By Emma Laperruque | June 29, 2012

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.

Photos: Emma Laperruque

Almond and Panko Crusted Fish Sticks Recipe

Servings: 4
Calories: 460 per serving
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil , for drizzling


1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
2. Cup tilapia filets in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again. If the filet is very long, cut it in half horizontally; otherwise, leave as is.
3. Put the tilapia strips in a medium bowl. Pour buttermilk over to coat and let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the panko, almonds, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Pour mixture onto a large plate.
5. Coat the fish strips in the panko-almond mixture and place on baking sheet. Drizzle the fish sticks with olive oil and put in the oven.
6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with herbed yogurt dip or sauce of your choice.

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