Recipe Round-Up: Whitefish

Dipping my way across the UP

When in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I eat a lot of whitefish dip. From our place on Whitefish Bay, we watch fish tugs setting and pulling nets. Whitefish from those nets supply the local fish fries, food trucks and restaurants with the delicately flavored fish served fried, smoked or transformed in dips.

Mr. Mone fishing tug fishing in Whitefish Bay north of Paradise. Photo by Steve Begnoche.

Different establishments have their own take on whitefish dip. When I find a new dip, I try it. Most use smoked whitefish. Many are mayonnaise based. Others use cream cheese. Yogurt finds its way into some. So do anchovies. Most are served cold. The Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub, however, serves a tasty warm smoked whitefish spread with flatbread on the side. Pickle relish graces some dips, but not others. The mix of spices and flavorings from Tabasco sauce to wasabi, from bell peppers to chili seasoning and beyond makes each dip unique.

How whitefish is smoked affects the dip’s taste too. Different woods impart different flavors. The fish might be flaked, ground or pureed affecting texture. I’ve made it my job to try them as I find them. Someone has to, right?

So far, I haven’t tried a whitefish dip I didn’t like. My favorite is Yooper Smoked Whitefish Spread from King’s Fish Market and Restaurant in Moran on M-123 west of I-75 near Brevort Lake. Picking a favorite whitefish dip is like picking a favorite child or grandchild – you love them all and take each to heart.

I’ve also enjoyed King’s Fish Market, Inc., (a separate business completely) in Naubinway, as I did dips from the Green Bay Packer decorated Manley’s Fish Market, Massey Fish Co. and Mackinac Fish Market, Inc. all in St. Ignace. The Narley Whale Fish Market in Cedarville has a tasty dip. Brown’s Fishery and Catch-of-the-Day whitefish truck in Paradise have fine tasting dips too.

There are many more. Trying as many as I can find takes dedication – and a belt that loosens. Whitefish dip makes a great dinner appetizer or a snack. Your favorite might be different than mine. Tastes differ, but whitefish dips, indeed, are tasty!

Now, pardon me, there’s more research to be done.

Steve Begnoche,, is a writer, photographer and retired newspaper editor with a cottage on Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay north of Paradise. He sometimes snacks on whitefish dip on a cracker while writing.

Recipe Round Up: Whitefish

Brenda Begnoche’s Whitefish Dip
(Makes 2 cups)
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh garlic diced fine
½ cup onion (green onion works well), diced fine
to taste Salt and pepper
to taste Chopped celery, pickled relish – optional
2 cups (approx. ½ lb.) smoked whitefish, skinned, deboned and chopped fine

Combine all ingredients. Stir in chopped whitefish and mix well. Chill to blend flavors.

Classic Whitefish with a Dry Rub Seasoning

  • celery salt
  • smoked paprika
  • dried parsley
  • dried dillweed
  • ginger powder
  • allspice
  • dried onion
  • dried garlic

In a large bowl, add equal parts of each spice. Mix with fork and briskly stir until combined. Dab moisture off whitefish fillets, just leaving a bit so the spices can adhere to the fish. Roll fish in spices before pan frying in vegetable shortening until fish is crispy. Add salt to taste.

Serve with favorite side dish – or fries, or even better homemade sweet potato fries. Remember to drink responsibly, but this fish is best served with a Pinot Grigio or Albariño /Grüner Veltiner.

Nothing is better than homemade pan-fried whitefish. As locals, we know you can’t cook anything in the oven or deep fryer when it comes to fish. We want good crusty fish with soft moist interiors that will send you back to the time the colonials first started to settle in Fort Michilimackinac. As a cook (previously worked at Russel’s Diner, Buffalo Bills, The Berry Patch and more), we know that a homemade fish rub is the best.

- Dale Roach, Eckerman

Grilled Whitefish in a Pouch

Outdoorsman Tom Pink netting a whitefish caught by his son, Alex. Photo credit: Joe Susi.

Place one whitefish fillet (with belly fat trimmed) skin side down on a sheet of aluminum foil about 4 or 5 inches longer than fillet. Place about 3 to 4 raw onion rings on fillet along with 3 pats of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste, seal the aluminum foil around the fillet and make a pouch. Place pouch on heated grill with folded seams on top. Grill for about 15 minutes. Remove from grill and place on plate. Open foil and enjoy!

This recipe was taught to me by my grandparents.

-Shawn Swanson, Manistique

Whitefish A la Crème
2 whitefish fillets
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. flour
small onion, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1/3 cup bread crumbs
to taste paprika

Place fish in greased casserole dish. Top with sour cream, flour, onion and herbs. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish flakes.

I have had this recipe since the 80s after I found it at a fish market. It is easy to prepare and serves as an alternative to frying fish.

-Dianne Clark, Paradise

World’s Best & Easiest Pan-Fried Whitefish
6 whitefish fillets
2/3 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly or pressed
1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt or Kosher salt to taste
paprika (optional)
1 1/3 – 2 cups parmesan cheese

Marinate fillets in olive oil, garlic and spices for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Use two large bowls with 2/3 - 1 cup of parmesan cheese in each. Roll whitefish fillets into bowls to coat. Lay each fillet on pan. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and paprika (optional), then bake for 12 minutes. When fish flakes, it's done. Serve with a salad and new potatoes.

- Kimberly Hagen, St. Ignace