Chef Riri’s chipotle fish tacos

By Chiara Zuccarino-Crowe, Michigan Sea Grant Great Lakes Outreach Specialist; photos by Rian Zuccarino-Crowe

When looking for new takes on fish tacos, I turned to my brother Rian (@da_real_chef_riri), who’s a whiz in the kitchen and likes to share his latest culinary creations on social media. He has an amazing corn and black bean salad that I’ve learned to re-create and is a perfect accompaniment for tacos. So I asked him to dream up a well-spiced taco recipe that could incorporate Great Lakes fish.

He shared the following recipe, which he recently prepared using tilapia. While not a fish that’s naturally found in the Laurentian Great Lakes, tilapia is among the seafood produced through aquaculture in the region. I asked Lauren Jescovitch, an Extension educator in the western Upper Peninsula and Michigan Sea Grant’s aquaculture expert, to identify some sources of locally raised tilapia in Michigan:

If our readers know of any other tilapia producers in Michigan, drop them in the comments on this post!

Tilapia are commonly raised in aquaponics systems (such as the examples above). These fish can be sold as food or for stocking in ponds as a biological control solution for aquatic weeds. Because tilapia don’t survive the winter in outdoor stocking situations, they can make for a great fish fry (or taco Tuesday) at the end of the year!

Photo: Rian Zuccarino-Crowe

Chef Riri’s chipotle fish tacos

Cook Time: <10 minutes (plus ~4 hours for marinating) | Makes 8 tacos



  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 filets (6oz) lean white fish (such as tilapia, walleye, cod, etc.)

Chipotle Mayo:

  • ½ cup mayo (reduced fat)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers, minced
  • 1-2 tsp chipotle pepper sauce (adobo sauce)


  • Flour taco tortillas, heated
  • Cooked fish filet, flaked
  • Raw cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Chipotle mayo


  1. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt (3 pinches). Add lime juice and olive oil and whisk with a fork until incorporated. Add garlic and continue to mix. Using a gallon-sized plastic bag, add 4 fish filets and then the marinade. Seal bag and shake to evenly coat fish.
  2. Squeeze any remaining air out and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  3. Let fish come up to room temp and preheat grill to 350F. Grill filets until they flake easily with a fork, about 4 minutes per side (depending on the size of the filet). Once cooked, set aside until ready to assemble tacos.
  4. Chipotle Mayo: In a medium bowl, combine cup mayo, lime juice, garlic, salt, chipotle peppers, and chipotle sauce. Mix until uniform in color.
  5. Heat up your tortillas on a pan until warm. Assemble your tortilla with flaked fish filet, cabbage, and chipotle mayo. Enjoy!

Note: Other great toppings include: extra lime juice, fresh cilantro, freshly grilled corn, and/or pickled red onions!

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