Tiny Fish Pack Big Flavor – Smelts!

Crispy Smelt Fries
Crispy Smelt Fries

I had a craving for something crispy and fried the other day. Typically, I reach for oysters or salt cod fritters but not this time. This day would be different. This day I would crisp-up a batch of smelts.

Smelts are made up of various small silvery marine and freshwater food fishes found in cold waters of the Northern Hemisphere. I found my smelts in the frozen fish section for six dollars for a two pound bag. The tiny fish resemble salmon in appearance but are much smaller. The largest one the I purchased was only as long as my middle finger.

In terms of flavor, smelts have an oily, rich flesh with a delicate texture. They can be eaten whole, including the head, viscera and bones. For this reason, I decided to make smelt “fries.”

By the way, smelts are highly sustainable according to Seafood Watch.


2 pounds of smelts
2 tablespoons for sea salt
1 tablespoon of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 cup of whole wheat flour
Grape seed oil for frying, about 2 cups

Rinse the smelts and pat them dry, careful not to remove all of the moisture from this fish. The residual moisture will help the flour adhere. Place the fish in a large bowl and add the sea salt, black pepper, paprika and toss. When well coated with the seasonings add the flour to the blow and gently toss to ensure that all of the fish have a nice thick layer of flour.

Remove the fish from the bowl and give them light shake to remove any excess flour before laying them on a paper towel to dry for 10 minutes. This will allow the flour to for a crust. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. When the oil has reached the right temperature, drop the fish in one-by-on, careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the fish for about 4 minutes or until the desired level of crispness is achieved. Remove the fish and allow them to drain on paper towels. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Tiny Fish Pack Big Flavor – Smelts!”

  1. Fried smelts are the best! They’re almost mandatory for Neapolitans to eat on Christmas Eve and one of my hands down favorites. Glad to know that they are sustainable! I’ll have to eat them more.

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I’m Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, affectionately known as The Posh Pescatarian. I’m a sustainable seafood enthusiast and love sharing recipes, education, and tips for making incredible pescatarian meals. I am an industry expert and an authoritative voice on the pescatarian lifestyle. When I’m not working on new recipes in my lab (AKA: my kitchen!) I enjoy traveling and learning about people, places and culture through food, ingredients, and cooking techniques. I share some of my experiences on my TV show Appetite for Adventure!



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