An Extra-Crispy, Slightly-Spicy Way to Celebrate Fiddleheads

April 24, 2018

With the particularly hot and cold (but mainly cold) spring we’ve been experiencing, it feels like we’ll never taste tender, fast-fleeting seasonal produce. But there’s an upside to Mother Nature holding out on us: more time to brainstorm all the delicious ways to eat springtime’s bounty.

Take curly little fiddleheads, for example. If you’ve lucked into a bunch of these tightly coiled fronds, it’s tempting to highlight their unique flavor with a simple preparation—boiled, lightly sautéd with butter, then finished with a squeeze of lemon. But Laura McLively from the legendary Berkeley Bowl Marketplace in California has a crispier, spicier way to dig into fiddleheads.

“Coated in a light, crispy tempura batter and served with a spicy dipping sauce, this spring treat elevates snacking to a new level,” she writes in her new book, The Berkeley Bowl Cookbook.

To ensure light, airy tempura fiddleheads, McLively has a few suggestions. First, when dredging the fiddleheads through cornstarch, make sure to lightly shake off the excess. Too much coating will obscure the fronds, while too little won’t give the same crunch. Secondly, keep all the tempura ingredients cold before mixing the batter. Lastly, don’t crowd your frying pan—if you can’t fit everything, work in batches.

McLIvely balances the crispy tempura fiddleheads with a creamy, spicy Sriracha dipping sauce. Sprinkle a little Togarashi on your freshly fried fiddleheads or even in the sauce, if spring swings chilly again and you’re craving a little more warmth.

Have you found your fiddleheads yet? Share what you've done with them below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Efiya Fadila
    Efiya Fadila
  • Lisabeth
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Efiya F. April 30, 2018
Thanks for the brilliant idea! I never think of fiddleheads as a candidate for veggie tempura, but I sure love ferns. In Indonesia we usually cook the leaves and fronds in coconut milk soup or stir fry them in sambal belacan, but never as a snack. I will definitely try this crispy alternative of enjoying ferns.
Lisabeth April 29, 2018
I enjoyed the fiddlehead stalk & tops last week. I found them at a farmer’s market in Hilo, HI.
The stalks are delicious!! They are similar, yet more delicate, than asparagus. I am slightly obsessed now searching out fresh fiddleheads - with stalks - on the mainland!!