Beer Batter Fish Fry

Updated: May 5

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Fried Fish Title Image. Image of Fried fish in the background. Title: The Smith Country Beer Battered Fish Fry
You'll NEVER go back to packaged batter ever again!

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For anyone that’s not from Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry is a huge tradition for the entire state. Wisconsin is known for their fish fry (especially beer batter fish) with an ice-cold beer. In case you were wondering… yes we LOVE our beer here in Wisconsin. Fun Facts before we get started. Fish Fry grew huge in Wisconsin due to the large Catholic communities not eating meat on Fridays (many churches hold Fish Fries during Friday to offer a non-meat option to the community) and prohibition created a need for bars to find creative ways to bring in customers. So… they offered cheap fish dinners with alcohol under the table (shhh).

OK, now back to our recipe. My husband and I thought it would be fun, one Friday night, to create our own beer batter. I mean, we already catch our own fish, why use boxed batter when we can make our own? So we cut a lot of small pieces from our fish fillets, courtesy to an ice fishing venture (yes that’s right, Wisconsinites and most Midwesterners for that matter, fish ALL YEAR ROUND), and we began our experiment. Carefully adding and tasting all the ingredients until it was exactly how we liked it – at that time. 😉 Then, after a few years I added or took away ingredients and now… we have our new and improved recipe! I use this batter on shrimp, chicken (yes, chicken), and of course fish. We always use the fish we catch, we do live right next to the Mississippi River after all, and my oldest has gotten pretty darn good at it. But if you’re unable to catch your own, buying it from the store is also fine. I do really recommend buying locally if you can. Fresh fish is ALWAYS better.

Also, I have a tartar sauce recipe that goes great with this Beer Batter Fish Fry.  Enjoy!


  1. 1.5 cups all-purpose flour

  2. 1/2 tsp black pepper

  3. 1 tsp salt

  4. 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  5. 1/2 tsp onion powder

  6. 1 tsp baking powder

  7. pinch of cayenne pepper

  8. about 8-10 oz of a Light Colored -Ale beer (I like New Glarus® Spotted Cow, but my husband likes Blue Moon® – which is also more accessible to those of you not in Wisconsin)

  9. 1lb of fish of white fish (We generally use Catfish, or Perch. But Walleye and Cod are also a very common Wisconsin choice).

  10. Peanut Oil for frying(I highly recommend this. It can hold high temp, and is much less expensive than others. But if you have a peanut allergy use canola or avocado oil instead).

Total Time: 30 min

  1. Prep Time: 5 min

  2. Cook Time: 20-25 min

There are a few items that I use that will help make your job a bit easier.

  1. A Deep Fryer (This is NOT required, and you could certainly use a cast iron skillet as well, I personally have found this to be easier.) I use the Presto 05466 Stainless Steel Dual Basket Pro Fry Immersion Element Deep Fryer

  2. A sheet pan and cooling rack for excess oil. Sheet Pan with Stainless Steel Oven Safe Cooling Rack set is great because the cooling rack fits perfectly inside.

  3. Mixing Bowls. I love these Pyrex glass bowls. In fact, my set is actually a hand-me-down and is almost 20 years old!

  4. Tongs, I know the fryer comes with baskets, but trust me when I say... Use tongs!

  5. Whisk, it helps mix the batter better than a spoon.

Feeds: 4-5 People

Start by heating your fryer (the oil needs to be clean and hot). Set the Fryer to 400º. Then rinse and dry your fish. I usually just lay mine on a paper towel and flip a couple of times to get the excess water off.

Raw white fish (perch mostly) drying on a paper towel.

If you're buying your fish and have some thick pieces, try cutting it into cubes like this:

Cubed Cod fish on a bamboo cutting board.

This worked out really well for cooking and my younger kids LOVED having the bite-sized pieces to eat.

Now For the Batter

Then in a medium-size bowl put all of your dry ingredients (flour, black pepper, salt, garlic and onion powder, baking powder, and cayenne pepper) in and whisk them all together.

all ingredients in a bowl before mixed together
beer batter after the beer is added.

Next, pour in the beer of your choice. I really don’t recommend light beer, it doesn’t really have the same taste, but if that’s what you drink, use that. I just personally feel that “regular” ale beers give a better flavor than light beers. Ultimately, it’s not my kitchen, so go for what you like. 🙂

the beer batter next to a bowl of hushpuppy batter. All of this in front of a jar of flour and a glass bottle of beer.

You don’t have to pull out a measuring cup either, you just start pouring in beer (slowly) and stirring it in (Don't drink beer, just use carbonated plain water).

You’re looking for a thick pancake batter-like consistency. What my husband and I do is start with 1/4 of the bottle/can, whisk, if it looks too thick slowly add more, whisk and keep going until it’s where we want it... When you get the consistency right… drink the rest (you're welcome). 🙂

After that, you take your fish fillets and submerge the entire fish into the batter, let the excess drip off, and drop into the 400ºF oil. Your oil must be at 400ºF when you start or your fish will soak up all the oil and it will not be crispy.

Fish being fried in a deep frier.

You can put as many fillets (or cubes) in as you want, but keep it to one floating layer of fish at a time. You will need to rotate them around until they are golden brown. Once they are golden, take them out and place them on a paper towel to remove any excess oil.

Continue this process until all the fish is fried. Then enjoy! I personally like to eat mine in a freshly made bun with coleslaw on the top. But plain (a little tartar sauce on the side) with fries and a bowl of coleslaw is the true Wisconsin way.

Golden Fried Fish
How Yummy Does That Fish Look?


You can also use this beer batter for onion rings, shrimp, and even cheese curd. If you choose to do cheese curds, you need to freeze them for a couple of hours first.

Check out my Insta Reels where I show the different stuff I fry with my beer batter.

Want a yummy Side to go with?

Try my Patatas Bravas with remoulade. The remoulade is perfect with both the fish and the patatas bravas.

Patatas Bravas in a white dish, remoulade sauce in a red dish and next to a light ale beer (New Glarus Brewing Co Spotted Cow).

ENJOY and Share!

Make sure to tag me on Instagram and Facebook #thesmithcountry or @thesmithcountry! I love seeing friends and family come together over a special meal and fun food.

The Title: Perfect Beer Batter Fried Fish and an image of fried fish (golden in color)

All images © 2020 Jenn Smith of Smith Country, LLC

All rights reserved. You may not sell, trade, share or redistribute this recipe in any way. You may NOT use any of my photographs for your site. You may link this post to a list of recipes, giving credit for the recipe to myself and my site. ©2020 Jenn Smith of Smith Country, LLC

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