Our air fryer fish sticks recipe may be the perfect simple-yet-tasty way to get your picky kids to eat more fish. Or just fry some for yourself — we won’t judge!
The tender and protein-rich salmon fish sticks are coated in a delectable crispy shell before being dipped in a creamy, tangy tartar sauce. Unlike ordinary fried foods, though, the dish doesn’t require any additional oil to cook. It’s one of the best choices for those who care about daily nutritional value but still want that nostalgic flavor.
Are Air Fryer Fish Sticks Healthy?
Compared to deep-fried methods, air frying is a far healthier way to cook. Air fryers accomplish with air what deep-fryers do with hot oil, so you rarely have to add much oil to the food at all. That means your meals will have significantly less fat content than their deep-fried counterparts.
Lowering your oil intake can benefit your health. Scientists link the high fat intake to increased health risks such as heart diseases, a higher rate of inflammation, and negative impacts on mental health.
In terms of nutritional content, we carefully calculated the calories, sodium, and saturated fat in the recipe to ensure they’re in line with the USDA Dietary Guidelines. To sum up, yes, we believe our air fryer sticks recipe is relatively healthy.
What Are Fish Sticks Made of?
Fish sticks (in the US) or fish fingers ( in Britain) are normally deep-fried fillets made using white fish like cod, hake, or pollock. The dish is served with a simple sauce like mayonnaise or ketchup, making it a go-to finger food for many home cooks.
Here is what you need to make fish sticks:
Fish: A white and firm fish like cod or haddock is popular for fish sticks, but other fish types can also work just as well. You’ll want to cut it into strips, so 1-inch-thick fillets are a great choice to buy.
All-purpose Flour: Flour is used to coat the outside of the fish, forming a barrier to absorb excess moisture and keep the fish from getting soggy.
Egg: Before the second breading, the fish strips are dipped into an egg wash to ensure the next step’s panko layer sticks to the surface.
Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are the secret for a perfect fried-fish coating. It doesn’t have to be this recipe either; give this parmesan crusted salmon a try to see how versatile the breading can be. Made from white bread without crust, panko is lighter and stays crispy for longer than traditional breadcrumbs.
Spices and Seasonings: It’s important to season your ingredients in each step. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder add the most complementary flavors with minimal ingredients. We also add a bit of paprika, not for the taste but to color the sticks, giving them a nice golden coating once fried or baked.
Sauce for Fish Sticks
These tasty, air-fried fish sticks wouldn’t be complete without a tartar sauce. Tartar is a mayonnaise-based condiment flavored with spices and herbs. The sauce varies in taste and texture since the recipe can go with many different add-ins like lemon juice, mustard, garlic, or pickle juice.
This creamy, tangy, and savory dipping sauce is made for fish and seafood dishes. We think it acts as the perfect finish for this air fryer fish sticks recipe.
Don’t be afraid, though — there is no set of rules for what can go with these sticks. Ketchup or mayonnaise are simple, classic choices, but you can just as easily try your own concoctions.
Homemade Fish Sticks in Air Fryer
Making fish sticks at home is pretty straightforward, especially when you set up your own little production line on the table. The basic process looks like this:
Season the fish strips.
Make the breadcrumb mixture.
Coat each fish stick in flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs.
Cook coated fish in the air fryer.
Make the tartar sauce.
Serve fish sticks with the sauce.
How to Cook Frozen Fish Sticks in the Air Fryer
Frozen fish sticks can be cooked easily in the air fryer without any special techniques. In fact, even if your fish sticks are frozen, there’s no need to thaw them — just place them directly into the air fryer’s basket.
We recommend spraying the fish strips with a bit of olive or vegetable oil to help the strips crisp up even more in the air fryer. However, this step is optional, and the air fryer still does a great job of that on its own.
How Long to Cook Frozen Fish Sticks in Air Fryer
Store-bought frozen fish sticks come in different sizes and thicknesses. This means you have to adjust the cooking time for each frozen stick batch.
An easy way is to “test” 1 – 2 fish strips for the first round and estimate the time for the next round. Usually, after the first testing time, you’ll be able to gauge how to cook your frozen fish sticks efficiently.
If you need a specific number to start your first testing round, from our experience, most of the available frozen sticks need to be cooked for about 8 – 10 minutes to get a perfect golden brown color.
Tips for Making Fish Sticks
Do not overcrowd your air fryer’s basket: It’s important to place those strips in a single layer so that the heat can circulate and ensure they are all cooked evenly.
Don’t leave your fish on the counter longer than necessary: Since the fish fillets are often well-seasoned before you coat them, leaving them at room temperature for too long could allow more of the fish’s internal juices to seep out. The fish sticks might then turn out too soft and soggy.
Use the right temperature: Correct temperature is one of the most vital determinants of the dish’s quality and texture. Low heat can result in soft, soggy sticks while overly high heat could burn the strips. An ideal temperature of 340 – 360°F will ensure the fish gets cooked through wonderfully.
What Goes with Fish Sticks
Fish sticks are often served as an appetizer or quick snack. If you want to make a light meal around your fish, consider the options below:
Salad is a refreshing and healthy way to introduce a good dose of vitamins and essential nutrients to your fish dish. Replace tuna with fish sticks on a Nicoise salad or chop them for a caesar salad.
Melt some cheese on top and place the fish stick in a soft bun for a quick homemade fried fish sandwich. And don’t forget to lay in some tomato slices and lettuce leaves to round out the textures.
Air Fryer Fish Sticks Recipe
- 14 oz skinless boneless salmon fillets cut into 1×3.5 inch strips
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 10 tbsp plain panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp garlic chopped
- 1/2 tsp traditional Dijon mustard
- 0.25 oz pickle relish
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp dill
- Season the fish with garlic powder, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and paprika.
- Make the breadcrumb mixture: In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with butter and parsley. Set aside.
- Dip each fish stick into flour, tossing to coat, and shake off any excess. Then dip it into the egg wash and finally into the breadcrumb mixture. Place the breaded fish stick on a prepared plate and repeat with the remaining fish strips.
- Place the fish sticks into the air fryer’s basket in a single layer. Cook at 360°F for 10 minutes.
- Make the tartar sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, garlic, mustard, pickle relish, dill, and lemon juice.
- Remove the fish sticks from the air fryer. Serve hot, using the tartar sauce as a dip.