Fish fingers are generally considered junk food by parents seeking to feed their children a healthy diet. A little investigation of the commercial brands available at the supermarket quickly reveals why.
Typically fried in cheap, rancid, genetically modified (GMO) vegetable oils like soy or canola with a long, eyebrow raising list of ingredients filled with unpronounceable additives and fillers, it’s no wonder this simple dish that has been made and enjoyed for centuries is on the avoid list of the food label reading public.
The sad thing is that brands at the healthfood store aren’t that much better with the same cheap, rancid oils used in most cases. Here’s the ingredients list of a very popular (and expensive) gluten free fish fingers brand I examined recently. Ironically, the motto of the company making these fish fingers is “Trust Made Simple”.
Trust? Seriously? Not with these ingredients!
Ian’s Gluten Free Fish Sticks: Fish sticks (whole Pollock fillets, coated with (cornflake crumbs (milled corn, cane sugar, sea salt) water, yellow corn flour, corn starch, sea salt, garlic powder, baking powder)). Cooked in non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil.
Let’s starts with the positive ….
I’m glad to see that Ian’s is choosing non-GMO canola oil to fry the fish fingers. However, even non-GMO canola oil is a terribly unhealthy choice! Conola, oops, I mean canola oil, is a non-traditional, hybridized fat short for “Canadian oil”. It is far too high in polyunsaturated fats (36%) to be suitable for healthy frying. Even if you didn’t fry with it, it’s best to always avoid canola oil as commercial processing renders these types of oils terribly rancid. You just don’t notice any stench because of the careful deodorization that edible oil companies use to hide their industrialized misdeeds from the public.
By the way, have you ever wondered why in the world the healthfood industry STILL uses canola oil so extensively even though it is such an unhealthy fat?
I know I have, and the only reason I can come up with is this: canola oil is cheap, cheap, CHEAP.
What about the other ingredients? Even though Ian’s proclaims the canola oil to be GMO free on the label, what about all the other GMOs in there like cornflakes crumbs, yellow corn flour, and corn starch? It appears Ian’s is only willing to make the extra effort to go nonGMO when it suits them.
Here’s what suits me. Spending my food dollars elsewhere.
If you roll your eyes and walk right by the low quality fish finger brands that are available at the supermarket and healthfood stores like I do, then you will be happy to learn that it is a fast, easy dish to make yourself.
Perhaps you even make this dish regularly for your family too. If so, please share your ideas and variations in the comments section.
Two Keys to Healthy Fish Fingers
The key to delicious, healthy fish fingers is twofold: The quality oil selected for frying and the freshness of the fish. You can select any mild, flaky white fish you want to make your homemade fish fingers. I typically use snapper (either red or yellow) simply because it is readily available fresh, whole, and wild in my neck of the woods.
For frying, I use expeller coconut oil and keep the temperature at or below 325°F/ 163 °C to ensure that no free radicals form during cooking. It is simple to keep tabs on the cooking temperature with an inexpensive candy thermometer. This really is an essential cooking tool that I use all the time!
Keeping the temperature as low as possible also minimizes the carcinogenic acrylamides that form during high heat cooking of any starch (the breading on the fish fingers is the culprit here).
Note that you don’t need to use coconut oil if you don’t want to as there are plenty of other healthy fats that are great such as beef tallow. I prefer expeller coconut oil because it is very cost effective and the results taste great. I also don’t always have tallow on hand.
Fish Fingers Recipe
Here’s how I make fish fingers. Prep/cooking time is only 20 minutes total – much faster even than pizza delivery (that’s a yuck idea anyway, so skip that thought).
1-2 pounds fresh, wild, mild white fish fillets of choice (I use snapper)
1/4 -1/2 cup expeller coconut oil
1 cup fresh flour of choice (I use einkorn flour)
Sea salt and pepper
Pour the coconut oil in a large frying pan and place it on a large burner on the stovetop. Turn the heat to medium.
Crack the eggs in a large bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Sprinkle some sea salt and pepper into the egg mixture and beat once more with the fork.
Sprinkle and evenly distribute the flour onto a large plate.
Dip each fish fillet in the egg mixture and then cover both sides of the fillet with flour by gently dragging it through the flour on the floured plate. Repeat until all the fillets are battered.
Check the temperature of the oil in the frying pan with a candy thermometer. It should be about 325°F/ 163 °C or slighly lower, as it’s been heating up while you were battering the fish. Place the battered fillets gently into the hot oil in the pan.
When a knife easily cuts through the center of each fillet like butter, the fish fingers are ready. Don’t cook them a moment longer or the fish will get chewy. Remove the fillets from the pan with the tongs and place on a large plate. Cut each fillet lengthwise and then again across the middle to form four fish fingers per fillet. If you used very large fillets, feel free to cut them down making more than four fingers per fillet.
Serve immediately with your choice of vegetables, salad, or soup. These fish fingers taste great alone, but if you are a sauce dipping person, homemade mayo (or this avocado mayo) is amazing slathered on. A little organic mustard and raw honey emulsified together with a fork makes a yummy and fast sauce too.
Refrigerate any leftovers and serve as fish sandwiches for lunch the next day.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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