Food & Drink

The Tastiest Fish You’ve Never Eaten

How to cook sugar toads, the puffer fish appearing on more Southern restaurant menus

Photo: Courtesy of The Dabney

Sugar toads are the chicken wings of the sea. Also known as swelling toads or blow toads, the puffer fish aren’t much to look at fresh out of the water. But they fry up into crisp bites of sweet meat along a single bone. Mid-Atlantic chefs are taking notice, as we reported in our June/July article “Swelling Interest.” Jeremiah Langhorne of the Dabney, in Washington, D.C., takes the toads over the top with a kiss of spicy honey and a buttermilk dressing for dipping.



  • Fried Sugar Toads

    • 1 gallon canola oil

    • 20 sugar toads

    • 1/2 gallon buttermilk

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1 cup cornstarch

    • 2 tbsp. garlic powder

    • 2 tbsp. onion powder

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

    • Pinch celery seed

    • Pinch cayenne pepper

    • Salt and pepper, to taste

    • Hot Honey, for serving

  • *Hot Honey

    • 2 cups honey

    • 2/3 cup not-too-spicy hot sauce

    • 1/4 cup toasted benne seeds


  1. In a large pot, bring oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat.

  2. Meanwhile, clean sugar toads by removing fins or excess skin on the tails. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and the next six ingredients. Mix well. Add buttermilk to a second large mixing bowl. Bread sugar toads by dipping them first in the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Repeat the process, double-breading sugar toads. Set them aside on a tray.

  3. Fry sugar toads until golden brown and cooked through, 5-7 minutes. If this is your first time cooking sugar toads, feel free to cut one open to check for doneness. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels or a rack.

  4. Serve with a simple green salad, or leave in one large bowl for family-style serving. Toss sugar toads with hot honey and serve over a simple salad with your favorite buttermilk dressing for dipping.

  5. For the hot honey: Whisk to blend. Reserve.

Recipe from Jeremiah Langhorne, the Dabney, Washington, D.C.