Classic Fish Cakes (with homemade tartar sauce!)

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Ingredients in fish cakes

  • fresh cod fillets (or other white flaky fish)
  • onion
  • garlic
  • butter
  • mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • eggs
  • Old Bay (classic flavor of fish cakes comes from this ingredient!)
  • lemon zest
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • fresh herbs (the more the better!) — I love to use a combination of parsley, dill, and chives

baked cod on a rimmed baking sheet

How to make fish cakes

Start by baking a couple pieces of fresh cod fillets. Season with only olive oil, salt, and pepper. The fish will get a boost of flavor from the other ingredients, including a killer sauce and lots of fresh herbs.

Forming fish cakes

The key takeaway when forming fish cakes is to mix the sauce first, then add in the remaining ingredients. The goal is to keep as big of flakes of the fish as you can. This will create a wonderful texture for the cod cakes!

Once the wet ingredients are mixed and you’ve added in the sautéed onions, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs, and flaked fish, you can use either your hands or a spatula to stir very gently until just combined.

From here, allow the mixture to rest for about 1 hour in a refrigerator. Then, use a large cookie scoop to portion out equal size patties. Use your hands to gently press each fish cake together, using as little pressure as you can so as not to crush them, then set aside until ready to cook.

step-by-step photos to mix together cod cakes

Homemade tartar sauce

If you’re making fish cakes from scratch, go ahead and take the 5 minutes needed to make homemade tartar sauce as well. The flavor blows any store-bought variety out of the water!


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • juice from 1 lemon (about 2-3 Tbsp)
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

To make: combine mayonnaise, relish, Dijon mustard, shallots, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use. This is the best homemade tartar sauce (and so simple!). It goes well with everything from fish cakes, to fish and chips, to seafood burgers (how delicious do these salmon burgers look?!)

If you’re looking for a different sauce to serve with this fish cakes recipe, be sure to try our homemade dill sauce!

homemade tartar sauce in a bowl

Using other types of fish

I find cod fillets to be an exceptionally economical fish that are also easily accessible across many parts of the country, but if you can’t get your hands on any or you just don’t want to use cod, the following would make a great substitute: branzino, tilapia, flounder, red snapper, sole, halibut, or haddock. These are all white, flaky fish (and they’re each delicious in their own way!).

cod cakes before cooking on a baking sheet

Can fish cakes be frozen?

Yes, fish cakes freeze beautifully! You have two options: first, you can cook the fish cakes as instructed below, then allow to cool completely to room temperature. Place them on a sheet tray in a freezer until solid, about 2 hours, then store in an airtight, freezer-safe container.

Alternatively, you could form the fish cakes and freeze them before cooking.

Whichever method you choose, make sure fish cakes have enough time to fully defrost (overnight in a refrigerator) before you go to reheat or cook them!

Reheating frozen fish cakes

To reheat cooked frozen fish cakes, allow to to defrost overnight in a refrigerator, then place in a 350F oven until golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes.

cooked cod cakes

What to serve with cod cakes

When I serve fish cakes, I often keep the meal very simple: a big green salad piled high on a plate, a few fish cakes on top, an abundance of fresh herbs, a couple lemon wedges, and my own personal bowl of homemade tartar sauce.

If you want to add a veggie side dish, my roasted broccolini is the BEST. We eat this at least 2x a week!

cod cakes with fresh dill and homemade tartar sauce

Are these gluten-free?

If you substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs for traditional breadcrumbs, then YES — the rest of this recipe is gluten-free!

cod cakes with fresh herbs

If you want your fish cakes to be extra, drizzle them with a touch of high quality extra virgin oil and then sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt just before serving.

cod cake with mixed greens and tartar sauce

Squeeze with fresh lemon juice, then DIG IN.

If you make these Classic Fish Cakes, please let me know by leaving a review below!

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For more seafood recipes, check out the following:

Spaghetti alle vongole (clam pasta with white wine sauce)
Whole30 grilled lobster tails and clams
Spicy crab pasta with lemon and capers
Weeknight fish escabeche with salmon
Grilled blackened salmon with pineapple-avocado salsa
Simple Thai curry with scallops and string beans

Classic Fish Cakes Recipe


  • 2 lbs cod fillets or other white flaky fish (such as halibut, grouper, or sole), patted dry
  • 3 Tbsp butter unsalted
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 ½ tsp kosher salt divided
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 Tbsp dill chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chives thinly sliced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil such as avocado, grapeseed, or canola oil

For serving

  • lemon wedges
  • arugula or mixed greens
  • additional fresh herbs for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 375F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then place cod fillets on top. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 12 minutes, or until fish is an internal temperature of 145F. Set aside until cool enough to handle fish with your hands, about 5-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 cloves minced garlic and diced onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 2 eggs, 1 Tbsp Old Bay, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper. To this add sautéed onion and garlic, 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp chopped dill, 1 Tbsp sliced chives, and lemon zest. Flake the slightly cooled fish with your fingers or two forks, being careful to keep the flakes as large as possible. Gently combine all ingredients together until homogenous and evenly mixed. Place fish cake mixture in a refrigerator to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  • When ready, use a large cookie scoop to form equal sized patties. Press together gently in your hands to flatten and round each out to about a height of 1″.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp grapeseed (or other neutral oil) over medium-high heat in a large skillet or on a griddle. When hot, add fish cakes and cook 3-5 minutes per side, being careful to flip each gently so they don’t break apart. Serve on top of arugula or mixed greens with lemon wedges, some additional fresh herbs for garnish, and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt if you’ve got it!

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