Most people first meet fish sticks in the freezer section of the supermarket. Cardboard box, processed product, high in sodium, low in nutrients…. It’s not the best first impression. Maybe that’s why fish sticks have always been the less popular cousin to chicken fingers. Whatever the reason for their shaky reputation, I’m here to vouch for ‘em.
Making fish sticks from scratch is quick and inexpensive. Just use an easy-to-work-with, low-cost fish like tilapia. In this recipe, strips of tilapia are marinated in buttermilk, which keeps the fish tender and juicy, and adds some tang. Next, they’re coated in a mixture of panko, sliced almonds, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. They bake in hot oven for 20 or so minutes—not a greasy fryer—and that’s all there is to it. Crisp, flavorful, and completely good for you. Above, the fish sticks are served with an herbed yogurt dip: bright green with fresh basil, cilantro, and mint. To me, they downright put chicken nuggets to shame.