Fish Sticks (Crispy Oven, Air Fryer or Fried)

Mega crunchy fish sticks exploding with flavor made in the oven or air fryer!

This homemade baked fish sticks recipe is shatteringly crispy on the outside, flaky tender on the inside and packed with flavor through and through, AKA 1000X better than store-bought!  This fun, tasty, kid-friendly recipe is made with strips of cod, blanketed in crispy seasoned panko then baked or air fried to golden crispy perfection – which means you can feel good about eating them!  This fish sticks recipe makes a fun snack or an easy weeknight dinner dunked in tartar sauce, or you favorite dipping sauce alongside some mac and cheese and a salad. You can also prep the fishsticks ahead of time or freeze for later so you’re ready for whenever those crunchy cravings strike!

There’s nothing like juicy fish sticks enveloped in a crunchy coating.  Some must try crunchy recipes include: popcorn chickenbuffalo popcorn chicken, oven fried chicken, Nashville hot chickenParmesan chicken tenders and cheddar ranch chicken tenders. 

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how to make fish sticks video

up close of fish sticks with a bite taken out showing how juicy it is

FISH STICKS RECIPE

Raise your hand if you grew up excited for frozen fish sticks?  I loved those easy cheat nights when Mom brought out the bag of frozen fish sticks along with a side of ranch.  But you know what I love more?  These homemade fish sticks!  This recipe is 1000X better than the nostalgic frozen fish sticks, healthier and easy to whip up.  They’re unbelievably crispy, tender, flaky, and full of flavor.  Be prepared for your whole family to fall head-over-heels in love with these homemade fish sticks!

Why you’ll love this recipe:

These fish sticks are far better than their frozen counterparts in every sense – more flavor, more tenderness, and more nutrients. This recipe is packed with healthy lean protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acid to keep your stomachs happy and your hearts healthy which means you can indulge in them guilt free.

This fish sticks recipe is made with simple real ingredients.  All you need is cod or halibut fillets, eggs, panko, flour and seasonings.  No mystery fish here! Frozen fishsticks, on the other hand, are filled with unknown processed ingredients and preservatives to extend their shelf life, are often bland or packed with too much sodium. By making fish sticks at home, you can control exactly what goes into your body.

This fish sticks recipe is baked or air fried but still extra crunchy! That means these homemade fishsticks are full of healthy fats and a wonderful source of protein. Equally important, they are still crazy crunchy thanks to my secret tip of toasting the panko with olive oil before breading. 

This recipe is so much easier and less messy than frying.  From start to oven, the recipe takes about 35 minutes. Simply slice the fish, dredge it in flour, eggs then seasoned panko and line on a baking rack. Bake for about 20 minutes – that’s it!

Even when you’re running low on groceries, you still have everything you need to make homemade fish sticks!  Just keep some frozen cod stocked and the rest of the ingredients are everyday pantry staples.  

Fishtsticks are kid approved for the win!  This fish sticks recipe will be the highlight dish of the week for your kids, a fond memory and new family tradition.  Serve them up as a tasty dippable snack or fun family dinner.  

You’ll love that these fish sticks are make ahead and freezer friendly! This recipe can be entirely prepped in advance or frozen for an easy thaw and heat snack, lunch or dinner.  So, say goodbye to frozen fish sticks and hello to homemade fishsticks instead!

top view of crispy baked fish sticks on a platter

Recipe Ingredients

You only need a few simple ingredients to transform humble cod into everyone’s favorite fish sticks:

  • Firm white fish: Use a firm and meaty mild white fish such cod or halibut. This recipe uses 2 pounds of fish which may seem like a lot, but the crispy strips go down so easily! You can purchase the fish at the seafood counter of your grocery store or even the frozen section.  Frozen fish is packaged at peak freshness and is easy to keep stocked for whenever those fishstick cravings strike!  Just keep in mind that frozen fish retains more moisture, so you’ll need to pat the thawed fish very dry.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: Is a Japanese breadcrumb sold in every grocery store (including Walmart) usually next to the other breadcrumbs. It is the secret behind the CRUNCH in this recipe! Please do not use traditional breadcrumbs and expect the same crunchy result.
  • Cornmeal: Be sure to use a finely ground cornmeal.  This adds extra crunch and flavor to the breading. If you have all the ingredients to make this recipe except cornmeal, just skip it and increase the panko to 2 cups.
  • Flour: The fish is lightly breaded in flour first to give it a clingy surface for the eggs to bind to.  I use all-purpose flour, but I’m sure gluten free flour, almond flour, etc. would also work.
  • Eggs: Act as a sticky glue for all of the breadcrumbs to adhere to.  When the egg proteins cook and solidify, the breadcrumbs are secured onto the fish sticks.
  • Lemon juice: Is added to the egg mixture for flavor and to help tenderize the fish.
  • Dijon mustard: Adds another depth of flavor but will not make your fishsticks taste mustard-y! 
  • Seasonings: Elevate this baked fish stick recipe above the rest! Dried parsley, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, celery seed, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne infuse the fish sticks with flavor so they are stand-alone delicious without an assist from any sauce.
  • Olive oil or cooking spray:  The panko is tossed in olive oil before baking, or for an even lighter version, you can spray the panko with cooking spray. I recommend buttered flavored cooking spray if using. 
showing how to serve fish sticks by dipping a fish stick in tartar sauce

CAN I USE REGULAR BREADCRUMBS INSTEAD OF PANKO?

No, I don’t recommend using regular breadcrumbs. Panko is KEY to crispy breaded fish sticks. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and dryer than normal breadcrumbs so they absorb less moisture and become much crispier. Please do not substitute panko breadcrumbs with regular breadcrumbs or you will be missing out on the gorgeous, satisfying CRUNCH.

How to make gluten free fish sticks

This fish sticks recipe is easy to make gluten free!  Use your favorite gluten free flour such as Bob Red’s Mill Baking Flour or cassava flour.  Tapioca, or arrowroot powder can also be used in a pinch.  Use gluten free panko which should be relatively easy to find.  My favorite is Aleia’s Gluten-Free Panko made of rice and potato flour – its spectacularly crunchy! You can also use crushed plantain chips processed until they’re the texture of coarse sand.

How to make the best fish sticks in the oven

This recipe is quick and easy to throw together, and even quicker the second time around!

  • Step 1: Prep your oven and fish. Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees F to get it nice and hot. A hot oven translates to an extra crispy exterior and juicy interior. Next, top a baking sheet with an oven safe wire metal rack and don’t forget to spray it with cooking spray! Pat the cod filets dry on both sides with paper towels, then slice crosswise into ¾-inch sticks.  You’ll end up with sticks that are 2-3 inches long depending on the width of your fish fillets.
showing how to make fish sticks by slicing cod fillets into strips
  • Step 2:  Make the spice mix.  Whisk the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper together. You’ll add some to the panko bowl and some to the flour bowl – remember, every part of a recipe should be independently seasoned!
showing how to make fish sticks by mixing seasonings together in a bowl:  garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper, parsley and oregano
  • Step 3: Bake your breadcrumbs. Toss the panko with some olive oil or spray with cooking spray and spread into an even layer. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring half way through baking.
showing how to make fish sticks by toasting panko on a baking sheet in the oven until golden
  • Step 4: Make breading stations:
    • Panko: Transfer toasted panko to a wide shallow bowl and whisk in cornmeal and 1 tablespoon spice mix; set aside.
    • Eggs: Add the eggs to a shallow dish. Whisk in 1 tablespoon Dijon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. 
    • Flour: Add the flour to a separate shallow dish and whisk in the remaining Spice Mix.
a collage showing how to make fish sticks recipe by setting up breading stations:  flour and spices, eggs with lemon juice and panko breadcrumbs with cornmeal and spices
  • Step 5: Bread the fish.  Working with a few fish sticks at a time, dredge them in the flour mixture, followed by the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture.  Transfer fish sticks to the prepared wire rack.
a collage showing how to make fish sticks by dredging fish in flour, then egg, then panko then placing on a baking rack on a baking sheet
  • Step 6: Bake and serve.  Bake for about 15-20 (depending on thickness) or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with tartar sauce or your other favorite dipping sauce.
air fryer fish sticks on a platter with a fishstick dunked in tartar sauce

HOW TO cook fish sticks in the AIR FRYER

This fish sticks recipe is also delicious cooked in the air fryer, the only downside is you’ll have to work in multiple batches, so it’s a little more tedious. I prefer the oven method to initially bake the fishsticks and reserve the air fryer for warming leftovers.  To make fish sticks in the air fryer, follow the recipe through breading, then cook as follows:

  • Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  • Working in batches, place the fish sticks in a single layer in the basket without touching, don’t overcrowd.
  • Air fry for 8 minutes, flip over, then continue to cook an additional 2-4 minutes or until crispy and cooked through.  Please note air fryer models can vary so watch the first batch closely and adjust the time accordingly.
  • Repeat with remaining fish sticks.

HOW TO PAN FRY fish sticks

You can also pan fry the fish sticks but you’ll need to work in several batches. 

  • Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add fish sticks in an even layer and cook each side for 3-4 minutes or until golden, crispy and the fish is cooked through.

HOW TO deep fry fish sticks

  • Add enough vegetable or canola oil to a deep fryer or Dutch oven until it reaches about 2 inches deep, about 2 cups.
  • Heat to 375 degrees F.  
  • When oil is hot, add fish sticks in batches so they aren’t touching. 
  • Fry for a total of 6-8 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Drain on paper towels.  

PRO TIPS FOR MAKING fish sticks recipe

Breading fish sticks can turn into a big mess with gummy hands and goopy fish – which means soggy fish sticks – but it doesn’t have to!  Here are some tips for easy breading and to help promote the crispiest baked fish sticks:      

  • Slice your fish as uniformly as possible. The lengths will vary due to the narrowing and widening of the fish, but slicing the sticks the same width will help them cook evenly.
  • Dry your fish as much as dry as possible.  The drier the fish, the better the coating will stick and the crispier the fish sticks will be.  It’s best to let the sliced fish drain on paper towels for 20 minutes or so, this will also help bring it to room temperature which promotes even cooking. Take extra caution when using frozen fish because there will be a lot of excess moisture – gently squeeze with paper towels several times and let drain.
  • Dab off excess egg. You don’t want extra egg clinging to the fish as it dives into the breading because it will cause gooey pockets instead of a thin binding layer. A thin layer is enough to glue the breading to the fish without making it soggy.  So, take care to dab the fish with a wad of paper towels to remove excess eggs before adding to the breading.
  • Use panko AND cornmeal for the crispiest fish sticks.  Don’t use traditional breadcrumbs as they will not give you the satisfying crunch you’re looking for. 
  • Toss the panko in olive oil for the best flavor. Both tossing the panko in olive oil and spraying the panko with cooking spray will deliver crunchy panko. As far as the flavor, however, I definitely prefer olive oil.  It gives the panko a richer, more satisfying mouthfeel that tastes more like the fishsticks have been fried – just with healthier fat – and a lot less of it!  
  • Toast the panko breadcrumbs for CRUNCH!  The shatteringly crispy exterior comes from first toasting the panko in the oven for just a few minutes until golden before tossing it with seasonings. If you don’t toast the panko first separately, it will never get as crunchy because it’s clinging to the moist batter of the fish and doesn’t have that extra layer of insulation.  Best of all, toasting the panko is all hands off!
  • Toast the panko until deeply golden but don’t burn! The panko won’t get much darker than its initial toast, so feel free to toast it longer than the 5 minutes, just make sure to watch it closely and stir often because it can go from golden to burnt in seconds!
  • Space fish apart when adding to the panko.  When you transfer the fish to the panko, don’t just plop it down in one massive lump or the panko will get all gooey and grimy as you try and break up the fish while coating. Instead, transfer the fish sticks to the panko so they’re not touching each other.  The breathing room allows each side of the fish to be evenly coated in panko and for the panko to stay clean and crispy.
  • Keep one hand clean to avoid a gummy mess. Use one hand to transfer the fish from the eggs to the breading and the other hand to bread the fish in the panko.  
  • Make that panko stick. Firmly push the breading into the fish to to ensure it’s secure on all sides.
  • Bake the fishsticks on a wire rack   Elevating the fish sticks on a baking rack allows the hot air to circulate around all sides of the fish, crisping up the bottom as well as the top. If you don’t have wire rack, then lightly grease foil and place in the oven to get nice and hot while you prep the fish sticks.  Take care when adding your fish because your pan will be HOT!
  • Leave a decent space between your fish sticks on the baking rack while cooking.  Overcrowding the pan will cause steam and make your breading soggy.  When nicely spaced, the hot oven air can circulate evenly around the fish so it can get nice and crispy.
  • The juiciest, most tender fish sticks will not be overcooked.  Check your fish sticks for doneness at the early end of the baking window by breaking it in half and only bake on if needed.
  • Resist the urge to stack the baked fish sticks or they won’t be as crispy.  I know I didn’t follow my own advice in the photos, but if you stack the fishsticks, they will steam and you will lose that crispy coveted exterior.  It is best to serve the fish sticks lined in a single layer with a little breathing room in between each piece.
up close of air fryer or baked fish sticks showing how crispy they are

RECIPE VARIATIONS

This fish sticks recipe is a fabulous springboard for all sorts of variations. Here are just a few:

  • Seasonings: Mix up the flavor profile by swapping the seasonings for any of your favorite blends such as Old Bay, Cajun, jerk, bacon chipotle, dill pickle, ranch, Montreal chicken, smokehouse maple, etc.
  • Swap the panko:  Try crushed corn flakes, potato chips, or any numbered of flavored potato chips like barbecue, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, jalapeno, crushed pepper, cheddar, etc.  When using potato chips, make sure to decrease the salt in the recipe otherwise your fish sticks will be way too salty!
  • Add cheese:  Add ⅓ cup finely, freshly grated Parmesan to the panko for a nutty, salty flair. Again, reduce the salt if using.  Parmesan would also be tasty combined with Italian spiced panko.
  • Use ranch or mayo: Instead of eggs, coat the fish sticks in ranch or mayonnaise before coating in the panko.
  • Add citrus: Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the eggs for a pop of citrus.
  • Make them spicy: Add up to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper to really taste the heat!
  • Serve with sauces:  The easiest way to make these fish sticks taste brand new every time is to switch up the dipping sauce. See all sorts of dipping sauce ideas below.
  • Egg-free: Use melted butter, olive oil or avocado oil in place of the eggs.

What sauce goes well with fish sticks?

These fish sticks are exceptional on their own but practically hypnotic when dunked in dip, especially tartar sauce.  Tartar sauce is luxuriously creamy, tangy, and herbaceous laced with salty briny notes.  It expertly cuts through the richness of the crusted fish sticks while enhancing their natural fish flavor.  Its smooth creaminess also compliments the crunchy, crispy texture. 

The best part is, tartar sauce only takes 5 minutes to whip up with pantry friendly ingredients of mayonnaise, pickles, capers, lemon juice, and herbs.  Check out my quick and easy recipe here.

In addition to tartar sauce, fish sticks are tasty dipped in:

Here is how to make a couple of our favs:

RANCH DIP

Ranch Dip is creamy, tangy with an herbaceous bite. To make, whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried dill, dried chives, garlic powder
  • ½ tsp EACH salt, pepper

Sriracha aioli

This spicy dip is showed in the photos and is so easy and so delicious! Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise (or half sour cream/Greek yogurt) with 1-2 tablespoons sriracha (more or less to taste) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

showing what to serve with tartar sauce with an up close of a spoon in tartar sauce

CAN I PREP THIS RECIPE IN ADVANCE?

Yes! You can prepare the individual components of this fish sticks recipe ahead of time or assemble them ahead of time (pre-assembled won’t be quite as crispy). 

  • Fish: Slice, pat dry, line on paper towels, cover and refrigerate. Let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before breading.
  • Panko coating: Toast the panko breadcrumbs, mix together with the spices and cornmeal. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. 
  • Bread fish sticks:  Batter and bread the fish sticks and spread on greased baking rack.  Cover with foil and refrigerate.  Uncover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking. Note this method will produce ever so slightly less crispy baked fish sticks.
  • Entire recipe: Make the recipe through baking, cool, then reheat in the oven or air fryer or freeze for up to 3 months. See instructions below. 

HOW TO STORE

This fish stick recipe should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for 3 to 5 days. For best results, don’t stack your fish sticks directly on top of each other as this will make them soggy.  Instead, place a piece of parchment paper in between the layers. 

HOW TO REHEAT homemade fish sticks

The fish sticks soften a bit upon refrigeration so I suggest reheating them in the oven or air fryer to revive the crispy texture. The microwave will warm them but won’t improve the texture. To reheat:

  • Microwave:  Transfer fish sticks to a microwave safe plate in an even layer. Microwave for 45 seconds, then in additional increments of 15 seconds as needed.
  • Air fryer: Place fish sticks in a single layer in the basket without touching, air fry using the “snack” setting for 4-6 minutes, until warmed through.
  • Oven: Spread fish sticks on a lightly greased baking rack set in a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes, or until heated through.

HOW TO FREEZE fish sticks

These homemade baked fish sticks freeze like a champ!  You can freeze them before or after baking. If they have been baked, allow to cool completely before freezing. To freeze:

  1. Space fish sticks apart on a baking sheet then transfer baking sheet to the freezer. Freeze for 1-2 hours or until the fish is solid. This prevents them from clumping together.
  2. Add fish sticks to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air, and label.
  3. Freeze for up to 3 months. 
  4. Cooking from frozen:  Bake at 450 degrees for 21-28 minutes or until cooked through.
  5. How to reheat cooked fish sticks from frozen: Bake at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

WHAT is a good side for fish sticks?

This baked fish sticks recipe can be served as a snack or add some sides for a dinner everyone will love it!  Here are a few tasty side options:  

Commonly Asked Questions

What are fish sticks?

Fishsticks, called fish fingers in the United Kingdom, are sticks of firm white fish, usually cod, that are battered and coated in breadcrumbs often eat with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce or ketchup. Fish sticks were invented in the 1950s as a frozen food convenience item and immediately became popular in the United States and England as an easy-to-prepare finger food for kids. Today, frozen fishsticks are still popular, as are homemade fish sticks made in the oven or air fryer.

What type of fish is used for fish sticks?

The fish used to make fish sticks varies, but they’re almost always made with a firm and meaty white fish. This recipe uses cod filets but you can use other mild, firm and textured fish like tilapia, halibut or haddock.

Are fish sticks good for you?

By making homemade fish sticks, you get to enjoy the healthy perks of eating wholesome fish without the deep frying. Fish sticks are an excellent source of protein and highly nutritious. Cod, in particular, is a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is also low in calories and contains very small amounts of fat.  To keep these fish sticks healthy, they are baked or air fried, making them a much healthier alternative to their premade and frozen counterparts, which are processed, full of sodium, and often deep-fried. 

Are homemade fish sticks made of real fish?

Yes, nearly all frozen fish sticks are made from Alaska pollock, a white, meaty fish that’s similar to cod; the same fish used to make imitation crab. These homemade fish sticks are 100% real fish made from cod fillets.

What sauce goes well with fish sticks?

One of the most popular options for dipping sauces when it comes to fish sticks is tartar sauce. If you’re searching for a sauce to elevate your homemade fish sticks to the next level of flavor, try my Homemade Tartar Sauce! It’s rich, creamy, tangy, and (the best part) it takes only 5 minutes to make. 

Are fish sticks bland?

Not these fishsticks! These homemade crispy fish sticks are bursting with flavor thanks to a flavorful spice mix of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper that seasons both the flour and the panko coating. However, many times store-bought fish sticks are pretty bland – that’s why I love this recipe!

Are frozen fish sticks a processed food?

Homemade fish sticks are not processed at all – they are brimming with good-for-you protein and nutrients. However, almost all store-bought fish sticks contain processed and artificial ingredients (to help extend the shelf life) and are more often than not fried in fats that are not healthy for you. 

Are fish fingers good for diabetics?

Fish fingers are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 for heart health, and vitamin D. However, they are breaded in a flour/breadcrumb coating which contains carbohydrates, so diabetics will need to watch their intake.

Are fish sticks fried?

Most fish sticks you order at restaurants are deep fried. Frozen fish sticks are fried as well: after the fish sticks are battered and breaded, they are passed through a hot vegetable oil bath for about one minute to seal the coating which allows the fish sticks to be reheated home. This fish sticks recipe is baked and not fried, which makes them a healthier choice, and you will love how crispy they get!

Is baked breaded fish good for you?

Baked breaded fish is full of healthy protein and nutrients, as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Baked fish is far healthier for you than salted, dried, or fried fish. 

Who invented Fish Sticks?  A brief history:

Today, many take fish sticks for granted, in all their crunchy, convenient glory, but their inception was decades in the making.  It began in in the late 1920s, when Clarence Birdseye invented a way to freeze foods by placing it in between two metal plates at -13 degrees F against a low convection tunnel.  

When Birdseye tried freezing fish fillets, however, they froze into a solid slab that tore into unappetizing chunks when pried apart to use.  Undeterred, these fish slabs were sold as “fishbricks,” with unsurprisingly limited success.   

Success came decades later in the 1950s, after a three-year period devoted to the invention of turning “fishbricks” into fish sticks at Bird’s Eye’s seafood laboratories in Boston.  The frozen blocks of fish were cut into slices, covered in a batter of egg, flour, salt, and spices, and then coated in breadcrumbs.  Next, they were fried to set the coating.

Finally, on October 2, 1953 General Mills introduced these perfected fish sticks to America under the Bird’s Eye label with immediate success.  A newspaper article even claimed fish sticks as “the most outstanding event” in seafood since the early 1930s.  One year later, in 1954, 68 companies in America were producing fish sticks! 

Today, fish sticks are a staple in many people’s diets around the world from America, to England, to Germany – people can’t get enough of them!  And now, you can make them even healthier at home!

a bite take out of fishstick showing how crispy, juicy and flaky it is

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showing how to serve fish sticks by dipping a fish stick in tartar sauce

Homemade Fish Sticks

This homemade baked fish sticks recipe is perfectly crispy on the outside, flaky tender on the inside and packed with flavor through and through, AKA 1000X better than store-bought!  This fun, tasty, kid-friendly recipe is made with strips of cod, blanketed in crispy seasoned panko then baked or air fried to golden crispy perfection – which means you can feel good about eating them!  This fish sticks recipe makes a fun snack or an easy weeknight dinner dunked in tartar sauce, or you favorite dipping sauce alongside some mac and cheese and a salad. You can also prep the fishsticks ahead of time or freeze for later so you’re ready for whenever those crunchy cravings strike!
Servings: 24 -28 fish sticks
Prep Time: 35 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

BREADING

  • 1 3/4 cups plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fine cornmeal (may sub panko)
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 pounds cod fillets, or other mild, firm textured fish

SPICE MIX

  • 1 1/4 tsp EACH paprika, salt
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, celery seed (celery is optional)
  • pinch-¼ teaspoon cayenne

For serving (Pick your fav!)

Instructions

TOAST PANKO

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Whisk the Spice Mix seasonings together; set aside.
  • Add panko to a large baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup olive oil until evenly moistened. Spread panko into an even layer. (See notes for cooking spray option). Bake at 450 degrees F for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden, stirring half way through cooking. Keep an eye on the panko the last few minutes so it doesn’t burn.

BREADING STATIONS

  • Transfer the toasted panko to a wide shallow bowl and whisk in cornmeal and 1 tablespoon Spice Mix; set aside.
  • Add eggs to a separate shallow dish. Whisk in 1 tablespoon Dijon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside.
  • Add the flour to a separate shallow dish and whisk in the remaining Spice Mix.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup then top with an oven safe wire metal rack. Spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray

BREAD FISH

  • (Use one hand for dredging the fish in the flour and panko and one hand for the egg.) Working with a few fish sticks at a time, dredge them in flour mixture, followed by the egg mixture, letting excess drip off, followed by the panko mixture. Press the panko into the fish sticks so it adheres. Transfer fish sticks to the prepared baking rack, spacing about 1-inch apart.

BAKE

  • Bake for 15-20 (depending on thickness) or until the fish is cooked through (check early and don't overbake).
  • Serve immediately with tartar sauce or other favorite dipping sauce.

Video

Notes

  • Panko breadcrumbs:  Panko is KEY to crispy breaded fish sticks. Panko is sold in every grocery store (including Walmart) usually next to the other breadcrumbs. It is the secret behind the CRUNCH in this recipe! Please do not use traditional breadcrumbs and expect the same crunchy result.
  • Gluten free: Use your favorite gluten free flour such as Bob Red’s Mill Baking Flour or cassava flour.  My favorite gluten free panko is Aleia’s Gluten-Free Panko made of rice and potato flour – its spectacularly crunchy!
  • Dry your fish as much as dry as possible:  The drier the fish, the better the coating will stick and the crispier the fish sticks will be.  It’s best to let the sliced fish drain on paper towels for 20 minutes or so, this will also help bring it to room temperature which promotes even cooking. Take extra caution when using frozen fish because there will be a lot of excess moisture – gently squeeze with paper towels several times and let drain. 
  • Toss the panko in olive oil for the best flavor:  Both tossing the panko in olive oil and spraying the panko with cooking spray will deliver crunchy panko. As far as the flavor, however, I definitely prefer olive oil.  It gives the panko a richer, more satisfying mouthfeel that tastes more like the fishsticks have been fried – just with healthier fat – and a lot less of it!  
  • If you don’t have a wire rack:   If you don’t have wire rack, then lightly grease foil and place in the oven to get nice and hot while you prep the fish sticks.  Take care when adding your fish because your pan will be HOT!
  • Sriracha aioli:  Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise (or half sour cream/Greek yogurt) with 1-2 tablespoons sriracha (taste as you go) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

AIR FRYER FISH STICKS

This fish sticks recipe is also delicious cooked in the air fryer, the only downside is you’ll have to work in multiple batches, so it’s a little more tedious. I prefer the oven method to initially bake the fishsticks and reserve the air fryer for warming leftovers.  To make fish sticks in the air fryer, follow the recipe through breading (including toasting the panko), then cook as follows:
  • Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  • Working in batches, place the fish sticks in a single layer in the basket without touching, don’t overcrowd.
  • Air fry for 8 minutes, flip over, then continue to cook an additional 2-4 minutes or until crispy and cooked through.  Please note air fryer models can vary so watch the first batch closely and adjust the time accordingly.
  • Repeat with remaining fish sticks.

DEEP FRYER FISH STICKS

  • Add enough vegetable or canola oil to a deep fryer or Dutch oven until it reaches about 2 inches deep, about 2 cups and heat to 375 degrees F.  
  • When oil is hot, add fish sticks in batches so they aren’t touching. 
  • Fry for a total of 6-8 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Drain on paper towels.  

HOW TO STORE

This fish stick recipe should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for 3 to 5 days. For best results, don’t stack your fish sticks directly on top of each other as this will make them soggy.  Instead, place a piece of parchment paper in between the layers. 

HOW TO REHEAT

The fish sticks soften a bit upon refrigeration so I suggest reheating them in the oven or air fryer to revive the crispy texture. The microwave will warm them but won’t improve the texture. To reheat:
  • Microwave:  Transfer fish sticks to a microwave safe plate in an even layer. Microwave for 45 seconds, then in additional increments of 15 seconds as needed.
  • Air fryer: Place fish sticks in a single layer in the basket without touching, air fry using the “snack” setting for 4-6 minutes, until warmed through.
  • Oven: Spread fish sticks on a lightly greased baking rack set in a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes, or until heated through.

HOW TO FREEZE fish sticks

These homemade baked fish sticks freeze like a champ!  You can freeze them before or after baking. If they have been baked, allow to cool completely before freezing. To freeze:
  1. Space fish sticks apart on a baking sheet then transfer baking sheet to the freezer. Freeze for 1-2 hours or until the fish is solid. This prevents them from clumping together.
  2. Add fish sticks to a freezer size bag, squeeze out excess air, and label.  Freeze for up to 3 months. 
  3. Cooking from frozen:  Bake at 450 degrees for 21-28 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. How to reheat cooked fish sticks from frozen: Bake at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

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2 Comments

  1. Nikki says

    We really enjoyed this recipe. My husband and I were talking about how long it had been since we had eaten fish sticks and your recipe came up the next week. We made them in the air fryer and will try the oven method next time. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Nikki, I’m so pleased this recipe was a hit! The timing is too funny, meant to be!

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