Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce Recipe (2024)

  • Fried Seafood
  • Cod
  • Cabbage
  • Seafood Mains
  • Sandwiches

The key to the ultimate fish sandwich? A light, shatteringly-crisp coating.


J. Kenji López-Alt

Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce Recipe (1)

J. Kenji López-Alt

Culinary Consultant

Kenji is the former culinary director for Serious Eats and a current culinary consultant for the site. He is also a New York Times food columnist and the author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Learn about Serious Eats'Editorial Process

Updated August 30, 2018



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Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce Recipe (2)

Why It Works

  • Using a combination of flour and cornstarch reduces the amount of gluten that can be formed in the batter, therefore preventing it from becoming tough.
  • Adding cold beer to the batter creates the tiny air pockets needed for exceptional crunch, while also adding sugars that heighten the batter’s brownability.
  • Coating the fish in a dry flour mixture before and after the wet batter is the most effective way to achieve a beautifully light outer coating.

I've been scouring New York for a great fish sandwich. Unfortunately, my search has been relatively fruitless, turning up several good-tasting candidates, but none that captures that quintessential New England combo of crisp beer batter encasing tender, flaky white cod, tangy tartar sauce, and a creamy, crunchy mayo-based slaw all on a buttery steamed bun. Is that too much to ask?

Fresh off a frying bender from myKorean fried chickentesting, transporting this task home seemed like a natural.

There's not much to a good fried fish sandwich. The real key is all in the batter. A traditional beer batter is made with lightly leavened flour and cold, bubbly beer. The idea is that a good, light, bubble-filled batter will act as an insulator, slowing down the transfer of heat from the ripping hot oil to the delicate fish. As the exterior batter dehydrates and browns, the fish on the inside steams ever so gently.

For this to work properly, you need a batter that is light in texture, and browns relatively quickly. That's where the beer comes in. First off, sugars present in the beer will increase the brownability of the batter, while its alcohol content makes it more volatile, helping it to escape the batter and thus cook faster than a water-based batter ever could. The bubbles are also essential—they create the tiny, tiny pockets inside a good batter that add to our perception of crunchiness—it's really just a little boost for the baking powder, which performs a similar function.

Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce Recipe (3)

Rather than using straight-up flour for my batter, I use a combo of flour and cornstarch, which reduces the amount of gluten formed—a protein network that can cause a batter to become leathery and tough. Gluten formation is increased with excessive stirring, so for the best batter, I find that mixing it with a whisk or a pair of chopsticks just until it barely comes together is the way to go. A few spots of raw flour are perfectly fine.

I experimented using a few different coating methods—pre-flouring before battering, battering the fish straight up, etc. I found that the most effective method—the one that gave the best balance between crispness and lightness was to give the fish a quick coat in the dry flour mixture, followed by a dip in the batter, then a second dip into the dry flour before lowering it into the fryer.

I admit, the method is not the neatest. You're going to end up breading your hands, and once the fish comes out of the drippy batter and back into the dry flour, it's important to work fast before it all starts to drip off. I find the easiest method is to drop the battered fish into the dry flour, throw some more flour on top to coat, then pick it up by scooping under it and tossing it back and forth between your hands to get rid of excess dry flour. From here, it goes straight into a wok (or Dutch oven) full of hot oil.

Finally, it's important to make sure your beer is ice cold for three reasons:

  • Cold liquids hold their carbonation better.
  • Cold liquids inhibit the formation of gluten.
  • The recipe only calls for one cup of beer, so you're gonna have to drink the leftovers.

October 2012

Recipe Details

Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce

Prep10 mins

Cook20 mins

Active30 mins

Resting Time15 mins

Total45 mins

Serves4 sandwiches


For the Slaw:

  • 1 small head cabbage, finely shredded (about 1 1/2 quarts)

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the Tartar Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Fish:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 quarts peanut oil

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

  • 12 ounces cod fillet, cut into four 3-ounce portions

  • 1 cup light beer

  • 4 soft toasted burger buns


  1. For the Slaw: Toss cabbage and onion with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and lots of black pepper and set aside. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, and sugar in a medium bowl and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, Make the Tartar Sauce: Combine mayonnaise, relish, capers, sugar, and Dijon mustard. Set aside.

  3. To finish slaw, pick up salted cabbage and onions in batches with your bare hands and squeeze out excess moisture. Transfer to bowl with dressing. Discard excess liquid. Toss slaw to combine and season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired.

  4. For the Fish: Preheat oil to 350°F (175°C) in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer. Combine 1 cup flour, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, baking powder, and paprika in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place remaining flour in a large bowl. Add fish and toss to coat.

  5. Add beer to flour/cornstarch mixture and whisk until a batter is just formed. A few small lumps of dry flour are ok. Transfer fish to batter and turn to coat. Working one piece at a time, pick up the fish and allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Return it to the bowl with dry flour and quickly coat it on both sides. Pick up the fish with your hands, tossing it gently in your open fingers to get rid of excess flour. Carefully lower it into the hot oil. Repeat with remaining fish.

  6. Cook, shaking the pan gently and agitating the oil with a wire mesh spider or tongs constantly, turning the fish until it is golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt.

  7. To serve, place a small pile of slaw on the bottom half of each bun. Top with a piece of fish and a dollop of tartar sauce. Close buns. Serve with extra slaw and sauce on the side.

Special Equipment

Wok, deep fryer, or Dutch oven

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
37g Fat
74g Carbs
31g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g47%
Saturated Fat 6g31%
Cholesterol 55mg18%
Sodium 1238mg54%
Total Carbohydrate 74g27%
Dietary Fiber 7g23%
Total Sugars 15g
Protein 31g
Vitamin C 86mg432%
Calcium 299mg23%
Iron 4mg24%
Potassium 783mg17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Fried Fish Sandwiches With Creamy Slaw and Tartar Sauce Recipe (2024)
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