Most people don’t immediately think of fish as traditional Mexican food, but they should.
With two coasts and over 6,000 miles of shoreline encompassing four bodies of water—the Sea of Cortez, the Pacific Ocean, and both Caribbean and Gulf shores – it’s no wonder that fish often appears on tables throughout Mexico.
Fish—An Authentic Mexican Food
Mariscos, meaning seafood or shellfish, have pride of place on many Mexican menus, and pescados, or fish, usually accompany them.
Although the word “mariscos” can sometimes be used to refer to fish, it’s meant to showcase the wide variety of edible delights from the sea such as crab, clams, shrimp (prawns), octopus, squid, oysters, mussels, lobster, and more.
While seafood is available year-round in Mexico, March and April are prime months to enjoy Mexican fish and seafood dishes, as Lent begins during this time and meatless meals are an important part of celebrating the season.
With more than 600 freshwater species from local lakes and rivers and 1,800 total ocean-dwelling edible fish and seafood to choose from, Mexican cooks put their creativity into high gear for this fish-centric time of year.
In Mexico, local markets brim with seasonal bounty and even imported favorites like pickled herring and Spanish baby eels. But here, you can recreate some authentic Mexican fish specialties right here at home.
Let’s travel to a few places along the coast to get a taste of what’s cooking.
From Sinaloa – Aguachile de Camarón
Sinaloa is located in western Mexico, along the Pacific coast. This makes it a great place to find fresh catches of shrimp in season.
Aguachile uses raw shrimp, serrano chiles, and lime juice to perfection. A traditional appetizer served with fresh fruits like sweet slices of melon or a cooling cucumber relish, this dish is a combination of refreshing flavors and spice.
From Vera Cruz—Red Snapper
A long, thin slice of land along the Gulf Coast, much of Vera Cruz’ cooking has a distinctive Mediterranean flavor and their traditional red snapper, or Huachinango ala Veracuzana, is no exception.
This dish features a gorgeous whole fish served liberally covered in a sauce concocted from a delicious mélange of tomatoes, capers, chiles, and olives that will have your mouth watering for more.
From Baja California – Fish Tacos
The northern part of Baja California, the peninsula in northwestern Mexico, is famous for its fish tacos—so famous, that people come from all over just to try them.
These tacos showcase any mild, white fish like cod, halibut, or tilapia. The fish is delicately battered for flavor and deep-fried, then garnished with finely shredded cabbage, cilantro, a piquant sauce and a squeeze of lime and served up hot in a homemade tortilla.
From Tampico—Jaibas Rellenas
Crab is so important to the economy of Tampico—a port city in Tamaulipas—that the locals refer to themselves as “jaibas” or crabs. Jaibas Rellenas, or Tampico Stuffed Crab, celebrates this heritage by pairing the delicate, buttery flavor of crabmeat with garlic, chiles, onions, and tomatoes.
This delicious mix is pressed back into the crab’s shell, which is then battered or breaded and fried to perfection.
From Nayarit—Pescado Sarandeado
Nayarit, with its Pacific coastline, offers a bounty of delectable seafood. Pescado Sarandeado is a smoked fish dish that combines deep, smoky flavor with the bright tang of citrus.
This dish is prepared using sea bream for the fat content of the skin that keeps the fish moist and succulent through the smoking process.
The fish is first marinated in soy sauce, chile, and lemon then slowly smoked over a controlled fire. The finished dish is served with slices of red, ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumber and tangy onion on hot, homemade tortillas with a dollop of homemade salsa.
The simplicity of preparation combined with a complex mix of flavors makes this a dish you’ll want to have again and again.
Your Turn—Come Taste Traditional Fish Dishes at Benito’s Mexican Restaurant
If you want to sample the delicious flavors of traditional Mexican food without having to buy a plane ticket, we’ve got you covered. Benito’s isn’t just a Mexican restaurant—it’s an authentic culinary experience.
We’ve even prepared varieties of the recipes above, from our version of Huachinango ala Veracruzana, Camarones (shrimp) served Benito’s style, and delicious fish tacos to rival any in Baja California.
We also have other fish dishes like Pescado Entero, a specially prepared rainbow trout served with traditional rice and beans or Ceviche Yucateco, or tilapia marinated in tangy lime juice.
Come out today and discover the delicious bounty of authentic Mexican fish and seafood dishes waiting for you at Benito’s.