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Whether you’re a life-long fish fry fan or brand new to the tradition, you can create your own fish fry at home any day of the week. Start with beer-battered cod and round out the menu with soup or salad, your choice of potato, a bread basket, dessert, and more!

A fish fry set up outdoors on a picnic table.

Even if you’re not religious, tradition of a Friday night fish fry is probably one you’ve experienced if you have lived in the Midwest.

Normally celebrated as part of Lent in February and March, when Catholics typically abstain from meat on Fridays and holy days, communities gather to savor fish fry feasts. Family-owned restaurants, bars, and breweries alike all share their take on the menu.

It’s truly an institution, and now you can learn how to bring the best of a Midwestern fish fry into your home any time, anywhere.

Table of Contents
  1. Beer Battered Cod
  2. Clam Chowder
  3. Marble Rye Bread
  4. Potato Latkes
  5. Tartar Sauce
  6. Cheesecake Bars
  7. Brandy Old Fashioned

Beer Battered Cod

Beer-battered cod (or sometimes perch) is very popular. You can also ordered baked cod (often served with lemon and butter).

Beer Battered Cod
This Beer Battered Cod tastes just like those on many Wisconsin Fish Fry menus but proves that no deep-fryer is required to feast! This easy fish recipe is coated in a beer batter that's crunchy, crispy, and remarkably light.
Beer battered cod, fries, tartar sauce and a lemon wedge on a plate.

Clam Chowder

The server’s interrogation continues with: “Soup or salad?” On Fridays during Lent, you usually can pick between Clam Chowder and “the house salad.” Your choice of dressing on the side!

New England Clam Chowder
You don’t have to live on a coast to have best New England Clam Chowder in the world. This authentic, stick-to-your-ribs recipe has all the right stuff: bacon, potatoes, cream, and (of course) lots of chopped clams.
New England clam chowder in a white bowl.
Easy Garden Salad
This Easy Garden Salad is colorful, delicious, and completely customizable depending on the season, where you live, and what you have. It's the perfect side dish to almost any meal!
Easy garden salad on a white platter.

Marble Rye Bread

Along with your soup or salad, you often get a bread basket: A literal basket of rolls or slices of rye bread, saltine crackers, sesame sticks, and individual packets of butter. It’s extra touches like these that make fish fries feel like such a special event.

Marble Rye Bread
No reuben sandwich is complete without Marble Rye Bread. Swirls of dark and light dough make this classic, caraway-flecked Marble Rye Bread look like you bought it at a bakery.
Marble rye bread on a cooling rack.

Potato Latkes

My sister and I used to be waitresses together, and we still play a game where we try to rattle off all the ways you could order a potato with your fish fry. There are so many ways!

Crispy Potato Latkes
Crispy potato latkes are delicious paired with applesauce or sour cream and chives. They are excellent on the side of your next fish fry!
Potato latkes on a rectangular platter.

Tartar Sauce

Beer-battered cod comes with tartar, always. Baked cod is normally prepared with lemon and butter. Latkes come with applesauce or maybe sour cream and chives. And every plate has the tiniest paper cup of coleslaw.

Tartar Sauce
Homemade Tartar Sauce is ready in minutes with just 5 ingredients, absolutely delicious, and essential for all the fish fries in your life.
Tartar sauce in a small clear portion cup.

Cheesecake Bars

Not all fish fries come with dessert, but when they do, you’ve got options: chocolate cake, cheesecake (with or without strawberry topping), red JELL-O, tapioca pudding, rice pudding, chocolate pudding, ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, or butter pecan), rainbow sherbet, maybe even eclairs. And if you’re already full, you just take it to-go.

Cheesecake Bars
Easier than traditional cheesecake but just as delicious, homemade Cheesecake Bars feature a buttery graham cracker crust and a tangy, creamy filling. Strawberry Topping optional, but highly recommended.
Cheesecake bars on a cooling rack topped with strawberry topping.

Brandy Old Fashioned

Your meal might also come with a mug of beer or a glass of house wine (red or white). But if it doesn’t, or even if it does, consider a Brandy Old-Fashioned, THE classic Wisconsin cocktail for a fish fry.

Brandy Old Fashioned
From Friday fish fries to supper clubs, the Wisconsin drink of choice is a Brandy Old Fashioned. Here's the authentic recipe for the Wisconsin twist on this famous classic cocktail.
A brandy old fashioned in a clear glass.

I hope this fish fry brings back wonderful memories of communal dinners gone by! And I hope, if you can’t go out for a fish fry, you can create one in your own home.

Plated fish fry on a table.
Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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  1. Dear Meggan,

    Your Fish Fry post was a delightful read! I’m 72 and reading it brought back wonderful memories of my childhood in Wisconsin. Although I no longer live there, it is still β€œhome” in my heart. Whether we were eating our catch of perch from Lake Mendota or eating at a local restaurant, tender fried fish with coleslaw was something to look forward to.

    Thank you for this recipe. I’m sure it’s terrific because all of your recipes are so well written and produce delicious results. You definitely write a blog I enjoy following!