Fried Oyster Tacos with Chiltepin Salsa

Sonoran-inspired fried oyster tacos and Chiltepin salsa with garden flowers and herbs. Photo By: Gino Garcia​​

These oyster tacos feel right at home on the sandy beaches of Baja California or Sonora.

Although I am separated by nearly 2,000 miles, the drizzly U.S. Pacific Northwest is also famous for its abundance of fresh seafood—creating a culinary link between these two distinct places. 

This fiery salsa made from Chiltepin peppers, a tiny chile native to the northwestern region of Mexico, is one you’ll want to keep around for other dishes—so feel free to double the recipe and store it for up to six months! 

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Fried Oyster Tacos

Prep Time: 30 minutes; 1 week rest for salsa

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Total Time: 1 week; 1 hour

Yields: 6 oyster tacos

Chiltepin Salsa Ingredients

  • 1 dried guajillo chile, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon dried Chiltepin chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Ingredients for making a Sonoran-inspired salsa with Chiltepin chiles. Photo By: Gino Garcia​​

Preparing Fried Oyster Tacos

  1. Warm a dry sauté pan on medium heat. Add guajillo chile and toast on both sides, about 1 minute.

  2. Add chile to a heatproof bowl, along with Chiltepin chiles, and cover with boiling water for about 20 minutes until chiles are rehydrated. 

  3. In the same heated, dry sauté pan, add coriander seeds and toast until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add to blender. 

  4. In the same sauté pan, warm oil until it starts to look shimmery, then add onion and garlic, and sauté until just translucent. Add to blender. 

  5. Drain chiles and add to blender, along with salt, oregano, and vinegar.

  6. Blend on high for about 1 minute until completely smooth.

  7. Pour into a clean jar, and store in a clean jar in the refrigerator. Let flavors blend together for 1 week before using. 

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Oysters dredged in buttermilk and a spiced masa mixture before frying. Photo By: Gino Garcia​​

Fried Oyster Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 18 oysters, frozen and thawed, or fresh and shucked
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chile powder

Preparing Fried Oyster Tacos

  1. In a wok or smaller, heavy-bottomed pot, add oil and warm over medium heat.

  2. In a large bowl, mix buttermilk and oysters.

  3. In a shallow dish, mix flours, salt, and chile. 

  4. When oil is hot enough (350 degrees Farenheit), you should be able to dip a wooden utensil into the oil and it will immediately start bubbling.

  5. When ready, dredge oysters in the flour mixture—making sure to shake off excess.

  6. Add oysters to hot oil 3 to 4 at a time. (It’s important not to overcrowd the pot because the oil temperature can drop, resulting in a soggy fry.)

  7. Cook oysters until golden, turning after a couple minutes.

  8. Remove from oil and transfer to a paper towel-lined dish, seasoning with extra salt and pepper to taste.

Taco Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Chiltepin Salsa
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 18 Fried Oysters
  • 1/2 preserved lemon peel, thinly sliced; or juice of 1 lime
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • Optional garnish: young nasturtium leaves (pictured), borage flowers (pictured), chive blossoms (pictured), thinly sliced green cabbage, thinly sliced white onion, and Chiltepin Salsa.
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Sonoran-inspired fried oyster tacos and Chiltepin salsa with garden flowers and herbs. Photo By: Gino Garcia​​

Assembling the oyster taco

  1. In a small dish, mix Chiltepin Salsa and mayonnaise. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

  2. Divide tortillas up, and place about 2 tablespoons of salsa mixture on each tortilla.

  3. Place two to three oysters on top of salsa, depending on size of oysters.

  4. Garnish with preserved lemon peel or lime juice, if using, sliced radish, and optional garnishes as desired. Buen provecho, your oyster tacos are served!

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About the Author

Gino García

Gino García is based in Seattle, WA, originally from the California central valley, and has family roots in northern Mexico and the Mediterranean. He’s worked in restaurant kitchens, as a recipe developer and cooking instructor, and is an avid researcher and writer on regional Mexican cuisines. Gino has studied traditional Mexican techniques and flavors for many years, but loves to adapt dishes to local and seasonal produce available in the Pacific Northwest.

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