Danny Trejo's Classic Fish Tacos

Danny Trejo is the owner of the popular LA Trejo’s Tacos empire, which has six locations and a food truck. But there’s a lot that led him there…

Eating his mother’s carne asada and chicken mole in his Texan childhood kitchen, Danny dreamed of opening a restaurant one day, but got pulled into a life of crime, eventually doing time in San Quentin. A passion for boxing led him to a career in entertainment, where he became something of a celebrity for playing “Bad Guy #2” in a slew of movies. Finally, in 2016, he opened Trejo’s Tacos, offering an “LA-Mexican” menu, which is now available in cookbook form.

All his best-known tacos are in the cookbook — beer battered fish, blackened salmon, Baja, jackfruit, mushroom asada, even a Mexi-Falafel take. I started simple, though, with this classic fish, which calls for pan-fried cod and a bright slaw. So easy. So good.

Classic Fish Tacos
Makes 8 tacos

1 1/2 pounds fresh cod, cut into 3-inch pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lime, halved
1 cup shredded red or green cabbage
1/4 cup Cumin Crema (below), or sour cream in a pinch
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 6-inch corn tortillas
1/4 cup Pico de Gallo (below), or store bought salsa in a pinch

Pat the cod dry with paper towels and season it with salt and pepper. In a large pan set over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until it is just shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the cod and cook until the pieces are lightly browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Use a spatula to transfer the cooked cod to a large plate, and then squeeze the lime halves over it.

In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the cumin crema, and the cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Stack the tortillas, wrap them in aluminum foil, place them in the oven, and let them warm, 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and line up the tortillas assembly-line-style, on your work surface. Place a dollop of the slaw mixture on each tortilla, then fish, then Pico de Gallo.

Pico De Gallo
In a medium bowl, combine 2 ripe tomatoes (cored, diced), 1/2 small red onion (diced), 1/2 small white onion (diced), 2 jalapeños (halved, seeded, ribs removed, diced), 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, juice of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Cumin Crema
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sour cream, 2 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

P.S. Three Trader Joe’s meal hacks (including pulled pork tacos) and an addictive gazpacho.

(Photos by Alexandra Stafford for Cup of Jo. Recipe reprinted from Trejos Tacos. Copyright © 2020 by Danny Trejo and Larchmont Hospitality Group LLC. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.)