The pufferfish are back… specifically the Northern pufferfish…or blow toads…or for the scientifically oriented Sphoeroides maculatus.

It’s that little fish that young anglers love to catch because when they tickle the fish’s belly it blows up. Obviously a defensive measure, but let’s face it—from a human perspective, it’s pretty cool.

The Outer Banks fishing reports that have been coming in for the past week from the piers are reporting pufferfish landings. And it’s important to note these are northern pufferfish, and not any other species of pufferfish, many of which are poisonous.

Most anglers throw their puffer fish catch back, which is fine—it keeps the population strong and viable. However, the northern puffer is actually considered very good eating.

During WWII puffer was harvested commercially as a protein to substitute for the meat that was being sent overseas.

It’s a white-fleshed fish with a mild flavor.

We found a recipe for fried puffer—they’re calling them sugar toads—but it’s the same fish. This is the perfect dish to cook in your Outer Banks vacation rental with the family instead of eating out. We saw this recipe in a number of places so we’re not sure where it originated.

Recipe

Buttermilk Fried Sugar Toads with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Serves 4

If you don’t have experience cleaning sugar toads, have your fishmonger do the job since their skin is very tough to remove and has a sandpaper quality to it. Sugar toads are best eaten by hand much like a piece of fried chicken.

1 pound Atlantic Pufferfish (a.k.a. sugar toads), cleaned with skin/fins removed

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

Pinch of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

Oil (or Crisco) for frying

Preheat oil to about a 1 1/2 inch depth in a cast-iron skillet until a thermometer reaches 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in a shallow dish mix together cornmeal, flour, Old Bay, and peppers. In another small dish, whisk together egg and buttermilk.

Pick up sugar toads by the tailfin and dip them in the buttermilk mixture and then dredge in flour mixture. Fry (being careful not to crowd the fish) in hot oil until lightly brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels or a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Lightly sprinkle fish with sea salt. Serve with tartar sauce and garnish with lemon wedges.

Our Outer Banks vacation rentals come equipped with full-service kitchens so that you can cook for the whole family!