Perfectly golden brown, light, and crispy this Beer Battered Fish Recipe is always a hit. It’s perfect for a casual fish and chips dinner or add a few more sides to turn it into a fish fry. However you serve it, you can’t go wrong with this fried fish recipe!
Beer Battered Fish Recipe
If you’re not a fan of beer, you may be thinking “meh” to the idea of beer battered fish but, trust me, you don’t want to skip this. Taking notes from and inspired by Chef John, this is the lightest, crispiest fried fish recipe ever.
The flavor of the beer isn’t prominent in the dish. In fact, if you use a light beer, you may not be able to tell at all. What the beer DOES do, however, is create the carbonation that results in a light, crispy breading. Add to that one additional secret ingredient – rice flour – and the end result is the best fish fry you’ll ever try.
This beer battered fish is perfect for making some fish and chips (aka fries) or dressing up with some additional sides like macaroni salad for a traditional fish fry dinner.
There are just a handful of ingredients used in this fried fish.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Cod – See below for other types of fish you can use instead.
- Light beer – The key to a light and crispy batter. It’s very important that the beer is properly chilled. See below for notes on the best beer to use.
- Flour – Both rice flour and all-purpose flour are used in the batter, to help achieve the perfect golden brown and light, crispy coating.
- Baking powder – Helps achieve an “airy” batter.
- Spices – Garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper are added to lightly season the batter.
When it comes to making fried fish, you want to opt for a white fish that has a firm texture and mild flavor. Avoid delicate fish like flounder which will taste amazing but likely fall apart, or oily fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel. Oily fish plus deep-fried in batter is just too much.
So what fish should you use for beer battered fish? My go-to is cod but halibut and tilapia both work well. Those living in the South often use catfish as well.
Avoid dark beers like stouts. Their flavor and color are too strong for the batter. Light beer, like pale ale, is best. The purpose of adding the beer is really the yeast and carbonation, which help make the batter crispy and puff up – not the way it tastes. The alcohol itself cooks off in the hot oil, much like cooking with wine.
For that reason, there’s no need to choose an expensive can of beer. Just grab one that you’d usually drink, as long as it’s a light beer.
Whatever brand you do choose, just make sure it’s very well chilled. This is important to create the light, crispy breading.
How to Make Beer Battered Fish
If this is your first time making beer batter fish fry at a home, don’t worry. The process is super simple! Avoid soggy batter with these tips:
(To make this recipe, scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Fish should be completely dry. Keep patting the fish dry with several paper towels until the actual towels are dry.
- Use a combination of rice flour and plain flour. All purpose flour alone provides a nice golden color, but a soggy coating after just a couple of minutes. Alternatively, rice flour doesn’t get golden, but makes the exterior super crispy. But the two combined and we’re in business! This is what Asian restaurants do in many of their fried recipes.
- Make sure the batter is cold. The pairing of chilled batter and hot oil will give you a crispy coating.
- Let the batter rest. Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes (as you heat up the oil) so the carbonation in the beer can do its magic with the batter.
- The oil should be kept at 375 degrees F. The temperature will drop dramatically once you put the fish in, so use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil temp. If you don’t have one, the oil should be shimmering with quick swirls. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the coating will be soggy, and conversely, if it’s too hot, the batter will burn and the fish won’t be cooked through.
- Fry in batches. For the same reason above. Over-crowding the pot will drastically reduce the oil temperature and also make the fish pieces stick together.
There are many ways to serve up your beer battered fish, whether it’s as a classic beer battered fish and chips (aka fries) or as part of a fish fry.
A fish fry is a meal containing battered or breaded fried fish. It usually also includes french fries, coleslaw, macaroni salad, lemon slices, tartar sauce, hot sauce, malt vinegar, and dessert. This light and crispy battered fish is ideal for a fish fry dinner, and you can certainly pick and choose the sides you want to serve it up with. Spicy remoulade sauce, instead of tartar sauce, also makes a nice addition.
Can I Make This In Advance?
Unfortunately, no. Beer battered fish is something that should not be prepared in advance. In fact, you want to aim to enjoy the fish within 15 minutes of cooking. The longer it sits, even if it’s well-drained on paper towels, the less crispy the outside will become. It will only stay crisp for 15 minutes or so.
If you do end up with leftovers, you can reheat them the next day by quickly frying them again or popping them in the oven. Just note that they won’t be as crisp as they were when you first fried them.
More Fish Recipes:
- Honey Glazed Salmon
- Creamy Baked Halibut
- Fish Piccata
- Grilled Fish Tacos
- Fish Stick Tacos
- Baked Cod (Sheet Pan Dinner)
Crispy Beer Battered Fish
- 1 1/2 pounds cod fillets , boneless, skinless
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup rice flour , divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup very cold light beer
- vegetable or canola oil, for frying (4 to 5 cups)
- For serving: tartar sauce or remoulade, lemon wedges, coleslaw, and French fries
- Pat fish completely dry with paper towels. Cut into 3 x 1 1/4-inch batons. (If you have very thick fillets, cut in half horizontally.) Set aside.
- Heat 2 to 3-inches of oil in a large heavy based pot over medium-high heat to 375°F.
- While the oil is heating, whisk together the all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup rice flour, baking powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add very cold beer into the batter and whisk just until incorporated – do not over-mix (a few lumps are fine. It should be a fairly thin batter but fully coat the back of a spoon. If too thick, add beer 1 teaspoon at a time.)
- Place remaining 1/4 cup rice flour in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle 3 or 4 pieces of fish with a pinch of salt, then coat in rice flour and shake off excess. (You can leave them like this for up to 10 minutes.)
- Dunk a piece of fish in the batter, then let the excess drip off very briefly.
- Carefully lower the coated fish into the hot oil, dropping it in away from you, one piece at a time. Don't over-crowd the pot; fry in batches. Fry for 3 minutes, flipping after about 2 minutes, until deep golden.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Repeat with remaining fish.
- These are best enjoyed immediately while hot, but they will stay crisp for about 15 minutes.