A Simple Fried Fish Sandwich

4.88 from 8 votes
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Sometimes you just need a simple fried fish sandwich.

A simple approach is often better, especially with a fish like bass or walleyes or snapper or rockfish, which is what I mostly use. Pacific rockfish, are a catch-all name for a variety of bass-like fish that live in and around, you guessed it, rocks and wrecks along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja.

Two hands holding a fried fish sandwich
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

They are to the Pacific what black seabass are to the North Atlantic and snapper to the South Atlantic and the Gulf. Or if you live inland, they’re a lot like large- and smallmouth bass.

Rockfish are aggressive biters, as are every reef fish I’ve yet encountered. The hardest part about catching rockfish is to a) keep your gear out of the rocks, where it’ll get snagged, and b) keeping the bouncing, head-shaking rockfish from popping off the hook.

Driving home from one particular rock cod trip, I got an urge to make a fish sandwich. You know, a regular ole’ fish sammich, like a Boston Whaler or a Filet-O-Fish… only edible.

What makes a good fried fish sandwich? It starts with the fish, which for me needs to be firm, white and lean. Not a fan of sandwiches made with fillets of salmon or mackerel or the like: Too soft, and too fatty.

Cod, snapper, haddock, walleye or rockfish are ideal. And it needs to be either grilled or fried. Breaded, as in this case, is easier, although a good beer battered, deep-fried fish sandwich is damn tasty, too.

A fried fish sandwich on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Buns? Anything from good rye bread to hamburger buns to hoagie rolls will do, but I am partial to poppy seed Kaiser rolls. It’s a Jersey thing, I think. Resist the urge for good, crusty bread: It’s so sturdy that the force you need to bite through it will smash your fish fillet.

As far as accompaniments, I gotta have lettuce and tomato, for greenery, crunch, acidity and sweetness. And everything’s better with a slice of bacon.

That leaves the sauce. I’ve had fish sandwiches with everything from ketchup to mustard to horseradish, remoulade, Asian dipping sauces, you name it.

But the Big Daddy of sauces for a fried fish sandwich is tartar sauce. Only I hate store-bought tartar sauces, so I make my own. Too hard? Not so. A tartar sauce is basically mayo with a little mustard and some chopped pickles, plus a random onion product, hot sauce and salt. Easy-peasy.

Check out this sandwich. You know you want to eat it. It’s especially good as a change of pace, or made with leftovers from fried flounder with tartar sauce.

Two hands holding a fried fish sandwich
4.88 from 8 votes

Fried Fish Sandwich with Tartar Sauce

This is how I like my fish sandwiches, but as you know there are endless variations in terms of buns, fish species and how they are prepared, not to mention condiments and accompaniments. I use Pacific rock cod (rockfish) for this, but any lean, white, bass-like fish will do fine. Some alternatives would be black seabass, largemouth or smallmouth bass, lingcod, croaker, walleye, catfish, red drum... you get the point.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients 

FISH

  • 4 to 6 strips of bacon
  • 4 skinless fillets of rock cod or other bass, seabass , walleye, etc.
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • Oil for frying (I prefer peanut oil)
  • 4 large lettuce leaves
  • 4 to 8 slices of tomato
  • Buns for the sandwiches (I prefer Kaiser rolls)

TARTAR SAUCE

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped pickles
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions 

  • If you're making homemade tartar sauce, do this first by mixing everything in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the fridge.
  • Fry the bacon slowly in a pan until almost crispy; you want a little bend in your bacon for a sandwich. Set the bacon aside and discard the fat in the pan, or reserve it for another recipe.
  • Get all your fixins' ready for the sandwiches, and get three shallow containers out for the dredging station: One for the flour, one for the beaten eggs, and one for the breadcrumbs.
  • Take the fish out of the fridge and salt them. Pour the oil in the pan you fried the bacon in and heat it over medium-high heat until it's about 350°F -- if you don't have a thermometer, flick a little flour into the oil. When it sizzles immediately, you're ready. Turn the heat down to medium for a moment.
  • Dredge the fish fillets in flour, then dip in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. If you want a really thick and crispy crust, dip the fillets in egg and breadcrumbs a second time. Turn the heat to high on the oil and gently lay the fillets into the pan. Make sure they are not touching each other. Let them fry for a minute or so, then adjust the heat down; adding the fish drops the heat of the oil, which is why you want to kick the heat up for a minute or two to compensate. If you can't get all the fish into the pan at once, fry in batches.
  • Fry the fish until they are golden brown, about 2 to 5 minutes per side; use the longer range if your fish fillets are thicker than an inch. Set on paper towels to drain.
  • Spread the tartar sauce on both sides of the buns, then add the lettuce, fish fillets, tomato and bacon. Open a beer and enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 683kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 114g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 322mg | Sodium: 550mg | Potassium: 2790mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2187IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 143mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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21 Comments

  1. Made this today out of a channel cat. Really simple, easy, and straight forward. The Sandwich was really pretty with the contrasting colors of tomato, lettuce, and bacon. Almost felt like a BLT with fish.

  2. Love this recipe. Question for you though: this recipe is similar to your fried flounder recipe, but in that one you bread the fish and put it in the fridge for a while so that the breading sticks to the fish. In that recipe, you don’t salt the fish, where in this one you do. Is it correct to say that you shouldn’t salt the fish if you’re going to bread it and put it in the fridge for a few hours ahead of time?

    1. Jonathan: Not really. I actually do lightly salt the fish even when I let it sit a while. That was an oversight.

  3. I’ve made this with Walleye multiple times, it’s a family favorite.

    Don’t tell anyone but I like to sneak a piece of american cheese into my sandwich too.

  4. Tartar sauce is top notch with the shallots. I sub in pickled onions instead of bacon but this is an awesome staple recipe. Made with Mahi mahi (admittedly store bought This time but combo season is upon us) and it turned out so good I almost choked from excitement. Solid 5/5

  5. I love a good fish sandwich. I miss the rock cod I used to get in Alaska when halibut fishing. I’m gonna try your tarter sauce. I have made it before with the mayo and mustard with some pickle relish but it never had the same taste that I like from tarter sauce in restaurants or bottle. I will try the hot sauce and onion but it seems to be missing something else like a vinegar flavor maybe. Any ideas? I would love to make my own just because I like to make homemade but I also find myself out of tarter often and I know there is a recipe that will satisfy my need for tarter sauce. Not a big fan of dill but maybe a little dill is what it needs not sure. Thanks

    1. When we met, my husband refused to eat tartar sauces – perhaps because he strongly dislikes mustard and many are made with it. I have always used cider vinegar in place of mustard. I put the mayo in a bowl then, while stirring, drizzle vinegar in until that perfect “bite” has been reached. Then add the other ingredients. He loves it.

  6. You treat you ocean salmon any different than great lakes salmon or trout, when it comes to handling/cooking them? Wisconsin native here that pulls in a few salmon, rainbow and lake trout from Lake Michigan with the help of some friends.

  7. Looks great! What kind of bread do you use for the crumbs? I’ve found that if you run good sourdough through a food processor until it’s just “shaggy,” it makes a great coating for deep-frying fish. Super-crunchy, almost like Panko but with better flavor.

  8. This Sami sounds and looks great. I love seeded rolls too. This is a little off topic but why do you not smile more in your pictures on this site? Your fishing and hunting trips always sound like so much fun. I know you depend on it for your food sources, and job, but you still have to be having a blast right?

  9. That sammich is no joke! Just got back from Bodega Bay, charter fishing and caught a nice limit of rock cod when I read this recipe. Thanks for bringing back an old classic! The homemade tartar sauce is waay better than store bought. Your the man~

  10. We love Rock Fish – usually make a trip each summer to catch our fill.
    We make our own tartar sauce – just mayo and homemade relish.

  11. A great fish sandwich is one of the most under-rated dishes in the world.
    Looks and sounds fantastic!!

  12. I just had a very similar urge, and used haddock (that I bought, because I couldn’t fish if my life depended on it), battered, and fried, and topped with avocado, radish, and sriracha mayo…it was awesome (not on a kaiser though)

  13. Yum!! I love fish sandwiches and this looks magnificent (fab photos!). My bf (the serious fisherman in the house) didn’t know that largemouth and smallmouth bass were good eating fish – think we’ll have to catch some here in MI and try it out!

  14. Thanks for all the information on Rock Fish. I just returned home from an amazing fishing tip in Craig, Alaska where I caught lots of these beauties. My first fishing expedition and now to enjoy the results!!!

    A Jersey girl here in Oregon

  15. Great summer recipe. I do a similar thing in summer time with lake rainbow trout, but use the frypan on the outside grill to keep from heating the house up. Works great.

    Once again, the photography by Holly is outstanding, and cranks this website up to one of the best on the web.