Fish Taco Salad with Avocado Chipotle Dressing

Fish Taco Salad with Avocado Chipotle Dressing
Fish Taco Salad (aka, deconstructed fish tacos) with Avocado Chipotle Dressing – recipe in post

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays I start craving salads. Partly because I love salads, and partly because I feel a little guilty about all the crap wonderful stuff I’ve been eating. That’s all fine and dandy, but the problem comes right at the end of the year, when I go: alright, body, no more gorging on sweets and snacks, time to be healthy! 

What’s wrong with getting back to a healthier diet, you ask? Nothing. Except the 180° turn I expect myself to make each year. All through December, I tell myself to relax… it’s the holidays! It’s winter!… I let myself go, with full permission. Then comes the New Year, and I make this resolution: I’m going to be fit, healthy, and gorgeous!

Raise your hand if you’ve been there.

The problem with this mindset is that it is destined to fail… after the feasts and celebrations, most of us are in the habit of eating a little less healthy than we’d like. Our tastes are geared towards sweet, fatty, butter-laden and gravy-drenched foods… then we go and make a strict decision to change our ways in a matter of minutes. Starting tomorrow, no more greasy foods! We go cold turkey. No more. Nada. I may have just eaten my body weight in bacon-wrapped-hunk-of-meat, but now I’m going to go vegan! 

Let me break the news for you – and I say this with love, because I care, and I’ve been there – it rarely works. Then, to make matters worse, the moment we stray from our determined path, we punish ourselves! I can’t believe I ate that second bowl of ice cream last night… I better be even more strict today! 

Again, raise your hand if you’ve been there.

So this year, my suggestion for myself is to take it easy. Don’t try to cut out every little thing I deem to be less-than-healthy, and don’t try to limit myself to minuscule portion sizes. Not just yet.

I know my body, I do, and I owe it this one. I need to ease into a healthy routine, eat when I’m hungry, and pay attention to when I’m full. And if I falter, don’t stress – it’s not the end of the world. So I had a late night left-overs binge? It’s okay, just move on. Eat a big hearty breakfast to fill me up, keep me focused, and try for a better tomorrow.

This is one of my resolutions this year. To listen to my body. You can have what you need, body, we just need to discuss this whole ‘want’ situation. There’s a process to getting healthy, and as much as I’d like to think, it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with little changes, which become easier with time, which become habits. Who’s with me?

Tortilla Crusted Fish Fillets
Tortilla Crusted Fish

There are a few different things I turn to when I need to hit my reset button. Fruits and veggies are one – big bowls of fruit with yogurt, or cottage cheese, are a common breakfast for me, and can easily satisfy a sweets craving. Or, if I’m looking for something hot, some oatmeal will fill me up nicely. I also really love salads topped with some kind of protein, and in the dead of winter I am just longing for something fresh. Thank goodness for having veggies year-round!

Whenever I’ve been eating heavy, I start to crave fish and avocado for the lean proteins, healthy fats, and omega-3′s. These are a great way to satisfy my cravings and fill me up, while reprogramming my tastebuds to something a little healthier.

I made this salad on a whim, to use up some budget-friendly ingredients like black beans, cabbage, and salsa, while incorporating some nice lean white fish and avocado. I liked the idea of making a ‘deconstructed fish taco’, so I coated the fish in crushed tortilla chips. Maybe not the healthiest thing, but as I said before, I’m taking things slow. If you’d like to make a lighter version you can skip the tortillas all together and simply grill or pan-fry the fish, however you like it.

I also made the black beans from scratch, which is not only inexpensive and easy, but crazy flavorful. These are the best black beans I’ve made, and can be used up in dozens of tasty ways!

Fish Taco Salad

Recipe Notes: Making your own black beans is easy, flavorful, and cheaper than buying canned. You’ll only need a little bit for this recipe, but I like to make a whole pound of beans and keep them in the fridge to be used up later. There are plenty of tasty uses for them, and you can find the recipe for one of my favorites here: Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Burrito.

Easy and Flavorful Black Beans
Vegan, gluten-free

1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed and picked over for any pebbles or debris
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8th-1/4 tsp. cayenne, or red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp. cinnamon added with the rest of the spices)
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1-2 TBSP)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
pepper, to taste
3-4 cups water

Method

1.    Rinse and sort the beans, then cover with cold water and let soak for 6-8 hours, or overnight, before cooking. This will help to mitigate the not-so-happy-side-effect that beans can sometimes have. After soaking, rinse the beans thoroughly until the water runs clear.
2.    In a large pot or dutch oven, add the olive oil and saute the onions over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices.
3.    Add the prepared beans, oregano, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Add 3 cups of fresh water and increase heat to boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Let cook 30 minutes.
4.   Uncover the pot and cook for another 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender. Add more water as needed.
5.   At the very end of cooking, add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. (Do not add salt or acidic ingredients at the beginning of cooking, as they will cause the beans to be tough/dry). Finished beans can be stored in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.

_____________

Recipe Notes: I loved the idea of making a deconstructed fish taco, and decided to bread my fish with crushed tortilla chips. For a lighter dish, feel free to omit the tortillas all together, and simply grill or pan-fry the fish as you like.
I made this recipe up on a whim, writing down ingredients and amounts as I went along. Some of the measurements aren’t exact, so use your judgement on the spices, to taste.

Fish Taco Salad with Avocado Chipotle Dressing
Serves 4-5

For the fish:
1 lb. cod, tilapia, pollock, mahi mahi, or other white fish (I used cod since it was on sale, but others would work just as well)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cracked pepper
2 large eggs
2 TBSP milk
2-3 large handfuls tortilla chips, finely crushed (about 7oz. by weight)
1-2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro
1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp. salt

For the avocado dressing
1 ripe avocado
3 TBSP sour cream
1 TBSP chipotle peppers in adobo, or to taste
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp. honey or agave
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 lime, juiced (about 1 TBSP)
2-4 TBSP olive oil, to taste

For the salad
Black beans (recipe above)
Iceberg lettuce, finely sliced/shredded
Red cabbage, finely sliced/shredded
Sweet corn, fresh or frozen
Salsa, homemade or jarred
Fresh pineapple, cut small
Sliced jalapenos
Avocado
Sour cream
Cilantro
Tortilla chips
Lemon/lime wedges

Method

For the fish
1.    Preheat oven to 400f., and thoroughly grease (or spray with non-stick cooking spray) a wire rack. Place the rack on top of a baking sheet, and set aside.
2.    In a shallow dish or a zip-top bag, mix together the flour, cumin, chili powder, 1/2 salt, and pepper. In a separate dish or baggie, crush the tortilla chips to very fine bits, and mix in the chopped cilantro, crushed red pepper flakes, and another 1/2 tsp. salt. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
3.   Cut the fish into fillets (if it isn’t already) and dredge in the flour mixture (I like to use zip-top baggies for this, so I can add the fish and just toss everything around). Shake off any excess flour, and dunk the fish in the egg mixture. Then place the fish in the crushed tortilla mixture, coating thoroughly. Lay each fillet onto the prepared wire-rack, and bake on the center rack for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish flakes. Cook time will vary depending on your fish, and the thickness of your fillets – check it early, and be sure not to over-cook!

For the avocado chipotle dressing
1.    Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of your food processor, and blend until smooth. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil to thin to desired consistency (I liked mine quite thick, more like a sauce, but that’s just me).

For the salad
I decided to layer my salad, kind of like a regular taco salad would be – beans on the bottom, then the shredded lettuce and cabbage, topped cilantro, salsa, pineapple, and any other ingredients/add-ons, and finished with the fish and avocado dressing. I served mine with some lemon and lime wedges to squeeze over the whole thing, and extra tortilla chips around the bottom to eat up all those yummy black beans. Feel free to mix up any or all of these ingredients, as you like.

Enjoy!

18 thoughts on “Fish Taco Salad with Avocado Chipotle Dressing

  1. Abby

    oh my goodness, fish tacos are one of my favorite meals and I love this salad version, its perfect! I agree with you, balance is key. My body is looking for healthier foods these days too but I still have a slice of pizza or cookie every now and then.

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Balance is a good word for it, Abby – finding balance after the holidays is always tricky for me, I just have to remind myself it’s okay if I fall off the bandwagon every now and then. :)

      Reply
  2. Foodie Stuntman

    Keep in mind that not-so-happy-side-effect you refer to in step 1 of your black beans recipe is cheap entertainment for guys. LOL.

    However…

    I really like your short cut in your breading procedure. I might use it the next time I make chicken fingers.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I’ve been hanging on to this recipe since December and finally made it last night. O my goodness, good. I cheated and used frozen tortilla crusted tilapia but I made the beans (love the touch of cinnamon!) and the dressing. (My husband, who insists he hates avocados, loved it!) So much going on and all works great together. Fantastic dinner loved by the whole family. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Debi at Life Currents

    I made this last night (minus the beans) and thought it was fantastic! Loved the crust on the fish. I, too, thought it would be great on tofu and will def. try that. The husband loved the fish as well & asked that we have it again. The avocado dressing was fab! I love avocados anyway, but have been experimenting with them as a sauce, so this was perfect. Thanks for posting this recipe. Really Good!

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    You might want to modify your recipe and state that you use tortilla chips not corn chips to coat the fish. Corn chips mean Fritos to the general population and are completely different than tortilla chips.

    Reply
    1. Willow Arlen

      Thanks for the suggestion… that didn’t even cross my mind when I was writing the recipe (I think of tortilla chips and corn chips as being interchangeable terms, but I realize most people don’t). I’ve edited the recipe to avoid confusion.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: 15 Tasty Taco Salads

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