Learn to Make Sri Lankan Cutlets With Us

As an American Sri Lankan, my family often makes cutlets for holidays or parties. Generally served as appetizers, the presence of these cutlets is a tradition we all look forward to. After all, food can be sentimental too! Typically made with fish and various spices, they’re one of the few Sri Lankan dishes that I genuinely love. If you’re a fan of the anime “Yuri! On Ice” you might have heard of pork cutlet bowls. Sorry to disappoint, but this is nothing like that. Now that any preconceived notions have been taken care of, let me tell you that this dish is still something you’ll probably enjoy.

These cutlets are also perfect for those cold winter nights when you’re craving something fried. It’s a scrumptious comfort food to devour that will leave you wanting more. Although this particular dish is a win even with friends who don’t normally like fish, we are calling on all fish-lovers in particular to gather around. Because, ladies and gents, your newest obsession is officially here! 


  • 14.2 oz / 400g mackerel or tuna fish (cooked or canned), drained and deboned
  • 8.8 oz / 250g potatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers de-seeded, finely chopped
  • 5.3 oz / 150g onions (red or yellow), finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice

Egg Wash and Bread Crumb Coating:

  • 2-3 XL eggs
  • 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Optional spices: 2 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp garlic powder


  1. Clean the potatoes and place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender. Remove the potatoes from the water and remove the skin when they are cool to handle.
  2. Crush them with a fork (doesn’t have to be smooth, little chunks are okay) and set aside.
  3. With a fork, flake or break the fish into small pieces. Just like the potatoes, some chunks are okay, since they will get crushed when they are being cooked.
  4. In a saucepan, heat 3 tbsp of oil over medium heat.
  5. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and sauté until the onions become tender and translucent.
  6. Add the green chili peppers, salt, sugar, and spices, then sauté for about a minute. Add the fish and cook while mixing the spices for about 10-15 minutes, and until everything is well-combined.
  7. Add 2 tbsp lemon juice and tomato sauce into the mix, and mix it well.
  8. Add the potatoes and mix with the fish until well combined. Add salt (to taste) and the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice if needed. Set the fish mix aside and let it cool.
  9. When it has cooled down, take a spoonful of the mix and roll it into a smooth 1 1/2 inch diameter ball. Leave these balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  10. In a bowl, mix the eggs, and on a separate plate, mix the bread crumbs with the optional spices.
  11. Evenly coat each fish ball with the egg mix, and then coat them with the bread crumbs. Make sure to evenly coat the fish balls with breadcrumbs. Take care to not cause any cracks. If there is a crack, you can re-dip in the egg wash and re-coat with breadcrumbs.
  12. In a saucepan, heat enough oil to deep fry the cutlets to about 350°F/180°C.
  13. When the oil is hot enough, fry the cutlets until they turn a dark golden brown—about a minute. You can fry a few cutlets at a time in the oil without overcrowding the pan.
  14. Place the fried cutlets on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. You can keep the cutlets in a warm oven to keep them warm and crispy until you are ready to serve.
  15. Serve with tomato sauce or chili sauce as a snack, or as a side dish for a rice and curry meal. 

And, voila! There you have it. Delicious fish cutlets. Of course, you don’t need to follow this recipe to a T. I know that my family likes to adjust it to our liking and that’s how it should be. Every cutlet is different, and you can add or choose to leave out whatever you want. That’s the beauty of cooking! Just make sure to be careful when making the balls, because if you aren’t, they could fall apart.

A quick and easy fix to this is to add more egg wash and make sure you roll the fish mix into a ball shape before dipping it into the egg wash. If you want to try really authentic Sri Lankan cutlets, add chili to the bread crumbs, but please note that this is not an essential part of the recipe.

Bon Appetit! 

Recipe adapted from The Flavor Bender.