Inside their tortilla shells, fish tacos pair all sorts of bold flavors -- savory fried or grilled fish is pleasingly piqued by tangy sauces and sometimes cooled by leafy veggies. Fish tacos are a sort of blank slate, as they accommodate many variations and ingredients. Likewise, they tempt diners to pile new ingredients onto the taco, and to sop up sides with the tortilla -- so when you're thinking of pairings, think of sides that you might add to the taco itself.
Perhaps no side dish suits fish tacos better than a tart vegetable slaw, typically made of cabbage. Especially if your tacos don't already include slaw as a topping, this side can add a whole new dimension of flavor to the taco. Similarly, grilled or roasted corn works well to cool down spicy fish tacos, and can also be scooped into the tortilla. Green and red salsa, guacamole and pico de gallo all encourage dipping, but go easy on the tomato salsa, as it may make crisp fried fish soggy. To offset your savory tacos with a sweet flavor, shake up your sides with mango salsa in place of the traditional veggie options, or give your salsa or guac a kick with jalapeno.
Think Outside the Veggie
Vegetable sides aren't your only options for fish taco pairings. Rice, a sort of soothing palette cleanser that contrasts pleasingly with the intensely flavored tacos, serves as a perennial side. If you're dishing up lighter tacos, such as those with grilled fish, amp up your rice with cilantro and lime. Sliced avocados and tomatoes work well when serving fish tacos at a summery affair or picnic, and can also be used as optional toppings. Crema, a Mexican take on creme fraiche, cools down spicy tacos. Of course, the tried-and-true lime wedges and tortilla chips will never go out of style, and they too work particularly well with spicier tacos.
Bring the Brews
Beer and fish tacos work famously well together; the bubbly texture and bite of the brew washes down the taco as it the bold spiciness of the dish. As a general rule of thumb, stick with Mexican-brewed beers for fish tacos. Pale Mexican lagers add a crisp, refreshing edge to heavier fried fish tacos, while darker lagers lend richness to grilled fish tacos and fruit sides. If you used a certain brand of beer in your fish's beer batter, serve that label with your tacos.
Dine with Wine
Although beer is the go-to beverage for fish taco pairing, don't count out wine. Crisp, cool sauvignon blanc, French rose, California zinfandel or Australian shiraz create an intriguing mix of sweet and spicy while bubbly vinos such as creamy Italian prosecco or fruity French Cremant d'Alsace mimic the satisfying bubbles of beer, adding a sharp, refreshing edge to the dish.
- Food and Wine: Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw
- Toni Spilsbury: Baja Fish Tacos and Cabbage Salad with Cilantro Lime-Rice
- The New York Times: The Softness, the Crunch, the Nostalgia of the Fish Taco
- IndyStar.com: Wine Dude: The Best “Wine” with Fish Tacos Just Might Be Beer
- Artful Gourmet: Cool Off with Some Spicy Fish Tacos and Summer Wine Pairings
- The Chicago Tribune: How to Pair Wine: This Week: Tacos
- Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images