If you’re allergic milk and wheat some more creative ingredients are required to make safe allergen free batter. It’s certainly left me feeling left out and like I’m missing the old treat of battered fish and chips.
What is batter made from?
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!”
It’s usually a flour mixture made with some kind of liquid such as milk, beer, sparkling water etc. and sometimes other ingredients too.
I have found 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…
- 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.”
I find it fascinating reading all these recipes and marvelling at how many ways you can make batter. Perhaps if I’m really brave I’ll try to make my own at home, but I’m not sure how well it works unless you deep fry and I’m not about to do that at home.
Does fish and chip shop batter really contain dairy?
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.
You CAN enjoy fish and chips safely
If you too have a wheat and dairy allergy or are coeliac, the following may be helpful:
- Ask for rice cones instead of batter – I used to go to a local chippy that would do me fish in rice cones. This is the thin coating they use before dipping the fish into the actual batter and makes a lovely thin crispy batter.
- Beware of cross contamination – There is a chance of cross contamination from the milk or wheat in the batter if anything is cooked in the same oil.
- Research Gluten free fish and chip shops – There are quite a few out there if you look. Often they will do GF fish and chips on the days they change the oil so it’s fresh and free from allergens. Check Laura Strange’s Gluten Free guide for places near you.
- Ask about the chip oil – Often the chips are cooked in oil only for chips so would be free from cross contamination, but always check.
- Beware of nut oils – If you’re allergic to nuts you must also check what oil is used to fry the food. Some places use nut oils such as groundnut or peanut oil, which should be safe if refined as this removes the protein but you can never be sure.
- Supermarket free from ranges – Now do lots of gluten free option of breaded fish that is also dairy free. Oven chips are also pretty good these days but look for the ingredients and check to make sure you get healthy ones without loads of fillers and dextrose. If you hunt around you can find some that are just potato and salt.
- Make your own – use the recipes above, substitute with save gluten and wheat free flour and enjoy your own fresh made battered fish. You will need a deep fat fryer or dry fryer though so not the easiest dish to cook.
Always check, ask to see the ingredients are safe for you. Check and check again, it’s always my motto to check too many times rather than rush and miss an allergen.
My favourite gluten and dairy free fish and chip shops
There are a my favourite fish and chip shops that provide safe batter, including:
- The Cod Father in Aylesbury
- The Lakeside Fish and Chip shop on the Ambleside tip of Lake Windermere
- Vinegar Jones, Bowness on Windermere
- Sea Master in Moor Park near Rickmansworth
- The English Indian mobile fish and chip shop van – is dairy and wheat free pakora flavoured batter
Do you have to avoid fish and chip batter? Are you coeliac? or just have allergies? I’d love to hear your recipes and recommendations of good fish and chippers who cater for wheat and dairy free customers. Please share below!
You may also be interested in the following:
- Milk in cooked chicken – dairy allergy alert
- A list of wheat free and gluten free real ale
- My coffee shop allergy – reacting to milk vapour
Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels
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.
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.
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 🙂
Now you’re talking Debbie, where is this chipper? I want to go!
My local chippy is called Papas and it’s in Worksop in Nottinghamshire and they also have shops in Retford and Gainsborough. I have attached a link to gluten free chippys around the country and apparently (but do ask) gluten free batter mix doesn’t contain any milk products and from personal experience the batter is just as good as ordinary batter. Hope this helps and you find one near you.
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.
Eggs in the pumpkin cake?
Stelios Theocharous says
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.
Fantastic! I am craving a good fish a chip supper right now 🙂
Hi, I am still trying to figure my allergy out, but it seems to be dairy especially when combied with egg, (although I can eat eggs normally.) I haven’t had any problems with the batter at my local chippy but the battered fish at the school I work in made me inflate like a baloon! Will definitely be avoiding that in future.
Ruth Holroyd says
You need to look at the ingredients of the batter at the school and start to examine all the ingredients.
I’m new at being lactose intolerant. I called my local fish and chippy to ask about their batter. At first they said “ no dairy”, but then read their ingredients and came back with “May contain dairy.” I don’t dare take the risk as I had a Yorkshire pudding with the Sunday roast and haven’t recovered yet, four days later.
Probably best to always check before sampling.
Ruth Holroyd says
Always check and don’t take their word for it. Ask to see the ingredients label first. Better to be safe than suffer for days!
Eggs are still dairy so Jamie Oliver’s recipe is not dairy free. People seem to get this confused. Eggs in batter does not = dairy free. Beer batter with no eggs/animal milk is dairy free.
Ruth Holroyd says
Hi Mikayla, eggs are technically not dairy. Dairy comes from cows. All cow’s milk products would be classed as dairy. Eggs come from chickens, ducks etc. and are just eggs – they are not dairy. If you mean vegan, then I agree, a product would need to be free from both dairy and eggs to be vegan. I have a dairy allergy to cow’s milk but I can eat eggs because I am not allergic to eggs. I hope I’ve explained that well enough.
Tori Stewart says
Technically, the product would need to be free from fish, too, in order to be vegan. But, yes. Exactly what Ruth said. Even though eggs are located near the milk/butter/cheese in the dairy section, they are not dairy.
Our very crispy and golden Fish batter is:
240g Plain Flour
Approx 1 pint of Golden Ale (not stout as makes batter too dark)
2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Half Teaspoon of salt
Ruth Holroyd says
Now you’ve got my taste buds going Andrew. This sounds amazing. Do yo make this at home? or do you own a chopper?