Does fish batter contain milk?

I always assumed that the batter fish and chip shops used contained milk, mainly because when I’ve asked that very question I’ve been told, “Yes, it does!” My local chippy do me fish in rice cones which I’ve never had any problem with, but this evening, whilst tucking into my delicious Friday night treat I wondered whether there was any chance of cross contamination from the milk in the normal batter.

Now my stomach is full and the food has gone I thought I’d research how batter is made. I have founds loads of recipes using water, sparkling water and beer, but none containing milk. Did I completely make this up? Do fish and chip shops use milk in their batter or not? Here is a recipe for Scottish batter found on Scotland’s Enchanting Kingdom.

Scottish fish and chip batter

  • Self-raising flour
  • Sparkling mineral water (some people add beer)
  • Malt vinegar
  • Pinch of Salt

Delia Smith’s fish batter recipe contains no dairy either

Ingredients – Makes enough for four 6-7 oz (175-200 g) pieces of fish:

  • 4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) water, plus 1 scant tablespoon

Just sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, then gradually add the water, whisking continuously until the batter is smooth and free from lumps.

Jamie Oliver’s recipe for crispy fish batter from Jamie’s Italy is also dairy free

Batter ingredients:

  • Sea Salt
  • Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of flour + extra for dusting
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 small bottle (250ml) of Ice cold fizzy mineral water
  • 3/12 pints sunflower or vegetable oil

Season the fish with salt and pepper generously and marinade it in the lemon juice for at least half an hour. Pour out the lemon juice and pat the fillets dry. Heat your oil in a pan. While this heats make your batter by mixing the egg yolks, flour, lemon zest and some olive oil in a bowl and stirring in the the bubbly water.

I also found a traditional fish and chip batter recipe from cooking for chumps website, which is, yep, you guessed it, ALSO dairy free…

For the batter:

  • 570ml / 1pint water
  • 225g / 8oz plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 Tsp tumeric

On Wikipedia it says that normally water and flour are used, but in some cases, beer and milk substituted.

“UK chippies traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles in the batter. Other recipes may use beer or milk batter, where these liquids are often substitutes for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. Beer also results in an orange-brown colour. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different: some prefer lager whereas others use stout and bitter. In all cases, the alcohol itself is cooked off, so little or none remains in the finished product.”

Have I been avoiding fish batter all these years for no reason? Is the confusion here that I’m asking if the batter contains dairy and that some people think eggs are dairy? Most fish and chip shops that I’ve spoken to however say that their batter contains milk. Even in restaurants when I occasionally ask they say it does contain dairy. Now I’m really confused… I suppose it’s one of those situations where you have to ask each time. Tedious, but necessary, and could mean I can have real batter on my fish every now and then.

Dairy UK forum has a discussion about this very subject and here everyone seems to be assuming that the batter normally contains dairy. To visit the forum and read the thread of comments visit the
Dairy Free UK Forum.

Does anyone know what’s the norm now in the UK? Perhaps I need to do some foot research here around my local chippers. I’d love to hear from any readers who avoid fish batter for this reason, or do you eat it with no problem? This would be a real treat if I could have fish and chips in normal batter. Look forward to hearing from you all…

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. I’m betting they use commercial mixes which have milk solids in the ingredients.

    • Yes you’re probably right so they couldn’t make it without even if they wanted to. Prob contains powdered milk – yuk

    • Fish and Chip Shop Owner says:

      I stumbled upon this whilst searching for rice cones.
      I can state unequivocally that chip shop batter does NOT contain milk or like products.
      For my shop, I researched and trialled the best battermix on offer from my suppliers. Out of all of them, none had milk or dairy and almost all are just flour (rice, soya, wheat, corn etc.)
      Milk however contains at least 10% sugar and therefore would burn/caramelise in a hot fryer, thus turning the batter dark brown and not golden. This is why pancakes/doughnuts turn brown when cooked.
      What you should be more wary of is natural ingerdients – 1 of the batters I tried had a warning label on that stated you shouldn’t give the batter to children as the E numbers would “affect concentration”

      Maybe your question next time you go into the chippy is – “are all the ingredients in your batter natural?”

      Hope this helps

      • Well Fish and Chip show owner – this is a real turn up for the books. Do you think that I’m asking the wrong questions then when I go into a fish and chip shop? When I ask them if it contains dairy they say yes! Nearly every time I’ve asked. So I always ask for the ‘rice cones’ that you mention. It’s a lovely coating actually, much lighter, and I tell myself, much healthier too! Does this mean I might indeed be able to enjoy batter sausage and fish and chips again? I think I’ll try to have a proper chat next time I’m passing, when it’s not so busy. More research needed! I often get people saying something ins’t safe just because they’re terrified of me having an allergic reaction. but if I can have battered fish this will make my day! Would you mind sharing the full list of ingredients in the batter you use please? also what included in the etc… Where is your chip shop? I want to come and have some fish and chips!

        • I know this is an old post but just in case you are still active or it helps others that find this I would suggest that rather than ask about specific allergens tell the restaurant you have some allergies and can you see the ingredients list and what else goes in. You are correct that when asked if something contains gluten, dairy, shellfish etc. etc. the easy cop out is to say yes. One lost sale but no lawsuit.

  2. Schalk Burger says:

    Well, I run a take away in South Africa and use hake fillets. After defrosting it we lightly press the fish between two layers of cloth to dry most of the lose moisture from the fish. Then the fish is covered in the dry flour /spice mix and then dipped into the egg that was mixed before and then put in to the oil. I use Sunflower oil as I found it last longer and no funny tastes and fry it to light gold color. The battering is light crispy not oily and the fish flavor full. No milk are used and what I said earlier is all that we use and we just get compliments even from British tourist coming through our little town.

    • Schalk Burger – that sounds really delicious. Wish you were here in rainy Blighty. I order fish in rice cones over here and I seem to be OK but so far I haven’t found anyone doing a fish and chips with batter that doesn’t contain milk. I keep searching. Would be such a treat.

  3. Hi, I am coeliac and lactose intolerant and my local chippy do a gluten free fish and chips and that doesn’t contain any milk products, so maybe that would be an option 🙂

  4. I am lactose and fructose intolerent and have found that I have a reaction after eating from fish and chip shops. I don’t usually eat chips but have flake and a pumpkin cake. Any ideas which ingredient it could be? Maybe I need to see if I have whole other intolerance

    • You can get milk/dairy in fish batter. Is that what you mean by flake? If you ask in the shop they should be able to give you the ingredients in the foods you think might be causing problems, otherwise it’s very hard to tell.

  5. Generally speaking no, milk tends to make batters quite brown because of the lactose.

    I would say always ask.

    Our Batters and Gluten Free batters don’t contain any allergens other than wheat in the normal batter and the Gluten free is allergen free.

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