Whether you're a kid or not, crunchy fish sticks made from scratch in the warmth and comfort of your own kitchen (and with lots of love!) are a tasty light meal that'll definitely tantalize your tastebuds. And when served with a simple lemony mayo on the side, odds are you'll never go back to frozen fish sticks again!
Crunchy Fish Sticks, Better from Scratch Than from a Box
When my son was a little boy, one of his favorite things to munch on as a snack after school, or as a light meal in the evenings while he watched some of his favorite PBS shows, were the frozen fish sticks that I purchased from Trader Joe's.
I could at least feel pretty good about those, as Trader Joe's prepared/frozen foods are, for the most part, of good quality, with almost no preservatives or unhealthy additives. But still...
Looking back, I kind of wish that it had occurred to me to prepare some crunchy fish sticks from scratch, because they really are one of those quick and easy recipes that truly are best prepared at home from start to finish.
Is there a way for me to turn back the hands of time, lol?
Funny enough, knowing my son (who's now almost 21!), I think that he wouldn't mind a plate-full of homemade crunchy fish sticks with a nice little lemony mayo dipping sauce on the side if I prepared them now, especially since he appreciates home cooking so much more these days. And frankly, I wouldn't mind some either!
And so I thought that I'd share my personal take on golden, crunchy fish sticks here, made from scratch with a crispy coating, and perhaps we all could enjoy them together.
The Best Ingredients to Use for the Best Crunchy Fish Sticks
A firm white fish such as cod or halibut is the best type of fish to use when preparing fish sticks (or fish fingers, if you're one of our UK friends)—it's easy to slice into strips, is nice and mild, and keeps its texture and shape perfectly.
And as far as the coating goes, I like fish sticks to be as crispy and crunchy as possible, so I love the combination of polenta-style corn grits and also panko breadcrumbs.
After seasoning and lightly dredging the strips of fish in flour and egg along with the grits and panko, I give them a quick fry in a shallow pan just until golden-brown, and nice and crunchy on the outside.
Sure, baking these would work too, but there's nothing quite like the crunch from a quick fry!
And to complete this snack, one needs an accompanying dipping sauce...
This simple lemony mayo with lots of fresh, tangy flavor—lemon, garlic, and a tiny pinch of fresh chives—is a super tasty accompaniment.
The simplicity and flavor this homemade recipe brings may just put you off of boxed fish sticks forever; and if that's the case, then my job here is done!
Tips & Tidbits for Crunchy Fish Sticks:
- Cod makes the perfect fish stick: I like to use cod for this recipe because it is a firm white fish, which is ideal for this preparation. You could certainly use halibut, but it is more pricey, and cod is quite similar and mild, and less expensive.
- A quick marination: You can very easily create more flavorful fish sticks by seasoning the fish lightly and allowing the strips to sit for 10-15 minutes before dredging and frying.
- Corn grits and panko for crunch: To create that really crunchy exterior to these fish sticks, it's great to use a combination of polenta-style corn grits and panko breadcrumbs. You could also use corn meal, but it is more finely ground than the grits, which provide a bit more texture; but either works well.
- A quick, shallow fry is all you need: You don't need much oil to prepare these fish sticks, just enough for a shallow fry. It only takes a couple of minutes on each side, and these tasty sticks are golden-brown and done! (However, if you prefer to bake them, then bake at 400° for about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through.)
- A simple lemony mayo for dipping: I love lemon with fish, and so I like to whip up a very quick and simple lemony mayo to serve as a dipping sauce. All you need is a bit of mayo, fresh lemon zest and juice, a couple of cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt/pepper, and a small sprinkle of fresh chopped chives or parsley, if you'd like.
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
Crunchy Fish Sticks
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Crunchy Fish Sticks Ingredients:
• 1 pound cod, cut into strips
• Black pepper
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or onion
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 eggs, whisked
• 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
• 1/2 cup polenta-style corn grits
• Pinch paprika (optional)
• Canola or peanut oil, for shallow frying
Lemony Mayo Ingredients:
• 1 cup mayo
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch or two of salt
• Pinch of black pepper
• 1 teaspoon of chopped chives or parsley
-Begin by placing your cod strips into a small bowl and adding in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, along with the lemon zest and granulated garlic or onion, and allow it to marinate for 10-15 minutes for a little extra flavor, if you desire; meanwhile, prepare your lemony mayo.
-Prepare your lemony mayo by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
-To prepare you fish sticks, prepare a little dredging station with the flour in one bowl, the whisked eggs in another bowl, and the panko and corn grits mixture (with the pinch of paprika, if using) in another bowl; dredge each strip of fish in the flour, next dip in the egg, then into the panko and corn grits mixture; once all are strips are coated, heat your oil and prepare a wire rack or baking sheet to hold your fish sticks once fried.
-Add enough oil to a skillet for a shallow fry (about an inch), and heat it up over medium-high heat until little bubbles begin forming; add some of the coated fish sticks into the oil, and working in batches, fry for a couple of minutes per side, until golden-brown; finish with a little sprinkle of salt when the fish sticks come out of the oil.
-Allow the fish sticks to cool for just a moment, then serve with the lemony mayo for dipping!