This fish salpicón recipe belongs in your regular recipe rotation: it’s easy and delicious, and you can serve it in so many different ways.
What is salpicón?
It depends on who you ask! Throughout Mexico and Central America, salpicón refers to a salad that contains minced ingredients that are dressed in a simple sauce or liquid, like lime juice and vinegar, for instance. One common variation of salpicón is salpicón de res, a Mexican shredded beef salad. There’s also salpicón de pollo, which is a shredded chicken salad, prepared in a similar method.
In Colombia, salpicón refers to a fruit cocktail (which also looks delicious), but this isn’t what we’re cooking in this recipe!
You can make salpicón in so many different ways with so many different types of protein. I first started making this recipe a few years ago, based on a recipe developed by Merill Stubbs. I decided to revisit it again recently and make some tweaks based on my own personal preferences, though both versions are delicious.
How to make this fish salpicón recipe:
What I loved about Merrill’s recipe was the inclusion of Wondra. Have you ever cooked with it? If you haven’t, it’s absolutely magical and perfect for dredging. Wondra is wheat flour that has been pre-cooked and dried which results in a super fine powder. One of the best uses of Wondra is in gravies or sauces because it dissolves instantly and doesn’t clump.
For the fish salpicón recipe, you need just a few ingredients:
- Fresh herbs: I use cilantro and scallions. Cilantro is a must, but you can omit the scallions if you don’t have them.
- Aromatics: A hot chili pepper–such as serrano, bird’s eye, or jalapeño–and a minced red onion add a nice flavor to the salpicón.
- Lime: Lime juice acts as the liquid that holds this salad together. I use the zest as well to give it an extra punch of flavor.
- Fish: I use sustainably farmed tilapia, but cod would also be delicious. You want to use a fish that flakes easily when cooked, so I recommend staying in the family of white fish like cod, halibut, flounder, or haddock. If you love salmon, you could definitely use that here! Just use a skinless filet instead, and the preparation will stay the same.
Making the salpicón is so simple. Just follow these steps:
- Step 1: Make the sauce! Combine the minced herbs, aromatics, lime juice, and zest in a big bowl.
- Step 2: Dredge and fry the fish! Season the fish with salt and pepper and dip into the flour. Shake off the excess and pan-fry for 3–5 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through.
- Step 3: Finish the salpicón! As each fish filet finishes cooking, throw it into the bowl of sauce. Once all the fish are in the bowl, simply use two forks to flake it into the sauce and mix to combine. I do like to leave some bigger pieces of the crispy edges, but you can flake everything evenly if you like.
What to serve with fish salpicón:
You can pile the salad on top of crispy tostada shells or stuff it into warm tortillas. Alternatively, you could serve it in lettuce cups or on top of chopped lettuce, cucumber, and radish salad. I opted for charred small tortillas, but I bet it would also be delicious mixed with cooked white rice!
I served it with roasted red potatoes and peppers, which I’ve included in the recipe below.
- Large skillet
- Baking sheet
- 1 cup loosely packed cilantro, minced
- 4 scallions, trimmed and minced; a few scallion greens reserved for garnish
- 1 bird’s eye chili, trimmed and minced; or use a small serrano or jalapeño
- ½ small red onion, peeled and minced
- 1 lime, juiced and zested
- 1 pound tilapia or cod
- 1 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper
- Sliced radishes
- Sliced cucumber
- 8 small tortillas
- Guacamole or diced avocado
Start the salpicón:
- Combine the minced cilantro, scallions, chili pepper, red onion, lime juice, and zest in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside.
Make the roasted potatoes:
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle the garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne powder if using. Mix to coat well and arrange in an even layer. Transfer to the oven for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and add the red bell pepper and red onion to the baking sheet. Drizzle with a teaspoon of neutral oil and sprinkle salt on top of the pepper and onion before mixing gently into the potatoes. Arrange in an even layer and return to the oven for 20–25 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the baking sheet in the warm oven as you finish the rest of the recipe.
Cook the fish:
- Add 1 tablespoon neutral oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Pat the tilapia dry and season all over with salt and pepper.
- Add the Wondra to a large bowl. Dip each tilapia filet in the Wondra and coat the fish evenly. Shake off any excess flour.
- Transfer the fish to the hot skillet and cook in an even layer. Cook in batches if needed so as not to crowd the skillet. Fry until golden brown and crisp, about 3–5 minutes per side. As the filets reach 145ºF, transfer them to the bowl of minced herbs.
- Once all the fish finishes cooking, use two forks to flake into the minced herbs and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Pile the fish salpicón on top of tostada shells or charred tortillas and garnish with scallion greens, sliced cucumber, radishes, and guacamole or diced avocado if you like. Serve with the roasted potatoes on the side. Enjoy!