Crispy Fish Tempura

My first job, at the age of fourteen, was at a restaurant. For some reason I decided to become a dishwasher at one of the busiest fish fry joints in the neighborhood. It was nothing to be proud of, trust me. It was non-stop, exhausting dish washing. Hundreds of plates, dirty silverware, and just plain old slop came rushing at me, only me, a mile a minute. I never complained about it, probably because I had no time to think about it, and reflecting back on the good old age of fourteen, I was pretty proud of myself. I was riding my bike blocks away, and heading home around midnight on a Friday night. How cool was that? The restaurant was known for its fish fry. When I did have a break, I watched the half dozen or so heavy metal, stoner type dudes tossing in fish into the fryers, picking up the hot baskets, dumping them into a hot tray, and then waitresses rushing away to serve the hundred or so people in the dining hall. It was an experience, and after watching these guys make a mess of the food, I never returned to eat there again.

Tempura Batter Fish Recipe

But it was the fish fry. If you are from Wisconsin, you know exactly what I am referring to. If you are not from Wisconsin, well, you should visit, especially on a Friday night, and visit almost any restaurant for this, almost religious activity, known as the fish fry.

It is almost routine in our family that if I even pose the question on a Friday of ‘what do you want for dinner tonight’, the answer is, 90 percent of the time, a fish fry. We love it, and as I have been experimenting with beer batters over the last few years, I have also been tinkering with tempura batters.

A tempura batter is really simple to make and yields a light, crispy coating, which is perfect for small cod filets.

Let’s get started.


  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups of very cold seltzer water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup of additional all purpose flour
  • Cod filets, cleaned and patted dry
  • Canola Oil

Begin by mixing the salt, cornstarch, and one cup of flour in a mixing bowl.  Add in the very cold seltzer water and lightly mix. Do not overmix. If you are not going to use right away, place the bowl in a larger bowl, lined with ice, so that the batter remains very cold.

Heat your oil, enough oil to have the fish submerge, roughly three or more cups. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Take your cod filets, and cut into four inch lengths. They are easier to manage in the fryer, plus I think they are more fun to eat. Add the remaining flour to a plate.   Once the oil is heated, take a filet, place a filet onto the plate with flour, and lightly coat both sides. Toss in the bowl of cold batter, then carefully place them into the fryer. Cook until you have a nice, golden brown fish. Remove the cooked filets with a slotted spoon, and repeat until all of your fish is cooked.

To plate, add the cod to a serving dish and line with lemon wedges.

The result is a perfect, crunchy, but light cod filet that is super tender and flaky. A fish fry done right. You can also use this batter for any vegetable, shrimp, or heck, whatever your imagine gives you. Hope you enjoy.

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Dax Phillips

Thank you for visiting my website. Truly, I do appreciate it. My free time and stress reliever is cooking for my family, friends, and everyone in between. The recipes you find on this site are those that I have either created, been part of, or those that I simply enjoy and have made my own in some shape, form, or other. My focus has always been on comfort food, because at the end of a long work day, you want something comforting. I currently am the father of three children, and married to a wonderful wife of thirteen years. There is nothing fancy with these recipes, just simple, and I will admit, not so simple ingredients, and a simple kitchen corner I can call my own. I learned early on that cooking and bringing family together was very important. After all, this notion of being together at dinner time was instilled early on by my parents. There are many memories of being in the kitchen with my parents, watching them cook, or preparing meals, or those home cooked smells while waiting for dinner. My parents who worked full-time, always had home cooked meals during the week, with the exception of Friday nights where we would enjoy a Wisconsin fish fry, and often on late afternoons on Sunday, where we would order Ann's pizza. I tend to cook by making things up. As a home cook, I think you have to take chances, and add or subtract ingredients that make up a dish, and make them your own. Remember to taste, and taste often. If a dish has potential, try it again, and make it your own. You should also note that I do not count calories, or break down recipes into grams of anything. To me, that's a bit boring. My philosophy is that if the food is good, eat it, and eat it in moderation. Life is just too short not to enjoy good food. Commonly Asked Questions: Can I use your photography/content on my website/blog? Please do not redistribute my photography or recipes without my permission. All of the recipes and photography on this website are my own unless noted, and is subjected to copyright  If you’d like to use a photograph or a recipe, please contact me for permission. Will you review my product/book/site? I am available for recipe development, food photography and/or styling, travel/press events, product reviews, brand promotion/ambassador, and sponsored posts. If you are interested in working with me, or if you have a question/comment regarding a recipe or about my blog, please send me an email.

2 thoughts to “Crispy Fish Tempura”

  1. I’m a fan of your blog in Athens Greece and, like you, a kimchi addict which I make myself. There is no Canola oil here – apart from olive oil we do have corn oil, sunflower & peanut oil. Would you know which is the best substitute for Canola? Thank you!

  2. I grew up in Northern MN, and can assure you, Wisconsin has no monopoly on fish or on cooking fish. While the recipe is appreciated, I think many place too much emphasis on Walleye. Pan fish, including bluegill, sunfish, perch, and crappie are far more plentiful and flavorful than the overhyped pike. They are easier to catch, clean, cook, and eat. Plus, they have more of a “fishy” taste that is precisely the point of eating fish, anyway.

    In addition, I question why you took no pride in dishwashing. I worked in restaurants for eight years, and would admonish you that any job done honorably, is an honorable job. Perhaps you think yourself above such labor?

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