Fried Catfish

Now listen, everybody on these internet streets can’t fry catfish. That’s why I’m giving you the best Fried Catfish recipe on any side of the Mississippi. We start by dredging that fish in a perfectly seasoned and highly spiced cornmeal breading then we fry those babies until they are as golden and crisp as humanly possible on the outside with tender, juicy, flakiness right on the inside. This is as authentic legit Southern dish with all the soul you ever gonna need. I grew up eating fried catfish at least twice a week so trust ya girl Grandbaby Cakes when I tell you to ditch the other recipes and get you the real keeper right here.

This recipe is PERFECT!!!! I wouldn’t change a thing!!!!Debbie Driscoll 

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Deep fried catfish with hush puppies on a white surface with lemon wedges and parsley sprinkled on top

I play no games when it comes to fried catfish. I consider myself an expert, in fact, the ultimate guru. My mama to this very day still makes it at least twice a week. This was how I was raised y’all. I make it at least once a week. We love us some Southern fried catfish period. I grew up attending fish frys and watching my grandmother and family members dredge fillets in spicy-seasoned cornmeal. The fish was always served hot and crisp with just enough oil to coat your fingertips. Just how I like it. So when I tell ya that I’ve got the recipe that will end all others, I mean it.

The Lowdown on the Best Fried Catfish Recipe

Cuisine Inspiration: Deep Southern Soul Food baby with my family’s Mississippi roots
Primary Cooking Method: Frying
Dietary Info: Pescatarian (Can be made Gluten-Free with substitutions)
Key Flavor: Savory, Tender, Crispy with a Kick of Spice
Skill Level: Intermediate (frying is a learning curve)

  • Budget-Friendly: Y’all catfish stays super affordable, which is why I stay frying it!
  • Beyond Crispy: That crunch stay crunching y’all. My cornmeal coating is designed to give as much golden-brown crispy texture as possible.
  • Quick Prep: Frying catfish ain’t gotta take all day. The prep is pretty quick and the cook time makes this an excellent option for busy weeknights too!
  • Do You: This fried catfish recipe is beyond versatile. You can serve a fillet between two slices of bread for a quick sandwich or make it the main attraction with soul food sides. Either way, it’s good eatin.

Ingredients You’ll Need to Make the Best Fried Catfish Recipe

Cornmeal, eggs, hot sauce, seasonings and eggs along with fresh catfish fillets in small bowls on a white background
  • Catfish Fillets: We go with fresh farm-raised fillets here so you can get more of that meaty tender texture with no interruption. They are mild flavored and readily available in most grocery stores too!

For the Catfish Batter

  • Yellow Cornmeal: This is the foundation of any authentic Southern fried catfish recipe. It has a unique flavor and undeniable gritty texture that aids in building crunch. If a recipe ain’t got this, it ain’t real y’all. Don’t walk, run! Grab fine so the grit doesn’t become too hard to chew.
  • All-Purpose Flour: This is going to help balance the grit and help build additional crispy texture. There’s a reason why we fry chicken with this baby.
  • Salt: Back in the day, we used seasoned salt but I find that using kosher salt instead allows me more freedom in building my spice blend myself.
  • Black Pepper: It’s gonna provide a mild kick of spice to balance the saltiness.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Let’s heat it up y’all! I like a nice kick but feel free to lower this amount if you prefer things milder.
  • Lemon Pepper: I like to brighten up my fried catfish batter with a little citrusy zest. Lemon pepper gives that plus a touch of peppery punch.
  • Paprika: Smoked is my preference. It adds color and some personality to our spice blend.

For the Wet Binder

  • Large Eggs: This is the main ingredient in our binder. It’s gonna help that catfish batter stick like glue to our catfish fillets.
  • Hot Sauce: Listen, any Southerner will confirm that catfish and hot sauce are a match made in heaven. It gives that flavor a little attitude.

How to Fry Catfish

Step 1: Prep the Fish Fry and Egg Mixture

  1. First, shake up your cornmeal, flour, and all the seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon pepper, and paprika) in a brown bag or zip-top bag.
  2. Next, whip those eggs and hot sauce together in a large shallow dish.
A collage of making fish fry mixture and eggs and hot sauce whisked together

Step 2: Get that Catfish Ready!

  1. Give each catfish fillet a nice egg bath before tossing them in the seasoned catfish batter. Let them chill on a baking sheet.
  2. Slide those coated beauties into the fridge for 10-15 minutes. They need a moment to get fabulous.
A collage of a fresh catfish fillet being added to egg mixture then to cornmeal coating before frying

PRO TIP: Before you get to dredging, make sure you patted those fillets super dry. We want to get rid of as much moisture as possible so the fish fries up super crisp!

Step 2: Let’s Fry It Up!

  1. Heat your oil (about 4 inches) in a dutch oven, pot, or deep fryer over medium-high heat until you hit 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C).
  2. Work those fillets in batches until golden brown.
A collage of southern fried catfish frying in pot with oil then being lifted out to show golden brown

Remove and let the excess oil drip off on racks or paper towels. Patience, boo – they need 5-10 minutes to cool.Make it fancy with a lemon wedge and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Now, dig in and enjoy the crispy, golden goodness you just created!

Southern fried catfish after being fried on a wire rack letting it drain

PRO TIP: Let your fried catfish rest for at least 5 minutes before you serve it up. It needs just a few minutes to let that juiciness redistribute so it stays nice and moist.

How to Serve Southern Fried Catfish

Anyway, I searched for a fried catfish recipe and this one popped up immediately. I printed it out, prayed and hoped for the best. Well baybeeeeeee!! We have a winner!! My fish came out crispy, golden brown and tasted amazing. We paired the fish with a couple beers and cold salads. Amazing recipe. – Camay

A close up of deep fried catfish on a wire rack with lemon wedges and pasley sprinkled on top

Recipe Substitutions

  • Cornmeal: Y’all cornmeal is a non-negotiable for making Southern fried catfish. If you ain’t got it, don’t make the recipe.
  • Catfish: You can grab whole, catfish steaks or nuggets if you want to be adventurous. Also if fresh isn’t available, frozen works great too!
  • Spices: No smoked paprika? Grab regular. It will work just fine. If you don’t have cayenne, just a few red pepper flakes will work just fine.
  • Eggs: If you ran out of eggs, you can easily use buttermilk which will work great and add a bit of tang too!
  • Oil: If vegetable oil ain’t your bag, just select another neutral oil like peanut or canola. They have high smoke points so they won’t burn at high temps. Don’t you dare grab the olive oil. It ain’t fit for this.

Recipe Variations and Additions

  • Gluten-Free: Replace that all-purpose flour with a 1:1 ratio gluten free flour and make everybody a fan.
  • Cajun it up: Toss in a little cajun seasoning or blackening seasoning to really spice that catfish batter up!
  • Get Zesty: Adding just a bit of lemon zest to the batter will brighten the flavors even more!
  • Garlic Butter: Elevate the fried catfish with a finishing drizzle of melted garlic butter. It hits so hard!
  • Taco style: This Southern fried catfish can get down with the Tex-Mex vibes too. Add it to some corn tortillas with some salsa verde and a little guacamole over some Mexican rice and get your whole life!
  • Mustard Style: Rub the catfish in yellow mustard and hot sauce for a savory tangy vibe before you add to the batter and fry.
A close up of the best fried catfish with fried hush puppies on a white background with lemon wedges and parsley

Expert Tips and Tricks for Making Deep Fried Catfish

  • Fresh is Best: Avoid any fish that has a fishy odor y’all. Fresh catfish should smell like clean water and be firm. Trust me, the odor is an indication of old, ill-tasting fish, and it tastes just as bad as it smells. 
  • Pat it Dry: Before you dredge, pat the catfish with paper towels to remove as much extra moisture as possible. This will help create a perfect crispy coating.
  • Shake it Off: After you dredge, shake off any excess batter so it doesn’t make the fish breading doughy when fried up.
  • Let it Set: After dredging, let the catfish batter set before adding to the oil. It needs time to really coat and stick so it doesn’t fall off in the oil.
  • Heat it Up: A temperature of at least 350-375 F is ideal for frying y’all. If the temp is too low, the fish will soak up the oil and get soggy. If its too hot, the crust will burn before that fish even cooks.
  • Don’t Overcrowd the Oil: Fry in batches so you don’t lower the temperature of the oil and make soggy fish. A deep fryer is great for deep fried catfish and or cast iron skillet is definitely the move for pan-fried catfish.
  • Drain on a Wire Rack: Add a baking sheet lined with paper towels under the wire rack so it soaks up the grease that falls. It’s gonna keep it super crispy.
  • Serve Right Away: Now don’t let it sit too long. It’s best served up 5-10 minutes after frying while its still super crunchy and hot.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Fridge: Just be sure to put your Southern fried catfish in an air-tight container or ziploc bag. It will keep about 2 days.
  • Freezer: f you would like to store your fish for longer, you can freeze the leftovers for up to a month.
  • Reheating: Allow the catfish to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the catfish on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes (or until heated through). Either use the oven or the air fryer so you can keep that crispy exterior.
A close up of fried catfish being cut into so you can see the flaky inside with hush puppies and lemon in the background

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the oil ready to fry catfish?

You want your oil to reach a temperature of 350°F-375°F (175°C) degrees. You can also test your oil by adding the end of a wooden spoon to the oil. If it bubbles around the handle, it’s good to go. Also a tiny toss of breading into the oil can be an indicator. If it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil, its ready to fry in.

How long do I need to fry the catfish?

About 2-5 minutes each side will do it boos. But this will depend on the thickness of the fish fillets.

Can I reuse the oil I fried catfish in?

Yep boos! In the South, we don’t waste a thing. Just strain it once its cooled and store it in a sealed container. Use up in a few weeks.

Favorite Fish and Seafood Recipes

Deep fried catfish with hush puppies on a white surface with lemon wedges and parsley sprinkled on top

Fried Catfish Recipe

This classic southern fried catfish recipe is dredged in a perfectly seasoned and spiced cornmeal breading and fried until golden brown and tender.
4.27 from 63 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 8 servings


  • 1 1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper go up or down depending on your heat preference
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 lb catfish fillets patted dry with paper towels
  • lemon wedges, tartar sauce and hot sauce for serving


  • In a brown bag or ziploc bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper and cayenne and shake together.
  • In a deep pie plate or large shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and hot sauce.
  • Add each filet into beaten eggs on both sides then add to the cornmeal breading and shake liberally to coat well. Shake off excess coating and add to a parchment covered baking sheet. Repeat with each fillet.
  • Let fish set for about 10-15 minutes before frying.
  • In a large dutch oven, pot or deep fryer, pour in about 4 inches of oil and heat over medium high heat until the temperature reaches approximately 350-360 degrees.
  • Working in batches, lower a few fillets into oil making sure not to overcrowd the dutch oven. Fry fillets until golden brown or about 2-5 minutes on each side depending on size of fish before turning over. Then remove and drain on a wire rack with a baking sheet with paper towls beneath.
  • Cool for 5-10 minutes then serve with lemon wedges, hot sauce in a bottle on the side and hush puppies and a couple sprigs of parsley.


How to Store and Reheat
  • Fridge: Just be sure to put your Southern fried catfish in an air-tight container or ziploc bag. It will keep about 2 days.
  • Freezer: f you would like to store your fish for longer, you can freeze the leftovers for up to a month.
  • Reheating: Allow the catfish to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the catfish on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes (or until heated through). Either use the oven or the air fryer so you can keep that crispy exterior.


Calories: 210kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 512mg | Potassium: 347mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 331IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg
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Filed Under:  Dinner, Father's Day, Main Dishes, Seafood, Southern Classics, Stovetop


  1. One of the best catfish recipes I have ever tried!! My husband absolutely loved it!!! The flavors infused, along with the crunchiness. Perfect. I will definitely use this recipe again.

  2. Absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing. I used two large filets, therefore, I had to cook longer. Next time I will cut filets in half to reduce frying time. Also, 1 egg was enough to mix with hot sauce and dredge filets.

  3. GIIRRL! Absolutely the BEST catfish I have put in my 68 year old mouth. I believe it was the hot sauce added to the eggs that made is so amazing. Crispy, especially flavorful, and with cooling on a rack instead of paper towels, no lingering oil in the fillets. Thank you for sharing and keep up the amazing recipes!

  4. I will get catfish in the restaurant but I love that with this recipe I can make it just as good, if not better, right at home.

  5. Yum! I love fried catfish, so this recipe is a weeknight staple. It’s so simple to make and the breading adds the perfect crunch.

    1. This was absolutely the best catfish I have ever had we will be having this a lot thank you

4.27 from 63 votes (38 ratings without comment)

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