Fried Smelt

As you may or may not know, Wisconsin is huge when it comes to the Friday fish fry. I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, however Wisconsinites take their fish fry pretty seriously. I know that when I moved to Dallas to start my career, I was actually a bit bummed that they had no clue as to what a Friday fish fry actually was. Now sure, Texans knew how to fry fish, but it was not the same as the beer battered fish we would have up north.

Of my pickiest eaters, my son actually got turned onto the classic fish fry many years ago, and to this day he loves it. Both of my boys love fishing right now as well and have already learned to filet a variety of fishes. That being said, they still love the fish fry.  There is fish fry you normally do not see much of anymore in Wisconsin, and that is the smelt fry. You are normally offered cod, perch, and maybe bluegill or walleye for the fish fry, but rarely ever smelt. So as my kids love a great fish fry, as well as pretty much anything battered and fried, I thought I would offer up fried smelt and see how they would like them. I mean LOVE them.

Fried Smelt Recipe

Let’s get started.


  • 1 lb smelt, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt, plus an extra pinch
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Thai chili pepper, smashed, cut in half (optional)
  • 2 cups of canola oil
  • lemon wedges, optional

The great thing about these fried smelt is that they cook up really quickly.

Start by heating your oil into a pot, over medium, to medium-high heat. You’ll want your oil temp around 350 degrees.

During this time, add the rice flour and cornstarch to a bowl. Mix well, then add in the teaspoon of salt. Add in the smelt, and toss to make sure all of the smelt are evenly coated.

Prepare your garlic, ginger, and Thai chili.

How to make fried smelt

Once the oil is heated, shake off any excess flour from the smelt and carefully add them into the pot. Work in small batches.

These should only take a few minutes to cook and they will float when finished. Ensure they have a nice and cripsy coating. Once cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them onto a paper lined plate. Season with a bit of salt.

Repeat until the rest are finished cooking. Once all of the smelt are done cooking and seasoned, add them to a serving bowl, and toss with the garlic, ginger, and Thai chili for extra flavor.

When my kids first questioned what they were, and trust me they were a bit skeptical at trying them, I just said go ahead and try them, they are like fish French fries. They heard that crunch when I bit into mine, and then, well just say the rest is history. Those fried smelt were gone in a matter of minutes they loved them that much. Getting a bit of garlic and ginger, along with accents from the Thai chili are best, that and a bit of freshly squeezed lemon.

From what I understand, smelting is no longer welcomed as much in the great lakes. This is probably one of the reasons you are not seeing an abundance of them on menus in Wisconsin.

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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.

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