Cooking Crappie Like a Pro: A Few of Our Favorite Recipes
Crappie is not only fun to catch but also one of the most delicious fish you will ever taste. Crappie is a delicious addition to any meal. It has a fine, almost crab-like, flesh and is a good source of healthy fats and protein.
We love to cook crappie. We have compiled some of the best recipes for everything from frying to roasting, grilling and smoking. You don’t need to get your copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking. These main courses are easy to prepare and will soon become your go-to meal option.
You don’t need crappie to cook.
Fresh fish is best but a properly frozen and slowly defrosted crappie can still be a delight. It is best to not thaw it in warm water or the microwave as these methods can cause slight changes in texture and cook the fish. Let the fish thaw in cool water, in a Ziploc bag.
My crappie loves to be whole and well-fed. Although it may sound strange, this keeps the fish fresher. It is a rule of thumb that the fish should be as intact as possible to retain its moisture while cooking. You’ll be amazed at the results!
You can prepare crappie in this manner, but make sure you clean them thoroughly. Make sure to get rid of all scales. Also, search the ventral cavity looking for any lingering pieces. The fish can now be released by removing their gills.
These recipes may call for fillets. If you don’t know how to make two succulent slabs from an intact crappie, this is the place to start.
Fried Crappie Recipes
Fried fish is a staple American dish. From Virginia to California to North Dakota to Florida you will find people breading crappie and dropping it in hot oil. Our first recipe is an adaptation of the traditional fish fry. The second recipe makes use of crappie fillets’ versatility and similarity to crab.
Fresh Fried Crappie
This is the most time-saving and simple way to fry fish on the stove. This is a great idea that I have used hundreds of times.
- 2 1/2 lb fresh crappie fillets
- Zatarain’s Louisiana Fish Fry or Louisiana Fish Fry (1 cup seasoning mix per 1lb. (of fish)
- Canola oil
- Plastic food storage container or paper bag with a tight-sealing lid
- Thermostat for freezing
Place one-inch of canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet or pot. Heat on medium heat. Once the oil reaches 350 degrees, add a little more than 1/2 cup Zatarain’s Louisiana Fish Fry to a medium-sized paper bag or Tupperware plastic storage container with a lid. Toss a few pieces of crappie into the oil and toss them gently with the fish fry.
Once the oil reaches the desired cooking temperature, add only a few fillets to the pan at a time. Ensure that you continue to monitor oil temperature as the fish is being cooked. It will drop as the fish is added, but it will return to normal soon.
Cook until golden brown, turning fish once. The finished crappie should be removed and allowed to cool on a rack placed over a baking sheet.
Serve with tartar sauce, lemon wedges, cocktail sauce or ketchup.
Andrew Zimmern’s Crappie Cakes
Crappie is known for its delicate texture, which can almost be compared to crabs when cooked. Crappie can be substituted for crab in many recipes. This simple recipe is adapted from Zimmern’s crab cakes recipe.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- Pre-cooked crappie fillets weighing 1 pound, cut into small pieces (instructions are below).
- 20 finely crushed saltine crackers
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- For serving, lemon wedges
Pre-cook the crappie by adding one pound of crappie fillets into a colander. Cover with aluminum foil. Cover the colander with aluminum foil and place it over a large pot. Steam for between 8-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
Use a pair or forks to cut the crappie fillets in small pieces and place aside.
Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Once the crappie is coated in the cracker crumbs, gently fold the mixture into the dry mixture using a spatula. Cover the bowl and let cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
This refrigerated mixture should be divided into eight 1/3 cup mounds. Form eight patties using your hands. Each should measure approximately 1 1/2 inches in thickness.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the crappie cakes until they are deep golden brown. This should take about three minutes.
Serve with lemon wedges
Baked Crappie Recipes
Roasts and chicken are not the only items your oven can roast. Baked fish is quick and easy to prepare.
This first recipe is elegant and simple. It takes only a few minutes to bake crisp, moist crappie. For those who want to try something new, crappie courtbouillon, a rich, tangy red gravy that can also be used over potatoes or rice, and served with hot French bread.
Simple Baked Crappie
This recipe is so simple, but if you love fish, you will love the crispy skin, tender flesh, and moist texture it creates. The oven will retain the juices of the fish heads if they are left in place. You’ll love it after you try it once!
- 6-8 whole crappie, washed (scaled, gutted and gills removed), but with their heads intact
- Olive oil to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 lemon cut into slices
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- 1 bunch of herbs: Parsley, thyme or fennel
Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Use olive oil to lightly brush the fish. Season with salt and pepper as needed. In each fish’s cavity, place a few lemon slices and some herbs.
Place the crappie on a nonstick baking tray. You want them to be able slide a finger between each other, which will allow them to cook evenly.
Roast the crappie in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until it reaches the spine. Turn the crappie once while cooking if you want crisp skin on both sides.
Serve with lemon wedges as a garnish.
Marcelle Bienvenu’s Papa’s Courtbouillon
This classic New Orleans recipe is a great way to enjoy the best of Cajun and Creole cuisine. I have slightly modified Marcelle Bienvenu’s wonderful recipe for new cooks who are just starting out in Cajun and Creole cooking. This rich red gravy is just the right amount of heat and acidity to bring out the best crappie. It’s served over rice with a side dish.
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 2 medium-sized onions, finely diced
- 1 medium-sized green bell pepper, chopped fine
- 2 celery ribs, diced well
- 3 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
- 2 cans (1 lb) whole tomatoes, undrained, rough chopped
- 1 Ro-tel Original (mild) can Ro-tel Original (10-ounces) Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles
- 1 quart of warm seafood or fish stock (or water).
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Crappie weighing 2 1/2 pounds, cut into pieces and cleaned
- 1 bunch green onions (green portion only), finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a large saucepan combine the oil and flour. Cook on medium heat.Stir constantlyTo cook the roux and darken it to peanut butter color, The roux will slowly darken at first but it will quickly become color.
Although many experienced chefs will make the roux darker, if you are new to cooking roux, don’t burn it!
Once your roux is the desired color, add the bell peppers, celery and garlic. Your roux will no longer darken. Cook the vegetables on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally. The onions should be translucent but not browned.
Mix the whole tomatoes with their liquid and the Ro-Tel can. Mix well. Cook for 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Mix the stock, water, salt and cayenne and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. You can adjust the consistency of the mixture by adding more stock or water. It’s easier to add liquid than subtract it, so be cautious.
Place the fish in the pot. Cover the pot and let it cook. Do not stirAllow the fish to flake easily using a fork for approximately 10 minutes.
Salt and cayenne can be added to adjust the seasoning.
Serve the soup over rice in soup bowls with the parsley and green onions.
Grilled Crappie Recipes
Although frying is the most popular method of cooking crappie, it can also be done on the grill. People avoid grilling fish for fear of it sticking to the pan. I have found that a nonstick cooking spray for grilling solves this problem without any fuss.
Our first recipe is a take on fish tacos. The final dish has everything you want in terms of texture, flavor, freshness, or flavor. The second recipe is a simple grilled crappie with a wonderful sauce of lime, cilantro and garlic.
Grilled Crappie Tacos
This is our take on Natasha’s Kitchen’s tacos. Grilling crappie adds a wonderful smokiness and flavor to this Mexican-inspired dish.
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp lime juice (or 1 medium lime)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 tsp.
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
- 24 small white corn tortillas
- 1 1/2 lb. crappie fillets
- Olive oil
- 1/2 small purple cabbage, finely chopped
- 2 medium avocado, medium diced
- 2 Roma tomatoes, medium diced
- 1/2 Red onion, chopped fine
- 1/2 bunch Cilantro, chopped coarsely
- 1 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
- 1 lime cut into 8 wedges for serving
Mix the mayonnaise, Sriracha, lime juice, garlic powder and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Stir until well blended.
Turn the grill on medium heat. Use olive oil to brush the crappie fillets. Season them with salt, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne. Turn the fillets carefully and place on a hot grill. Cook for about 2 minutes per side. You can use nonstick spray to keep the fish intact. However, be sure you follow the instructions.
Once the crappie has been cooked, transfer it to a cutting board and then use a knife and a fork to cut it into smaller pieces.
Place the tortillas on the barbecue and let them cool on a plate.
Place a large amount of grilled crappie in each tortilla. Add cabbage, avocado, tomato red onion, cilantro, cheese and taco sauce. Enjoy!
Grilled Crappie and Cilantro-Lime Gremolata
This recipe is a Field & Stream creation that used bluegill.
- 4 whole crappie, weighed and gutted
- Olive oil
- black pepper
- 1 lemon, halves
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro packed
- Mince 3-4 garlic cloves
- One lime, one zest
- 1 Tbsp. 1 Tbsp. lime juice
- black pepper
Combine cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic in a small bowl to make cilantro-lime grommeta. Mix well with salt and pepper. Keep in the fridge.
Use olive oil to gently brush the crappie and season it with salt and pepper.
We recommend you spray your grill with nonstick spray. Follow the directions.
Place the whole crappie along with the lemon halves on a high-heat grill for 3 to 5 mins. Use a large spatula to turn the crappie. Continue cooking for 3 to 5 more minutes or until the skin is crispy and the flesh is flaky.
Serve the crappie on a tray. Sprinkle with grilled lemon juice and then top it with the gremolata.
“Smoked” Crappie Recipes
Although smoking fish is great, it can be difficult to properly brine and smoke safely. Grilling crappie on a wooden plate is a great way to save time and make it easy. You won’t believe the flavor, it takes very little prep, and the result is amazing!
This technique requires that you source the plank with care. As well as cedar, fruit trees such as cherry, apple, pear and other fruit trees, are great choices. The plank should be approximately 1 inch thick and large enough for your fish to fit on. It must also be completely untreated. You can find them on Amazon in many options.
Another modified Field & Stream recipe that makes the crappie pop is this one. It uses an Asian-inspired marinade.
- Wooden grilling planks that have been soaked in water at least two hours
- 4-6 whole crappie, cleaned and head on
- 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbs. 1 tbs.
- 1 tbs. soy sauce
- 1 tbs. ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 tbs. 1 tbs.
- Olive oil
Turn the grill on medium heat and then brush one side of each plank with olive oil.
Place the marinade in the crappies’ holes and then place them on the oil-side of the planks. Place them on the middle of the grill, drizzled with more marinade.
Cook the flesh for between 10-12 minutes with the lid closed.
Crappie is my favorite fish to cook with. You’ll love how versatile it is, how easy it is to clean, and how delicious these recipes are.
Please leave us a comment below to let us know how it turned out.