Pan Fried Smelt Recipe | Girl Heart Food®

How to cook smelt fish recipe

Video How to cook smelt fish recipe

Lightly coated in a mixture of seasoned flour and cooked gently, this fried smelt recipe is prepared quickly and is just as delicious as an appetizer or main course with your favorite side. Don’t forget a splash of lemon when you enjoy!

Crispy fish and a slice of lemon on a blue plate.

Hello friends


Sharing a special recipe with all of you today. It’s a fried and delicious smell!

I love the wide variety of seafood we have here in Newfoundland (and this smelt recipe is no exception. Some of my favorite Newfoundland and Labrador seafood recipes are salted cod cakes, baked arctic charcoal, and cod au gratin.

My parents love being outside during the winter months and spend a lot of time snowmobiling and ice fishing. These smelts were caught from the cold waters of Labrador and given to me. How cool is that?

The smelt freezes very well. Almost as soon as they were caught, they were cleaned and frozen. I just thawed in my fridge and used it in this recipe. Talk about fresh!

So, suffice it to say that this recipe (and main ingredient) is very special to me.

A photo my parents took of the smelts


Whole smelt fish on ice.What are smelt


The smelt

is a small fish (about 6 inches long) with a silvery or slightly green exterior and white flesh on the inside. Here in Canada, they are quite common in the North Atlantic Ocean, where they are a popular food source for other fish species, such as salmon.

In addition to being easy to prepare and tasty, smelt is low in mercury and has many other benefits.

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Here, in the waters of the insular part of the province (Newfoundland), we have fish that are quite similar to the smelt called “capelin”.

The capelin is actually part of the smelt family. In the height of summer, if you go to the shores, you can see the capelin rolling on the rocks of the beach. They are trying to get away from whales (which enjoy them as a food source). It’s quite a sight to see, I’m telling you!

This is a photo taken by my parents of the capelin washing on land in Bellevue Beach, Newfoundland one summer:

Capelin washing on land.


grew up eating smoked capelin. Pretty tasty too! I remember my grandfather drying them outside in the sun where they were in season. Such lovely memories.

So when I got these smelts, I was a pretty happy lady!!

Smell the fish on a blue plate before cooking.

How to cook the smelt

Full details on how to cook the smelt are on the recipe card below, but here are the basics:

Clean your


  1. (If you haven’t already, removing their heads and entrails. Then rinse thoroughly with cool water and pat dry.
  2. On a plate, whisk flour, cornmeal, salt, black pepper,

  3. onion powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Transfer the flour mixture to a food-safe plastic bag.
  4. Add some smelt to the flour mixture, close the bag and shake to cover. Once coated, remove and shake off the excess flour. Continue until all smelts are well covered.
  5. Place the dredged flour smelts on a plate while you are dredging them.
  6. Heat some vegetable oil or avocado oil in a cast iron skillet and cook the smelts on both sides (cook in batches).
  7. Drain the odors of excess fat on a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve the fried smelts with a pinch of fresh parsley, grated lemon and serve with many lemon slices.
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Collage of steps to cook the smelt.

Can I eat the fish


Because the smelt is small, some people eat all the fish clean, including the head, skin, fins, and bones.

I prefer to remove the head and entrails (of course).

To remove the entrails, make a slice down the bottom (belly) of the smelt from the head area to just before the tail and remove and discard. Clean, rinse thoroughly and pat dry before use.

After the smelts are cooked, I also like to remove the central bone when eating. It’s a matter of personal preference, really.

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Spatula picking up the fried smell of a blue plate.” />

What does

smelt taste like?

A little oily, with a delicate flesh, the smelt has a taste similar to trout and is quite delicious.

Close-up of the ornate fried smelt with chopped parsley.

Will there be a fishy smell when cooked?

As for the taste, not so much. I mean, of course, they’re fish, but I’d say they make more of a fishy smell in your home than anything else.

If you have the opportunity to do so, I would recommend cooking the smelts outside, such as on the side burner of your barbecue.

However, if you don’t have a barbecue, you can definitely cook inside. I would recommend having your ceiling fan on.

Fried smelt and two lemon slices on a blue plate.

What to enjoy with the smelt

  • Lemon slices
  • The lemon

  • zest on top is delicious (grate the lemon before cutting
  • )

  • Chili flakes, fresh chili or fresh herbs (such as chopped parsley, dill, chopped chives or green onion)
  • Cocktail sauce Tartar
  • sauce

  • Hot sauce
  • Green beans
  • Green salad
  • Crispy potato wedges

If you try this fried smelt recipe, be sure to leave a comment below!

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