Karp Smażony

Christmas Fried Carp

“If you’ve dismissed carp as unappetizing, it’s time to give it a second chance. This fried carp recipe, a beloved staple of Polish Christmas Eve dinner, showcases the true potential of this often-disregarded fish. With its crispy exterior and tender flesh, it’s a dish that will pleasantly surprise you.”

How to pronounce it?
carp sma-shonyh
‘Play’ to hear:

batter fried carp steaks with lemons

In this classic recipe, carp is lightly coated in batter and fried until golden. It’s finished off with a big spritz of lemon and served both hot and cold. There’s no Polish Christmas Eve without this dish.

If you think you don’t like carp, then somebody didn’t do something right. Many people give up eating carp because of its muddy aftertaste. Luckily, there’s a trick to get rid of it, and I’ll show you how.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Carp seems to suffer from a bad reputation. In some countries (especially in North America and Australia) it’s even considered… a pest. 

In Poland, carp rose to fame under the Communist regime. It was inexpensive and easy to farm, making it a perfect fish to cover the gaps in the food supply. Today, carp is rarely consumed outside of the festive period.

Not a fan of fried fish? There’s another popular Christmas dish called a “Jewish-style Carp”: a sweet stuffed fish, covered in firm carp aspic. We’ll cook it next time :)

Do you need any special ingredients to make this Fried Carp?

Most ingredients should be easy to get in any store, except the star of the show: a fresh common carp. It’s sold whole or cut into fillets/steaks. 

Ideally, fresh carp should be prepared on the day of purchase. The sooner it is cooked and eaten, the better.

🇵🇱 In Poland, you’ll find fresh carp at nearly all fishmongers and in major supermarkets (especially in the time leading to Christmas). 

Look for the best ones: ‘Karp Zatorski’, ‘Karp Milicki’ and carp from Opole Lubelskie.

🌍 Internationally, ask your local fishmongers first. If that fails, call up a Polish deli. Alternatively, it’s worth enquiring at the Asian markets – in many Asian cultures, carp is considered a delicacy, so there’s a chance you’ll find it there. Asian carp is just as tasty as the European species.

What could you serve with Fried Carp?

In Poland, Fried Carp is traditionally served at the Christmas Eve dinner; alongside other meat-free dishes.

Fried Carp pairs beautifully with horseradish-based sauces. Classic tartar sauce works well too. It’s worth serving the dish with some fresh lemon wedges so that your guests can turn the acidity up if they wish.

Beverage-wise, dry or semi-dry white wine is a good choice.

Can you make this Fried Carp another way?

Yes, there are a few things you could do differently.

Sometimes, carp can have that specific, muddy smell and flavour. There are a few ways to marinade the fish to get rid of it, ideally the night before frying it. 

Some chefs recommend marinating carp in chopped onions; others prefer milk with chopped garlic. In this recipe, we’re doing the former.

In terms of batter, you can swap it for something else and coat the fish with ground nuts (especially almonds or walnuts) and other types of flour (e.g. corn)

What diets is this Carp dish suitable for?

This Fried Carp is suitable for pescatarians. If you would like to make this dish gluten-free as well, swap the flour and breadcrumbs for a gluten-free alternative.

How long can you keep this Fried Carp in the fridge?

Carp tastes best at its freshest. Once served, don’t keep it on the table for longer than 4 hours.

If you allow any leftovers to cool, make sure to refrigerate them in a container with a lid.  You can keep leftover Fried Carp in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you need more time to consume it, read more below.

Can I freeze this Fried Carp?

Fried Carp can be frozen, but it is worth noting that after defrosting it won’t be as tasty. 

Here’s a much better idea to preserve this fish dish. Prepare a quick marinade consisting of hot water, vinegar, spices, sugar and veggies of your choice. If you need the exact proportions, use this Pickled Herring recipe. Place the carp pieces in a jar and pour over the hot marinade.

How do I reheat this Fried Carp?

This Fried Carp can be served cold – but if you prefer it warm, here’s how.

From chilled: Preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C). Place the fried fish pieces on a baking tray, an oven-proof dish works too. Cover it with aluminium foil, which will prevent the fish from drying out. Bake for 10-15 minutes until hot throughout. 

Avoid microwaving this dish. The fish will turn gummy. 

From frozen: Allow the carp to thaw in the fridge overnight. Then proceed by reheating it in the oven, as per instructions above.

batter fried carp steaks served with lemons
Yield: 8

Christmas Fried Carp

batter fried carp steaks with lemons

There’s no Polish Christmas Eve without this dish. Carp gets lightly coated in batter and fried until golden. We finish it off with a big spritz of lemon and served both hot or cold.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 1 (3.3-4.4 lb, 1.5-2 kg) carp; can be already portioned into steaks or fillets
  • 2 large onions
  • salt, to season
  • pepper, to season
  • 4 lemons
  • 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 5 tbsp wheat flour
  • cooking oil, for frying; e.g. canola oil


  1. [The night before] Portion the carp into fish steaks (cutting crosswise, cutting through the bone) or fillet pieces. Season generously with salt and pepper. 
  2. Peel and slice the onions. 
  3. Place the fish pieces into a large container, layering it with onion slices. Cover with a lid or cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
  4. [On the day] Squeeze the juice out of 3 lemons, cut the last one into thin slices.
  5. In a large bowl, cover the fish pieces in lemon juice and lemon slices. Make sure each piece of fish has a chance to get friendly with that lemon juice. Covet the bowl with cling film and set aside for 30 minutes.
  6. After that time, dry carp pieces with paper towels.
  7. Cover a large plate with five tablespoons of flour and five tablespoons of breadcrumbs, combine them together.
  8. Grease a large frying pan/skillet with some cooking oil. Set the heat on a medium-high. 
  9. Grab one carp piece at a time and coat it with batter. Make sure each side of the fish is covered well.
  10. If the pan is hot, we’re ready to fry. Place the fish onto the frying pan and fry until golden. It usually takes 5-6 minutes per each side; but the exact time will depend on how thick your pieces are. Continue until you’re out of fish.
  11. Serve immediately with some fresh lemon wedges on the side, or wait for it to cool and serve as a cold appetizer.


  • This recipe is inspired by Karp Smażony (recipe in Polish) by Ania Starmach.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g

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Recipe Information

Filed under:

Alternative traditional/regional names:
Karp Wigilijny, Smażony Karp
Also known / Misspelt internationally as:
Polish Carp, Fried Carp

Tested by:

First published on:

Recipe by / Adapted from:

Story by:

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