Norwegian Pan-Fried Smelt Recipe

4 servings
15 min

Pan-fried smelt is a quick and easy meal, snack, or crispy appetizer that you can make in just 5 minutes. With only three ingredients, these Norwegian treats have been enjoyed for centuries across Scandinavia!

These small fish are flaky, soft, and perfect finger food with seasonal salad and beer. Make it a meal by serving them with warm potato salad!

The easiest, and best way to cook smelts in 5 minutes is to shallow-fry them! The Norwegian recipe for "pan-fried" has been secretively passed down through generations. Try it today, and you'll be hooked too!

In Norway, these tiny silver-colored fish are often the target of small 'fishing shack' villages that spring up along frozen rivers or in "schools" along the saltwater coastline during spring migration to their spawning streams.

The texture of crispy fried smelt is so delightfully different than any other fish I've tried. It's really simple to prepare and only takes 5 minutes from start to finish, but the amazing flavor makes it worth every second!

They have delicate flesh and are eaten whole; coated in flour and cornmeal and then fried for a wonderfully crispy bite.

Smelt (also known as whitebait, sprat, and whitefish) is such a delicious seafood appetizer or quick dinner with a side!

Norwegian Pan-Fried Smelt Recipe
Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 5 Minutes Total time: 15 min
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For the fried smelt
  • ▢ 1 pound small smelt fish
  • ▢ 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons cornmeal or matzo meal
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon salt
  • ▢ 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • ▢ Olive oil for frying
For the lemon sauce
  • ▢ 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ▢ Juice of 1 lemon
  • ▢ 1 clove garlic minced
  • ▢ 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
In a small bowl, combine the 2 tablespoon of olive oil, juice of one lemon, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley; refrigerate.
Fried fish
In a bowl, or a shallow dish, combine 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoon cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Place fish in batches into the bowl, coat with the seasoned flour mixture on both sides of the smelt, and then shake off excess flour (see notes below).
Heat the oil (about 1-inch deep) in a large frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add enough smelt to cover the bottom of the pan without crowding (cook in batches). Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, crispy, and thoroughly cooked.
Repeat the process to cook the remaining smelt; drain on a wire rack or paper towels.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot, drizzled with the lemon sauce.
  • Thaw your frozen smelt in the fridge.
  • If serving as an appetizer, aim for six to seven per person and twice that for the main course.
  • To clean the smelt, gently pry open the head of the fish and slowly pull the gills along with the entrails. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.
  • Shake excess flour off of the fish before cooking.
  • For the best texture, fry smelts until crispy.
  • Make sure not to crowd the fish. Fry in batches, if necessary.
  • Let the fried smelt drain its excess oil on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or line with paper towels.
  • For the best results, read additional tips in the post above.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
  • Storage:
  • Refrigerate leftover fried smelt for up to 3 days.
  • For more tips, visit the original recipe on the blog by following the "GO" button below.
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