Total Time
Prep 20 mins
Cook 30 mins

Smelt was mentioned in a post somewhere and it inspired me to submit this recipe. Springtime is smelt season in the Lake Michigan area. This recipe comes from Port Washington, Wisconsin which is the home of the World's Largest Smelt Fry. The recipe is (was) a guarded secret but the Chicago Tribune test kitchen managed to get some of the details, so here's the recipe....

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 13 cups flour
  • 1 14-1 12 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup beer
  • 20 unsalted saltine crackers, crushed fine
  • 12 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 (48 ounce) bottle peanut oil or 1 (48 ounce) bottle vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs cleaned fresh smelt


  1. Whisk together the flour, 1 1/4 cups water and beer in a large bowl until smooth; add more water, if needed, to make a thin batter.
  2. Combine crackers and cornmeal in a pie plate.
  3. Heat oven to 200°.
  4. Heat oil in a heavy, deep saucepan over medium-high heat until temperature reads 375°.
  5. Dip smelt a few at a time into beer batter, allowing excess to drip off; roll lightly in cracker mixture.
  6. Add smelts to hot oil in batches; cook, turning occasionally, until crisp and browned on all sides, about 3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and keep warm in oven while frying the remaining smelt.
  7. Serve hot.