Beer Batter Fried Smelt Recipe

Here’s an amazingly easy and delicious fried fish recipe for an appetizer or dinner meal. This recipe for fried smelt makes use of cornstarch and beer for that extra crunch and more complex flavor profile. We went with a simple salt and pepper seasoning so that the flavor of the smelt really shines though. Pair your crispy fried smelts with french fries and tartar sauce, or enjoy it with a bowl of hot white rice and vinegar on the side. 

Ingredients for the Beer Batter Fried Smelt Recipe

Tips on Making Fried Smelt

If you don’t know what smelt is, smelts are small fishes growing widely from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. With a mild taste and soft flaky flesh, they taste especially delicious when deep fried. Much like anchovies and sardines, smelt fish are low in mercury and high in nutrients including calcium, vitamin B, potassium, and phosphorus.

Here are the best tips on how to cook smelt:

  • It’s widely available in stores frozen, but it tastes best when fresh. Grab fresh ones if you can find them! Smaller ones are better in that they have very soft bones that are safe to eat. You can basically eat the small smelt fish whole like french fries.
  • Drain the fish well so that the breading will stick well. Pat them dry using paper towels if necessary. For the same reason, be sure to shake off excess breading before dipping them into the beer batter.
  • Add other delicious spices to the batter and breading. Try garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning, cayenne pepper, celery salt, Italian seasoning, and perhaps a dash of chili powder for a spicy kick.
  • Keep the batter cold. Cornstarch makes a crispy batter for fish, and the result is even better when it is cold.
  • Make it extra crispy by dipping the battered smelt into breadcrumbs or corn flake crumbs, if you want.
  • Use enough oil for frying. Let the oil come to the optimal frying temperature of 350 degrees F before dropping the fish in. Fry the fish in batches to maintain this temperature so the smelt fish will always come out crispy. On the other hand, overcrowding the pan will cause the oil temperature to drop and make soggy smelts.

Beer Batter Fried Smelt Recipe

How To Make Beer Batter Fried Smelt

This beer battered fried smelt recipe makes the crispiest and tastiest smelts perfect as a snack or appetizer. The fried smelt is crispy on the outside, yet tender and delicate on the inside.

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins


  • 1 lb smelts, or capelin, or shishamo, washed and patted dry
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup light beer
  • ¼ cup rice flour, (not glutinous)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 5 cups vegetable oil, (up to 8 cups), for frying
  • salt and ground black pepper, to season

To serve:

  • 1 lemon wedge, or lime wedge
  • ½ cup potato fries
  • ¼ tsp parsley, chopped


  1. Preheat your oil ready for deep frying, and line a plate with paper towels.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine both flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside ½ cup of this mixture for dredging.
  3. Add beer and lemon juice into the remaining flour mixture. Whisk until it forms a batter.
  4. Dredge your smelts in the flour mixture, dip in the batter, then deep fry in batches until golden brown and crispy, turning as needed.
  5. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt before serving.
  6. Serve with lemon or lime wedges and potato fries. Garnish with parsley and serve!


  • Sugar: 1g
  • :
  • Calcium: 64mg
  • Calories: 255kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Cholesterol: 38mg
  • Fat: 5g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Iron: 2mg
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 2g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g
  • Potassium: 356mg
  • Protein: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 363mg
  • Vitamin A: 1IU
  • Vitamin C: 5mg
Nutrition Disclaimer

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to clean the smelt before frying it?

Yes, the innards need to be removed because they taste bitter. To clean the smelt, first, take off the head and use tweezers to pull the innards. Then wash the cavity well with cold running water. Frozen smelt are usually sold with the innards already removed, so all you have to do is to wash them with running water.

Can you eat the bones of smelt?

Tiny smelt fish have soft bones that turn crispy and edible when fried. So yes, you can eat them. Bigger ones might have slightly tougher bones. Anyway, the bones are easy to pick out if they’re too tough to eat.

Seafood Recipes


Have crispy beer battered fried smelt for a quick dinner or appetizer! Anyone can make it by following this simple and straightforward recipe.
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