Beer Batter  

Pastella alla Birra - Pastetta ca’ Birra


Beer was originally prepared when cereals were first cultivated around 9500 BC in the Neolithic Era.

In Egypt, in the area of modern Iraq, Iran and Syria, beer was produced from barley, wheat and other grains. As far away as China, a similar drink was made with fermented rice and fruits.  


Beer was used in religious ceremonies; it was drunk for good heath, to fight diseases, to infuse flavors and to give a pleasant texture and palatability in cooked food. 


In Neolithic times, after their migration from Africa and Asia, Celtic tribes, introduced beer throughout Europe. It became popular because it would keep for a long time and because it contains 95 to 97 percent water. As a result, the overall cost of production was low. 


Today, beer is the world’s most consumed beverage after water and tea. 

 People in northern Europe traditionally are large consumers of fish, and it is speculated that they introduced the beer batter when they fried fresh-caught fish covered with a coat of flour mixed with beer. 


The end result was that the fish was perfectly cooked, delicious-tasting, light and crunchy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. 

To make the batter, no special equipment is necessary; the basic ingredients are beer, flour and salt.


In time, this recipe has undergone some changes to adapt to the local taste, with the addition of various spices or herbs and adjustments to create a lighter, non-oily and crispy crust. The following recipe should satisfy these requirements. 


In Sicily, beer batter is chosen because it is easy to prepare, it is used as soon as it is mixed and the results are very crispy and not oily. 

This recipe makes enough for frying 1 lb of fish fillet (turbot, flounder, salmon, swordfish, etc or shrimp, oysters, mussels, etc). Cut fish fillets in strips, about 1” wide.



·        2 ½ cups flour 

·        4 tablespoons olive oil 

·        ½ teaspoon salt 

·        2 cups ice cold beer 

·        1 cup egg white 

·        Olive oil for frying 

·        2 cups flour for drenching the fish 



The Batter 

In a medium size bowl, sift the flour and add the oil and salt. Slowly add the ice cold beer, stirring all the time. 

Lastly, briefly whisk in the lightly beaten egg white. You should have a batter with the consistency of house paint.


If mixture is too dry, add some more oil, if too runny, add a little flour. Use batter at once, because if it gets warm, it will develop gluten and absorb too much oil; also do not over-mix in order to avoid the formation of gluten. 


To get a lighter batch, add 2 tablespoons of vodka.




The Frying 

Heat the oil at 375 degrees. Ideally, if you have a deep fryer, it would make the frying very simple. If you don’t have a fryer, heat 1½ cups of oil in a 10-inch skillet or in a 3-quart saucepan. Use olive oil. 


Rinse fish with running water. Cut them into small finger-sized pieces (¾“X 3”)  

Place the fish on a clean kitchen rag or paper towels to dry.

Drench a few pieces of fish in the flour and shake off as much flour as possible.


Dip the fish into the batter and thoroughly coat on all sides; use tongs to let any excess batter drip off and lower the fish into the hot oil, being very careful not to burn yourself. 


Do not crowd the frying pan; cook a few pieces at a time and turn on all sides. 


Fry the fish for about 7 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove and drain on a platter covered with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. 

Repeat with the remaining fish.


The Serving 

Serve with french fries, and/or salad; use lemon wedges to garnish and provide tartar sauce, ketchup and cold beer or wine on the side.