Crispy Baked Cheddar Cracker Fish Fingers

published Sep 20, 2020
Crispy Baked Cheddar Cracker Fish Fingers

These easy, cheesy fish sticks are equally crunchy all the way around — nothing in the freezer aisle compares.

Serves4

Prep20 minutes

Cook12 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Crispy baked fish fingers on plate with side of cole slaw and lemon wedge.
Credit: Photo: Justin Bridges | Food Styling: Tyna Hoang

Fish sticks are comfort food that are absolutely worth making yourself. It’s easy to do and they freeze well, but what really sets this recipe apart from store-bought versions is the breading. Instead of plain panko, I use crushed cheddar crackers. I almost always have them on hand (I bet you do, too), and their flakiness and savory flavor elevate fish sticks to a whole new level. Nothing in the freezer aisle compares.

The Best Fish for Fish Sticks

For best results, start with firm, white fish fillets that are about 1-inch thick. Halibut, cod, hake, pollack, and catfish can all be used. To make sure the sticks hold their shape when dipping, cut the fillets lengthwise into 1/2- to 1-inch-wide strips and then cut the strips crosswise into more manageable lengths, about 3 inches long.

Credit: Photo: Justin Bridges | Food Styling: Tyna Hoang

Breading Homemade Fish Sticks

To get the cheesy cracker breading to stick, you’ll first need to dust the fish in seasoned flour. I add a bit of lemon pepper and garlic powder, but cayenne, Old Bay, or Mrs. Dash would be great, too.

Next, the fish sticks get bathed in a thick mixture of egg and Dijon mustard. Whisk the mixture well until it’s foamy, which helps it to cling better to the fish. This two-step flour-then-egg process forms a “glue” on the fish so the cracker crumbs cling well.  

Next comes the fun part: rolling the fish in the crushed cheddar crackers (Annie’s Super Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies are my cheddar cracker of choice). The cracker crumbs become moist and clumpy as they meet the eggy fish pieces, so add them in a few additions as you work so every last piece of fish meets fresh, dry crumbs.

Credit: Photo: Justin Bridges | Food Styling: Tyna Hoang

Extra Crispy-Crunchy Fish Sticks

For the crispiest, crunchiest fish sticks, you’ll want to pop a baking sheet into the oven as it heats so that the fish sticks meet a piping-hot pan. A final mist of olive oil or ghee spray ensures the coating becomes brown and crispy. Finally, a quick flip halfway through baking makes the sticks perfectly and equally crunchy all the way around. The only thing left to do? Serve with homemade tartar sauce (mayonnaise + chopped dill pickle + dill pickle brine).

Crispy Baked Cheddar Cracker Fish Fingers

These easy, cheesy fish sticks are equally crunchy all the way around — nothing in the freezer aisle compares.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds

    skinless cod fillets (about 1-inch thick)

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    lemon pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1/4 cup

    Dijon mustard

  • 2 cups

    cheddar cheese crackers (about 4 ounces), such as Annie’s Super Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies

  • Olive oil or ghee cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Heat the oven to 450°F.

  2. Prepare the following: Cut 1 1/4 pounds cod fillets into 1-inch wide strips that are about 3 inches long and place on a large plate. Place 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt on a second large plate and stir with a fork to combine. Place 2 large eggs and 1/4 cup Dijon mustard in a medium bowl and whisk until combined and frothy.

  3. Place 2 cups cheddar cheese crackers (about 4 ounces) in a large zip-top bag and seal the bag. Smash with a rolling pin until the crackers are coarsely crushed to about the size of rolled oats. Pour half the crumbs onto a large plate.

  4. Working in batches, dredge the fish: coat in the flour mixture and shaking off the excess. Next, dip into the egg mixture and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Finally, roll in the cracker crumbs, pressing gently to adhere. Add more cracker crumbs to the plate as needed, they should be dry and not clumpy. Place the breaded fish sticks on a large plate.

  5. Carefully remove the heated baking sheet from the oven. Coat the baking sheet with olive oil or ghee cooking spray. Arrange the fish sticks on the baking sheet so they are not touching, then mist them with the oil or ghee spray.

  6. Bake for 6 minutes. Carefully flip the fish fingers over with a spatula. Bake until the coating is crispy and the fish is opaque and flaky when cut into with a fork, about 6 minutes more.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The fish sticks can be breaded and refrigerated up to 2 hours before baking and will need a few extra minutes baking time. They can also be frozen before baking: arrange the fish sticks on a baking sheet without touching and freeze until solid. Transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen up to 3 months. Bake from frozen, adding 5 minutes to the bake time.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container up to 2 days. Reheat in a 425ºF oven until heated through, about 8 minutes.

Fish options: Any thick, skinless fillets of firm, white fish such as halibut, haddock, or pollack can be used. Aim for fillets that are about 1-inch thick.