Sometimes we all need a dose of crispy fried goodness. If I can make that happen without all the extra grease, I'm all for it! That's why this healthier, nondeep-fried, and much tastier air fryer version is heads and tails above anything store-bought in the freezer section. Bonus points for the air fryer not creating extra grease splatter or heavy fish smell.
Air fryer fish sticks are a much healthier version of the frozen deep-fried fish sticks many of us in North America grew up with and maybe crave once in a while!
Better Than Store-bought
It takes just under 20 minutes to get that crispy crunchy exterior and tender flaky interior that you and your kids know and love. All without the use of a deep fryer. Just a little bit of oil, fresh, tender flaky fish, and a deliciously seasoned crispy coating. So, ditch the frozen food section!
They make a great afternoon snack, weekend lunch, or a quick and easy weeknight dinner. There are so many serving options, whether you want to just have your favorite dip on the side or complete your meal with a serving of rice and some steamed veggies.
If your kids are picky eaters, they may have hopped on the frozen fish stick train too but even the pickiest eaters will love this recipe. Trust me, air fryer fish sticks are next-level good!
Why This Recipe Works
- Every irresistible bite has the perfect crispy coating to tender fish ratio.
- The air fryer cooks the fish without the need for deep-frying and all of that extra grease.
- Using fresh fish filets makes this so much healthier than store-bought.
- Kids love them not only because they taste great but are fun to dip!
- It's such an easy recipe! If you've checked out my air fryer tilapia recipe you'll know what the air fryer can do with a piece of fish in minutes!
- Fish - Firm white fish cut into 1" strips. Whitefish is typically mild in flavor and won't overpower any of the seasoning flavors on the crust. Look below for best fish to use.
- Seasoning - Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning are all that's required to make a great-tasting fish stick. The Italian seasoning is kept separate and will be used to season the bread crumbs, whereas the other seasonings will help flavor the flour coating.
- Flour - All-purpose flour is used to start the dredging process. It helps the egg mixture to adhere to the fish.
- Egg - The egg is the second coating after the flour. It will help the breadcrumbs stick and also keeps the moisture locked in the fish as it cooks.
- Bread crumbs - I like to use Panko as they are lighter, crispier, and have a crunchier texture.
- Olive oil - You can also use cooking spray. Using either on the prepared fish just before frying not only helps it not stick but also makes sure to give it a nice brown crust.
Best Fish to Use for Air Fryer Fish Sticks
Look for a fish that is meaty and sturdy and won't fall apart when cooked. Fish that isn't too "fishy" but has a milder taste and will become nice and flaky once cooked. Pick up whatever is on sale, or use what you have in the fridge.
How to Make Air Fryer Fish Sticks
Step 1: Prepare your dredging station by placing 3 shallow bowls side by side. Have the fish already cut into strips and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the first bowl, you'll have the flour and all seasoning except the Italian seasoning. In the second bowl the whisked egg, and the third bowl, the Panko breadcrumbs, and Italian seasoning.
Step 2: Using one hand, roll one piece of fish at a time, into the flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and dip it into the egg mixture, making sure to coat the entire surface. Lift it and shake off any excess egg. Last, roll it around in the breadcrumbs, gently patting the crumbs onto the surface. Make sure it gets an even coating.
Step 3: Place the piece of fish into the preheated air fryer and repeat with the remaining fish sticks.
Step 4: Have just one single layer, leaving room between each piece so that the air can circulate properly and it heats evenly. You may need to do more than one batch.
Step 5: Spray the fish sticks and air fry the first batch for 14 minutes, flipping halfway. Once they are golden brown and the fish is no longer opaque they are done!
Ooh, this is one of the best parts! The sky is the limit. Stick with classic ketchup, dijon, or yellow mustard, or tartar sauce. Maybe you have a thicker dressing you'd like to use like thousand islands or ranch. For a twist, use a mix of mayo and ketchup, or for a little heat mayo and sriracha. Even a simple squirt of lemon or a drizzle of garlic butter would be great!
Yes, you can. If you have some fish sitting in the freezer or you've bought it frozen, by all means, use it. Just be sure to thaw it and dry it first.
Definitely. There is sometimes a need for a shortcut when you're in a time crunch or fish isn't in the budget. Fish sticks can be a great alternative. Each brand is different, so read the package directions and substitute 25 degrees from the temperature. You can also do a test batch by setting the air fryer to 400 degrees and cooking it for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway. Every air fryer is different so adjust the time and temperature for your specific air fryer. Do not overcrowd the basket.
Sure, you can. Just keep in mind they won't crisp up as nicely! Use a baking sheet and either a sheet of foil or silicone baking mat and place one layer of fish sticks far enough apart from each other. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Make sure to pat your fish dry before you begin. Doing this will help EVERYTHING stick from the get-go, otherwise, you'll have the coating just falling off!
- Using shallow bowls helps with the seamless transition from one station to the other.
- I recommend using your hand just because it's easier and you have more control over your fish, but you can use a fork as well.
- Keep space in between fish sticks. You want even airflow and heat circulation for even cooking.
- Don't forget to spray just before cooking! You want a nice golden color on them 🙂
Fishsticks are great as a snack, as mentioned above, with just a little dip on the side! However, there are going to be times when you want to make a meal out of it, and below are some side dish ideas to get you started:
- Macaroni and Cheese
- French fries
- Mashed potatoes
- Roasted or steamed veggies
- A light garden or Caesar salad
Air Fryer Fish Sticks
- Air Fryer
- 1 pound firm white fish (cod, halibut, catfish, or haddock) sliced into 1-inch strips
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- olive oil or cooking spray
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
- Prepare the dredging station with 3 shallow bowls. In the first bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and all-purpose flour. In the second bowl, whisk the egg. In the third bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning.
- Use paper towels to dry the fish. Using one hand, roll one piece of fish into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour and then dip it into the egg mixture. Shake off any excess egg. Then roll and pat the breadcrumb onto the fish, gently remove the fish and place it into the air fryer.
- Repeat for the remaining fish. Place the fish in a single layer, leaving some space in between each one. Depending on how big your air fryer is, you may need to do 2-3 batches.
- Spray the fish sticks generously with cooking spray.
- Air fry the fish sticks for 7 minutes. Flip and air fry for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown and the fish is no longer opaque.