This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for details.
Skip the processed “stuff” in the freezer aisle and make your own hearty and delicious homemade fish sticks! These are great for kids and adults alike, with instructions for air frying or deep frying!
Recently, I purchased the Crockpot Express Crisp, a new multi-cooker that comes with a “crisping lid” for air frying. It seems like air fryers are all the rage right now and I didn’t want to be left out of the fun. 😉 For my first air fryer meal, I decided I would give Alton Brown’s Homemade Fish Sticks recipe a try.
Don’t worry, though! If you don’t have an air fryer, these fish sticks are fabulous made the old fashioned way: deep fried! I’ll include instructions for both methods of cooking. If you’re curious about my new toy, you can read more about what comes with it and how to use it in this post: How to use the Crockpot Express Crisp.
Obviously, I didn’t make these fish fingers (they are fat little fingers, aren’t they?) exactly as his recipe states, since I wanted to convert them to an air fryer recipe using my new crisp lid. Also, I’m too cheap to use cod, so substitutions were made. (That should surprise no one.) 🙂
I’ve made homemade fish sticks quite a bit through the years. We don’t eat a lot of fish, but my boys won’t touch it if it’s fillet form. I don’t know why sticks are more fun to eat, but it might have something to do with how easy they are to dip in ketchup. Little weirdos.
One thing I’ve never thought to do, though, is to chop the fish up into small bits and then reform it into sticks! In the past I’ve just sliced fillets into strips, but the chopping/reforming method is so much better! You get the seasoning and flavor in every bite, that way, and they hold together well while cooking.
To make these homemade fish sticks, start with slightly frozen fish that’s easy to chop into small pieces. Then mix the seasonings and sauces together with the fish and shape into “fingers.” They should be about 1.5 ounces each. Mine were the right weight but a bit on the chunky/short side. 😉
Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes and then dredge in flour, egg and bread crumbs to get that delicious crunchy outside. Then either air fry or heat oil and deep fry.
Air frying is great if you’re trying to cut calories and fat content in your food. You can see, though, that the color isn’t going to be that dark golden brown you might be used to. However, the outside is wonderfully crunchy and the inside is tender and cooked perfectly.
If you’re going to air fry or use a crisp lid to cook these, simply add 6-8 sticks (depending on the size of your fish sticks) to the cooking rack then cover and set to 8 minutes on Air Fry/Crisp.
After the cycle is over, remove the lid, turn the fish sticks over and cook again for another 8 minutes. Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. They should be at least 145 degrees.
To fry the traditional way, add your cooking oil to a deep pan or pot and warm it to 350 degrees. Cook fish sticks in batches for 2-3 minutes. They’ll be golden brown and should be at least 145 degrees inside.
Drain on an inverted rack set over a paper-towel lined sheet tray. (That’s another cool trick I learned from Alton Brown.)
Homemade Fish Sticks
- 1 pound whitefish fillets cod is traditional, but I used tilapia
- 1 3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs divided
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Place the fish fillets in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm, then finely chop. (If you bought them frozen, thaw for half an hour at room temp before cutting.)
- Place fish in a bowl along with 3/4 cup of the panko, 1 egg, the mayonnaise, mustard, onion powder, and salt. Mix to combine.
- Shape the fish mixture into 1 1/2 ounce finger-shaped sticks. Set on a sheet pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Beat the remaining 2 eggs in a shallow pan or on a plate. Place the remaining cup of panko in a second pan/plate and the flour in a third.
- Roll each stick in the flour, then egg, followed by the panko and place back on pan. Use one hand for the dry ingredients and the other for the wet to keep your hands from getting messy!
For the Crockpot Express Crisp (air fryer)
- Place the cooking rack in the "high" position inside the pot. If desired, line the rack with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Place 6-8 sticks on the rack with space between them. Cover with the crisping lid. The Air Fry/Crisp setting will come on when the lid is attached. Adjust the time to 8 minutes and press Start/Stop. When the time is up, turn the sticks over and then replace the lid. Adjust the time to 8 minutes and again and press Start/Stop. When finished, remove and serve while hot.
For deep frying
- Place the oil in in a Dutch oven, or deep pan and attach the thermometer and bring to 350 degrees F over medium heat. Fry the sticks in 2 batches, for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to an inverted rack set over a paper towel-lined sheet pan until ready to serve.
Try something new and add fish to your family’s menu this week! Whether you go with the new “air fryer” version or the good old standard deep fry, you’re going to love these homemade fish sticks!
Try them with my easy homemade tartar sauce (in case your palate is more refined than my ketchup loving boys.) 😉