Air Fryer Fish Sticks

These fish sticks come together so quickly and can make both kids and adults happy. They are crisp on the outside, moist on the inside and don't leave you with greasy fingers - win, win, win!

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Air fryer fish sticks on a parchment lined plate with coleslaw and a lemon wedge.

Healthy Fish Sticks

People like fried food. Even fish, which is not usually at the top of most people’s lists, is popular if it’s fried. Kids are no exception, with their love for chicken nuggets and fish sticks. We all know, however, that eating too many fried foods is not a good idea. Enter the air fryer, where you can replicate your favorite fried foods using a fraction of the oil and calories. These air fryer fish sticks are a fantastic substitute for deep-fried fish. The panko breadcrumb coating makes them nice and crispy, the air fryer keeps them moist inside and the spritzing of oil (as opposed to submerging them in oil) keeps the calories low and your fingers clean.

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Cod pieces cut up on a white cutting board with a knife next to them.

What type of Fish to Use

Fish sticks are not that fancy. Consequently, you don’t need expensive fancy fish to make them. You can use cod, haddock, flounder, pollack or any firm fleshed white fish. What is important is that you use fresh fish, and then cut it into finger shapes that are easy to bread and easy to pick up with your fingers and eat.

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Baking pans on a blue counter with dredging ingredients - a pan of beaten egg, a pan of seasoned flour and a larger pan of breadcrumbs.

How to Bread Fish Sticks

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… using the right order to dredge and bread foods is not necessarily intuitive. I have a lesson on how to properly bread and dredge foods in the cooking school here, but the important point to note is that you always put the food in the flour first, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs.

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Breaded fish on an air fryer basket, ready to cook.

How to Air Fry Fish Sticks

The key to getting your breaded fish sticks crispy on the outside is to spritz with oil properly. I know our goal is to reduce the amount of oil we are using, but some oil is necessary. Using a spray bottle is the best course of action here – it coats the food evenly and with some spray bottles, you can actually monitor how much oil you are using with each trigger pull. Don’t skimp. Properly coat your fish sticks with oil on all sides to get the best crispy results.

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Air fryer fish sticks cooking in an air fryer.

Make Ahead Fish Sticks

Good news! You can make these air fryer fish sticks ahead of time. Simply freeze the fish sticks before you air fryer them, and then just add a couple of minutes to the air-frying time when cooking. Alternately, you can cook the fish sticks completely and then freeze them in an airtight freezer bag. When it’s time to eat, just re-heat them in the air fryer at 350˚F for about 8 minutes.

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A hand dipping a fish stick into a jar of tartar sauce with a plate of fish sticks in the background.

Dip for Air Fryer Fish Sticks

Of course, if you’re not dipping your fish sticks into ketchup (which probably means you’re over 12 years old), the nice and perhaps obvious choice for you is tartar sauce. No, not the store-bought kind, but the couldn’t-be-easier-to-make homemade kind. You’ll find a recipe for that here. A squeeze of lemon and some tartar sauce to dip into makes this a finger food meal that’s fun for kids and adults alike… but I won’t tell if you dip one or two into the ketchup.

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Air Fryer Fish Sticks

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 10 m
  • Total Time: 20 m
  • Servings:
    3

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces cod or flounder
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable oil
  • Tartar sauce for serving

Instructions

  1. Cut the fish into ¾-inch wide sticks or strips. Set up a dredging station. Combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Beat the eggs lightly in a second shallow dish. Finally, mix the breadcrumbs and salt in a third shallow dish. Coat the fish sticks by dipping the fish into the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs, coating on all sides in each step and pressing the crumbs firmly onto the fish. Place the finished sticks on a plate or baking sheet while you finish all the sticks.
  2. Pre-heat the air fryer to 400ºF.
  3. Spray the fish sticks with the oil and spray or brush the bottom of the air fryer basket. Place the fish into the basket and air-fry at 400ºF for 6 minutes, turn the fish sticks over, and air-fry for another 2 to 4 minutes.

  4. Serve the fish sticks warm with the tartar sauce and some French fries on the side.
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