The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Recipe

The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Recipe
I am bracing myself for the comeback on this one because everyone (or at least, everyone in the UK) has an opinion on what makes the perfect fish finger sandwich. Does it need ketchup, mayo or fancy pants tartare? Should the bread be toasted or soft? Surely you agree that it must be white. Should the fish fingers be home made or from the beardy man box? These are all important questions.

I had my own views and they were strong but you know what? Every time I made a fish finger sandwich it didn’t quite hit the spot. It didn’t blow my mind and that bothered me because as y’all know I pride myself on my sandwich-making abilities.

The perfect fish finger sandwich recipe

And then it happened. I experienced an education in saucing that led to other improvements and before I knew it there it was, right in my mouth – the perfect fish finger sandwich. What did I change? You won’t believe it, guys. You may want to get one hand ready to clamp your jaw shut because I’m about to tell you that the answer is to use both a mayonnaise-based sauce AND ketchup.

I know. You are reeling. The reason it works is because the ketchup offers something I was always missing in the fish finger sandwich: sweetness. People tend to go OTT on the acidity, I find, adding lemon juice, capers, vinegar et al but let me tell you once more – double-sauce is where it’s at. All credit for this discovery must go my pal and fellow sandwich fancier, Gavin.

This led to a complete re-thinking of all the elements, and no matter which way I tried it, those old orange friends from Bird’s Eye no longer made the grade. I will always love you strange, uniform cod sticks but once I upgraded to these (frankly excellent, say so myself) homemade versions I didn’t look back.

The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Recipe

There are many reasons why these fish fingers are so good. Firstly, the fish is salted for half an hour before coating to firm up the texture, so what you get is really satisfying flakes of well-seasoned fish, not mushiness. The crumb is also important and its made from panko and cayenne pepper, so super crisp with just a tiny bit of warmth. We also added a titchy pinch of MSG because we like to live on the edge in this house. That’s totally optional, just as long as you know that being scared of MSG is pointless.

So, there you have it: the perfect fish finger sandwich. There is one problem with it, actually, and that is the fact that it has ruined regular fish finger sandwiches for me, forever. I’ll never be able to enjoy a hastily slapped together hangover special again. Maybe.

The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Recipe

This makes 4 sandwiches but is easily cut in half.

270g cod (2 fillets)
270g haddock (2 fillets)
15g Maldon or other good sea salt
120g panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional but fun)
Plain flour, for dredging
2 eggs, lightly whisked

8 slices white bread (I use a white loaf from my local bakery, The Hill – you need something soft and white that won’t fall apart too easily but equally you don’t want a hardcore sourdough)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons chopped sweet pickled gherkins
Shredded iceberg lettuce
A few drops malt vinegar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cut the fillets in half lengthways (or whichever way works for the shape of your bread).

Coat them with the salt, cover and leave for 30 minutes in the fridge. After this time, wash the salt off the filets and pat dry with paper towel.

Mix the panko, paprika, cayenne and MSG (if using).

Spread one plate with a little flour, put the eggs in a shallow bowl and spread the crumbs on another plate. Dip the fish first into flour, then egg, then crumbs. Arrange on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

To assemble each sandwich, spread one piece of bread with ketchup. Mix the mayo and gherkins and spread some on the other piece. Top with lettuce then fish fingers. Close the sandwich and taste. Add a few drops malt vinegar if you feel it needs it.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Oli July 18, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Tut and tut.

    I have pretty good wheel if you would like another project… xxx. O.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

      I would say it sounds like it doesn’t need reinventing so much as zhushing up a touch. Maybe give it some tyres? Or how about some of those reflective things that used to come in cornflake packets? x

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    Reply Chris July 19, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Aha totally agree both required and grown up fishfingers . ????. It’s the equivalent ( and shoot me down in flames if you wish ) of a burger when you need the mayo and the pickle and the sauce.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2017 at 9:59 am

      You absolutely need the mayo and the pickle and the sauce in a burger!

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    Reply Martin Melville July 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    If you still need a speedy version. Go with Salisbury’s”Taste the Difference” fish fingers. Really not bad

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    Reply Catherine July 19, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    The bearded guy’s haddock ones are better than the cod, in my opinion. And, I like thousand island dressing on my fish stick sarnie.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Thousand Island!! Love it. Why not, eh?

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        Reply Deborah July 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm

        Catherine beat me to it, we used to make Thousand Island dressing just like your sauce, we thought we were so clever not having to buy the Wishbone bottle–I’ve never had a fish finger sandwich, I’ll try to find a good substitute since our frozen cod is rare and expensive. Maybe mahi mahi would work–if our friend catches and shares, of course, it ain’t cheap either, but he IS a good friend…

      • Avatar
        Reply Catherine July 21, 2017 at 9:28 am

        After this, I had a Lidl cod fish finger sandwich, on a heated Lidl round white roll from their bakery. No thousand island so used mayo and ketchup. Really good! And, I don’t usually have ketchup, but had some for a sloppy joe recipe. Will repeat.

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    Reply Puddletink July 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Sounds delicious but more of a grown up sandwich.

    I like to keep it simple and make them the way my Mum did. Birds Eye Haddock fish fingers, on buttered (not margarine or low fat spread) Warburtons medium white sliced bread. Seasoned with salt, pepper and lashings of HP Brown sauce.

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    Reply Boots July 19, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Do the Hill Bakery have a shop they trade from?

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    Reply Gillie July 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I can’t wait to try the fish finger recipe! The idea of salting the fish before is something I’ve not heard of before, and makes such brilliant sense.

    Have you thought about mixing the ketchup with the mayo/pickle mixture? We always add in a dash of horseradish, and I do mean a tiny teeny amount to our may/pickle/ketchup sauce. The idea isn’t to be hot, but to lend a touch of zing. Next time try a wonderful soft hamburger bun, it molds so nicely around all the ingredients helping them to keep from escaping.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 20, 2017 at 5:11 am

      Hi Gillie, I love the idea of the hamburger bun. The problem around here is finding a decent one that’s sturdy enough! The ones we get in the supermarket are pretty horrible and too flimsy for this sandwich I think. Still, might have to give it a go to see, just in case. Shame, eh? 😉

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        Reply Catherine July 21, 2017 at 4:21 pm

        Try the Lidl rolls from their bakery. I also like the reasonably priced plain white rolls at the Greek Bakery in Camberwell Church Street, but I don’t think you are a fan of them, or maybe it’s the shop next door. There’s also a bakery in Herne Hill by the Sunday market that has good white rolls. Ayres Bakery rolls are ludicrously priced.

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    Reply Foodycat (Alicia) July 19, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Waitrose chunky cod fingers (there are 6 to 400g unlike the Birdseye 14 to 350g), white bread toasted on the inside only and salad cream (which provides the sweetness of your ketchup/mayo mix).

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 20, 2017 at 5:16 am

      I used to love salad cream so much! Think I ODd on it a bit. Also tried making it myself once – totally not worth the effort but maybe that was my recipe.

      • Avatar
        Reply Foodycat (Alicia) July 23, 2017 at 9:59 am

        I’ve looked at recipes for salad cream and I think it’s like tomato soup – when I want tomato soup I want it to taste like Heinz so why not let Heinz make it?

        • Avatar
          Reply Helen Graves July 24, 2017 at 7:04 am

          I’ve only made it once. It didn’t taste anything like tomato soup but it didn’t taste much like salad cream either.

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    Reply Dominic Black July 20, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Sounds and looks an absolutely amazing recipe, liking the idea of ketchup and mayo.!
    Instead of fish goujons, try Aldi’s Yellowfin sole in a light lemon crumb.. Holy moly ???? ????

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 20, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Goujons! How dare you 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply Dominic Black July 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm

        No offence meant to the fish finger God’s.. ????
        Keep up the great work ????

        • Avatar
          Reply Helen Graves July 20, 2017 at 5:25 pm

          Hahahaha. I’m only kidding – goujons makes them sound posh, you see. I guess also a goujon has to be fried but now I really am being silly. I hope there is a fish finger God.

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    Reply Viv July 21, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Yes! Definitely agree on mayo + ketchup being necessary. Looks delicious.

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    Reply Sarah July 24, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Looks delicious! But why half haddock, half cod in the recipe, pls? I was wondering if there was going to be some elaborate blending of fish, but no.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 24, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Just because that’s what I bought that day.

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    Reply MattB July 30, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Oh my God, the homemade fish fingers look amazing! I’ve tasted a lot of fish fingers since moving back to the UK after a few years away and I can tell you that, from the shop-bought selection, Marks and Sparks are the best, with those fat Waitrose ones coming a close second. Birdseye not even worth bothering with. Unless in an absolute emergency.

    I do ketchup and mayo too. But, and this might be sacrilegious, I also put some very thin slices of (strong) cheddar cheese on the ketchup side of the bread. My missus doesn’t like it. I can’t imagine a fish finger sandwich without it.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves July 30, 2017 at 11:47 am

      No food police here, Mark! I am actually quite curious. I’m wondering about a filthy Dairylea slice… what have you done?!?!

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    Reply Catering in Den Haag July 31, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    This looks like a perfect sandwich! I try it tomorrow. Thank you for sharing

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    Reply pavitra August 9, 2017 at 6:24 am

    Wow, Its looking delicious. I would try it this weekend for sure. Thanks for great share.

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    Reply Winnie April 29, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Looks lush! Does it taste nice if served cold? I can only make this the night before if I’m taking it to work. Thank u!

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      Reply Helen Graves April 29, 2019 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Winnie – mine have never lasted long enough to be eaten cold I’m afraid! I imagine it wouldn’t be very nice because the fish fingers would go soft overnight.

      • Avatar
        Reply Winnie May 1, 2019 at 7:40 am

        Thank u Helen, will try this in the weekend!

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