Fried Smelts with Shallots

  • Preparation 20 MIN
    Cooking 10 MIN
  • Servings 4
Inspired by the memory of perfectly crisp Mediterranean sardines on the Moroccan coast, we turned to smelts—another tasty, tiny fish (rainbow smelts from lakes Erie, Huron and Superior is the most sustainably harvested variety). Just a dredge in flour seasoned with cayenne, cumin and turmeric, and a quick shallow fry is all these irresistible morsels need. For the ultimate snack, serve them hot with lots of lime…and a cold beer or two.



  1. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels or a dishtowel.
  2. In a large high-sided skillet over medium heat, heat 1/2 inch (1 cm) of oil to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal and spices. Season with pepper (see note).
  4. Coat half of the fish in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining fish. Set the flour mixture aside for the shallots.
  5. Fry half of the fish in the oil for 5 minutes or until golden and crispy, turning halfway through cooking. Drain on the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining fish.
  6. Coat the shallot slices in the reserved flour mixture, tossing to separate into rings and shaking off any excess flour.
  7. In the same skillet, fry the shallots in the hot oil for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels.
  8. Transfer the fish to a serving dish. Garnish with the fried shallots and lime wedges.


Smelts are naturally salty, so no need to add any salt.

Eco-friendly tip: Fresh smelts are quite perishable, so make sure to cook them within a day or two of purchase. If properly stored, frozen smelts can last as long as six months.

Healthy Pick

Recipes with the \"Healthy Pick\" stamp have been evaluated by a registered dietitian member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec.