Pan-Seared Mexican Fish

This Pan-Seared Mexican Fish features Mexican-spiced firm, white fish with fresh tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños with a hint of citrus. It’s a simple recipe created from the Mexican flavor profile and my well-stocked pantry. Read on to learn more about the process of using flavor profiles to create this healthy fish dish without a cookbook or recipe.

An oval cast iron plate with pan-seared Mexican fish, black beans and rice, and copper flatware.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About the Mexican Flavor Profile

Last week, I did a major overhaul of my flavor profiles post from 2015. I also have a Global Flavor Profiles document that provides a summary of many of the flavor profiles I use to create new recipes for Beyond Mere Sustenance. I asked myself what would be the best way to teach this useful cooking skill? It occurred to me that preparing one featured ingredient using different flavor profiles would be a good way to illustrate the method.

I initially considered chicken breast, but don’t we all have a plethora of chicken breast recipes? I landed on cod (or other firm, mild white fish) because it’s so widely available, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. These flavors can easily be used with chicken or pork as well!

What fish species do I find in the Gulf of Mexico? For this recipe, I’d use red snapper, sheepshead, black drum, redfish, or speckled sea trout. However, cod, barramundi, tilapia, halibut, etc. are more widely available, and work great!

I used cod for a series of recipes that reflect a regional flavor profile using my well-stocked pantry and my knowledge of flavor profiles to create relatively quick, healthy main dish recipes. I hope I’m successful at communicating the “method to the madness.” Please let me know your thoughts or your questions in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

What constitutes the Mexican Flavor Profile?

My first flippant response is not the Tex-Mex enchiladas, rellenos, tacos, and tamales that you find on combination plates in the United States. I was born in southern California, and I still love that food, but it really isn’t a good representation of Mexican cuisine. 😆 Mexico has a vast array of regional, fresh, healthy cuisine, and bringing that to my readers is of paramount importance to me.

  • garlic and onion
  • dried Mexican oregano
  • ground cumin
  • chile powders – ancho, chipotle, guajillo, New Mexico red chile powder (not generic “chili powder” which is a spice blend)
  • warm spices – cinnamon, cloves, anise
  • cocoa – for moles and more
  • fresh herbs – epazote, Mexican oregano, cilantro
  • achiote or annatto – in both paste form and ground
  • citrus – limes and oranges especially!
  • fresh – tomatoes, corn, squash
  • fresh chiles – poblano, Anaheim, chilaca, habanero, jalapeño, serrano, guajillo, mirasol…
  • pantry – masa, hominy/posole, black beans, pinto beans

What makes this a “Mexican” fish recipe?

The two most obvious ingredients that contribute Mexican flavor to the pan-seared fish are the spices – ground cumin and ground chipotle powder. Of course garlic, onion, jalapeños, and tomatoes are nearly ubiquitous in Mexican cooking. While most people associate limes with Mexican food, oranges (Sevilla or bitter oranges) are definitely a “thing.” I have never found Sevilla or bitter oranges in the US, but I have been very satisfied with using a combination of citrus that ups the acidity and reduces the sweetness of domestic oranges.

📋 Ingredients Notes

Ingredients for the pan-seared Mexican fish recipe: Firm white fish, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, citrus, spices, and beer.
  • fish – You’ll want a firm, white, mild, flaky fish like cod, barramundi, snapper, sea bass, tilapia, etc. If you love salmon and/or tuna, I have not tried it, but you might really like it! As someone who loves Gulf of Mexico fish, I can tell you red snapper, redfish, black and red drum, and sheepshead all work really well in this recipe!
  • onion
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • jalapeños
  • citrus – I like a variety of citrus juice. On photo day, I used half a blood orange, half a lime, and half a Meyer lemon. You’ll want 1/4 to 1/3 cup of juice.
  • spices – This combination of ground chipotle powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and sea salt works really well. The cumin and red chile powder are important spices in the Mexican flavor profile. You can substitute another red chile powder like ancho, guajillo, or New Mexico red chile powder. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE generic “chili powder” as it’s a spice blend (often with sodium added) that will throw off the balance of flavors.
  • beer – I keep Coronitas (a 7 ounce Mexican lager) on hand for cooking, and they’re a perfect size. A lager is a good choice because it is a “clean” tasting beer that won’t bring a lot of bitterness or maltiness to the pan sauce. If you’d prefer to not cook with alcohol, substitute chicken, seafood, or vegetable broth.

🔪 Instructions

Spices for the Mexican fish - Chipotle powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, sea salt, on a green plate.
  • Prepare the fish – Combine the ground cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder and sea salt. Spread out on a plate. Press the fish fillets into the spice rub to generously coat each piece on both sides.
4 fish fillets coated with Mexican spice blend in a cast iron skillet.
  • Start the fish – To a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil or butter. Place fish portions in the skillet.
Fully cooked Mexican spice rubbed cod fillets in a cast iron skillet.
  • Finish the fish – Gently lift the edge of the fillets to check for doneness. The fish should be white on at least the side against the heat. Turn carefully with a flat spatula. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Tomatoes, onion, and garlic sauteed in a cast iron skillet.
  • Sauté the tomatoes and aromatics – Add the tiny tomatoes to the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until you see a good amount of brown blistering or even bursting. Add the onion, and garlic. Sauté an additional 2-3 minutes until onions soften.
The burst tomatoes, onions, garlic, de-glazing with beer in the cast iron skillet.
  • De-glaze – Add the beer or broth to the skillet. Bring to a boil, and reduce by about half.
The jalapeno and citrus juices added to the pan sauce for the Mexican fish.
  • Finish the pan sauce – Add the jalapeño and citrus juice. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Simmer an additional 5 minutes to soften all the veggies.
  • Finish the Pan-Seared Mexican Fish – Add the cooked fish back into the skillet. Spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and/or scallions as desired. Enjoy!
The fully cooked Mexican spice-rubbed fish recipe in the finished tomato and citrus pan sauce.

💭 Tips

Firm white fish works well in this Mexican fish recipe. Whether you’re fishing in the Gulf of Mexico like my husband and I do or not, good quality, sustainable white fish options are widely available. If you’re not in an area with good fresh fish, rely on frozen. These options are often frozen on the boat shortly after being caught, and are actually better quality than “fresh.”

Look for sustainable options like barramundi, cod, and snapper. If “farm raised,” know the country and feeding method.

❓ FAQ

What fish species constitute “Gulf of Mexico fish?”

For this recipe, I’d use red snapper, sheepshead, black drum, redfish, and speckled sea trout. My husband and I love to fish! If you’re not a fisher person, and don’t have local access, red snapper, cod, halibut, tilapia, barramundi are all good choices!

What can I serve with this Mexican fish?

It can be as simple as plain white rice, cilantro rice or red rice, a corn and black bean salsa, or beans.

Eating fish is a great way to enjoy a healthier diet in 2022. With Lent just around the corner, this pan-seared Mexican fish is a great way to observe the season!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A cast iron skillet with 4 portions of cod in a Mexican pan sauce with tomatoes and citrus.

Pan-Seared Mexican Fish

A quick and easy Mexican-inspired fish recipe that uses a few fresh ingredients and a well-stocked pantry. You can have it on the table in 30 minutes!
5 from 8 votes

Click to rate!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 224 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 24 ounces firm white fish - like cod, barramundi, tilapia
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil - refined coconut, pure olive oil, canola oil
  • ½ cup tiny tomatoes
  • ½ medium onion - sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 cup beer - see Ingredients in post
  • 1 jalapeno - minced
  • ¼ cup fresh citrus juice - see Ingredients in post
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Instructions

  • Prepare the fish – Combine the ground cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder and sea salt. Spread out on a plate. Press the fish fillets into the spice rub to generously coat each piece on both sides.
  • Start the fish – To a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil or butter. Place fish portions in the hot pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Finish the fish – Gently lift the edge of the fillets to check for doneness. The fish should be white on at least the side against the heat. Turn carefully with a flat spatula. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Sauté the tomatoes and aromatics – Add the tiny tomatoes to the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until you see a good amount of brown blistering or even bursting. Add the onion, and garlic. Sauté and additional 2-3 minutes until onions soften.
  • De-glaze – Add the beer or broth to the skillet. Bring to a boil, and reduce by about half.
  • Finish the pan sauce – Add the jalapeño and citrus juice. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.
  • Serve the Pan-Seared Mexican Fish – Add the cooked fish back into the skillet. Spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and/or scallions as desired. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 5g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

As I mentioned above, this Mexican fish recipe was the first in a series of fish recipes created by using flavor profiles. These fish recipes followed the pan-seared Mexican fish…

A cast iron skillet with Mediterranean baked cod with tomatoes and capers and a striped napkin.

Mediterranean Baked Cod with Tomatoes and Capers

A cast iron skillet with coconut cod curry, cilantro, and grey napkin.

Coconut Cod Curry

A cast iron dish with 2 Peruvian baked cod with panko portions with a bowl of huancaína sauce, cilantro, and lime.

Peruvian Baked Cod with Panko

2 pieces of panko breaded cod in a Greek-style pan sauce with lemon and herbs.

Greek-Style Panko Crusted Cod

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8 Comments

  1. This was incredible! Made it for my moms bday. I omitted the chipotle powder since I had none and it was still perfect. Made a homemade mango salsa to go with it and also some rice. Best fish recipe I have ever made!

  2. Absolutely fantastic recipe! I followed it as written, which I don’t usually do, and it turned out perfect! We used some yellowtail that we caught in Mexico and it really made the fish delish! Highly recommend!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to provide feedback! Fish that we catch ourselves is the best, isn’t it? We fish in The Gulf of Mexico, and sheepshead and black drum regularly make an appearance in this recipe. I love yellowtail, but haven’t caught it since we lived in southern California.

  3. My husband and I made your Pan-Seared Mexican Fish last night and loved it! I am so glad I found your site and I will look at your other recipes as we are trying to eat more fish. Thank you,

    1. Your comment makes me so happy Bina! Fish is so healthy, and we probably eat it an average of 3 times per week. I’m so glad you enjoyed the Pan-Seared Mexican Fish. Thanks for taking time to provide feedback!