Blackened Swordfish Tacos with Jalapeño-Lime Slaw, Chipotle Crema and Avocado

These tacos have been responsible for many-a-third and fourth dates for me, so, don’t just whip ’em up for anyone.

Blackened Swordfish Tacos with Jalapeño-Lime Slaw, Chipotle Crema and Avocado

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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Blackened swordfish pairs perfectly with tangy slaw and creamy avocado.

Growing up in Southern California, I could always get my hands on really good fresh fish tacos.  After I moved away, first to South Carolina and then to Philadelphia, I struggled to find what I consider “authentic” fish tacos: grilled fish (not deep fried) and very simple toppings.  So, a few years ago, I decided to try and make my own.  I’ve made these tacos several times, and I’ve finally achieved the exact flavor I want and remember.  The fish is flaky and perfectly blackened, the slaw is tangy and slightly spicy, the crema is smoky and smooth and the avocado and queso fresco on top are the perfect creamy touch to balance out the rest of the stronger flavors.  I’m pretty sure this recipe has been responsible for a few of my third and fourth dates in the past, so be careful who you decide to make them for.  Enjoy!


For the tacos:

2 swordfish steaks (this recipe makes 4-5 tacos, so I’d budget 1 swordfish steak per person if you need to make more)

1 package small flour tortillas

1 can Phillips seafood seasoning (this is the brand that I like, but any seafood seasoning will do)

¼ stick butter

1.5 tbsp vegetable oil

For the slaw:

¼ head green cabbage, shredded

¼ head purple cabbage, shredded

Half jalapeno, with seeds, minced

Juice from half of a lime

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/8 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp salt

For the crema:

1.5 tbsp juice from can of chipotles in adobo

4 ounces sour cream

Additional toppings:

Avocado, chopped

Queso fresco, crumbled (if you can’t find queso fresco, use whatever semi-soft cheese you like)


I like to make all of the toppings ahead of time so that all I have to focus on actually cooking is the swordfish.  That way, once the fish is cooked, all I have to do is set out my tortillas and assemble the tacos.

I make the slaw first so that it can set out (at room temperature), which gives the acids from the vinegar and lime time to break down some of the sturdiness of the cabbage, and also gives the flavors in the slaw a chance to develop.  To make the slaw, simply mix all of the slaw ingredients in a bowl.

Next, I make the crema.  You can refrigerate this until you’re ready to serve, or keep it at room temperature.  Simply whisk the sour cream and adobo chile juice until everything is incorporated and the sauce drips from a raised whisk easily.

Now, it’s time to make the tacos.

Cut the swordfish into thin strips, about half an inch thick.

Melt the quarter stick of butter (less 1 tbsp) in a mixing bowl.  Pour the seafood seasoning into another mixing bowl (about ¼ – 1/3 cup, just enough to coat all of the fish)

Dredge the fish in the melted butter, followed by the seafood seasoning.  You don’t need a super thick layer of the seasoning, just enough to coat the fish.  Tap off any lumps of the seasoning to avoid over-battering the fish.

Place the coated strips of fish on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. (This is useful because you won’t be able to cook all of the fish at once.  If you have a baking sheet nearby, you can cook the fish in batches and then, when you’re done, just throw away the aluminum foil for easy clean up).

Heat the vegetable oil and the remaining tbsp. butter in a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet on medium heat.

When the pan is hot, add the first batch of fish.  Cook for approximately 1 minute per side, until fish is blackened on both sides and firm, indicating that it’s cooked through.  Repeat with the rest of the fish until all fish is blackened.

*When you cook with a hot skillet like this, a few things will happen: 1) the cooking time for the subsequent batches of fish will be less because the skillet is getting hotter – you may find that your second and third batches, etc. require only 30 seconds per side, depending on how thick you cut them; 2) the pan will smoke – that’s OK; it’s called ‘blackening’ for a reason, things are meant to get pretty hot.  Make sure you have your stove-top vents on, and it should be fine.  If the pan is getting too hot (if the oil and butter are turning black or starting to smell burnt), turn the heat down.  I usually turn the heat down a notch or two after the first batch anyway, simply because the temperature of the oil and butter, once nice and hot, will stay nice and hot.

Now all you have to do is assemble the tacos:

I place the fish directly on the tortillas, followed by a handful of the slaw, chopped avocados, a few crumbles of queso fresco and finally, the chipotle crema.  I usually serve this with black beans, but it would be great with grilled corn, rice or even a simple salad.

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