Salmon Tacos with Basil Pesto-Yogurt Sauce


                                                     Quick version of recipe at bottom of post.

I clearly remember the first time I heard someone order fish tacos at a Tex-Mex place called Chevy’s (it may still be around somewhere.) I couldn’t get my mind around it, but the person ordering it, who happened to be my brother-in-law Bill, assured me it was out of the world luscious.


Here’s Bill singing Beatle songs to our granddaughter Piper last May.

I don’t think so, thought my younger and more naive self twenty years ago.  And this despite the fact that I had, indeed, spent four years in San Antonio, where tacos of any sort in the universe reigned supreme. (Had there been fish tacos, though? I didn’t remember them.)

Fast forward a few years and find my sister cooking fish tacos in my kitchen. Addiction. Totally. I hijacked her recipe with a few embellishments. And made it and made it and made it.  Dave then began ordering fish tacos from restaurants and I kept thinking…


…about salmon tacos. The thought never jelled because, I just couldn’t put the flavor profile together as long as I thought of traditional fish (or any) taco seasonings…lime, cilantro, cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa, tomatillos….This even though other cooks were making them exactly with those flavors. It didn’t sound right to me. The other day, as I thought about it,  I remembered a fast sauce I sometimes make for salmon.  Yogurt-based, I add Dijon-style mustard, hot sauce, maybe some chopped green onions or garlic….But this time, as I considered yogurt, adding basil pesto came to mind.  A different green than chopped romaine could be way crunchy kale or spinach laced with lemon.  Sautéed onions and peppers might provide a separate texture and earthiness to offset the fatty salmon fajita style.  Some sort of minced vegetable or two could provide crunch.  You might think fusion tacos. Italian-Mexican-Alaskan???  It would be a great use for leftover salmon (if you ever have any), but, to begin with, I’d make fresh.

And while I may keep trying to get a good photograph, I’ve made them just in time for this week’s Lenten Fish Friday or any other day you choose.  (I have never been very successful at photographing tacos, but that’s why I keep at it.  Pray for me or send cash for photography school.)

Interested in a Lenten devotional? I did an online devotional  a few years ago in the form of a blog. Click here. 

This is why Minnesotans “go to the cabin.”  (Illustration for Day 14 of Lent)

In the meantime, try this:


serves 4     (2 tacos each)     Easily halved or doubled

Low Carb?  Triple the greens (season well), add some extra veggies and put the salmon and onion mixture on top for a Salmon Salad, using the pesto-yogurt for a dressing.

  • 8 small corn or flour tortillas–I like the tortillas that are a blend  of corn and flour from La Tortilla Factory
  • Canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, cored and sliced
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pound salmon fillet, cut into four pieces
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves or shredded kale (or a mixture)
  • Pinch crushed red pepper, optional
  • 2 lemons, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto, homemade or purchased
  • 1/3 each cup minced cucumber and scallions for garnish
  • Grated Cheddar or Manchego, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the stack of eight tortillas with heavy-duty aluminum foil and place on rack in center of oven to warm for no more than 15 – 20 minutes while you cook the onions, peppers, and fish. (If done ahead, remove–leave wrapped–and reserve until needed.)
  2.  In a heavy large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium flame; add onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until nearly tender.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.  (If you have two large skillets or a skillet and a stovetop grill, you might do steps 2 and 3 at the same time.)
  3. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.  Add another 2 tablespoons oil, heat skillet to medium-high, and add seasoned fish. Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until fish is firm, but still tender and juicy. Remove to a cutting board; let rest 1 minute.  Cut each piece of fish in half and remove and discard skin. Check salmon for bones and remove, as needed.
  4. In the meantime, in a large bowl, toss together the greens, a good pinch each of salt and pepper, the crushed red pepper (if using), the  juice of 1/2 a lemon (place rest of lemon halves in a bowl and put on the table), and a drizzle of oil.  In a small bowl, mix the yogurt and pesto in a small bowl. Set both bowls aside.
  5. Remove tortillas from oven and place two on each plate.  To each tortilla, add some seasoned greens, a few cooked onions with peppers, and top with a piece of salmon. Drizzle with yogurt-pesto sauce. Garnish with cucumber and scallions and cheese, if using. Pass remaining lemon wedges at the table.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:  If you like heat, add a few drops of hot sauce to the yogurt and pesto mixture.

Need more? MAKE A LITTLE SALAD.  Chop up a couple of ripe avocados. Stir them together with chopped tomatoes, a little thinly sliced red onion, and maybe some sautéed zucchini and a tiny bit of finely minced celery.  Squeeze lime juice over all, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

WINE: Unlike most tacos, these would lend themselves to a lighter red like a  Côtes du Rhône or a Pinot Noir, if you haven’t overdone the lemon juice.

DESSERT: I’m skipping during Lent, but you go right ahead.

QUICK VERSION:  Cook sliced onions and peppers; grill or sauté salmon and cut into pieces. Chop some lettuce and mix it with lemon juice; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix = amounts plain yogurt with  basil pesto. Heat tortillas and load ’em up with everything; drizzle with yogurt sauce. Top with minced green onions and cucumbers.


Sing a new song,


2 thoughts on “Salmon Tacos with Basil Pesto-Yogurt Sauce

  1. Pingback: Sheet Pan Dinner: Dijon Salmon with Garlicky Green Beans | More Time at the Table

  2. Pingback: Friday Fish: More Time’s Top 10 Salmon Recipes | More Time at the Table

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