How to Prepare and Cook Fish Cakes: 3 Recipes to Try

When properly prepared with light and white fish such as crappie, walleye or catfish, fish cakes or patties, are definitely a joy to the palate; here are three delicious recipes to sample

My mother and grandmothers were among the best cooks who ever graced a kitchen, and there were few things they prepared for the dinner table that I didn’t dig into like a half-starved tiger. Fried fish patties were an exception to the rule.


As far as I was concerned, no bottle of ketchup was big enough to mask the oily, fishy taste of canned mackerel or salmon prepared in little hamburger-like patties and deep-fried in a skillet. These “trotline sinkers,” as I liked to call them, were often served in our house, but I never liked them.

Years later, I attended a dinner party at the home of one of my college professors, and to my dismay, I discovered the main course was to be what the professor and his wife called “fish cakes.” They looked like the sinkers I’d eaten at home, only thicker—more like a Maryland crab cake than a salmon patty and dredged in bread crumbs instead of flour. Not wanting to be rude, I tried one with a generous spoonful of Mrs. Professor’s special-made sauce ladled over the golden-brown cakes.

To say those fish cakes were delicious would be an understatement. Fried crisp on the outside with a tender middle of lightly seasoned walleye, they were a masterpiece of the culinary arts. I learned then that it was not the patties (or cakes) I disliked, but the fish with which they were made.


One of the earliest fish cake recipes I have found was from a 17th-century source: “Take a boiled pike, mince it with good fat cheese, cinnamon, sugar, currants and egg yolk, then make into balls and fry them.” It is safe to say then, that fish cakes in one form or another have graced dinner tables for centuries.

In its purest form, the fish cake is nothing more than chopped or mashed fish fried in shallow fat until its crust crisps lightly. If you prefer, however, you can prepare the cakes under a broiler, in an oven or on a grill for an even lighter, heart-healthy repast.

There are three things to remember when making fish cakes. First, they should be just moist enough to hold together, but not so moist that they fall apart when cooked. Second, when a recipe calls for fish to be cooked before it is incorporated into the cake batter, you should microwave it or poach it, not fry. And finally, don’t mess with the fish cakes when they’re in the pan or they’ll break apart. Flip once during cooking.


Cook a large batch if you like, then flash-freeze some cakes by placing them on a sheet pan in your freezer for half an hour. Store them in freezer bags and when you’re ready to cook, take out as many as you need and defrost overnight in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to cook the next day.

Now let’s get started. Here are three recipes for these easy-to-make morsels of fish that you’re sure to enjoy if you’re willing to give them a try.


Down-South Fish Cakes Recipe

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Instant mashed potato granules
  • 1 pound fish fillets, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ⅓ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Directions:

1. About 1 hour before serving, prepare instant mashed potato granules as label directs for 1 cup mashed potatoes (or use 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes). Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, stir chopped fish, onion, salt, hot sauce and mashed potatoes until blended. With your hands, shape the fish mixture into four 3-inch-round cakes.

3. Place the beaten egg in a pie plate, and the bread crumbs on a sheet of waxed paper. Dip the fish cakes into the egg, then dredge in bread crumbs.

4. Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a skillet, and cook the fish cakes until browned on both sides and fish is done, about 8 minutes. Arrange fish cakes on a warm platter, and garnish with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs.


Fish Cakes with Green Goddess Sauce Recipe

Serves: 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • ¼ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 4 teaspoons light mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon snipped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound fish fillets, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • ¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup light dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

1. Combine the egg, bread crumbs, onion, mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, lime peel and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the fish, and mix well. Form the mixture into 12 half-inch-thick patties, about 2 ½ inches in diameter. Dredge the patties in cornmeal.

2. In a large nonstick skillet or on a griddle, heat the oil. Add half of the fish cakes, and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until fish just flakes when tested with a fork and the cakes are golden-brown. Repeat with the remaining cakes.

3. For the Green Goddess Sauce, combine the yogurt, half the sour cream and the tarragon in a blender and process until smooth.

4. Stir in remaining ingredients. For each serving, place three fish cakes on a plate along with 2 tablespoons Green Goddess Sauce.

5. Save remaining sauce for another occasion or serve over salad greens.


Mock Crab Cakes Recipe

Serves: 4
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons Lawry's Seasoned Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ + ½ teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1 pound redfish or freshwater drum fillets, cooked and flaked
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • ½ cup crushed saltine crackers, divided
  • 4 tablespoons diced onion
  • 3 tablespoons diced celery
  • Vegetable oil
  • Tartar Sauce

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs and add mayonnaise, mustard, 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper, cayenne pepper and ⅛ teaspoon seasoned salt; blend well. Add fish, parsley and 3 tablespoons saltine cracker crumbs; blend well. Form the mixture into 8 equal patties about 2 inches in diameter. Chill 30 minutes.

2. In a deep skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees. In shallow dish, combine the remaining saltine cracker crumbs, ½ teaspoon seasoned salt and ¼ teaspoon seasoned pepper; blend well. In small bowl, beat 3 eggs. Dip the fish cakes into the egg, then dredge in the crumb mixture. Fry 4 patties at a time until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve hot with Tartar Sauce.

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