Bite into "REAL FISH" full of deliciously crunchy texture and the flavor you’ve been craving for so long!
Crispy and crunchy on the outside, flakey, mouth-watering white fish on the inside. We use tender yet firm cod loin fillets, then surround them in a golden breading made from gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for the perfect combination of flavor and crispness. Whether you’re creating your favorite fish taco, dipping them in tartar sauce, or scarfing them down as they are, the entire family will love these kid-friendly favorite fish sticks made from natural (not minced) fish and no fillers.
Real fish goodness, you can’t wait to sink your teeth into!
There are plenty of reasons to skip the prepackaged food products aisle. But the biggest reason for making healthier copycats of several of our once-favorite prepackaged foods is the feel-good factor that comes from deciding what goes into the options we serve our family.
And because it is important to us, we think it might be the same for you. Therefore in this recipe, we’re sharing how to make one of our favorites…
Fabulously Crunchy and Mouth-watering Gluten-Free Homemade Flakey Fish Sticks
Of course, we also want to keep them as healthy as possible in our repertoire of convenient go-to meals. And really, who would like to give up fish sticks anyway? For that reason, we’re making them in the air fryer for fewer calories and less fat and keeping them free from preservatives and extra fillers (that most prepackaged varieties have). There are no ground-up or minced fish parts here.
It’s comforting to know that we’re eating 100% natural fish using ingredients and methods for making them that support our beliefs of how food should be. And naturally, because it is real fish, the taste is over-the-top deliciously good!
We also appreciate that the amount of salt, spice, and even the breading we use to make these fish sticks is up to us.
Please, we encourage you to make this recipe your own.
For example, if you desire the fish sticks to be a little spicy, add some Cajun spice or a little cayenne pepper into the flour mixture before dredging. Do you prefer breadcrumbs to panko crumbs? Why not make breadcrumbs yourself, then use those instead. Feel free to substitute regular all-purpose flour (only if you don’t have a problem with gluten), or use less salt if you’re on a low-salt diet. Swap out haddock or halibut for the cod loins. It’s all up to you.
To that end, use this (or any of our recipes) as a starting point…
Make these fish sticks from any fish you have on hand or use a seasoning (or several) to make them however you like to fulfill the taste you’re craving. Undoubtedly, you will discover your unique combination of deliciousness. Then enjoy every tasty bite wrapped up in its fabulous crunchy and mouth-watering flakey fish package of goodness that you can’t wait to sink your teeth into!
How to Make Homemade Fish Sticks
Fish Stick Ingredients
Cod loins are our first choice for using in homemade fish sticks because of their sweet but subtle flavor. One pound of loins makes 9-10 fish sticks for this recipe. The loin is cut from the fillet’s middle section or the fattiest part. Since they are the thickest part of the fillet, they offer the moistest and succulent texture that gets flaky after being baked (or air fried in this instance). You’ll know when the cod lions are perfectly done when they reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). If you can’t find cod loins, you could substitute any firm white fish like Haddock or Halibut.
Gf-Jules gluten-free all-purpose flour is a great all-around substitute for wheat flour. We’ve used one-quarter cup in this recipe; it’s an easy go-to flour in our gluten-free kitchen. Since we’ve used this gluten-free flour for a long time with perfect results for many of our recipes, it’s a natural choice. We love it because it already has “just” the right of xanthan in the flour blend. So, you won’t need to worry about how much xanthan gum to add to avoid a gummy texture. There is also no grit and no off-taste.
Next is salt and pepper to season the coating mixture – ¼ teaspoon of each is plenty.
To make the egg wash, you will use one large egg plus one tablespoon of water.
We love, love, love Aleia’s panko-style breadcrumbs! While the cost is slightly higher than other brands, the taste and texture will make you forget that they’re gluten-free, so the higher price outweighs the lack of quality in comparative brands. We’ve chosen the plain breadcrumbs for the fish stick recipe, allowing us to season the fish sticks as we like. You’ll need about ½ cup plus one tablespoon to provide great crunch and texture, making the fish sticks tender inside with a traditional crunch on the outside.
Lastly, coconut cooking spray is the secret to getting golden-browned fish sticks. A quick light coconut oil spray on each side before popping in the air fryer makes all the difference!
Picture the Recipe Step-by-Step
Cuisinart TOA-65 Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven, 1800-Watt Motor with Digital Display and Controls – Intuitive Programming, Adjustable Temperature Settings and Cooking Presets, Stainless Steel
Additional Prep Notes:
- Coat all the fish portions following the flour, egg wash, then Panko crumb order until all the sticks are done. When dredging, be careful to tap the excess flour from the fish stick, then dip quickly on all sides in the egg wash before finally coating them with the Panko crumbs. Do not let the fish stick set in the egg wash because it will become a gooey mess. You’re looking for each fish stick to be lightly covered with each coating. Finally, in the Panko crumb step, you want to lightly press every side of the fish into the coating to get an evenly coated crusty layer on all sides.
- Depending on the type of air-fryer you own, you may also position the fish sticks directly into the lightly sprayed air-fryer basket.
- Using an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should read 165°F (74°C) when the fish sticks are cooked.
Baking Fish Sticks in a Traditional Oven
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C)
- Follow steps 1-6 (in the recipe card). Bake for about 10 minutes, flip over, and spray lightly with more coconut oil, then continue baking for an additional 4-5 minutes. Lastly, check the internal temperature; they should read 165°F (74°C) when the fish sticks are cooked.
- Serve with homemade tartar sauce.
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Leftover cooked fish sticks can be kept in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
How to Make Fish Sticks in Advance
This recipe works great to make fish sticks ahead and freeze them to cook later. Having no added preservatives, they are much healthier than prepackaged, and making your fish sticks from scratch is much more affordable!
How to Freeze Fish Sticks
To freeze homemade fish sticks, follow steps 1-5 (in the recipe card), then immediately place them onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Spray lightly with coconut oil before putting the filled baking sheet into the freezer for approximately 45 minutes or until the fish sticks become firm.*
After they’re firm, arrange the fish sticks in a single layer into an airtight container, vacuum seal bags, or freezer-safe zipper-top bag. Close, seal, and remove as much air as possible. Then label and date before returning to the freezer. You will want to use them within three months for the best flavor.
*Alternatively, you can air-fry them ahead of time for heat-and-eat convenience from the microwave!
How to Cook Frozen Fish Sticks
Place frozen fish sticks onto a lightly sprayed air-fryer basket or a baking rack positioned over a baking sheet. Cook at 375°F (190°C) for approximately 7-10 minutes, flip over, and spray lightly with more coconut oil, then continue cooking for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the coating becomes golden brown and lightly crispy [see footnote below].
More Tips for Making the Best Fish Sticks:
- One pound of fish will yield approximately ten fish sticks, enough for 2-3 people depending on the portion size.
- Any tender yet firm white fish such as cod (cod loins are our favorite), haddock, or halibut can be used. Frozen fish can be used for the recipe; most importantly, it must be thawed first (see Defrosting Frozen Fish below).
- For the best results, cut the fish into evenly sized sticks to cook uniformly. Cut pieces into approximately 1″ x 1” sticks to get traditional-looking fish sticks, 3-4 inches long. We’ve also made fish nuggets using smaller, equally sized pieces.
- You could also substitute gluten-free Italian-style breadcrumbs with success.
- Depending on the air-fryer you use and the number of fish sticks you’re making, the process may take 2-3 batches to cook all the fish. When cooking in batches, keep the fish warm by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a warm oven set at 175°F (79°C). Cover with aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.
- If using a multi-tiered air-fryer or convection oven, you can easily double the recipe and cook in one batch. However, we’ve found that adding an extra minute or two per side for the fish sticks to cook and become thoroughly golden brown is necessary.
How to Defrost Frozen Fish:
Feel free to use frozen fish for this recipe; most importantly, you’ll need to defrost the fish before proceeding.
If you have preplanned the meal, place the fish in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Otherwise, when you’re short on time, you can set the fish in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 1 teaspoon of salt, then fill with cold water to cover the fish.
Defrosting in a dish with water, lemon, and salt will usually take roughly 2-3 hours to thaw 1 -2 pounds of fish. After the fish has thawed, rinse with cold water, squeeze lightly, and pat dry with paper towels before cutting to use.
How to Eat Fish Sticks
If you’ve thought fish sticks were just for the kiddos, you might think again. We’re here to convince you that fish sticks might be your next go-to budget-friendly convenience superstar to bring to the table! Why? Because…these crispy, crunchy, flakey, mouth-watering sticks can also be a super versatile ingredient for surprisingly grown-up dishes!
And while you’ll never catch us shaming you for serving fish sticks with homemade tater tots or homemade chips and tartar sauce, there may come a time when you want to do some simple thing to fancy up these sticks to make them, let’s say, even a bit more extraordinary!
Below, we’ve pulled together more than a dozen easy ways to turn these classics into tasty grownup fish stick appetizers and dishes. Since they are very freezer-friendly, you might even want to keep some on hand in the freezer for pop-up occasions and snacks.
Float up the flavor with some spice!
Fish sticks can be a terrific means of delivering unique global flavors. Think about…
- Dipping them in a mix of ketchup, horseradish, and chili powder for a spiced-up saucy seafood take.
- Pile the sticks into corn tortillas with shredded green and purple cabbage, carrots, cheese, and sliced jalapenos for fish tacos.
- Serve them topped with curry to add a sweet, savory, deep, earthy flavor.
- When it comes to saucy spiciness, don’t hesitate to explore the international aisle of your grocery store or check out ethnic markets in your community for simple condiments and sauces that can take your fish stick experience to a whole new level.
Reel them in with your favorite carbs!
The potato and pasta-bilities are endless. Think about…
- Serving them alongside your favorite pasta like Basil Pesto Pasta, Baked Mac & Cheese, or potato side dishes or casseroles to convert them immediately into an entrée.
- Using them as a top layer where they will become extra crunchy. Try them in a casserole like this easy fish stick and cheesy vegetable rice dish. Begin by preheating your oven to 375°F, then butter an 8×11-inch casserole dish. Set aside until needed. Using a large bowl, mix 2 cups cooked long-grain rice, ¾ cup evaporated milk, ¼ cup creamy ranch salad dressing, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, any seasoning if desired, and 2 cups lightly blanched vegetables. Our favorites are carrots, peas, and broccoli (or cauliflower) cut into tiny pieces. Once mixed, spread the rice and vegetable mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Lay frozen fish sticks on top. Sprinkle another ¾ cup of cheddar cheese over the top. Then bake for 35 to 40 minutes until everything is heated through, and the fish sticks are golden brown and become crunchy. Delish!
- Or, add fish sticks for a fast source of protein to almost any carb-based dish.
Sink (or sneak) them into Salads!
- Salads are a healthy, great way to introduce fish to grownups, little people, or picky eaters. For instance, swap fish sticks for chicken, shrimp, or tuna in various salads. You could also use fish sticks cut into bite-size chunks as croutons to add protein and crunch!
Cast for a Fish-wich (No Hook Required)!
- Stack fish sticks side-by-side on a hamburger bun or lay them end-to-end in a mini-sub bun topped with cheddar cheese and tartar sauce for a homemade version of a drive-through fried fish sandwich.
- Try rolling some fish sticks with lettuce and veggies into a wrap with sliced cheddar cheese and drizzled with ranch dressing for quick lunch or a super easy dinner.
Sub them in for chicken!
Think of fish sticks as the new chicken of the sea – because they can go anywhere you might use chicken. Think about…
- Swapping them out for chicken cutlets or tenders as the main ingredient.
- Serve cooked fish sticks topped with marinara sauce, melted mozzarella, and some grated parmesan cheese for an Italian version. You could even make it a full-fledged dinner served alongside or on top of pasta seasoned with olive oil and parsley.
- Top cooked fish sticks with pan-fried baby Bella mushrooms and shallots cooked in butter, cover with a sauce made from the buttery pan drippings combined with a bit of chicken broth and a splash of marsala wine; reduce the liquid until it’s thick for a chicken-less Marsala stand-in that’s swimmingly delicious!
- Another delicious idea is to cover cooked fish sticks with a piccata sauce. Combine wine and capers in a pan, reduce the liquid, add olive oil, butter, and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Top with fresh parsley; quickly wilted at the end right in the pan.
To be sure there are many different ways to enjoy fish sticks. And of course, we hope you’ve discovered a few new ways of eating them too.
After trying these Easy Gluten-Free Homemade Fish Sticks with any of our ideas for eating them, check out some of our other kid-friendly, always gluten-free recipes no matter how old you are. So what do you think? Let’s get started making food GfreeDeliciously together!
P.S. Did you make this recipe? Would you make it again? Let us know how you like it! Leave a comment below, share it, and rate it – it’s super helpful for other readers and us. Just click the blue-green comment bubble on the bottom right of your screen to jump to the comment area below. And as always, don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #CookingGfreeDeliciously on Instagram. We love seeing what you cook up!
Using an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should read 165°F (74°C) when the fish sticks are cooked.
Easy Gluten-Free Homemade Fish Sticks & How to Make them in the Air Fryer
- 1 Air-Fryer Basket or Sheet Pan with a Rack
- 1 Cutting Board
- 3 Small Shallow Bowls
- Utensils (Cooks Knife, Whisk, Measuring Cups & Spoons)
- Instant read Thermometer optional
- 1 pound boneless, skinless Cod loin you could also substitute any firm white fish like Haddock or Halibut
- ¼ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 large Egg
- 1 tablespoon Water
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon, gluten-free Panko Bread Crumbs
- Coconut cooking spray
- optional Homemade Tartar Sauce
- Cut the fish fillets into approximately 1" x 1” sticks, 3-4 inches long.1 pound boneless, skinless Cod loin
- Whisk the flour, salt, and pepper in a small shallow bowl.1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon Salt, 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
- In a separate shallow bowl, whisk the egg and water until frothy.1 large Egg, 1 tablespoon Water
- Measure the panko breadcrumbs into a third shallow bowl.1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon, gluten-free Panko Bread Crumbs
- Pat the fish dry, then thoroughly coat the cut sticks with the flour mixture. Then dip the flour-coated fish in the egg wash to cover all sides of each portion.  Lastly, roll in the panko crumbs before placing them on a lightly sprayed air-fryer basket or onto a baking rack positioned over a baking sheet.  Repeat until all the fish portions are done.
- Lightly spray the top of the fish sticks with the coconut oil spray.Coconut cooking spray
- Cook at 375°F (190°C) for approximately 6-7 minutes, flip over, and spray lightly with more coconut oil, then continue cooking for an additional 6-7 minutes or until the coating becomes golden brown and lightly crispy. 
- Serve with homemade tartar sauce.
• Leftover cooked fish sticks can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.
(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)
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