Can you air fry fish sticks? Absolutely! Making fish sticks in air fryer is easier than you might think! This air fryer fish sticks recipe cooks in under 15 minutes, perfect for a fast weeknight dinner. Store-bought frozen fish sticks often have an ingredient list that is 10 miles long, with additives you may not want. Try these homemade healthy fish sticks in the air fryer instead!
When you think of “kid food,” what comes to mind? I think of things like mac n cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks. Fish sticks are a bit unusual among seafood options because kids love them! (Well, usually. Haha)
Most of us are not getting enough seafood in our diets (according to the current recommendations). If breading fish and serving it with a dip helps to increase your seafood intake, I am all for it.
These fish sticks are based on my favorite breaded and baked fish recipe, from an Amish cookbook I picked up in Lancaster County, PA. There's a breaded fish recipe in there that I have made many times through the years.
It has a cornmeal and flour crust that sticks well and comes out perfectly crispy every time. (Drool.)
Since I've been all about air fryer recipes lately, it got me thinking... Would my favorite breaded fish fillets work as crispy fish sticks? And second, could I put the fish sticks in the air fryer instead of heating up the house with the oven?
I'm happy to report that the answer to both of these questions turned out to be a resounding YES. IMVHO, these are the BEST frozen fish sticks for air frying around.
I hope your family falls in love with them too.
- 📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Cook Fish Sticks in Air Fryer
- ⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ How to Store Leftovers
- ️🧂 Dipping Sauces
- 🐟 What Fish to Use with Fish Sticks
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other Air Fryer Fish Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- Side Dishes
- 💬 Comments
📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
One serving of these air fryer fish fingers provides 470 calories, 11.9 grams net carbs, and 29.8 grams protein. This nutrition information includes the fish sticks and homemade tartar sauce, but no side dishes.
Why make these air fried fish sticks? Isn’t it so much easier to pick up a box of Gorton’s fish sticks (or Trader Joe’s, Van de Kamp’s, Trident, etc.) and be done with it?
There’s a place for convenience, but if you have a little time, these DIY fish sticks are worth it. Here are some benefits of these homemade fish sticks:
- Crispy without deep frying: Doesn’t everyone hate soggy fish sticks? Air frying will get you crispy breaded fish sticks with far less added oil than deep frying.
- Not ultra-processed: Nearly all the frozen fish sticks from the store count as ultra-processed foods. If you are trying to eat more whole foods as part of an overall healthier diet, homemade is the way to go.
- No refined grains: These air fryer fish sticks contain no refined grains. Most of the fish sticks from the store use white flour. (Confusingly, “wheat flour” is almost always another name for white flour, unless it specifically says “whole wheat.”)
- No added sugar: Store-bought fish sticks often contain added sugar as well. It really doesn’t need to be in there, and you can skip it when you cook at home.
- Easier to make allergy-friendly: When you make your own fish sticks, you control the ingredients. You can make fish sticks without eggs, wheat, milk, and so on. It can be difficult to find store fish sticks that fit certain types of diet restrictions.
- Delicious: There’s something so tasty and comforting about a homecooked dish. Filled with big pieces of delicious, flaky fish, I think these are even better than any store-bought fish sticks I’ve tried.
What do you need to make fish sticks in an air fryer? Here is the roundup of ingredients I used:
- Cod fillets
- Coarse cornmeal
- Spelt flour (whole wheat flour or another flour may be substituted)
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Dried basil
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Black pepper
- 2% Milk
- Melted butter
- Cooking oil spray
I’ve heard of some having issues with aerosol sprays damaging their air fryer baskets. To be safe, you may want to stick with a non-aerosol cooking oil spray.
I like to serve this air fryer recipe with lemon wedges and homemade 2-ingredient tartar sauce. The sauce adds a little something extra to the meal and is worth the tiny bit of additional effort. Here’s what you need to make it:
- Finely chopped dill pickles
You may also want to pick up some veggies for side dishes for this meal. I’m providing an easy marinated salad recipe in the recipe card below!
The kitchen equipment you need to air fry fish sticks is a good knife, an air fryer, and a meat thermometer. I make air fried fish fingers in a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. However, the Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Philips, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Power Air Fryer, etc. can be used.
Air fryers tend to vary a bit in cooking time, so don't be afraid to adjust the cooking time as needed. Cutting your fish to a different size than I did may also alter the cooking time.
🔪 How to Cook Fish Sticks in Air Fryer
Ready to air fry fish sticks? Let’s do it!
If you’re using frozen and thawed fish, pat it dry before breading. This may help the breading to stick better.
Mist your air fryer tray or basket with the cooking oil spray. I only needed to use one air fryer tray for this recipe.
Cut your cod fillets into 12 even pieces. I started with 3 fillets, and cut them width-wise into 4 pieces each. Mix the cornmeal, spelt flour, Parmesan, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Put the milk in a second bowl.
Bread your fish sticks by dipping them first in the milk and then in the cornmeal breading mixture. Place breaded fish sticks in a (non-touching) single layer on the air fryer tray.
Because I really dislike food waste, I am giving you the precise amount of breading to cover 12 fish sticks. In other words, if you have 1-lb. (3 fillets) of cod, and cut each fillet into 4 sticks, you should have adequate breading. I've tested this recipe several times to get the amount of breading just right.
But what if you cut your fish into larger or smaller pieces, use a different type of fish, or a different weight of fish? Well, you might have too much or too little breading! You can easily double the breading recipe if you need more.
Drizzle the melted butter over the fish sticks. They’re ready to go in the air fryer!
⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to cook fish sticks in air fryer? You will be air frying fish sticks for a total of 14 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put the tray with the fish sticks on the top rack in your air fryer oven. Air fry for 7 minutes at 400F. Then carefully flip the fish sticks, put the baking tray back on the top rack, and air fry for an additional 7 minutes at 400F.
While the fish sticks cook, stir together the mayo and chopped pickles for the tartar sauce. You can finish up any fish stick side dishes you’re serving as well.
I made a video so you can see how quickly this air fryer fish stick recipe comes together. You can check it out below. One note, though, you might want to use a spatula!
I flipped the fish sticks with my fingers because they had cooled down enough to do so. Please don't try this at home if you've just pulled them out of the air fryer oven. It's not worth risking burning your fingers!
BTW, if you don’t have an air fryer, broil the fish for 5-8 minutes in the oven. The fish sticks are a little less sturdy with the oven method, but tasty either way.
However you cook your fish, use a meat thermometer to check that the it reached a minimum safe internal temperature. For fish, the minimum safe internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook them a few minutes longer if they aren’t at a safe temperature.
Serve the fish sticks with a squeeze of lemon juice and tartar sauce or your favorite dipping sauce. Yum!
🌡️ How to Store Leftovers
Leftover fish sticks keep for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Reheat them in the air fryer using the direction in the FAQS.
Technically, fish sticks can stay good for 3-4 days refrigerated. However, the texture of the crispy breading begins to deteriorate. For best results, I recommend just making the fish sticks your family will eat so there are no leftovers.
️🧂 Dipping Sauces
What are some good dipping sauces for fish sticks? Here are some of my favorites:
- Tartar Sauce
- Cocktail sauce
- BBQ sauce
- Buffalo sauce
- Sweet chili sauce
- Sriracha mayo
You could also sprinkle them with some Old Bay seasoning. SO GOOD!
🐟 What Fish to Use with Fish Sticks
White fishes are wonderful for fish sticks, and I am using cod in this air fryer fish sticks recipe. Here are some of my favorite types of fish for making fish sticks:
If your fish filets are thinner or thicker than mine, keep in mind that it can impact the cooking time.
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). As always, recipes with flour get the bump to level 3. If you have a fat loss goal, my general recommendation is to skip breading foods, even if they're air fried.
You'll save a lot of calories when you enjoy fish with herbs and a squeeze of citrus versus breading. If lighter recipes are what you're looking for, may I recommend steaming cod instead?
That said, this fish stick recipe uses whole food ingredients to bread the fish, and they taste great! If you have kids who are seafood-resistant, this recipe might be something to try.
I know if you’re here for weight loss recipes that you’re going to want to skip the butter drizzle. You might be tempted to spritz the fish sticks with an oil mister instead. I don't recommend doing this.
Aside from adding flavor, the butter helps the breading stick to the fish. I cut back on the amount of butter compared to the original breaded fish recipe, but I think a little is necessary here. If you insist on skipping the butter entirely, it's at your own risk!
Making low carb air fryer fish is easy! Instead of the breading used here, bread your fish fingers with seasoned pork panko. Try using beaten egg instead of milk to drop the carb count down even further.
Make this fish stick recipe gluten free by swapping out the spelt flour for your favorite gluten-free flour. I’d recommend trying fine ground almond flour. Wasn’t that easy? Ian’s makes frozen gluten free fish sticks if you’d prefer store-bought.
Yes, you can air fry frozen fish sticks from the store! Check out this frozen fish in air fryer post to see how it is done. You’ll save time compared to using the oven!
You can reheat refrigerated fish sticks in the air fryer for 3-5 minutes at 400F. Add additional air frying time as needed until they are warmed and crisped to your liking.
Most store-bought fish sticks have white flour, added sugar, and highly processed oils in the ingredients list. I would not call them the most nutritious choice. These homemade air fryer fish sticks are healthier because they have no added sugar, use whole grain flour, and are not deep fried.
👩🏻🍳 Other Air Fryer Fish Recipes
Looking for other air fryer recipes using fish? Here some more air fried fish recipes you may 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)
Have you ever tried cooking fish sticks in an air fryer? Did you air fry frozen fish sticks, or did you make homemade fish sticks to air fry? Drop me a comment below!
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All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Fish Sticks
- 1 lb. cod fillets (454 grams; approximately 3 fillets)
- ¼ cup coarse-ground cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- black pepper, to taste
- ⅓ cup milk, 2%
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- cooking oil spray (non-aerosol)
- lemon wedges (optional)
For the tartar sauce:
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pickles
- Mist an air fryer tray with the cooking spray.
- Cut your cod fillets into 12 even pieces. I started with 3 fillets, and cut them width-wise into 4 pieces each. (Note: if you cut your fish differently than I did, you may need more or less breading than I am providing in this recipe.)
- Mix the cornmeal, spelt flour, Parm, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Put the milk in a second bowl. (Did you check out the recipe video?)
- Bread your fish sticks by dipping them first in the milk and then in the cornmeal breading mixture. Place breaded fish sticks in a single layer on the air fryer tray. You should have just enough breading to completely cover the fish sticks.
- Drizzle the melted butter over the fish sticks.
- Air fryer directions: Put the tray with the fish sticks on the top rack in your air fryer oven. Air fry for 7 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Then carefully flip the fish sticks, put the baking tray back on the top rack, and air fry for an additional 7 minutes at 400°F (200°C). (No air fryer? Use the oven directions below instead!)
- Alternate oven baked directions: Put the fish sticks on a metal cookie sheet that was misted with cooking spray. Broil for 5-8 minutes in the oven.
- Note: However you cook your fish, use a meat thermometer to check that the it reached a minimum safe internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Extend the cooking time if it's not at a safe temperature.
To make the tartar sauce:
- Mix the mayonnaise and chopped pickles together.
- Divide the fish sticks, tartar sauce, and side dishes between three plates. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the fish sticks, if desired.
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). As always, recipes with flour get the bump to level 3. If you have a fat loss goal, my general recommendation is to skip breading foods, even if they're air fried. You'll save a lot of calories when you enjoy fish with herbs and a squeeze of citrus versus breading. If lighter recipes are what you're looking for, may I recommend steaming cod instead? That said, this fish stick recipe uses whole food ingredients to bread the fish, and they taste great! If you have kids who are seafood-resistant, this recipe might be something to try. I know if you’re here for weight loss recipes that you’re going to want to skip the butter drizzle. You might be tempted to spritz the fish sticks with an oil mister instead. I don't recommend doing this. Aside from adding flavor, the butter helps the breading stick to the fish. I cut back on the amount of butter compared to the original breaded fish recipe, but I think a little is necessary here. If you insist on skipping the butter entirely, it's at your own risk!
Side DishesWondering what to serve with fish sticks? Fish sticks and tartar sauce aren’t a complete meal; I'd add some veggies on the side. One night when we had these, I served air fryer jicama fries on the side in addition to a veggie salad. Apparently, I was really on an air fryer cooking kick that evening! I also think these air fry fish sticks would be super with a side of kale apple slaw. Alternatively, try this Marinated Vegetable Salad recipe with tomatoes and green peppers. The fish sticks don't take long to cook. If you choose a fast side, like a fresh veggie salad, everything will be done at the same time.
- 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 medium green peppers, chopped
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 tablespoons ume plum vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- black pepper, to taste
This recipe has been updated from 2020 with new photos and more nutrition information.