m. c. de marco: The New Kitchen Cookbook

Fried Smelt

I found a recipe I liked for fried smelt, but I misplaced it. Fortunately, they’re all pretty similar. I add more spices and skimp on the flour.


  • 1 ½ lbs fresh or frozen dressed smelt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. soy milk (optional)
  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. turmeric or a dash powdered safflower
  • dash garlic powder
  • dash mustard powder
  • dash ground ginger
  • 1 or 2 scotch bonnets, diced (or dried red pepper flakes or chili powder, to taste)
  • 2 scallions
  • sesame and/or olive oil
  • white wine


  1. Mix liquid ingredients.
  2. Mix flour and spices.
  3. Chop scallions and dice peppers.
  4. Rinse smelt and pat dry.
  5. Dip smelt in liquid ingredients, then dredge in flour mixture.
  6. Fry the smelt in batches in a large, heavy frying pan with oil, peppers, and white parts of the scallion until golden (about 3 minutes per side).
  7. When done frying the smelt, deglaze the pan with the white wine and green parts of the scallions. Pour the deglaze over the smelt.


You can leave out the egg/milk step entirely.

You can deep fry the smelts at 370°–375° for a couple of minutes (at most), skipping the peppers, scallions, etc. This is a much faster process, but they suffer from the lack of hot spice. Add cayenne pepper to the flour if you miss it. For alternate breading options, see this recipe.

You can broil the smelts for 8 minutes, roast them at 400° for 12 minutes, or bake them at 350° for 20 minutes, also skipping the peppers, scallions, etc. (or not), and instead adding oil to the pan and/or liquid layer.