Fish Sticks

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Get ready to indulge in a sophisticated take on a childhood favorite with this recipe for homemade Fish Sticks! Made with fresh cod, a blend of savory spices, and coated in crispy Panko breadcrumbs, these fish sticks are not only delicious, but also a healthier and more upscale alternative to the frozen, boxed versions.

Overhead image of the homemade fish sticks

Homemade Fish Sticks

Remember those fish sticks you used to love as a kid? The ones that came frozen in a box and were a go-to meal for busy parents? Well, get ready to meet the grown-up version of that childhood favorite. This recipe for homemade fish sticks is a sophisticated twist on a classic comfort food.

Using fresh cod and a mix of savory spices, Parmesan cheese, and Panko breadcrumbs, these fish sticks are a far cry from the bland, processed fish sticks of your youth. 

The result is a dish that’s both nostalgic and upscale, perfect for impressing dinner guests or simply treating yourself to a delicious and wholesome meal. You’re going to love this elevated version that’s sure to become a new favorite!

Process shots-- images of the garlic being sautéed in oil, then the Panko, salt, and thyme

Fish Stick Breading

Panko breadcrumbs are the perfect choice for this recipe because of their light, airy texture and unparalleled crispiness. Unlike traditional breadcrumbs, which can be dense and heavy, Panko breadcrumbs are made from bread that has been processed into airy, flaky flakes that coat the fish evenly and create a delicious crunch when baked in the oven.

Finding Panko breadcrumbs in the grocery store is easy – they are widely available in most supermarkets, often in the same aisle as other breadcrumbs and baking supplies. If you can’t find them in the regular aisle, check the international or Asian section of the store.

QUICK TIP

Want to know the secret to achieving ultra-crispy fish sticks without frying? The trick is to brown the Panko in a skillet before breading the fish. This not only enhances the flavor but also prevents the breading from becoming soft or soggy. By taking this extra step, you can ensure that your fish is perfectly crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. No deep frying required!

Process shots-- images of parmesan cheese being added to the panko mix and the batter being mixed together

Fish Stick Batter

The batter for these fish sticks adds loads of flavor taking this recipe to the next level. Made with a blend of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, it adds a tangy, creamy flavor that perfectly complements the savory spices and crispy Panko breadcrumbs. The batter also helps to lock in the moisture of the fish, keeping it tender and juicy.

  • We recommend using Hellman’s/Best Foods® mayo as it has a robust flavor without being too sweet.
  • Use Dijon mustard as it has a distinct flavor that’s different from yellow mustard. Grey Poupon® Dijon is our favorite.

Process shots of homemade fish sticks-- images of the cod being cut into strips and then dipped in flour and then dredged in the batter

How To Make Fish Sticks (Tips)

  • Use fresh cod or completely thaw if frozen: If not using fresh cod, make sure it’s completely thawed before you begin. Dab it dry with paper towel which will ensure crispy (not soggy) fish sticks.
  • Brown the Panko for extra crunch: Browning the Panko in a skillet with garlic and thyme adds extra flavor and texture to the breading. Be sure to let the mixture cool before you stir in the Parmesan cheese, as the cheese can melt and clump if the mixture is too hot.
  • Cut the fish into uniform strips: To ensure even cooking and consistent texture, try to cut the fish into uniform strips that are about 3/4 inch by 4-1/2 inches.
  • Bake on a wire rack: Baking the fish sticks on a wire rack set over a baking sheet will help to ensure that the breading stays crispy and doesn’t get soggy. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the wire rack or tray: Make sure you leave enough space between the sticks so that they can cook evenly and get crispy on all sides. Overcrowding the rack can lead to soggy breading and uneven cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer: To ensure that the fish is fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The fish should be cooked to 145°F (63°C) to be safe to eat.
  • Serve hot with lemon wedges and tartar sauce: For the best experience, serve the fish sticks hot, straight from the oven. Squeeze a little lemon over the top and serve with a dollop of tartar sauce for added flavor.

Overhead image of the cod being coated in the panko mixture

What To Serve With Fish Sticks

Lemon and tartar sauce are classic accompaniments and can help to enhance the flavor of the dish. Here are some additional side dishes that would go well with fish sticks and these sauces:

  • French Fries: A classic side dish! If we aren’t doing fries, we love serving these potato wedges or roasted potatoes on the side.
  • Coleslaw: A light and refreshing coleslaw can help balance out the richness of the fish.
  • Sweet Potato Fries: Or try these favorite roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Green Salad: A fresh green garden salad with a simple vinaigrette is a great way to add some veggies to your meal while also providing a refreshing contrast to the fish.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Pretty much any roasted veggie pairs nicely; we love this roasted broccoli or these roasted Brussels sprouts best.
  • Couscous Pilaf: This couscous is a flavorful side dish that pairs nicely.

Overhead image of the homemade fish sticks on a plate ready to be enjoyed

How To Air Fry Fish Sticks

Air frying fish sticks is a great way to get that crispy exterior without having to deep fry them. Here’s how::

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C).
  • Place the fish sticks in the air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure they are not touching each other. Spray generously with cooking spray.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the cooking time. Check for doneness by cutting into a fish stick to ensure that the fish is fully cooked through or using a meat thermometer.

QUICK TIP

Cooking times may vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish sticks and the air fryer you are using, so be sure to check them regularly to avoid overcooking. New to air frying? Check out our Air Fryer Guide.

Image of a fork full being taken out of the baked cod

STORAGE

Storing, Reheating, Freezing, & Thawing

Storing, reheating, freezing, and thawing fish sticks properly will help maintain their flavor, texture, and safety. Here are some tips:

  • Storing: Cooked fish sticks are best right out of the oven. That said, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days with some loss of texture.
  • Reheating: To reheat, place them on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through and crispy. You can also reheat them in an air fryer or toaster oven. Avoid microwaving, as it can make the breading soggy.
  • Freezing: These are best frozen before cooking. To do so: place the breaded sticks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid. Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag and store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag.
  • Thawing: To thaw frozen fish sticks, remove them from the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, cook as directed in the recipe. You may need to add a couple more minutes to the bake time.

Overhead image of the homemade fish sticks with sauce on top

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Fish Sticks

5 from 3 votes
Get ready to indulge in a sophisticated take on a childhood favorite with this recipe for homemade Fish Sticks! Made with fresh cod, a blend of savory spices, and coated in crispy Panko breadcrumbs, these fish sticks are not only delicious, but also a healthier and more upscale alternative to the frozen, boxed versions.
Print Recipe

Fish Sticks

5 from 3 votes
Get ready to indulge in a sophisticated take on a childhood favorite with this recipe for homemade Fish Sticks! Made with fresh cod, a blend of savory spices, and coated in crispy Panko breadcrumbs, these fish sticks are not only delicious, but also a healthier and more upscale alternative to the frozen, boxed versions.
Course Appetizer, Dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Fish Sticks
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes
Servings 3 -4 servings (~14 fish sticks)
Chelsea Lords
Calories 412kcal
Cost $14.89

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cod (Note 1)
  • Cooking spray

Breading

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs (Note 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Note 3)
  • 1/2 cup white flour

Batter

  • 2 tablespoons each: dijon mustard & mayo
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • For serving: fresh lemon wedges & tartar sauce (Note 4)

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat your oven to 425°F. Optional: place a large cooling rack atop a sheet pan. Generously grease cooling rack with cooking spray.
  • BREADING: Start with the breading mixture. Add 3 tbsp oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté for 15 seconds. Then add Panko, dried thyme, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir until the Panko is golden-brown, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately dump into a large shallow bowl. Once completely cooled, stir through Parmesan cheese. Add flour to another bowl.
  • BATTER: Whisk all the batter ingredients together in a small bowl. Season to taste; I add 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper.
  • FISH: Cut the cod into strips that are 3/4 inch by 4-1/2 inches. (Aim to keep the strips as even in size as possible). Pat dry with paper towel.
  • COAT FISH: Being gentle, dredge each piece in flour. Be generous you should use up most of the flour. Then dredge each piece is the batter mixture. Finally dredge each piece in the toasted Panko using your hands to gently press crumbs to adhere. (All 3 of the mixtures should pretty much be all used up.) Place fish sticks on prepared baking sheet (or wire cooling rack) giving each fish plenty of space (don't over-crowd!). Generously spray fish sticks with cooking spray.
  • BAKE: Bake the fish sticks in the preheated oven for 9-13 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. While the fish is cooking, we like to make the tartar sauce (see Note 4).
  • ENJOY: Serve fish sticks hot out of the oven with fresh lemon wedges and lots of tartar sauce!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Cod: For the best results, we recommend using cod in this recipe. If using frozen cod, make sure it is fully thawed by following the package directions, and be sure to thoroughly dry the fish using a paper towel before using in this recipe. (Wet fish=soggy fish sticks!)
Note 2: Panko: This is a type of breadcrumb that creates a crispy, crunchy coating. Panko can be found in most grocery stores typically near regular breadcrumbs.
Note 3: Parmesan cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of a box grater for an accurate measurement here!
Note 4: Tartar sauce: When it comes to serving these fish sticks, tartar sauce is a must in my opinion. You can prepare the sauce ahead of time (the flavor only intensifies and improves with time). Here's our favorite homemade tartar sauce (dill can be left out for a quicker prep time):
  • Stir everything together in a small bowl until smooth: 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup real mayo (Best Foods), 1-1/2 tbsp sweet pickle relish, 1 tbsp finely chopped dill, 1/2 tsp dijon, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire, 1/8 tsp each: salt & pepper
Note 5: Air Fryer Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C). Place the fish sticks in the air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure they are not touching each other. Generously spray with cooking spray. Cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the cooking time. Check for doneness by cutting into a fish stick to ensure that the fish is fully cooked through.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 412kcal | Carbohydrates: 32.9g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 16.7g | Cholesterol: 149.9mg | Sodium: 666.1mg | Fiber: 2.1g | Sugar: 2g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I had to try these and see if it made a big difference to home make them versus buy frozen ones and WOW! Even my kids noticed a huge difference! We are never going back!

  2. 5 stars
    Another winner!!! So I’m not a big fish eater but wanted to try this as Gordon Fisherman’s wasn’t going to happen again. So I picked up a bag of Cosco’s Frozen Atlantic Cod and made this recipe. Yup, absolutely no comparison, big BIG difference in taste. My husband and I totally enjoyed the fish sticks!

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