Tilapia Fish Sticks

$6.22 recipe / $1.56 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 9 votes
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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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Tilapia Fish Sticks

5 from 9 votes
Make your own fresh fish sticks with tilapia filets and forget those soggy frozen fish sticks.
Servings 4
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 25 minutes


  • 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: 1ServingCalories: 472.5kcalCarbohydrates: 42.18gProtein: 31.83gFat: 19.7gSodium: 453.43mgFiber: 0.43g
Read 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!

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  1. I cooked this last night, trying to incorporate fish more often into our rotation. It came out better than expected. I doubled the amount of Cajun seasoning though and we still couldn’t taste it. Also the tartar-like sauce is super good! But for this recipe I would halve the quantity because it made way too much.

  2. I added a teaspoon of salt to the flour mixture since my Cajun seasoning is homemade. I couldn’t taste the Cajun and will double it next time. Also, I patted the fish dry before slicing. I feel like that helps the breading stick better. I served with ketchup and the rice cooker mac recipe to replicate one of my favorite childhood meals. :)

  3. Another home run Beth! :) My nutritionist recently advised I include more fish in my diet, and so I’ll be trying all your fish recipes here. It can be expensive, but your recipes always keep the cost down. We didn’t taste the seasoning much in our fish sticks, but we’re going to try applying the seasoning to the fish before flouring next time to see how it tastes. I’d love to see more seafood recipes here, like shrimp, crab etc. Keep on cookin’! :)

  4. Hi Beth, I like fish sticks, but never have made my own. The Tilapia Fish Sticks are deee-licious! They are so good, I won’t ever be able to go back to those frozen sticks from the grocery store. The recipe is very easy to follow, and they cook up in just minutes. I paired the fish sticks with your Tartar-like Sauce, which put the flavors over the top. Thank you for your passion and for providing us with wonderful, 5-star meal ideas.

    1. Yum! I just finished eating the left-over Tilapia Fish Sticks, with more sauce. They are delish cold. I also had a happy memory happen while I was eating. More than 50 years ago, when I was a kid, I would eat left-over fish my mother had fried up the night before. My mom is 93 now and was a fantastic family cook. My whole family has many memories surrounding food and our dinner table. Funny how & when memories hit us, even decades later. Thanks again.