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Best Kind of Fish for Making Fish Cakes

Best Kind of Fish for Making Fish Cakes

After experimenting with different renditions of fish cakes, I found that fish cakes can be quite wonderful, or they can be as dry as cardboard.  It came down to two keys… what kind of fish was used, and how thoroughly the fish was broken down in the mixing process. This post explains how the best fish cakes differ from the mediocre and the worst fish cakes.

Spicy fish cakes with tartar sauce and spinach/cauliflower side dish
Spicy fish cakes with tartar sauce and spinach/cauliflower side dish
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The Best Fish Cakes:

Inspired by one of Gordon Ramsey’s shows, I first made the fish cakes with fresh-frozen fish filets. I used a mix of catfish and cod (he used black cod, but I used the filets I happened to have in the freezer).  

They turned out wonderful.  They were flaky, tender and mellow in flavor. I accompanied them with a harissa sauce to add some more robust flavor to the dinner.

Later on I developed a fish cake recipe that was low carb, and I used a mix of canned crab and frozen cod that I shredded with a knife. These cakes were baked instead of sautéed and they were my favorite overall, even better than the Gordon Ramsey recipe in my opinion.

Low carb baked fish cakes using crab and cod.
Low carb baked fish cakes using crab and cod.

The Marginal Fish Cakes:

Next up I tried fish cakes with canned salmon.  They were way too dry.

I think the texture of the canned fish was just so meaty from being packed and compressed into cans that it is difficult for the tender nature of the fish to come through.  Salmon also has a much stronger flavor and doesn’t allow the flavor of the dip to shine.

I have made crab cakes with canned crab before, and they were good, but the crab is packed into the cans much more loosely.  

And even with the loose packing, the crab cakes didn’t hold a candle to the fresh-frozen filet cakes.

The Horrible Fish Cakes:

My diet partner in crime (aka husband) thought tuna would be an inexpensive fish to try. So, being the accommodating sort, I tried it with canned tuna.  

They were so dry they were almost inedible!  I think processing the canned fish in the blender was part of the problem. When using the frozen filets, I shredded them with a knife, giving them a looser texture in the mix.

It pays to be gentle when mixing in the fish and avoid the blender.

Are Fish Cakes Low Carb?

The recipe below was made with panko, which is not low carb or slow carb compliant.

The Slow Carb Diet is my low carb lifestyle of choice, and I am definitely benefiting from it, but I am trying to incorporate more fish as the proteins.

To make fish cakes slow carb compliant, you need to eliminate the panko. Here is a low carb way of making fish cakes without panko or any breading. They are baked instead of sauteed, so they are lower in calories also.

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Spicy Fish Cakes with Panko

Spicy fish cakes with tartar sauce and spinach/cauliflower side dish
These fish cakes incorporate catfish and cod, two inexpensive white fish options that can be shredded and make excellent fish cakes. Two dipping sauce recipes are also included
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 (2 cakes)
Calories 303



The Fish Cakes

  • 2 lbs. skinless fish filets I used catfish and cod; cut into small pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp scallions sliced thinly
  • 3 Tbsp Italian parsley leaves chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper white pepper if available
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder (or any spicy chile powder)
  • squeeze of fresh lime juice I used juice from 1/2 medium lime (2-3 wedges)
  • ¼ tsp fish sauce
  • ¾ cup Panko crumbs *note: not slow carb compliant
  • 2 Tbsp Refined olive oil refined olive oil has higher smoke point than extra virgin

Best Tartar Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise olive oil based
  • 3 Tbsp capers
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped dill pickles finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped scallions
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Spicy Dipping Sauce

  • 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce provides salty umami
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar more mellow than other vinegars
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chopped green chile pepper your favorite in terms of heat (anaheim to jalapeno to serrano)


  • Preheat oven to 200°F.
    Combine all ingredients for the fish cakes in large bowl and mash together with fork or hands until well blended
    Alternatively, you can combine in blender fitted with blade attachment and just pulse lightly about 5 pulses – DO NOT OVERBLEND!). What you are aiming for is a mixture of small, medium and large chunks of fish.
    2 lbs. skinless fish filets, 2 large eggs, 3 Tbsp scallions, 3 Tbsp Italian parsley leaves, 2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp chipotle powder, squeeze of fresh lime juice, 1/4 tsp fish sauce, 3/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • Using your hands, form small balls of the fish mixture into patties about 1/2 to 1 inch thick and about 2-3 inches in diameter (about 1/3 cup each). Set aside on a plate.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large skillet (cast iron if you have it), until lightly smoking (about 3 minutes).
    Place patties in skillet starting at 6:00 direction and moving clockwise, so you remember which ones to turn over first. Do not crowd the patties; leave a little room between each one.
    2 Tbsp Refined olive oil
  • Cook patties until browned and crispy on one side (about 3-5 minutes). Do not move them around while they are browning. Flip, starting at the 6:00 fish cake, and brown about 3 minutes or less on the other side
  • Remove the fish cakes to a baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Add more oil to skillet if needed and repeat process with remaining patties.

Dipping Sauces

  • Combine dipping sauce ingredients in bowl and stir until thoroughly blended.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
    1 cup mayonnaise, 3 Tbsp capers, 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbsp chopped dill pickles, 1 Tbsp chopped scallions, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 Tbsp ground coriander, 1 tsp chopped green chile pepper


** Please note that nutrition calculations are for fish cakes only, and do not include dipping sauces.


Calories: 303kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 42gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 213mgSodium: 1420mgPotassium: 939mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 682IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 90mgIron: 2mg
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  1. Gloria Goodwin Raheja says:

    I love catfish, and these catfish cakes look great! I’m going to make them, with your Thai-style dipping sauce. You asked for other fish recipes, appropriate for the diet. I have a great Thai-style catfish stir fry recipe, it’s quick and easy and really tasty.

    • Oh yes please Gloria! If you wouldn’t mind sharing it on the blog so others can see it, that would be great. Otherwise, just message me and I can post it also. I’ve found it hard to find catfish. The only place I see it is Sams Club, where they have a lot of it.

  2. Gloria Goodwin Raheja says:

    Okay here it is.

    Catfish Stir-Fry with Baby Bok Choy and Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste, with Jasmine Rice.

    I love catfish prepared in all sorts of way but I especially love making it this way. And I love making my own red and green Thai curry pastes. They’re easy to make and they taste way better than the commercially prepared kind, and they last several weeks in the fridge, and once they’re made you have the basis for four or five wonderful dinners that you can then get on the table in just minutes, by combining the kind of meat or fish or tofu you want, with the kind of vegetables that are available. I got my basic curry paste recipes from Nancie McDermott’s “Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking,” a 1992 cookbook that I love. So here’s the red curry paste recipe:

    ½ cup small dried red chilies [I used small dried Thai chilies from a big bag I bought at the farmers market last summer.]
    10 whole peppercorns
    1 Tbsp. whole coriander seeds
    1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    4 stalks fresh lemongrass
    1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro root, or stems and leaves
    1 Tbsp. grated peeled fresh galangal or fresh ginger
    1 tsp. lime zest
    2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped garlic
    ¼ cup coarsely chopped shallot
    1 tsp. shrimp paste
    1 tsp. salt

    Stem the chilies and shake out and discard most of the seeds. Chop coarsely and place in small bowl. Add warm water and cover and soak for 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place the coriander seeds in a small skillet and dry-fry over medium heat until slightly darkened and fragrant. Shake the pan to prevent burning. Transfer the seeds to a small bowl and toast the cumin seeds in the same way. Combine the roasted cooled seeds with the peppercorns and grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Set aside.

    Trim the lemongrass stalks. Cut away and discard the grassy tops and the bottom hard portion, leaving a stalk about 3 inches in length. Remove and discard the tough outer leaves. Slice each stalk very thinly and put them in the Cuisinart. Drain the chilies and reserve the soaking water. Add the chilies and all the other ingredients and process until a paste forms, adding a little of the water as necessary to process.

    When the paste is fairly smooth, transfer it to a small glass jar, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to a month.

    Once you have your curry paste ready, making the rest of the dish is a piece of cake.

    Tbsp. vegetable oil
    3 Tbsp. red curry paste
    1 lb. catfish fillets, cut into 1½ inch pieces
    2 ½ Tbsp. fish sauce
    2 Tbsp. water
    2 tsp. sugar
    4 or 5 heads of baby bok choy,cut into 2-inch lengths

    In a wok or medium skillet, heat the oil over low heat until very warm but not too hot. Add the curry paste, which should sizzle gently as soon as it meets the oil, and press and stir it into the oil, until it is well blended, fragrant and shiny, about 3 minutes. Add the fish and stir-fry to brown it and coat it evenly with the curry paste, about 3 minutes.

    Add the fish sauce, water, sugar, and bok choy; mix well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the bok choy begins to wilt. Serve with lots of jasmine rice, because the dish is quite spicy.

  3. Gloria Goodwin Raheja says:

    Oh, and by the way, I get all my catfish fresh from Coastal Seafoods.

  4. Sarina says:

    Sounds wonderful, but panko is absolutely not part of the slow carb diet.

    • You are absolutely right Sarina, panko is not allowed on the slow carb diet. I originally made them without the panko and then later went back to the post and added panko in. I thought when I added it in that I noted it as optional for those not on the SCD, but as I just re-read it, I didn’t say that. So…I will go back and make that clear. Thank you for the notice.

  5. […] You can find the fish cake recipe here. […]

  6. […] They did seem to hold together better with the almond meal, so I’m using this updated recipe as my go-to for fish cakes.  It is really delicious.  I also used cod instead of catfish, but any white fish will work just fine.  The delicate flavor of white fish takes up the bolder Asian flavors in this recipe.  If you want to see the catfish cakes with the chicharrones, click here. […]

  7. Barbara Coon says:

    I wasn’t clear on how many cakes the nutrition info was for.

    • Hi Barbara, so the recipe is for 2 lbs. (32 oz) and for our family it served 4. If I recall, it made about 25 cakes but of course it depends on how big you make the cakes. I made ours about 2 inches across, which was roughly about 2 oz each (4 cakes per person). Hope that helps.

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