The best fish taco sauce recipe for your fish tacos, hands down! Perfectly spiced, and so easy to whip up – one bowl, less than 5 minutes. You’ll love how this white sauce complements the flavors in your fish tacos. Also delicious as a vegetable dip! (with video)
Years and years ago, I came across a recipe for San Diego fish tacos and fish taco sauce. So delicious. I’ve since lost the memory of how to prepare the fish, but the sauce included in the recipe, however, burned a little hole in my brain.
That fish taco sauce … omg, so good. Forget salsa. Forget sour cream. Set aside the tartar sauce. Once you try it for yourself, you’ll always reach for this creamy fish taco sauce.
No doubt my fading memory and stubborn inability to leave well enough alone has inserted itself on the original recipe. But that’s the beauty of a spice-heavy concoction: You can tweak the sauce seasonings to your own tastes.
So, don’t worry if you’re missing an ingredient from the list, and you’re in the middle of a taco craving emergency. It will all be a-okay!
It’s the unique combination of herbs and spices that make it so special, including cumin, coriander, smoky chipotle chili powder, dill, and oregano.
Plus, it features the perfect hit of heat: not enough to say, whoooaa, tongue on fire! But just enough to be all like, hello, I’m alive, and it’s great to be eating tacos!
Ingredients for this delicious Fish Taco Sauce
We all like “easy,” right? But sometimes just a few extra ingredients make a difference far beyond their numbers. Let’s go through the list!
- Sour cream and mayonnaise: Start with a nice, creamy foundation of sweet and sour notes that the combo of sour cream and mayo provide. You can choose to go full fat or low fat. And if you don’t like mayo, feel free to substitute plain yogurt. In fact, truth be told, nowadays, I usually skip both the sour cream and mayo and go right for 2% Greek yogurt, which has plenty of creamy richness.
- Lime: Thinning the creamy base with lime juice instead of water adds a lovely acid tang. You can definitely substitute lemon juice, although lime juice is slightly sweeter and more traditional in Mexican-inspired sauces.
- Cumin and Coriander: These classic Mexican spices are a must-have in this sauce, with their deep, earthy notes. Note that in America, coriander is the dried seed of the cilantro plant. In other countries, “coriander” often refers to both the green leaves and the seeds. Spice tip: keep a stock of cumin seed and coriander seed in your pantry, and grind them fresh. So much tastier!
- Dill: What are you doing in here, Dill? Lol. You don’t often expect dill in a fish taco, but it goes so well with seafood that it actually tastes right at home in the final sauce. I love the bright, verdant green flavor!
- Oregano: A beautiful herb, oregano adds a peppery, astringent, pungent note that we love so well in American cuisine.
- Chili powder: Most fish taco sauces barely separate themselves from regular tartar sauce and land in ho-hum territory. Chipotle chili powder livens the works right up with its smoky goodness. You can use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, yes, but, personally, it annoys me to use just a small portion out of the can. I’m afraid to know how many bags of leftover peppers in sauce have worked their way to the back of fridge! It’s much easier to keep chili powder on hand. Also, if you want a more mild kick, use New Mexico chili powder instead.
- Capers: The secret ingredient in my homemade fish taco sauce! Capers have a unique tang that’s a cross between bitter and briny. But when you combine them with other assertive flavors, like the spice blend above, it somehow turbo-charges everything else, while hanging out quietly in the background. They also go great with seafood. Use non-pareil capers if you can find them (they’re smaller with a more delicate flavor), and mince them well with a knife, or smash them with a fork.
- Hot chile pepper: In addition to the chile powder, I like to include a bit of fresh chile, such as a jalapeno or serrano, for a fresh burst of spicy heat.
- Cilantro leaves: Finally, a nice, hearty hit of minced cilantro leaves cap off the herby flavors of this sauce.
A nice rest in the fridge will let all of the flavors meld and develop into a fully flavored creamy white sauce!
Some extra love for one of my favorite flavor combinations: Lime and cilantro (above) are so natural together, it would not have surprised me one bit to find them growing on the same plant, had I not grown cilantro myself without producing a single lime (I knew better, of course, but was still unreasonably disappointed). There’s plenty of both of these summery flavors in my fish taco sauce!
Coriander, by the way, is the seed produced by the cilantro plant. Redundant, both leaf and seed sharing a spot in the same recipe? No, sirreee. Ground coriander tastes nothing like its leafy parent.
Gently aromatic and somehow citrusy, it adds a bright flavor to Mexican cuisine and is an especially harmonious companion to cumin.
So, for you unlucky ducks where cilantro leaves taste like soap, do not fear the ground coriander!
How to make fish taco sauce
This white sauce is easily whipped up with just a knife and whisk – no special equipment required:
- Whisk together mayo and sour cream until smooth.
- Chop the chile peppers.
- Thin with a little lime juice until the sauce wants to drip from the whisk.
- Add the spices and mix thoroughly.
- Let rest in the fridge for at least an hour, to let all the flavors blend into tasty goodness.
Spoon the sauce over your fish tacos — my favorites are made with grilled flaky white fish, like cod or halibut, but shrimp is scrumptious, too. For an authentic San Diego fish taco experience, try them battered and fried. Delish!
Can you make this creamy fish taco sauce ahead of time?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, it’s better if the sauce has a chance to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, to both chill down and let the ingredients meld together into its full creamy goodness.
How long can you store it?
Depending on the freshness of the ingredients that you started with — meaning, the dairy products were well within their expiration dates — the sauce should last a week or more in the refrigerator.
Making a big batch and need some ideas to use up the leftovers? Because it’s not specifically fishy, the sauce goes great with chicken and beef, too: tacos and wraps! It’s a fantastic chip dip (Fritos are my favorite!) Or, try it with these recipes:
Loaded Guacamole Vegetarian Tacos
Fish Taco Bowls
Oven Fried Shrimp and Thai Coconut Ramen Noodle Bowl
Watch the video and learn how easy it is to make, then make some for yourself!
Wickedly good fish taco sauce
- 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream (Greek yogurt is delicious as a substitute if you’re not a fan of sour cream)
- 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (you can use full fat, but, the spices are so delicious, you won’t miss that particular flavor contribution)
- 1 lime , cut in half
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon capers , minced
- 1 hot pepper of your choice , seeded and minced (jalapeno is delicious, as are the cherry bomb poppers I used in this batch).
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro , chopped
- In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and mayonnaise until well blended.
- Squeeze the juice from one lime half into the fish taco sauce mixture, then whisk thoroughly. You’ll want the consistency of a pourable, creamy salad dressing. If still too thick, add more lime juice from the other half. If too runny, add sour cream.
- Add all of the spices, whisking to mix thoroughly. Add the capers, minced pepper and cilantro, and whisk thoroughly.
- Cover the bowl with wrap and refrigerate the fish taco for at least one hour — the longer the better.
- Serve chilled. Spoon white sauce over fish tacos, or add into taco salads or rice bowls.
Originally published on June 6, 2009
Sunday 4th of June 2023
We're fish taco fanatics and are always looking for a unique and yummy sauce. We think we found the GOAT with this one. The blend of spices is weird and wonderful. Capers. Whodda thought?
Friday 24th of March 2023
Definitely our favorite fish taco sauce. Even the picky kids love it.
Sunday 29th of January 2023
Delicious. Will definitely make this again. I used half a lime and thinned with Mexican table crème.
Friday 9th of December 2022
I made your Fish Taco Sauce last night and it was really good on Shrimp Tacos. The mix of spices made it taste extra flavorful. I did have to use plain yogurt/mayo, though, because that's what I had on hand. Thanks again!
Thursday 1st of December 2022
Absolutely delicious! I was looking for a different fish sauce (other than the schiracaa one) and this far surpassed any other. It will be served with many dishes to come. Thanks so much!