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Chinese Takeout-Style Lemon Crappie

chinese lemon crappie

This Chinese lemon crappie is a fun spin on Chinese-American takeout lemon chicken. The crappies get fried whole, then doused in a sweet and sour lemon sauce made from freshly squeezed lemons.

This technique would work for any small fish. Try it with perch, small bass, rock bass, rock fish, sunfish, etc. 

You can also do it with just the fillets if you’d rather not tuck into a whole fish. Simply reduce the cooking time to 3 minutes per side. 

I made this recipe for 2, but there was leftover sauce enough for 2 more servings. If you’d like to make it for 4 people, add 2 more fish and increase the amount of eggs and flour. 

Use this guide to prepare the crappie for cooking in this manner. 

These fish were caught through the ice and tasted fantastic!

me holding two freshly caught crappie

  • Prep Time20 min
  • Cook Time20 min
  • Total Time40 min
  • Yield2 servings
  • Serving Size1 fish each


  • 2 crappie, perch, small bass, or large sunfish, prepared for frying
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 3 lemons, or about 1/2 cup (125ml)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp (1g) turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon (2.5g) cornstarch 
  • Vegetable oil or lard for frying
  • 1 cup (120g) all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Black pepper
  • Green onion for garnish



Prepare fish and pat dry with paper towels. 

prepared crappie


Mix together the lemon zest, juice, sugar, a pinch of salt, and the turmeric in a small pot over medium low heat. 

Stir well and cook for 5 minutes, making sure that it doesn’t boil over. 


Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and pour into the lemon mixture.

Stir it in and cook for another 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Set aside. 


Slowly heat up a deep skillet or pot with 1-2″ (2-4cm) of oil or lard to 350°F (175°C). 


Add the flour to a large plate and season it with a big pinch of salt and pepper. 

Beat the eggs and pour them onto a second plate. 


Roll one of the fish in flour so it is completely coated. 

Now dip it in the egg, making sure that it gets completely covered. 

Now dip it back into the flour, once again coating the entire thing. 


Gently lay it into the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes. Flip and fry for another 5 minutes. 

Remove from the oil and lay on a rack over paper towels to drain. 

Repeat with the second fish. 


Spoon some of the lemon sauce onto a serving plate or platter. Lay the fish on top, then drizzle more lemon sauce over the fish. 

chinese lemon crappie

Sprinkle with sliced green onions or cilantro.


Serve with rice and steamed vegetables. 

crappie meal

To eat, use a fork, chopsticks, or fingers to pull off the bones and get to the fillets and meat tucked in the collar, behind the head, and in the cheeks. Enjoy!

fish bones


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