How to Make the Best Homemade Fish Sticks
Surprise! These moist, crunchy fish sticks feature salmon. Serve them with our customizable tartar sauce — spicy for you, mild for the kids — and you'll be hooked.
Article, recipe, and photographs by Marrekus and Krysten Wilkes of Cooks with Soul
Getting a delicious homemade dinner on the table during back-to-school season can be daunting. One meal that keeps us sane, and is both quick and easy to prepare, is our salmon fish sticks recipe.
We have a full house with six children under the age of 14, and this kid-friendly recipe is one that even our pickiest eaters love. Served with a side of simple (and customizable) homemade tartar sauce, these crispy, crunchy, lemony salmon fish sticks are fresh and flavorful. Try them once, and you’ll definitely want to add them to your weekly dinner rotation!
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How to make fish sticks
Juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, these homemade fish sticks are a big step up from the frozen kind.
1. What type of fish to use for fish sticks
Traditionally, fish sticks are made with a flaky white fish, but for this recipe we decided to go with salmon because it’s heart-healthy and packed with flavor.
We went with Atlantic salmon fillets because they’re available year-round and work well for shallow-frying. Farmed salmon is usually labeled Atlantic salmon, whether it’s raised in Scotland, Norway, British Columbia, or another place. You can also go with wild king (aka Chinook) salmon. If you’re not sure what to get, ask your fishmonger for help.
Make sure to select skinless, center-cut salmon fillets that are ideally at least 1 inch thick (and no thinner than ¾ inch thick so they don’t fall apart). Center-cut fillets are thicker and more uniform than end pieces, and will stay moist when they’re cooked.
2. Cut salmon into strips and season
To transform your salmon fillets into salmon fish sticks, start by cutting the fish into 1- to 1 1/2-inch wide strips. This will produce thick, meaty fish sticks that both adults and kids will enjoy. Then sprinkle the salmon all over with kosher salt.
3. Prepare your breading station
The secret to crispy fish sticks is in the breading. Properly setting up your breading station will make it easier for the breadcrumbs to stick to the fish and guarantee a perfect coating. This recipe adds lemon zest in with the breadcrumbs for bright flavor, but you can also add your favorite mix-ins such as grated Parmesan cheese or herbs.
To bread the fish sticks, start with three separate shallow bowls: one for all-purpose flour, one for well-beaten large eggs, and one for the panko breadcrumb mixture. First dredge the salmon filets in flour, shaking off any excess. Next coat the salmon in the beaten eggs, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, coat the salmon in panko by gently pressing the fillets into the panko mixture, ensuring you get a nice crumb coat on all sides.
4. Fry the fish sticks
Now that you’ve breaded your fish sticks, it’s time to fry them up. This recipe uses the shallow frying method, also known as pan frying. This method is perfect for frying salmon fish sticks because you get a golden brown, crispy crust without having to use a deep fryer or air fryer.
Simply add about ½ inch of neutral vegetable oil such as canola oil to a cast-iron skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering (about 350°F), carefully place a few of the fish pieces at a time in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. (You can also check the temperature of the fish with an instant-read thermometer. It should reach 145°F.) Set the fried fish aside on a rack set in a sheet pan that you’ve lined with paper towels. Feel free to set the baking sheet in a low oven to keep warm.
5. Make a simple tartar sauce for dipping
Tartar sauce is a simple, delicious dipping sauce and the perfect accompaniment to crispy fried salmon fish sticks. All you need is mayonnaise, dill pickle relish, fresh chopped chives, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and salt and ground black pepper to taste. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, stir them together well, and set aside until ready to serve.
One thing about this tartar sauce is it’s super customizable. You can add capers, substitute the Dijon mustard for Creole, or add hot sauce. So take the ingredients and run with them — your options are endless.
Once the fish sticks are done cooking, you can give them a quick spritz of lemon juice and serve them warm with a side of the homemade tartar sauce. They would also be amazing in fish tacos.
The total time for the recipe is about 1 hour, but the cook time is fast and it's easy to pull this off.
What to serve with homemade fish sticks
Some of our favorite sides to serve with these delicious salmon fish sticks are fresh fruit, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, rice, and fresh vegetables like broccoli or green beans. The tartar sauce is generous and you’ll have enough for dunking your veggies, too.
Get the recipe
Homemade salmon fish sticks are a quick and easy recipe that the whole family will love. For the tiniest eaters, you can even cut the salmon into bite-size nuggets instead of strips.
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