Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sticks

Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sticks |

A week ago, we pulled our 7 year-old out of school to play hooky for the day take a “family field trip.” We’ve recently moved from Chicago to southern Illinois farm country, and we wanted to explore our surroundings. We headed out on I-140 to Alton, Illinois, and drove The Great River Road observing the beautiful sheer rock/earth bluffs along the Mississippi River. (Who knew the Mighty Mississippi could be so beautiful?)

Growing up in Montana, I’ve seen my many bald eagles, but Grafton, Illinois is known as “The Winter Home of the Bald Eagle.” Amazingly, we saw at least 20 eagles soaring majestically above us as we drove along the Mississippi bluffs. The kids were thrilled to take a car ferry over the Mississippi on our way to Calhoun County. It was here in the tiny, tiny town of Hardin that we discovered, not one, but TWO of the most delicious road food restaurants on the planet.

And it was from the Kid’s Menu (of all places) at Mel’s Riverdock Restaurant that we ordered the very best fish sticks I’ve tasted.

Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sticks |

These best-fish-sticks-ever were made from Mississippi catfish and were not-greasy, crunchy from cornmeal, and just-salty-enough from seasoned salt flavoring. And for the first time in my dear 5 year-old’s life, she said she “liked fish!”

Over the years I’ve tried to perfect healthier, non-deep-fat-fried fish sticks – but it’s a pain; there are just so many steps: Flouring, egg washing and then corn-meal dredging – baking and then flipping halfway through.

Until I discovered this brilliant Cooking Light recipe for Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks.

In two easy steps, the fish is egg washed (neatly in a bowl) and cornmeal dredged (securely in a zip-top bag.) This time, I adapted the below recipe to taste more like the Mel’s Riverdoc Restaurant recipe. Thus a new version of best-ever-fish-sticks emerged.

Cornmeal Crusted Fish Sticks


  • 1 tablespoon 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 20 (1-inch) strips
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickles


  1. Combine milk and eggs in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add fish, and toss gently to coat. Place panko, cornmeal, seasoned salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top bag. Add fish to panko mixture; seal bag. Shake bag gently to coat fish.
  2. 2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of fish; cook 4 minutes or until done, turning occasionally to brown all sides. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining fish.
  3. 3. Combine yogurt, pickles, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Serve sauce with fish.

And for the second time in her 5 year-old life, my daughter again said she “liked fish”…which was almost as exciting as listening to our 7 year-old’s written report on her “Family Field Trip to the Mississippi.”

Do your kids eat fish or do they turn up their noses?

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  1. Love that you took a “family field trip” for the day! I’ll confess to never having made fish sticks for my kids, who aren’t big fish eaters either, although they will sometimes eat Mahi Mahi in fish tacos, and my son can eat smoked salmon like its nobody’s business :-) I definitely want to try making a GF version of these fish sticks-so glad you shared!

    • I actually ran out of panko one time when making these and ground up instant brown rice in my spice grinder. That would be a GF option with GF cornmeal. It worked great. If you don’t have a spice grinder, food processor might work!

  2. These look so tasty and fun! I always loved fish but never fish-sticks, but I definitely want to try these. The recipe looks so easy

    • Let me know what you think Meme! The breading is really light, but crispy…so I think you may like a lot!

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