and crispy beer batter. Add seasonings like onion, garlic, more nori sprinkles, and salt to enhance the flavors and create an irresistible tofu "fish."
Fun fact: the CO2 in beer creates "lift" in the batter. Basically, as the bubbles escape during the frying process, it makes the batter more fluffy. How cool is that?!
Taste: arguably the most important component in these Baja fish tacos is the slightly smoky, incredibly creamy, and zesty flavors of chipotle mayo. Adding garlic and lime juice to the sauce completely enhances your taco-eating experience.
Health: although vegan mayo doesn't top the list of healthy foods, chiles sure do! A compound found in chipotle peppers (capsaicin) gives them anti-inflammatory properties, making them an ideal food for heart health.
Taste: if you've ever tried freshly made corn tortillas, you'll know why they're essential for an authentic-tasting taco. Subtle flavors of sweet corn and charred smokiness really add to the overall experience.
Health: with fewer calories than flour tortillas, corn tortillas also contain more B-vitamins and calcium. We love both, but we always seem to opt for corn over flour!
If you have questions about these vegan fish tacos, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: drain and press the tofu between two hard surfaces with a heavy object over top for 15-20 minutes. Once pressed, slice it into strips, wrap them in a tea towel, and press a few more times with your hands to get all the excess water out. Sprinkle the pieces with sea salt and nori powder to marinate.
Step 2: combine the mayo, lime juice, garlic clove, and chipotle pepper together in a small blender or food processor (if you don't have a small blender, just mince the garlic and chiles). Transfer to your fridge while you prep the other toppings.
Step 3: prepare the pico de gallo, shred the cabbage, and make any of the other optional toppings you’ll be using.
Step 4: start heating the vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium (use a thermometer for more accurate temperatures). In the meantime, whisk the dry batter ingredients, then add enough beer to make a consistency similar to pancake batter.
Step 5: once the oil is hot, dip the tofu strips into the batter to cover all sides, then add them to the pot. Fry in batches until golden brown, or for about 2-3 minutes per side.
Step 6: transfer the tofu to a cooling rack over top of a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate until the rest are cooked.
Step 7: add a piece of tofu “fish” to a corn tortilla, then cabbage, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, chipotle mayo, and a squeeze of lime juice, extra cilantro, or hot sauce. Happy eating!
If you like Baja fish tacos as much as us, make sure to follow these storage and reheating instructions to keep everything fresh.
Store your beer-battered tofu "fish" in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container. We often enjoy ours cold the next day (when we're feeling lazy), but reheating them is the best option.
To achieve a crispy exterior again, the best reheating method is to fry your tofu a second time. Just follow the steps in this recipe. You can also reheat them in the oven on a baking sheet. Cook them for ~10 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until crispy. Another method is to pan-fry them over medium until crisped.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with these vegan fish tacos:
- Don't skip the nori. In order to make the tofu taste more like fish, the seaweed really helps. If you can't find sprinkles, just blend up a few nori sheets.
- Press the tofu. We can't stress this step enough! All that water will result in soggy tacos if you don't give the tofu enough time to press.
- Use sparkling water. If you don't drink alcohol, try making this recipe with sparkling water for similar results.
- Use a thermometer. It makes your life a lot easier to know the exact temperature of your oil at all times. That way, your tofu will cook more evenly.
🍴 Tasting notes
This recipe is one for the books. Try making it for your friends and family! It's:
If you try this vegan Ensenada taco recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Ensenada-Style Vegan "Fish" Tacos
- Chef knife
- Large stock pot
- Deep-fry thermometer
- Slotted spoon
- Tofu press
- 1 package firm tofu ($3.53)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt ($0.01)
- ½ tablespoon nori sprinkles ($0.01)
- 1-2 cups vegetable oil for frying ($0.32)
- 1 cup flour ($0.08)
- ½ cup corn starch ($0.16)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.01)
- ½ tablespoon nori sprinkles ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper ($0.01)
- 1 cup Mexican-style beer* ($0.80)
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard optional
- ½ cup vegan mayo ($1.52)
- ½ lime ($0.06)
- 1-2 chipotles in adobo ($0.08)
- 1 clove garlic ($0.04)
- 10-12 corn tortillas ($0.20)
- Drain and press the tofu between two hard surfaces with a heavy object overtop for 15-20 minutes. Once pressed, slice into ½-inch thick strips. Sprinkle with sea salt and nori powder on a baking sheet or plate. Set aside.
- Combine the mayo, lime juice, garlic clove, and chipotle pepper together in a small blender or food processor. Transfer to your fridge while you prep the other toppings.
- Prepare the pico de gallo, shred the cabbage, and make any of the other optional toppings you’ll be using.
- Start heating the vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium (use a thermometer for more accurate temperatures). In the meantime, whisk the dry batter ingredients, then add the mustard (optional for color) and enough beer to make a consistency similar to pancake batter.
- Once the oil has reached 350-375°F (or a piece of batter floats to the top), dip the tofu strips into the batter to cover all sides, then add them to the pot. Fry in batches of 2-4 until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Transfer to a cooling rack over top of a baking sheet or a paper towel-lined plate until the rest are cooked.
- Add a piece of tofu “fish” to a corn tortilla, then cabbage, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, chipotle mayo, and a squeeze of lime juice, extra cilantro, or hot sauce. Happy eating!
- Use firm tofu for the best results. You can also use extra-firm tofu.
- Use light beers like Modelo, Corona, Sol, etc (or sparkling water for non-alcoholic). We used about 1 cup + 2-3 tablespoons for this recipe.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty taco ideas, check out our:
- Tacos al pastor for meat-free tacos flavored with spicy guajillo chiles, achiote paste, and fresh pineapple. You won't believe your eyes until you try one!
- Jackfruit carnitas if you're ready to see what all the fuss is about with this alien-like fruit. It will challenge everything you thought you knew about meat alternatives.
- Quesabirria tacos for a messy meal that is totally worth making. Each tortilla is dipped in a rich, savoury broth, stuffed with crispy oyster mushrooms, and fried on each side.
- Black bean tacos if you're in the mood for crispy tacos drizzled with a creamy avocado sauce. This quick and easy meal has a huge payoff.
Due to the use of all-purpose flour and beer, this recipe is not suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. To make it gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free flour blend and beer.
We included the nori sprinkles for that classic "sea" flavor of fish tacos. But, it's not totally necessary if you can't find any or don't like the taste of seaweed.
For the best texture, try to find a firm tofu variety. You can also use extra-firm, but it will turn out a little more crumbly.