Deep-fried whitebait is a crunchy, salty treat that’s been tantalising British tastebuds since it appeared on menus in 1612. The tiny fish are delicious when prepared and cooked simply, with just a little cayenne spice and lemon juice.






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (89 votes)


  • 500 g whitebait (see Note)
  • 75 g (½ cup) plain flour 
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper 
  • vegetable oil, to deep-fry 
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Drink Young’s Special London Ale ($7, 500ml).

Pat whitebait dry with paper towel. Place flour, cayenne pepper and 1 tsp salt in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds). Working in 4 batches, toss whitebait in flour mixture, then drop into oil and fry for 5 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Reheat oil to 180°C and fry whitebait in 1 batch for a further minute or until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Season with salt and serve with lemon wedges.



• If whitebait is unavailable, substitute sprat.


As seen in Feast magazine, Feb 2012, Issue 6. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.

Photography by Anson Smart.