Are you ready to explore the flavors of Florida's fish delicacy? These sweet, tender morsels of grouper are a staple at our house. Fried to perfection and served in mere minutes, these Fried Grouper Cheek nuggets with Lemon will not disappoint! Did you know many people prefer these over the more expensive grouper fillets? Try this popular little fish nugget recipe today. If you've never had them, you'll be glad you did.
Grouper cheeks, also known as the hidden gems in Florida's fish markets, are highly prized for their tender and delicate texture. In this recipe, we take these popular white fish to new heights by coating them in a crispy breading and frying them to a golden brown hue. The result is a delightful contrast of a crunchy exterior and a moist, flaky interior, complemented by a hint of tangy lemon juice.
Why we love this recipe:
It's tasty - These tender little fish nuggets taste better (to us) than the more expensive whole fish. They are sweet with a lobster-like flesh and they fry up quickly for a simple, delicious meal.
It's inexpensive - Grouper cheeks are not as costly as buying a whole grouper fillet at the seafood market.
It's quick - Prepare a restaurant-worthy dish in no time.
It's fun - They are delicious finger food and kids love them!
- Grouper cheeks - Fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, these succulent morsels with a delicate texture, are perfect for this recipe.
- Flour - All-purpose flour forms the base for the crispy breading.
- Eggs - Helps the breading adhere to the grouper cheeks.
- Bread Crumbs - Seasoned bread crumbs provide a light and crispy texture to the fried grouper cheeks.
- Vegetable oil - Used for frying the breaded grouper cheeks.
- Lemon juice - Adds a tangy and refreshing element to the dish.
- Salt and pepper - Enhances the flavors of the grouper cheeks.
Note: Refer to the recipe card below for exact quantities.
How to Make Fried Grouper Cheeks:
Step One: Prepare a Dredging Station
It is important to create a proper dredging station for a crisp, golden fry every time. The standard 3-step method is to prepare a shallow dish or small bowl with seasoned flour, egg, and bread crumbs.
- Shallow dish #1 - Pour flour and seasonings into dish #1 and give it a good stir with clean hands to evenly distribute the flavor.
- Shallow dish #2 - Crack egg(s) into dish #2 and whisk them with a little salt and pepper.
- Shallow dish #3 - Pour bread crumb coating into dish #3 (adding additional seasons if preferred). Mix well.
Begin by patting dry the grouper cheeks dry on all sides to remove excess moisture. Next, dredge the cheeks into the flour mixture with one hand so that all sides have a thin coating. With your other hand, immerse the cheeks in the wet egg mixture. Finally, using your dry hand again, dip the cheeks into the bread crumbs. Scoop up the crumbs so they cover the entire fish.
Step Two: Fry the Grouper Cheeks
Preheat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. The oil should have a little sizzle before adding the fish. Fry the grouper cheeks on each side for about 1-2 minutes, or until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
Using a slotted spoon, remove fish when fully cooked, then set them on a wire rack for 3-4 minutes to drain. Season with salt and pepper.
Step Three: Serve
Serve immediately with your favorite side.
- Nuggets - If red grouper cheeks are unavailable, you can substitute them with other firm and mild-flavored fish cheeks such as snapper or halibut.
- Diet - For a gluten-free version, replace all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend.
- Flavor - Experiment with different types of bread crumbs. We sometimes use cornmeal mixed with a traditional Lousiana Fish Fry or panko bread crumbs. You could also add parmesan cheese.
- Method - Fire up the grill and cook the seasoned grouper cheeks over medium heat until they are charred and cooked through.
- Marinade - Create a zesty marinade using lemon or lime juice, garlic, and herbs. Let the grouper cheeks marinate for an hour before cooking for an extra burst of flavor.
- Large Cast-iron skillet
- Plate lined with paper towels for draining excess oil
For optimal freshness, enjoy the grouper cheeks immediately. They are best served hot and crispy.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
This dish is not freezer friendly.
Note: Refer to Top Tips below for more storage and reheating tips.
- Use fresh fish when available.
- Pat the grouper cheeks dry before coating them to ensure better adherence to the breading.
- Maintain a consistent medium-high heat when frying to achieve a crispy exterior without burning the breading.
- Avoid overcrowding the skillet while frying to ensure even cooking and a golden brown crust.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fried cheeks just before serving to add a tangy and refreshing element.
- Serve the grouper cheeks with your favorite dipping sauces, such as tartar sauce, homemade aioli, lemon garlic butter sauce, or zesty remoulade.
Need something to pair this with?
- Try out this Simple Arugula Side Salad recipe.
- We also recommend this Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
In the mood for a similar dish?
- Bacon-Wrapped Salmon Bites
- Fried Grouper Sandwich
- Deep Fried Lobster
More seafood recipes you will love:
What are grouper cheeks?
Can I use frozen grouper cheeks for this recipe?
What dipping sauces pair well with breaded and fried grouper cheeks?
Fried Grouper Cheeks Recipe with Lemon
- 1 lb Grouper cheeks
- ½ cup All purpose flour
- 2 qty Eggs
- 1 cup Vigo Italian bread crumbs
- 1 qty Lemon (juice of)
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Pepper
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a shallow dish, place the flour and season with salt and pepper.
- In another shallow dish, beat the eggs with a whisk or fork.
- Place the Vigo Italian bread crumbs in a third shallow dish.
- Dredge the grouper cheeks in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Next, dip each cheek into the beaten eggs, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, press the cheeks into the bread crumbs, ensuring they are evenly coated.
- Heat vegetable oil in a deep pan or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Carefully place the breaded grouper cheeks into the hot oil, frying them in batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the fried cheeks and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Cook shellfish and fish to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C)
- Create a clean work area.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat or seafood.
- Rinse fresh produce thoroughly.
- Do not use the same cutting board or utensils on cooked food or produce, that previously touched raw meat or seafood.
- Do not leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Use oils with a high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove.