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Sous vide spicy fish tacos

Sous vide is the key to these perfectly cooked fish tacos.
Image: Spicy Fish Tacos
Spicy Fish Tacos.Carl Tremblay / America's Test Kitchen

Fish tacos can look beautiful, overflowing with fresh ingredients and contrasting textures and colors. But that first bite? Disappointing, overcooked fish. We wanted a fish taco with bold flavors — and, most important, perfectly cooked fish. We started by making a chipotle-based paste that would act as a marinade for our thick halibut fillets and also as the base for a zesty sauce to spread on the tortillas. Once the fish had finished marinating, we cooked the halibut sous vide at a very low temperature to keep it moist, and then blasted it quickly under the broiler to firm up the flesh and lightly char the marinade. Topped with a refreshing cabbage slaw, these fish tacos will put you in an endless-summer state of mind. We prefer halibut here but cod or hake are good substitutes.

Serves: 4

Sous Vide Temperature: 110°F/43.5°C

Sous Vide Time: 30 to 45 minutes

30 minutes, plus at least 1 hour marinating time

  • 4 teaspoons (19 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon (1 gram) ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon (0.5 grams) dried oregano
  • Salt
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 grams) ground cumin
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) honey
  • ¼ cup (48 grams) lime juice (2 limes)
  • 2 1-pound (450 grams) skinless halibut fillets, 1 to 1½ inches thick
  • ½ small head green cabbage, cored and sliced thin (4 cups/225 grams)
  • 6 tablespoons (24 grams) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 scallions (24 grams), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) sour cream
  • 2 garlic cloves (10 grams), minced
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • Lime wedges
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon (14 grams) oil, chili powder, coriander, oregano, 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt, and cumin in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and some bubbles form, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chipotle, tomato paste, and honey until well combined. Off heat, stir in 2 tablespoons (24 grams) lime juice and let cool for 5 minutes. Measure out and reserve 2 tablespoons (40 grams) chipotle mixture in small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle halibut evenly on all sides with 2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt, then spread remaining chipotle mixture over fish. Place each fillet in separate 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag. Seal bags, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  3. Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 110°F/43.5°C in 7-quart container.
  4. Gently lower bags into prepared water bath until fillets are fully submerged, and then clip top corner of each bag to side of water bath container, allowing remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag. Reopen 1 corner of zipper, release remaining air bubbles, and reseal bag. Cover and cook for at least 30 minutes or up to 45 minutes.
  5. Combine cabbage, ¼ cup (16 grams) cilantro, scallions, ¼ teaspoon (1 gram) salt, remaining 2 tablespoons (24 grams) lime juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon (5 grams) oil in bowl and set aside. Stir mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, and remaining 2 tablespoons (8 grams) cilantro into reserved chipotle mixture until combined. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Adjust oven rack 4 to 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Gently transfer halibut fillets to prepared sheet and broil until fish is firm and chipotle mixture begins to char, 4 to 5 minutes. Using knife or spatula, portion halibut into 12 equal pieces. Spread sauce evenly onto warm tortillas and top with fish and cabbage. Serve with lime wedges.