Food

Danny Trejo’s Classic Fish Tacos

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.)

  1. Lili says...

    Made these tonight and they were deeeeeelicious! Trader Joe’s was out of Cod, so I subbed Mahi Mahi.

  2. Mary Beth says...

    My oh my! Recently, my husband has been taking Taco Tuesdays to the next level. I not so subtly sent him this link last week and lo and behold we had it for dinner last night. It was BEYOND delicious!

  3. MB says...

    Oh those tacos look so yummy! As an American living in London it can be difficult (although getting easier) to get good Mexican and I’m always too lazy to make it at home. Putting this on the list for the weekend.

  4. Claire says...

    These look fabulous, and what an interesting person and story. Thanks for this post. I may check out his cookbook too.

  5. Katrina says...

    Cook the fish on an outdoor grill. If you don’t have a grill – get a George Foreman grill and cook outside. (Also works well for bacon)

  6. Jeannie says...

    Yes! Something else to do with cod!! Love fish tacos.

  7. CS says...

    Mmm, I want to try these tacos now! Lol. They sound sooo good!

  8. Erin says...

    I’m recently gluten free and fish tacos are saving me right now! I buy a good piece of halibut for them because you really don’t use much in each taco. A great tip I picked up is to smear guacamole all over the tortilla before adding the fish & other toppings. So, so good.

  9. sharouq says...

    shame on man repeller and the business and social practices that have been revealed. leandra is just awful and so sad to hear the accounts of BIPOC women who were mistreated and abused. i love cup of jo and the sincere efforts to evolve, grow, and make both the content and small staff inclusive. there’s no reason to include those links anymore imo. the way she handled that entire thing made me really sad, and their work hasn’t reached a broader audience for a long, long time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      They are trying now, though? And their content has been so so much better. What are your thoughts on letting brands evolve and grow? (I’m truly asking. Not sure if we should turn away or give them a chance to improve.)

    • Mel says...

      Hi Joanna, your question has been reverberating in my mind for the past few hours. You seem genuinely interested in hearing different perspectives, so I’d like to chime with mine, in case it adds value. I hear in your question a desire to believe in our ability to change, grow, improve. I hear your desire to not partake in shut-down-all-lines-of-communication cancel culture. I think there is necessity in the former and value in the latter. However, I also think change and healing requires both radical honesty and time.

      While dropping off a package at the post office today, I witnessed the following: The white male customer in front of me asked the black female staff for tape, to which she replied “I’m sorry, sir, we are no longer allowed to give customers tape.” (I can personally attest to this change in USPS policy from a few years ago, as it’s sent me on an embarrassing number of dashes to Target.) What happened next jolted me, even though I am not a black woman, nor was I the target of the vitriol. The customer began berating her in a booming voice: “What does that cost you, 3 cents? 5 cents? Just give it to me. You clearly don’t want to work. This is basic customer service etc. …” I would call this straight up aggression, though this is just one of countless “micro”-aggression many BIPOC people experience regularly. As you can perhaps imagine, absorbing, processing, and healing from these kinds of experiences requires time and the knowledge that there is safety, i.e. sustained change.

      Going back to this discussion of Manrepeller. In my perspective, though the founder has stepped down to take a position “in the sidelines,” the change that the company is committing to is … vague. So, my recommendation is that you give them time to reflect and regroup. In the meantime, maybe reach out (especially if you already have a relationship or shared network) to their staff and offer to be a sounding board of how to build inclusivity back into the business DNA. Even more importantly, invest your time in sourcing and spotlighting the many incredible BIPOC women bloggers in the same space of fashion/lifestyle who have not had even half the chance to have a seat at the table.

      Thank you for reading.

    • Raquel says...

      Thanks for the thoughtful input, Mel. I also understood Jo’s question as genuine interest – and belief – that people and companies can (and should) change and evolve.
      In this particular case, the said commitment of MR has not only been vague it has also been performative, which is way more problematic, in my opinion. There has been a lack of transparency in the practices being put in place and a loud silence when asked tough questions from readers, particularly when it comes to the questions about the treatment of their black and brown employees. Leandra choose to ignore this up until the point that the brand had been permanently hurt. Her statement was about how she should have done better and how her team and the readers deserve better. That’s it. It was damage control.
      Please compare the practices and the changes that have been made over the years in this blog and MR. I have been a reader of both since their early days and have seen an engagement and a concern with diversity here that shows genuine commitment over the years and the same cannot be said about MR. Personally, I don’t have an interest in companies and brands that don’t show that and are not willing to disclose information on what they have done wrong and EXACTLY what their plans are to be better. I will also add that if you are a white person, this is something you can CHOOSE to “forgive”/deal with and keep consuming, buying from the same brand. When you are a person of color this is just a reminder of the racism we have to deal with everyday.

    • Lisa says...

      I’ve been following the MR controversy, and I agree that their initial response and then the follow up has been quite vague and non committal. I saw comments from the previous staff, and there has been deafening silence on some of the issues raised (in particular around letting go staff that were BIPOC at the start of coronavirus, and seemingly not white staff). However, it is worse bearing in mind that if there is an issue with their hiring / firing practices, there could be HR / legal consequences so they, and former employees, may not be in a position to publicly disclose what happened

  10. Jane I. says...

    Nothing screams SoCal like a fresh fish taco. yum!

  11. Danielle says...

    I love fish tacos but when I make them my house smells like fish for days. I need all the tips please.

    • If cooking outside on a portable burner or (like another person said in the comments) on a grill/George Foreman isn’t an option, after you cook your meal, simmer a small pot of 50/50 water/white vinegar for 15-20 minutes. It seems weird and you’ll think its making your house smell worse but I tell you, all smells will magically vanish and you’ll be fish-free!

  12. Peachy says...

    What is the amount of sour cream for the Cumin Crema? Did I miss something? The directions just say whisk together the sour cream, etc…

    • Angela Chaisson says...

      1/4 cup

    • Andrea Manz says...

      I made this today and it can’t possibly be 1/4 cup. I used half the recommended cumin and salt with 1/4 sour cream and it was wayyy too much. I think the crema recipe is meant for a 16 ounce container of sour cream. Even then, I would probably use less cumin.

    • Grace says...

      I was wondering the same thing. Just looked it up in the cookbook and it’s 1 cup of sour cream.

  13. Amy says...

    My husband improvised fish tacos the other night and made an amaaazing peach salsa with radishes, peaches, cucumber, lime, and cilantro. I was skeptical about the radishes but they worked. This recipe looks great too! Can’t wait to try it.

    • Whitney says...

      Radishes and peaches?! That sounds incredible!

    • Erin says...

      My favorite fish-taco topper is coleslaw made from shredded green cabbage, radishes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Even better if you assemble it a day in advance.

  14. Sophie says...

    Aaaand now all I can think about is the Danny Trejo Song from SNL 😂
    https://youtu.be/QyU_MfR120o

    These tacos look amazing, what can’t this guy do! Dude’s in everything!

  15. Susan says...

    Oh the nostolga this brings! My kids loved Danny Trejo in the spy kids movies. They were moveis we all loved watching together. Maybe we’ll have a movie night with these tacos before they head back to college.

  16. Denise says...

    Yum! Those fish tacos look amazing enough to put fresh cod on my grocery list.

  17. E says...

    So excited to try these!! Have you seen the trailer for the documentary about his life “Inmate #1”? I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks incredible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzoVQksebGM

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow that looks so good! thank you for sharing xo

    • Heather says...

      Thank you so much for sharing! The line “Everything good that has happened to me is a direct result of helping someone else” just got me. I can’t wait to watch.

    • Mel says...

      Ooh, how interesting! I just heard his Milkstreet podcast interview (Episode July 10: https://www.177milkstreet.com/radio/danny-trejo-machete-makes-tacos), and Danny Trejo’s response was so full of warm, wisdom, and joie de vivre that I literally listened to it twice! I hadn’t heard of Trejo before, but his perspective was the injection of genuine and palpable sunshine I needed during this continued pandemic. I’d highly recommend a listen too, if you like podcasts

  18. “something of a celebrity” – he is a TOTAL celebrity! Have you seen “Machete”??

    But I digress (obviously big Danny Trejo fan here). This cookbook is SO good. In addition to so many great recipes (including great veggie options), it’s also generally a good read. You even get a signed copy through his Taco Shop site https://www.trejostacos.com/store

    • Nina says...

      Came to the comments to say the same thing!! “Something of a celebrity“?! “Bad Guy #2”?! Have you seen his filmography? Dude is a legend! I usually don’t say this (really, I don’t), but: „Women, ugh!“ (*wink*)

    • Kate says...

      Agreed! He’s not only a celebrity, he’s a legend & an icon! He’s been in over 300 films!

    • A says...

      Ha, I came here to say this too. Machete! He def deserves a much better introduction beyond “something of a celebrity” and the guy who’s been cast as “bad guy #2.” Total legend.

    • Lane says...

      Precisely! I freaking LOVE Danny Trejo! He always gives the most interesting interviews.

  19. Colleen S says...

    Ooh…fish tacos. As a Southern Californian, there is nothing I love more.

  20. Wow, I would eat this. I love fish tacos but not the crazy batter fried ones.
    Looks amazing.
    Love Mr.Trejo’s work!

  21. Fabiola Bailey says...

    I love Danny Trejo! These tacos look amazing and I definitely will be making them soon.

  22. Agnès says...

    From a french-mexican reader, this gives so much nostalgia… when will I be able to travel to Mexico and see family, friends, and the other half of my life? I’m so glad my husband can make the perfect tortillas. I would totally add chipotle mayonnaise and red cabbage to this otherwise perfect recipe! (you could also add bacon).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yum!!

  23. Leah PS says...

    Danny Trejo is just actually the nicest. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times while working at a hotel in Austin, TX and he is the best. What a guy! Bet the tacos are A+ too :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so cool, Leah! I love hearing that a celebrity is really nice IRL.

    • Hilary says...

      Then I will add to this by saying that a good friend from college worked for both Oprah and Ellen for many years. The Ellen years were – as people are finally hearing about – truly hellish, but her Oprah years were golden. She attests that Ms. O is as kind, generous, present and brilliant as we all believe her to be!