Growing up in Nova Scotia, fish cakes were something we ate regularly. This fish cakes recipe is so versatile you can use salt cod, or it’s also great with leftover fish such as salmon or tilapia.
You can find fish cakes at home or order them in Nova Scotia restaurants. Traditional Nova Scotia recipes are usually quite simple, easy to make and easy on the budget. Fish cakes are often as simple as fish, mashed potatoes, egg, onion and celery if you want to get fancy.
I also like to add fresh herbs and spices if I have them on hand. Dill is great, but so is summer savoury or parsley.
I love how fish cakes are found all over the world. Fish cakes in Barbados are round instead of flat patties. They are found on practically all menus from street vendors to 5-star hotels.
You can also find fish cakes in Ireland and pastéis de bacalhau also known as salt cod fritters in Portugal. Similar fritters called bacalaítos are in the Dominican Republic and fiskefrikadeller in Denmark.
Fish Cakes Recipe
If you’ve never made fish cakes before this is why they need to be a staple:
- They are a quick and healthy meal with potatoes, fish and egg.
- The recipe is adaptable. You can add in more veggies, add spice, and even swap out some of the white potato for sweet potato or squash.
- They freeze well and make for great last minute meals.
- Picky eaters love them. The original recipe isn’t spicy or bitter.
- You can make them as thick or thin as you want. Small fish patties are great as appetizers with a bit of tartare sauce or lemon mayonnaise.
Salt Cod Fish Cakes
Salt cod is often thought of as an ingredient in Portuguese cooking but it’s been part of traditional Nova Scotia cuisine since the earliest settlers. Salting fish was a means to preserve it so salt cod is first salted then dried.
It’s a bit of a tedious to work with as it needs to be soaked to rehydrate and the water needs to be changed several times.
Although we now have reliable refrigeration, some Nova Scotia recipes continue to use salt cod fish. But I’ve made fish cakes many times with whatever fish I have on hand or whatever is on sale.
Chicken Haddie Fish Cakes
While I grew up eating fish cakes made from chicken haddie, it’s now tough to find. Chicken haddie is a throwback to our British ancestry. It was a can of boneless mixed fish, usually cod, hake and pollack – the most affordable fish.
It made traditional fish cake recipes easy because people usually had a can of chicken haddie in their cupboards and only needed mashed potatoes to make the cakes.
How to Make Fish Cakes – An Easy Recipe
- 1 lb fish, cooked
- 5 large potatoes, russet or baking potatoes
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp summer savoury (optional)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons celery, diced
- 1/4 cup onions, diced
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Over medium-low heat add vegetable oil to a heated sauce pan. Saute onion and celery until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Cut potatoes into quarters and boil until cooked and drain. Return to pot. Add butter, garlic salt, sea salt, black pepper, sauteed onion and celery, and summer savoury (optional). Mash together to create mashed potatoes. Let cool in fridge
- Add fish and beaten egg and loosely combine. Form into patties and place on large plate or tray. Put in fridge for one hour to allow patties to cool.
- To cook heat sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil or butter. Lightly flour patties and pan fry until golden, 2-3 minutes a side.
- You can eat them immediately or cool to eat the next day or freeze to eat later.
1. Normally I don't use garlic powder or garlic salt but growing up my grandmother made mashed potatoes with garlic salt and although she's passed our family continues the tradition.
2. Cooling the fish patties in the fridge makes them easier to pan fry. I prefer them to be the size of hamburgers, a little more flat than the ones in these photos.
3. You can serve with tartare sauce, sweet chili sauce, tomato jam or ketchup.
Fish Cakes Frequently Asked Questions
Are Fish Cakes Gluten-Free?
They absolutely can be! The fish patties are dipped in all purpose white flour and then pan fried. Simply use gluten-free flour and they are ready to go.
Can I Use Panko Bread Crumbs?
My Nova Scotia fish cakes recipe uses flour and then pan fried in butter. That’s how I ate it growing up and continue to prefer it.
You can easily do a simple batter with the fish cakes the same way you would pan fry fish:
Dip one fish patty at a time. First in flour, then in a beaten egg. Allow the excess egg drip off before coating fish cakes in the bread crumb.
Can I Freeze Fish Cakes?
You can keep uncooked fish cakes in the fridge for a day or two. You can also keep fish cakes in the freezer for up to three months. I prefer to cook them then freeze, and then just defrost and warm in the freezer.
But you can also defrost the fish cakes and then finish them by pan frying.
More Great Nova Scotia Recipes
- Nova Scotia Fish Chowder
- Avondale Sky’s Cherry Tomato Salad
- Luckett Vineyard Crush Pad Steak and Mushroom Pie
- Nova Scotia Hodge Podge Recipe
- Strawberry Tarts
- Nova Scotia Blueberry Grunt
- Lobster Pasta Salad
- Stirling’s Mixed Berry Crisp Recipe
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This Nova Scotia fish cakes recipe is part of a paid partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia where I independently explore where I grew up to share what I think is the best food and wine in the Annapolis Valley. I am thrilled to work with him as it’s a dream job to promote my home and its delicious recipes.