Can You Make Fish Sticks in an Air Fryer?
Absolutely! Creating delicious fish sticks in an air fryer is easier than you might expect. This air fryer recipe for fish sticks takes less than 15 minutes to cook, making it the perfect option for a fast and nutritious weeknight dinner. Unlike store-bought frozen fish sticks, which often contain unwanted additives and a lengthy ingredient list, these homemade air fryer fish sticks are both healthy and flavorful.
The Kid-Friendly Appeal of Fish Sticks
When you think of “kid food,” what comes to mind? For many, it’s classics like mac and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, and, of course, fish sticks. Fish sticks have a unique place among seafood options because kids simply love them (well, most of the time!).
Increasing Seafood Intake with Breading
Many of us fall short in terms of consuming enough seafood, according to current dietary recommendations. If breading fish and serving it with a dip can help increase your seafood intake, why not give it a try? These air fryer fish sticks are based on a beloved breaded and baked fish recipe from an Amish cookbook I found in Lancaster County, PA. Over the years, I’ve made this breaded fish recipe countless times, appreciating its cornmeal and flour crust that stays crispy every time.
A Perfect Match: Air Frying and Fish Sticks
Given my recent obsession with air fryer recipes, I started to wonder… Could my favorite breaded fish fillets work just as well as crispy fish sticks? And could I avoid heating up the house by using the air fryer instead of the oven? I’m pleased to report that the answer to both questions is a resounding YES. In my humble opinion, these are the absolute best frozen fish sticks for air frying.
Nutritional Information: Calories, Net Carbs, and Protein
Each serving of these air fryer fish sticks provides approximately 470 calories, 11.9 grams of net carbs, and 29.8 grams of protein. Please note that these nutrition facts include the fish sticks and homemade tartar sauce but exclude any side dishes.
The Benefits of Homemade Fish Sticks
You may wonder why you should bother making your own fish sticks when it’s so convenient to grab a box of store-bought options. While there’s certainly a time and place for convenience, taking a little extra time to make your own fish sticks is well worth it. Here are some of the benefits of these homemade air fried fish sticks:
- Crispy Without Deep Frying: No one likes soggy fish sticks, right? Air frying ensures that your breaded fish sticks come out deliciously crispy with far less added oil compared to deep frying.
- Not Ultra-Processed: Most store-bought frozen fish sticks fall into the category of ultra-processed foods. If you’re striving to eat more whole, unprocessed foods as part of a healthier diet, making your own fish sticks is the way to go.
- No Refined Grains: These air fryer fish sticks are completely free of refined grains. Many store-bought options use white flour, which is essentially refined wheat flour unless otherwise specified as whole wheat.
- No Added Sugar: Store-bought fish sticks often contain unnecessary added sugar. When you make them at home, you have control over the ingredients and can skip the added sugar.
- Allergy-Friendly Options: By making your own fish sticks, you can tailor the recipe to accommodate various dietary restrictions. You can create fish sticks without eggs, wheat, milk, and more. It can be challenging to find store-bought fish sticks that align with specific dietary needs.
- Delicious and Comforting: There’s something incredibly satisfying about a homecooked meal. These homemade fish sticks feature big, flaky pieces of delicious fish and are even tastier than any store-bought alternative I’ve tried.
Ingredients for Air Fryer Fish Sticks
Here’s a list of ingredients you’ll need to make fish sticks in an air fryer:
- Cod fillets
- Coarse cornmeal
- Spelt flour (substitute whole wheat flour or another type of flour)
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Dried basil
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Black pepper
- 2% Milk
- Melted butter
- Cooking oil spray
To serve, I recommend lemon wedges and a homemade 2-ingredient tartar sauce made with mayonnaise and finely chopped dill pickles. Additionally, consider adding some veggies as side dishes. I’ll share an easy marinated salad recipe below!
Essential Equipment for Cooking Fish Sticks in an Air Fryer
To prepare fish sticks in an air fryer, you’ll need a good knife, an air fryer, and a meat thermometer. I typically use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven, but you can use other models like the Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Philips, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Power Air Fryer, etc. Keep in mind that different air fryers may have slight variations in cooking time, so feel free to adjust accordingly. Additionally, note that cutting your fish into different sizes may also affect cooking time.
How to Cook Fish Sticks in an Air Fryer
Are you ready to start air frying fish sticks? Let’s get cooking!
If using frozen and thawed fish, make sure to pat it dry before breading. This step can help the breading adhere better to the fish.
Mist your air fryer tray or basket with cooking oil spray. For this recipe, I only needed one air fryer tray.
Cut your cod fillets into 12 even pieces. I usually start with 3 fillets and cut each width-wise into 4 sticks. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cornmeal, spelt flour, Parmesan, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Place the milk in a separate bowl.
To bread the fish sticks, dip them first in the milk and then in the cornmeal mixture. Arrange the breaded fish sticks in a single layer on the air fryer tray without touching.
I’m providing precise measurements for the breading to ensure adequate coverage for 12 fish sticks. If you have 1 lb. (3 fillets) of cod and cut each fillet into 4 sticks, the breading amount should be sufficient. However, feel free to adjust accordingly if you’re working with different quantities or sizes of fish.
Drizzle melted butter over the fish sticks and they’re ready to go in the air fryer!
Cooking Time and Temperature
To cook fish sticks in an air fryer, set the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for a total of 14 minutes.
Place the tray with the fish sticks on the top rack of your air fryer oven. Air fry for 7 minutes at 400F. Then carefully flip the fish sticks, return the tray to the top rack, and air fry for an additional 7 minutes at 400F.
While the fish sticks are cooking, combine mayonnaise and chopped pickles to make tartar sauce. You can also prepare any side dishes you plan to serve alongside the fish sticks.
I’ve included a video below to showcase just how quickly and easily this air fryer fish stick recipe comes together. However, please note that it might be safer to use a spatula instead of your fingers to flip the fish sticks. I used my fingers in the video because the fish sticks had sufficiently cooled down. However, if you’ve just removed them from the air fryer, handling them with your fingers may risk burns. Alternatively, if you don’t have an air fryer, you can broil the fish for 5-8 minutes in the oven. Though the fish sticks may be slightly less sturdy with the oven method, they’ll still taste fantastic.
Regardless of your chosen cooking method, it’s crucial to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the fish reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, cook them a few minutes longer to reach this safe temperature.
Serve the fish sticks with a squeeze of lemon juice and tartar sauce or your preferred dipping sauce. Enjoy!
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover fish sticks can be refrigerated and stored for 1-2 days. You can reheat them in the air fryer using the directions provided in the FAQs section below. While fish sticks technically remain safe for consumption for 3-4 days when refrigerated, please note that the crispy breading may lose its texture over time. For optimal results, it’s best to prepare only the amount of fish sticks that your family will eat.
Dipping Sauces for Fish Sticks
Looking for delicious dipping sauces to pair with your fish sticks? Here are some fantastic options:
- Tartar Sauce
- Cocktail Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- Buffalo Sauce
- Sweet Chili Sauce
- Sriracha Mayo
You can also sprinkle your fish sticks with some Old Bay seasoning for an extra kick of flavor!
Ideal Fish Choices for Fish Sticks
White fishes, such as cod, work wonderfully for fish sticks. In this air fryer fish sticks recipe, I use cod. Other excellent options for making fish sticks include tilapia, haddock, and pollock. If your fish fillets are thinner or thicker than the ones I used, please adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
Before we conclude, here are a few expert tips to consider:
- Recipe Level: This recipe is classified as a level 3 recipe, suitable for weight maintenance and active lifestyles. If your goal is fat loss, I generally recommend avoiding breaded foods, even when air frying. Choosing to enjoy fish with fresh herbs and a splash of citrus, rather than breading, can significantly reduce calorie intake. If you’re in search of lighter options, I suggest steaming cod instead.
- Butter Drizzle: I understand that if you’re here for weight loss recipes, you might be tempted to skip the butter drizzle. While I’ve reduced the amount of butter compared to the original breaded fish recipe, I believe a small amount is necessary for flavor and to help the breading adhere to the fish. If you choose to eliminate butter entirely, please be aware that it may impact the final result.
Q: Can I make fish sticks using frozen ones in the air fryer?
A: Absolutely, you can air fry frozen fish sticks by following the instructions on the packaging. However, in this recipe, we’re using fresh cod fillets and breading them ourselves for a healthier and more delicious alternative.
Q: How do I reheat the leftover fish sticks?
A: To reheat the leftover fish sticks, simply place them back in the air fryer at 400F for a few minutes until heated through. Alternatively, you can heat them in a conventional oven or microwave.
Q: Are there any other air fryer fish recipes I can try?
A: Certainly! Here are a few more air fryer fish recipes you might enjoy:
- Air Fryer Tilapia with Garlic-Chive Miso Butter
- Air Fryer Salmon Patties with Lemon-Dill Tartar Sauce
- Frozen Fish in Air Fryer (Breaded fish fillets)
Let’s Get Cooking!
I hope you’ll give these air fryer fish sticks a try. Whether you air fry frozen fish sticks or make your own homemade version, I’d love to hear about your experience. Drop me a comment below and let’s chat! Don’t forget to subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter for the latest and greatest recipes.
As always, it’s essential to consider your individual health needs and dietary preferences when selecting recipes. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician for personalized advice. The provided nutrition information is merely an estimate and may vary based on specific brands and ingredients used. Calorie information on food labels can be inaccurate, so don’t worry too much about the exact numbers.
For more information on how our recipe levels can contribute to your weight management goals, please refer to my post on overnight oats without sugar. Happy cooking!
Note: This recipe has been updated in 2021 with new photos and additional nutrition information.