Tilapia Fish Sticks

Is anyone else as freaked out by fish sticks as I am? I mean, they’re greasy, sometimes slimy and smell fishy. Yet for some strange reason, every now and then, I get a MAJOR craving for them. I don’t get it either but I decided to work with it.

So, I found this recipe over on Epicurious.com and decided to give it a shot. They looked pretty good and WAY less scary than the store bought kind. To make the fish sticks, I used the same basic cooking method but changed up the breading and used a different fish. I also changed the tartar sauce recipe but I’ll post that separately (it is here).

The end result was beyond amazing. I literally couldn’t stop eating them and then came back for a few more later that night. They were crispy on the outside and super moist on the inside and definitely NOT scary. I experimented with baking a batch last night and pan frying the rest today. Pan frying wins hands down but if you’re really worried about oil, go ahead and bake them (400 degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes).

Tilapia Fish Sticks

Tilapia Fish Sticks plated on blue plate with dipping sauce in the middle

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5 from 9 votes

Tilapia Fish Sticks

Make your own fresh fish sticks with tilapia filets and forget those soggy frozen fish sticks.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 4


  • 1 lb approximately 4 tilapia filets ($4.99)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour ($0.08)
  • 1 tsp cajun seasoning ($0.10)
  • 2 large eggs ($0.24)
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs ($0.65)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil ($0.16)


  • Thaw the tilapia filets (if frozen) by running the sealed packets under cool water for about 5 minutes. Slice each filet length-wise into two or three pieces (depending on width) and then horizontally to yield 4-6 sticks (see photos below).
  • Prepare the breading station by collecting three bowls. In the first bowl combine the flour and cajun seasoning (or salt, pepper, any other seasonings). In the second bowl whisk two eggs. In the third bowl place the panko bread crumbs.
  • Bread the tilapia sticks by first coating in seasoned flour then dipping in egg and finally coating in panko crumbs. Place the breaded sticks on a plate until all of the sticks have been breaded.
  • Heat a large skillet with 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium/high heat. When the pan is very hot it is ready for the fish (a drop of water will sizzle furiously when dropped in the skillet) . Place half of the sticks in the pan and cook on each side until golden brown in color. Drain the fish sticks on a plate covered with paper towel. Wipe out the pan, add the rest of the vegetable oil (2 Tbsp) and cook the second half of the fish sticks the same way.
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Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 472.5 kcalCarbohydrates: 42.18 gProtein: 31.83 gFat: 19.7 gSodium: 453.43 mgFiber: 0.43 g
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.

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Tilapia Fish Sticks plated on blue plate with dipping sauce in the middle

Step By Step Photos

frozen tilapia filets in plastic packaging
Tilapia filets are often sold in a bag or pack with each filet vacuum packed. This makes it easy to thaw only the amount that you want to cook at that time. One pound will be about four filets. Because the filets are thin, they thaw very quickly (about 5-10 minutes under running water).

sliced tilapia filets on cutting board
Cut each filet into four to six filets, depending on the size. The strips should be slightly smaller than you think because they will seem much larger once breaded.

breading station for fish sticks (three bowls)
Set up your breading station with the following bowls: 1 – flour and seasoning; 2 – whisked eggs; 3 – panko bread crumbs.

breaded fish sticks ready to cook
Coat each piece of fish in flour then dip in egg and, lastly, coat in panko crumbs. Keep them on a plate until all of the strips have been breaded. Your fingers WILL get goopy.

fish sticks being fried in pan
Heat 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet until very hot (a drop of water will sizzle heavily). Place half of the fish sticks in the skillet and cook until golden brown on all sides.

golden brown fish sticks in pan
When the first half is done, place them on a plate with paper towel to drain. Carefully wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil and cook the second half of fish in the same manner.

drained fish sticks on paper towel
Let them drain to remove any excess oil.

close up of tilapia fish stick dipped in sauce

Recipe for the scrumptious tartar-like sauce posted here!