Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo-friendly}

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Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo}

Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo}

For most of my life, I have always had a (totally rational) fear of fried foods, something I can say I happily accepted and followed. It wasn’t until this past year or so that I finally experimented with for-real frying at home, beyond a simple pan-fry. Besides the occasional french fry indulgence, I never really found myself drawn to deep-fried anything. It just was never my thing. But to be totally honest, beyond the fact that I intuitively never liked how fried foods made me feel, it was mostly because of the scary calories and fat. And while calories and fat should absolutely be a valid concern, in excess, after spending time truly learning about fats and oils in nutritional therapy school program, I have learned what we should really fear more than these numbers, instead are the oils themselves and the havoc that they can wreak on our bodies and our health. That old saying ‘quality not quantity’, has really never been more appropriate.

At most restaurants, even the nicest of places and honestly in most people’s homes, fried foods are generally cooked in denatured vegetable and seed oils. These are usually highly refined polyunsaturated fats that are highly unstable, especially in high heats. Often they are hydrogenated and when exposed to heat they oxidize and go rancid very quickly and form free radicals. “These chaotic, skewed fatty acid molecules, now in the form of free radicals, wreak havoc on the body attacking and damaging DNA and RNA, cell membranes, vascular walls, and red blood cells, all of which cascade into deeper physiological damage such as tumor formation, accelerated aging, arterial plaque accumulation, autoimmune imbalances, and more!”[1] WOAH – just woah, right? My life-long intuition-led opinion on fried foods was definitely not for nothing.

Now, before we get into this recipe, I am certainly not advocating that fried foods, even in healthful oils, are something we should consume often. Like sweets and treats, even of the more healthy variety, this type of cooking falls into the category of once-in-a-while eating. But, being totally afraid of something and never being able to enjoy it, that doesn’t really feel good either and it certainly isn’t a lifestyle I ever want to live or promote. However, these curiosities for a better option, this is usually how I manage to come up with an alternative, a new way to enjoy something one-in-a-while that I never get to, but in a much more health-minded approach.

Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo}

In Southern California, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a taco joint. Whether it’s a more traditional taqueria or a less traditional but more So Cal focused Mexican joint. The big thing out here are the Baja Fish Tacos. Deep fried fish, in a corn tortilla shell, a little cabbage, that delicious creamy smokey chipotle sauce, some cilantro and onions, maybe a little avocado and usually some rice and beans on the side. I’ve never been able to eat them myself, for obvious reasons, gluten being the number 1, but I’ve also had to hear for years now how incredible they are.

Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo}

Sadly, my poor Southern-hailing hubby’s love of fried foods has about completely been halted, thanks to my obsession education surrounding fats and oils. He happily indulges me and he now orders the grilled fish tacos, while looking at me with the saddest puppy dog eyes while everyone else gets the deep fried version. Far be it from me to totally take something away from my love, I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I never want him to resent me or this path towards education. So, I have to get crafty and create a new version of this Southern California classic, something we could both enjoy, at home, without the worry about terrifying scary oils and truthfully gross farm fish, too.

These Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowls are THE best way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, a more healthful celebration, complete with wild caught fish, high-heat appropriate oil, a delicious creamy chipotle sauce and ALL the veggies. Who says I don’t know how to party? The crispy battered fried fish is real-deal, amazing. Flakey white fish with a crispy, crunchy batter and the smokey, tart Baja sauce is the ultimate in finishing moves. As always, you can customize the toppings to your taste and create the perfect bowl of goodness.

Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowl {Paleo}

Grain-free Baja Fish Taco Bowls {gluten-free, paleo-friendly, dairy-free, nut-free}
serves 2-4, depending on the size of the bowls

Battered Fried Fish

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless wild-caught fish filets (nearly any fish will work, but I like larger-flake, lighter-flavor fish best for this preparation—halibut, sea bass, grouper, etc)
  • 1 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free beer or sparkling water
  • 2 pasture-raised eggs, beaten
  • pinch of cayenne or chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and black pepper
  • coconut oil, lard, avocado oil – or other stable, unrefined, high-heat appropriate oil, for frying

Chipotle Baja Sauce

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • 4 ounces unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (you can also use Greek, goat-milk, etc)
  • 1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce (canned), finely chopped, additional adobo sauce if you want more flavor
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the Bowls

  • lettuce and/or other greens for bowl base
  • rice or cauliflower rice
  • red or green cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  • avocado, sliced
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chipped
  • red onions/ green onion, thinly sliced or chopped
  • salsa, of your choice
  • limes, cut into slices

Other topping options: queso fresco, black or pinto beans, jalapeños, tortilla or plantain chips


Start by making the Baja chipotle sauce. Add all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, mix well to combine and place into the refrigerator in a sealed container. This can be made up to 3 days ahead of time.

Next prepare the fish. Start by cutting the fish into 2-inch wide by 4-inch long strips. Add enough oil to create around 1 and 1/2-inch depth in a deep enough pot to minimize splatter. Heat over a medium-high heat. Using a thermometer heat to 345ºF.

While the oil is preheating, make the batter. Add the starch, baking powder, beer (or sparkling water) and eggs to a bowl and mix well to combine. Season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne. The batter will thicken as it sits, but if it seems too runny, add just a little more starch.

Once the oil is ready, pat the fish pieces dry with paper towels. Dip each strip of fish into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off. Carefully and slowly place the battered fish into the hot oil, not allowing it to splash. Cook the fish in batches, do not crowd the pan. Fry for about 3-4 minutes, flipping as necessary. Cook until golden brown and crispy. Place the finished fish on a wire cooling rack, while you cook the remaining, sprinkle with a little fine sea salt and a pinch of cayenne.

Prepare the bowls. Place a layer of lettuce into the bowls and top with your desired toppings. Once ready to serve, place your fish pieces on top and drizzle a little Baja chipotle sauce on top. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a couple lime wedges. Enjoy.

Recipe note: There are many, many grain-free and paleo fish fry recipes, which got me on the path to creating this one, but I honestly have NO clue who to credit as there are so many similar ones and I cannot decipher where it originates. So big ups to all the folks making kick-ass paleo fish fries.

[1] Caroline Barringer, CHFS, NTP // Fats: Safer Choices for Your Frying Pan and Your Health

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3 Responses

  1. Lynn says:

    Oh my WORD. This is life changing, to say the least….thank you!

  2. Kelli H says:

    Ugh, this looks so freaking delicious. I love fish tacos like that and this is even better knowing how much healthier it is.

  3. I can’t wait to make this delicious looking recipe. Thank you …

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