post featured image

Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Jump to Recipe

Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce

post featured image

There’s nothing quite like a midwestern Friday Night Fish Fry recipe! Crispy, flaky pan-fried cod served with tartar sauce, slaw, and fries.

This is such a quick and delicious dinner option perfect for any night of the week. A quick batter and pan-fry and dinner is on the table.

Friday Night Fish Fry

My husband is a full-on midwesterner from Wisconsin. There are so many things I’ve come to cherish because of him like my love for the Green Bay Packers, Beer Brats, and a good ‘ol Friday Night Fish Fry.

Just about every restaurant and bar has a Friday night fish fry special. It’s a dish that absolutely screams spring to me! This is also a really popular recipe if you happen to celebrate lent and need some additional fish recipes in your life.

This recipe is all about making a classic fish fry at home and it’s honestly so easy to do. We’re going to de-mystify breading and frying fish (no deep-frying required!) so that you can tackle your own fish fry any night of the week.

If you love a crispy fried fish as much as I do, you’re going to love how simple and flavorful this pan-fried cod is!

friday night fish fry

What is a Fish Fry?

In the upper midwest, freshwater fish is abundant and friday fish fry is a delicious tradition! In Wisconsin, you’ll likely find beer-battered catch-of-the-day served with tartar sauce, crunchy slaw, and a carby side like french fries.

“Going out for fish” on Friday nights is an integral part of Wisconsin life. You can find a fish fry at just about every restaurant, dive-bar, supper club, and church basement on any given Friday. While cod and haddock are still popular, you’re also likely to see perch, walleye, and bluegill–or whatever was freshly caught in the lake that day.

friday night fish fry

How to Prepare a Friday Fish Fry

Since we are shallow-frying our fish, you’ll want a heavy skillet (like cast iron) with high sides so that the oil splatter is limited. Cast iron holds heat well and is ideal for frying.

Tools Needed

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Fish. I am a huge fan of cod for this recipe because it’s hearty and stands up well to frying. I usually try to buy fresh, but you can definitely use previously frozen cod, or any other fresh fish.
  • Seasonings. I go pretty simple with the fish here and use a mix of salt, pepper, and old bay seasoning for the batter along with a little hot sauce and dijon mustard.
  • Flour. All-purpose flour is best here.
  • Egg. Egg helps the batter cling to the fish.
  • Panko. Instead of battering the fish, we’re using a crispy panko coating so that the fish is extra crispy.
  • Oil. Any neutral oil for frying works well here and I typically use canola oil.
  • Tartar sauce. Tartar sauce is a must for Friday night fish fry! You can use store bought or use my tried and true recipe at the bottom to make your own.

Ingredients for Friday Night Fish Fry

The Process

  1. Mix the tartar sauce: In a mixing bowl, stir together the mayo, chopped pickles, shallot, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, and parsley until well-mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  2. Prep the fish. Cut the cod filet into 4-6 even pieces and pat very dry all over with paper towels. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Make the batter and breading stations. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, hot sauce, dijon, water, and old bay seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper until smooth. Pour the panko into a shallow dish with some salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the oil. In a high-sided skillet or braiser, pour in enough canola oil to come halfway up the fish–about ½-¾ inches of oil in the skillet. Heat over medium-high heat, until the temperature reaches 350-375 F.
  5. Batter and coat the fish. Dip the cod pieces in the flour and egg mixture until well coated, shaking off any excess. Coat well in the panko breadcrumbs and set on a plate. Repeat with the remaining fish.
  6. Fry the fish. Once the oil is hot, gently lower the fish into the oil taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until the panko coating is golden brown & the cod is cooked to your liking – total cook time depends on the thickness of the fish. Once both sides are golden brown, transfer the fried fish to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. Season with a good pinch of salt while the fish is still warm.
  7. Serve. Serve the fried cod pieces with lemon wedges and tartar sauce on the side.

Best Types of Fish for Fish Fry

My favorite fish to use when making fish fry is cod because it’s got great texture and holds up really well to frying while staying flaky and tender. I usually buy fresh whenever I can, but you can also make great fried fish even with previously frozen cod. Just be sure to really let it defrost and pat it very dry before coating it.

Need more store bought options? Haddock, hake, tilapia, catfish, and halibut all work really well. Head to your local fish market and see what’s fresh!

If you’re using local fresh catch, you may also see perch, bluegill, walleye, or other fresh water fish. Each fish will have different texture and flavor so there is a ton of opportunity to experiment and find your favorite.

Important note: The cook times on this recipe are for thicker pieces of cod. If you’re using a thinner cut of fish, they’ll fry up much more quickly.

friday night fish fry

Tips for Dredging and Frying Fish

Frying food, and fish especially, may sound intimidating but I promise that it couldn’t be easier! Here are all my best tips and tricks for effortlessly frying up your favorite fish!

Make sure your fish is dry before coating. This is really important! If the fish feels wet to the touch, the batter and panko will not stick to it. Make sure to pat your fish dry with paper towels before starting the breading process. This is especially important if using previously frozen fish!

Shake off excess batter. Instead of doing 3 stations with flour, egg, and panko, I find that mixing the eggs and flour together makes a crispier exterior and less of a mess. Once you dip the fish into the egg and flour batter, make sure to shake off any excess. You want just enough to stick to the outside of the fish so that the panko sticks.

Really press the panko into the fish. You want a nice coating without any bald spots, so when you have the fish in the panko, really use your fingers to press the panko coating onto the fish.

Make sure your oil is hot enough. This is where a thermometer comes in! Make sure that your oil is hot enough before frying, otherwise your fish will absorb oil and end up soggy and greasy.

Don’t crowd the pan. Once you add anything to the oil, it’s immediately starting to cool down. Only fry a couple of pieces at a time to ensure that your oil stays nice and hot.

Hit the fish with a bit of salt when it comes out of the pan. We are not here for under-seasoned food, so once you pull the fish out of the oil and onto paper towels to drain, sprinkle with a little flaky salt while the fish is still warm.

What to Serve with Fish Fry

A classic fish fry always pairs perfectly with homemade tartar sauce! My recipe is classic and so, so fresh–way better than the store bought stuff.

My homemade tartar sauce is a mix of mayo, capers, cornichons or pickles, shallot, lemon, and fresh dill and parsley. Everyone begs for the recipe and it’s so easy to make. The flavors only get better as it sits, so I recommend prepping it a couple hours in advance so the flavors have a chance to meld.

Fish Fry Side Dishes

A classic fish fry is just begging for sides! French fries and slaw is totally classic, but there are so many options.

My classic potato salad, Hawaiian-style mac salad, and corn on the cob would also be fantastic on the side. Looking for a lighter side dish option? Try my cucumber yogurt salad or kale caesar salad.

No matter what side dishes you choose, make sure you’ve got plenty of lemon wedges on the side for squeezing!

Storage Instructions

Fish fry is obviously best when it’s served right away while it’s still hot and crispy from the pan. That being said, if you do have leftovers you can store and reheat them.

Let the fish cool to room temperature and store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days. When you want to reheat fish fry, use an air fryer at 400 F or reheat the fish in the oven at 425 F, just until the fish is warmed through and crispy.

I do not recommend microwaving the fish to reheat it as it will be mushy and soggy.

friday night fish fry


Why go out when you can make the absolute best Friday Night Fish Fry at home? Crispy, flaky fish served with the most delicious tartar sauce and tons of lemon–the perfect dinner! If you do give this recipe a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and never miss a new recipe! You can also snap a photo & tag @JENNYGOYCOCHEA on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your SMF creations!

More Seafood Recipes to Try

Shrimp Burrito Bowls
Salmon Rice Bowls
Shrimp Tacos with Slaw
Spicy Grilled Clams
Blackened Fish Tacos

This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.

Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce
Main Dishes

Fish Fry with Tartar Sauce Recipe

There's nothing quite like a midwestern Friday Night Fish Fry recipe! Crispy, flaky pan-fried cod served with tartar sauce, slaw, and fries.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Makes: 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients

Fish Fry

  • 1 1/2 lbs center cut cod, skin removed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, like crystal or tabasco
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • canola oil, for frying

Homemade Tartar Sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped cornichon or dill pickles
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh italian parsley

Instructions

  • Mix the tartar sauce: In a mixing bowl, stir together the mayo, chopped pickles, shallot, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, and parsley until well-mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  • Prep the fish. Cut the cod filet into 4-6 even pieces and pat very dry all over with paper towels. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Make the batter and breading stations. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, hot sauce, dijon, water, and old bay seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper until smooth. Pour the panko into a shallow dish with some salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oil. In a high-sided skillet or braiser, pour in enough canola oil to come halfway up the fish–about ½-¾ inches of oil in the skillet. Heat over medium-high heat, until the temperature reaches 350-375 F.
  • Batter and coat the fish. Dip the cod pieces in the flour and egg mixture until well coated, shaking off any excess. Coat well in the panko breadcrumbs and set on a plate. Repeat with the remaining fish.
  • Fry the fish. Once the oil is hot, gently lower the fish into the oil taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until the panko coating is golden brown & the cod is cooked to your liking – total cook time depends on the thickness of the fish. Once both sides are golden brown, transfer the fried fish to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. Season with a good pinch of salt while the fish is still warm.
  • Serve. Serve the fried cod pieces with lemon wedges and tartar sauce on the side.

Did you make this recipe?

SHARE YOUR COOKING ADVENTURES Tag @jennygoycochea on instagram

You might also like...

Rate & Review This Recipe

5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *