Fiskefrikadeller are simple Danish fish cakes packed with tender fish (typically cod), a touch of bright lemon and herbs and a splash of cream for an extra smooth texture. Easy to make, light and delicately flavored. Tasty as a main or snack, especially with some remoulade on the side.
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Fish cakes, or similar fritters made with seafood, are something that exist in many cultures in different forms. Apparently the general idea can be traced back to China in the 3rd century. Many European versions include potato, presumably in part to help a small amount of fish go further.
These Danish fish cakes are not that way at all: these are all about the fish. While you add a few other ingredients, they are mainly flavorings and to create the right texture. You'll find a few variations, but only small ones since they're relatively simple as it is.
Origins of fiskefrikadeller
The origins of these fish cakes are not really known, but they are probably as much a fish version of frikadeller than a take on other styles of fish cakes. "Frikadeller" are Danish meatballs, which are highly popular, and the fish version are also big favorites, too ("fisk" is Danish for fish). Being surrounded by water, fish is a big part of Danish cooking.
"Frikadelle" is believed to be originally a German word and you will find Frikadellen in Germany as well which are broadly the same. While the name is generally translated as meatball, the German/Danish dish is a flattened ball. And in fact, they are the precursor to hamburgers, when German immigrants brought them to the US.
Ingredients in these fish cakes
These fish cakes are made with only a few ingredients, and all are easy to find.
- Fish - as mentioned, the main ingredient by far in these is fish. The most typical fish for these is cod, though you can use some other white fish like halibut or a mix of cod and salmon. You can use fresh or frozen, defrosted fish as you have. Just make sure to remove any skin and bones before using.
- Egg - this acts as binder to hold the mixture together and also give a lighter texture when cooked.
- Cream - this might seem unusual, but if you have ever made köttbullar, Swedish meatballs, it might make more sense. This gives a bit of richness and helps keep them moist. You can substitute with milk, if you prefer.
- Flour - this acts as a dry binder, and absorbs some of the moisture in the mixture to hold everything together. Instead of flour, some recipes use some corn starch (corn flour), potato flour, or breadcrumbs. You need enough to help them hold, but don't overdo the flour or they get heavy and it distracts from the fish flavor.
- Onion - not in all recipes, but this adds a little extra flavor and texture. However you only want to use a little, and you are can either finely chop or grate it for a finer texture.
- Lemon zest - a natural partner to fish, lemon adds a little freshness.
- Herbs - not all recipes include herbs, but I find a small amount great to add an extra bit of flavor that pairs so well. Parsley is the most common, others include chives or dill either instead or as well. It's worth noting that dill pairs really well, but is a more dominating flavor. So only use if you like the flavor.
Top tip: limit the flour
These fish cakes are all about the fish, so you want to make sure you don't add too much flour as it will impact the taste. It can also make them gooey or heavy. The mixture may be soft, but don't be tempted to add extra flour to thicken it. Instead, chill the mixture before forming the fish cakes.
Then, use wet hands to help form the fish cakes - this both saves you adding in more flour and helps to stop them stick to you too much.
In the video, I formed and placed them on a floured plate but I wouldn't do this typically - it's better to add straight to the skillet so they don't stick to something else. Also, the flour can give a less pleasant layer on the outside.
Additional tips for making fiskefrikadeller
These cod fish cakes are really easy to make, though a few tips will help them come out their best. To mix, you simply place all of the ingredients in the food processor and pulse to mix. Try not to make it super-pureed, just broken up and mixed.
The mixture will be soft, so you want to make sure you chill the mixture to help it firm up. You might be tempted to add more flour to help them firm up but don't.
Then, cook them in a non stick pan to help avoid them sticking too much as they cook. A little oil and butter helps them go gently brown and not stick.
Finally, as with fish in general, you want to cook them just enough to be cooked through, but try to take care not to overcook them. Overcooked fish can often become dry. So the outside should be golden and you should see the fish is no longer translucent.
How to serve these
These are the kind of thing that are great to serve as an appetizer or as part of a sharing plate. Alternatively, you can make them into a main with a few things on the side. Either way, the main thing to serve alongside them is remoulade, an easy creamy sauce with pickles in it.
Potatoes are a classic side, particularly boiled or mashed. I'd say some simple salads would also be good, like a green salad or slaw. Some simple pickles like pickled beet or pressed cucumber salad also pair well (these are Swedish recipes but you'll find much the same in Danish cooking, too).
You could also use these as a fish burger with the remoulade spread in your bun. A common way to use leftovers is to make a smørrebrød (open sandwich) with a fish cake on top of rye bread with remoulade on top.
Speaking of leftovers, if you have any you can store in the fridge for a day or two. They will also freeze well. To warm (after defrosting, if frozen), place on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, cover them with foil and warm in a low oven for a few minutes.
Fiskefrikadeller, Danish cod fish cakes, are easy to make, with delicate flavors and plenty of succulent fish. They're perfect for many occasions, from being part of a platter to share, or made into a main. Either way, they're definitely one to enjoy soon.
Try these other easy seafood recipes:
- Catalan fish stew (romesco de peix)
- Sicilian swordfish with olives and capers
- Mussels in white wine
- Crab pasta
- Plus get more seafood recipes and Nordic recipes in the archives.
Fiskefrikadeller (Danish fish cakes)
For fish cakes
- 1 lb cod or other white fish eg halibut, hake (could also use part salmon)
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 egg (large)
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoon onion or shallot, finely chopped or grated
- 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoon chopped dill optional - see notes
- ½ lemon zest (ie from ½ lemon)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil approx
- 1 tablespoon butter approx
For remoulade sauce
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon pickled cucumbers finely chopped volume (cornichons or sliced pickles as you have)
- 1 teaspoon capers chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon curry powder
- Roughly chop the fish and pick over to check no skin or bones remain. place all of the fish cake ingredients - fish, flour, egg, cream, onion, parsley, dill, lemon zest and a little salt and pepper - in a food processor and pulse to mix well. You want to make sure large chunks of fish are broken up and everything is well mixed, but you also don't want it with no texture left at all.
- Chill the mixture in the fridge for around 30 minutes, or a little longer, to help it firm up.
- While the mixture is chilling, mix up the remoulade sauce. Mix together all the ingredients for the remoulade (mayonnaise, pickled cucumbers/cornichons, capers, parsley, lemon juice, mustard and curry powder) in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.
- When ready to cook, warm some of the oil and butter in a small or medium non-stick skillet/frying pan over a medium heat. I'd suggest you cook in two or three batches so small/medium makes this easier.
- With damp hands, take a heaped spoonful of the mixture (around the size of a golf ball or slightly bigger) and form into flattened ball. You can place on a plate temporarily as you form more, but I think it's probably easier (and helps avoid them sticking more) to simply place directly into the warm skillet as you form them. Continue forming to fill the skillet, without over crowding.
- Cook for a few minutes on either side so that they become gently browned on both sides and the fish is cooked through. They should become a little more firm feeling when you gently press the middle of the fish cake (you want the fish cooked, but still juicy and not dried out). If needed, you can cook a little on the sides as well.
- Remove the cooked fish cakes from the skillet and drain on kitchen paper then repeat in forming and frying the additional fish cakes in further batches.
- Serve with the remoulade on the side.
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