How to Cook Smelts in the Oven

by Christina Kalinowski ; Updated November 22, 2017

A petite fish that packs a satisfying punch of flavor, smelts make an excellent snack when roasted to perfection in the oven. Roast smelts until firm yet tender in your favorite herbs and accompany with an herbed mayo for dipping, or coat with breadcrumbs for a crispy treat that provides a pleasant contrast paired with the sweet, succulent fish. If you plan on sharing, make sure your dining companion is comfortable with a snack that stares back; otherwise, remove the heads prior to cooking.

Oven-Roasted Smelt

Step 1

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Grease a baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil. Arrange the smelts in a single layer in the baking dish and season to taste. Season lightly with salt and pepper or fresh herbs like chives, rosemary and parsley. Top with breadcrumbs or crushed croutons if you'd like to add a bit of crunch to the dish.

Step 3

Bake the smelts for approximately 12 minutes or until the fish are firm to the touch. Remove the smelts from the oven and serve. Create a sauce from the leftover baking liquid or serve with herbed mayonnaise, if desired.

Crispy Oven-Fried Smelt

Step 1

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Grease a baking pan with cooking spray or olive oil. Add breadcrumbs to a shallow dish, enough to fully coat all of the smelts. Season the breadcrumbs if you would like. Try a dash of cayenne pepper or dried herbs like parsley and oregano. In a separate dish, beat an egg with a fork.

Step 3

Take a smelt and dip it into the beaten egg, then completely coat in breadcrumbs. Gently push the breadcrumbs into the smelt to encourage them to stick. Repeat until all of the smelts are coated.

Step 4

Arrange the coated smelt on the greased baking pan. Bake the smelts for approximately 20 minutes, or until the coating turns golden brown, flipping once so that both sides get crisp. Remove the smelts from the oven and serve with a dipping sauce like tartar sauce, if desired.

Items you will need

  • Smelts (whole or headed and gutted)
  • Baking dish or baking pan
  • Cooking spray or olive oil
  • Seasonings (optional)


  • When purchasing fresh fish, make sure they have a fresh odor, firm texture and a moist appearance.

    When purchasing frozen fish, make sure they are solidly frozen and don't have an odor. Do not purchase frozen fish if there are any white, dark, icy or dry spots present.


  • Consumption of undercooked fish could result in a foodborne illness. Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145 F.

About the Author

Christina Kalinowski is a writer from the Twin Cities who began her career in 2011. She contributes food and drink related articles to The Daily Meal. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from Purdue University.