Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Fish Fry

April 12, 2012

When most people think of food from Wisconsin, the first things that usually comes to mind is cheese or beer. Ten years ago, when I lived in Milwaukee for a period, I learned that fish fry should make the list.


Each Friday night, many Wisconsin restaurants, from Mexican places to upscale hotel bars, offer fish fry specials. Where I grew up in upstate New York, fish fry meant New England-style hot dog buns containing long, thin pieces of breaded cod with red cocktail sauce smeared lightly on top. Not so in Milwaukee. There it's all about a plate of beer battered fish, potato pancakes and, often, a slice of rye bread.  

I recently got the hankering for some of that beer battered fried fish. Since I'm now back in New York and gluten-free, popping out to a restaurant isn't an option. Thankfully, I live with a fish fry expert. My Wisconsin-born husband worked in a Milwaukee restaurant that each week served upwards of 500 fish fries on a Friday night. The biggest challenge converting his recipe to gluten-free? Paring it down. As written, his recipe made 10 gallons of batter.

Since the original recipe contained about half cornstarch, converting it to gluten-free was easy. White rice flour replaced the wheat flour to produce a light batter for the fish.

Making the batter is as easy as whipping together pancake batter. I thought that it needed to be prepared right before you coated the fish. Greg disabused me of this idea. “We were so busy, I made  the fish fry batter hours before service started. If I hadn't, we would have been in the weeds all night.” While you don't need to make yours hours before you fry your fish,  you can make the batter before you heat up the deep fryer without worry.



Gluten-Free Fish Fry

Serves Four

Beer, along with baking powder, leavens the batter. Be sure to use gluten-free beer or seltzer. Use any gluten-free beer you can get your hands on. I used Redbridge

For the Batter

2 ounces (1/2 cup) white rice flour

1 ounce (1/4 cup) sweet rice flour
3 ounces (3/4 cup) cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup gluten-free beer, more as needed 


For the Fish

1 pound boneless, skinless cod, cut into 5-inch pieces
2 ounces (1/2 cup) white rice flour
2 ounces (1/2 cup) cornstarch  
For Frying
2 quarts vegetable oil

  1. In medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, white rice flour, sweet rice flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, salt, and black pepper. Add gluten-free beer. Whisk until batter forms. Batter should flow easily from a spoon, slightly thicker than the consistency of heavy cream. If it's too thick, add an additional tablespoon beer. Set aside. In large bowl or pie plate, whisk together remaining white rice flour and cornstarch.

  2. Preheat oven to 250°F. In heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat oil to 375°F. Dredge cod, one piece at a time, into the white rice flour-cornstarch mixture. Shake off excess. Dip cod, one piece at a time, into batter. Allow excess batter to drop off. Carefully lower fish into hot oil. Cook until batter sets, about three minutes. Turn fish and cook until batter turns golden brown, about another three to five minutes. (Frying time varies depending in the size of the cod pieces.) Fry cod in batches, about two to three pieces at a time depending on the size of your fryer.

  3. Drain fish on paper towel-lined plate. Serve at once or transfer to rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in preheated oven for up to twenty minutes.

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