Traditional Maritime fish cakes

Classic comfort food at its finest!

Forget frozen fish sticks and tater tots. Once you taste these humble yet delicious fish cakes you just might find yourself making fish your dish on a more frequent basis. I love this tasty recipe because it’s easy to prepare; as a bonus, it’s also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes, if you have any. You can freeze the fish cakes after shaping them; simply partially thaw them in the fridge before coating and frying them. I like to serve these with coleslaw or a green salad; we find that two fish cakes is an appropriate serving for us, but some people may prefer more. You can use whatever white fish you like; I have successfully made these with basa, tilapia, haddock, cod and sole. Use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs for coating the fish cakes, if you prefer. For those not familiar with the technique of soaking then poaching fish in milk, it produces a fantastic, creamy texture. Plus, the protein in the milk binds with the compounds that cause a fishy odour, extracting them and resulting in brighter, cleaner-tasting fish.


  • 1 pound boneless fish fillets (thawed, if frozen)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 1 pound (454 g) russet potatoes, peeled (about 2 medium)
  • Salt and pepper to
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
  • Few dashes hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 g) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) flour, for dredging
  • 2 cups (200 g) Panko or other dry bread crumbs for dredging
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Tartar sauce and wedges of lemon, to serve


  • Put the fish and milk in a medium saucepan. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • Peel the potatoes and put in a saucepan with a little salt and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Drain thoroughly, mash and season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a medium sized bowl.
  • In a small skillet, melt butter, add scallions and cook until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the scallions into the cooked potato mixture and place in the refrigerator to cool.
  • Remove the fish from the refrigerator and place over medium-low heat. Bring the milk to a simmer and cook the fish until flaky, 5 to 7 minutes; do not overcook. Remove from heat, drain off the milk and transfer the fish to the refrigerator to cool. Once cooled, use a fork to break the fish into large flakes.
  • Lightly beat one of the eggs and stir into the cooled potato mixture along with the Worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika and hot sauce. Gently fold the flaked fish into the mixture. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  • With your hands, shape the mixture into 8 discs about 3 1/2 inches (9.75 cm) in diameter and 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least one hour to firm up. If you want to cook them sooner, place them in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Beat the remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl with the milk or cream and put the flour and bread crumbs in two other bowls.
  • Heat about 1/8 inch (3 mm) of oil in a large frying pan placed over medium heat; you can add a bit more oil as needed during the cooking process.
  • Dip the fish cakes first in flour, then the beaten egg and then the bread crumbs. Fry the patties for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until golden and heated all the way through (use an instant-read thermometer, if you have one; finished temperature should be 145F – 150F). Drain on paper towels.
  • Note that if your pan is small and you need to cook the fish cakes in batches, keep them warm in a 300F oven while you finish frying them all.
  • Serve warm, with lemon wedges and tartar sauce on the side.

Makes 8 fish cakes; approximately 4 servings.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

24 thoughts

  1. I never knew about cooking fish in milk. One of my biggest objections to cooking fish is the odor. I am going to try this recipe but I think I will try to cook the cakes in my air fryer. The manner in which you bread the cakes is very similar to how I do chicken cutlets and then air fry them. I’ll let you know how I make out.

      1. Why so much refrigerating?
        I found this a tedious process that the results did not warrant. I had never made fish cakes before, But this require too much time throughout the day and took almost my whole Sunday! While my husband said it was good he said not to make it again

        1. Thanks for your feedback. When I was growing up (and most certainly when my Mom and grandmother were too), fishcakes were always made with leftovers (so leftover cooked fish, leftover mashed potatoes, etc.) As my grandmother taught me, working with chilled ingredients helps the cakes bind together better and stay together when cooking, plus cold ingredients won’t coddle the eggs. I do acknowledge that it is a time consuming recipe, which is why I often make a double or triple batch and freeze some of the fish cakes, so I can cook them up a few times without the preparation time involved.

  2. Hi Paula,
    There are ingredients in the recipe list that are not included in the instructions. Could you tell me where are you put the hot sauce and the paprika and the little bit of milk or cream? Thank you!

    1. Thanks SO much for catching my errors! The hot sauce and paprika can be added along with the Worcestershire sauce to the potato mixture. The milk or cream gets beaten with the two eggs. I have updated the recipe. Thanks again!

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