Tempura Batter Fish Recipe
Fish,  Seafood,  Wisconsin

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.


  • Eleni

    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!

    • Marianne Hatton

      I never use canola oil for anything, since it is from the mustard family, and is highly pricessed. I never use begetable oil because of high processing eirher.

      Peanut oul however, is very heart healthy, and has a much higher flash point than olive oil, so doesn’t smoke or burn at high temperatures, and has a clean light taste. It’s perfect for frying fish, french fries or yempura vegetables.


    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?

  • M Hager

    I followed your batter recipe, mostly on Cod, some halibut. Ive tried quite a few over the years but never found one consistently good like this. It is light and crispy, actually still crispy the next day. I try to avoid fried food but I will get a craving for fish n chips that must be answered or it goes sideways on me. I can skip the chips easy if I can get another piece of that fish. I’m going to try this recipe on chunks of chicken tenderloin for “Springfield Style Cashew Chicken” which my grown kids rope me into at least once a year. That’s a huge fry kettle!! I’m going to test it on scallops too pretty soon. I will comment back on this when I do. But great job on your recipe!

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