Air fryer smelt is an easy and delicious dinner ready in under 20 minutes that’s perfect for any night of the week. They are crispy crunchy, and perfectly seasoned and make a delicious appetizer dipped in your favorite sauces or quick dinner with a few sides.
Deep-fried smelt makes the best finger food, but if you are looking for a healthier and easier way to make fried smelt try cooking it in the air fryer. It’s faster, more convenient and you don’t have to deal with an oily mess.
Using a fraction of the oil of a deep fryer, the air fryer is a healthier alternative to making fried fish while still having a crispy crust and juicy meat.
This air-fried breaded smelt cooks in under 10 minutes and is full of amazing flavor. Using only 7 simple pantry ingredients you end up with a crunchy and tasty appetizer or side dish that everyone will love.
Smelt. Cleaned smelt, with or without the head.
Flour. Regular all-purpose flour will work great for this recipe.
Breadcrumbs. You can use your favorite brand of seasoned breadcrumbs.
Salt and black pepper. Basic kitchen staple seasonings.
Garlic powder. Adds a nice garlic flavor to the fish.
Oil spray. You just need a little bit of oil spray so the fish can get crispy in the air fryer.
How to make air fryer smelt
If you have frozen smelt thaw i first. My smelt came in fresh and already cleaned. Remove all the guts and the head (optionally) from the fish before cooking it.
Grab a large zip lock bag. Add flour, seasoned bread crumbs, black pepper, salt and garlic powder to the plastic bag. I used Italian seasoned bread crumbs but you can use your favorite.
Rinse smelt fish with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Now add fish into the bag, close it and shake, until all the fish is coated. Lightly spray your air fryer basket with some olive oil spray. Avocado oil spray will work as well.
Place smelt in one layer in the air fryer. Do not forget to shake off extra flour from each fish. This is a very important step since you don’t want to have too much flour on your fish.
Lightly spray oil on each fish. Place the basket in the air fryer and cook for 7-10 minutes (detailed instructions are in the recipe card below). There is no need to flip fish.
Make sure that the smelt fish is cooked all the way through before serving. Its recommended for the fish internal temperature to be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Stick the instant meat thermometer in to the thickest part of the fish.
I know the fish is tiny and it might be hard, just stay away from the basket because the basket temperature will be much higher than the fish.
What type of fish is it
Smelt are similar to sardines and anchovies. This fish is found predominantly in the Great Lakes of North America and in the northern European seas. They migrate from saltwater to freshwater and are very small in size usually about 4 – 8 inches long. Smelt have brilliant silver bodies with stripes of pale green.
Because of their small size, smelt are usually eaten whole including the head, skin, and bones. The bones of smaller fish can be eaten and give a nice crunch without getting stuck in your throat. Although for larger fish, it is recommended to remove the head and some of the larger bones.
What does smelt taste like
Smelt has a delicate and soft texture, it is lean with mild-tasting flesh. This fish is a little oily, but it is not overly fishy tasting. Freshwater smelt aren’t as oily as the saltwater smelt.
When cooking smelt for the first time, don’t forget to remove the guts, otherwise, it can leave a bitter and unpleasant taste.
The most popular ways to prepare smelt are to either toss it with a seasoned flour mixture and pan-fry it in butter or lightly batter the fish and deep-fry it until crispy.
Is it a good fish to eat
Smelt fish not only have great flavor but also have many great health benefits. This fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, full of protein, and high in selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium. Low in fat and mercury, smelt is considered a healthy and nutritious fish that can be consumed on a regular basis.
Where to buy it
Smelt are a very popular commercial fish. This fish is very perishable and is mostly sold frozen. If you live near one of the Great Lakes or the Atlantic or Pacific oceans you might be able to find it fresh. Smelt are widely available in most grocery stores and are usually sold in large bags in the freezer section.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, even though smelt are very small in size and can be eaten whole, the guts should be removed before cooking. The insides can leave a bitter and off-putting taste to fish.
To clean smelt fish, all you need to do is make a slit in the belly all the way to the tail. Gently pull out the guts, rinse thoroughly with cool water then pat dry.
If the fish is larger than 6 inches, the head is normally removed. If you are working with a smaller fish you can leave it on if you want.
Store air fryer smelt leftovers in the air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat place back in the air fryer and cook at 400 degrees for about two minute or until heated though.
More seafood recipes
- Sea bream recipe
- Grouper recipe
- Air fryer branzino
- Air fryer frozen coconut shrimp
- Tilefish recipe
- Air fryer crab sticks
- Plaice recipe
- Sole recipe
- Air fryer frozen tilapia
Hope you will love this air fryer smelt recipe as much as we do. Please rate the recipe if you made it and leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions.
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- black pepper
- oil spray
- Add flour, breadcrumbs, salt, garlic and pepper in a zip lock bag.
- Clean smelt. You can keep the head on. Toss into the flour mixture inside the bag. Shake the bag.
- Spray air fryer basket with oil spray. Place smelt in one layer in the air fryer. Do not forget to shake off extra flour from each fish. Lightly spray more oil on top.
- Air fryer at 390 degrees for 7-10 minutes.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days covered.
- The internal temperature if fully cooked fish is at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 149Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 730mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g