This classic southern Fried Catfish recipe is dredged in a perfectly seasoned and spiced cornmeal breading and fried until tender on the inside and crispy golden brown on the outside!!
The Heart and Soul of the Best Fried Catfish Recipe
A Southern girl knows her fried fish: shrimp, snapper and catfish alike. I grew up attending church sponsored 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.
Today’s recipe is the ultimate Southern Fried Catfish: a quintessential Southern recipe passed down from my Big Mama. Get ready for spicy, crunchy, salty fish that is begging to be served for dinner tonight!
Cuisine Inspiration: Deep South, where soul food reigns supreme and catfish is a beloved classic. This is inspired by my family’s Mississippi roots.
Primary Cooking Method: Frying – Get that oil hot and let it sizzle, y’all!
Dietary Info: Pescatarian-friendly, Gluten options available – Crispy, golden, and guilt-free (well, almost!).
Key Flavor: Savory with a hint of spice – this dish has a kick that sings harmonies with your taste buds.
Skill Level: Easy peasy – You don’t need to be a Southern grandma to nail this!
- Comfort Food Supreme: This isn’t just food; it’s a warm, edible hug from the South.
- Crispy Golden Perfection: That satisfying crunch followed by tender, flaky fish is a textural symphony.
- Speedy & Simple: No fancy gadgets, no frills – just honest-to-goodness good cooking.
- Flavor Flexibility: Spice-adverse? Dial it down! Chili-head? Throw in extra cayenne!
- Crowd-Pleaser: From family dinners to picnics, this dish has a universal passport to please.
What Is Fried Catfish?
Fried Catfish brings up daydreams of finger-licking, crispy-crunchy fried delight. My mouth waters at the thought of that initial first bite: the flavorful crust that gives way to tender, flaky fish. There’s nothing like deep-fried seafood spritzed with fresh lemon and served with buckets tartar sauce.
In the South, Catfish is a popular source of protein that’s low in both fat and calories. Farmed catfish is also a sustainable, clean source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Although frying your fish isn’t the healthiest option, you still get the majority of its health benefits (and a delicious meal).
- Yellow Cornmeal: The golden base giving that authentic Southern crunch. It’s not a Southern fry without it!
- All-Purpose Flour: The sidekick to cornmeal’s hero – it’s all about balance, baby!
- Seasoned Salt: A little or a lot, you’re the boss of this flavor rodeo. Taste and tweak, y’all!
- Black Pepper: A classic kick – because life’s too short for bland bites.
- Cayenne Pepper: Hello, heatwave! This is where the magic happens, adding that sassy Southern spark.
- Lemon Pepper: Zesty with a peppery punch, it’s a citrus fiesta in every bite!
- Paprika: Smoky or sweet, this spice brings color and charisma to the mix.
- Large Eggs: The glue in our delicious situation – keeps everything nice and tight.
- Hot Sauce: A dash of attitude for those who dare! It’s the Southern wink in this fishy affair.
- Catfish Fillets: The star of the show – fresh and ready for its tasty transformation!
How to Make Fried Catfish
Gettin’ Dressed: First, shake up your cornmeal, flour, and all those feisty seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon pepper, and paprika) in a brown bag or ziploc. You’re making a tasty little suit for your catfish!
Egg Dip: Next, whip those eggs and hot sauce together in a large shallow dish. Give each catfish fillet a nice egg bath before tossing them in their seasoned “suits.” Let them chill on a baking sheet.
Set and Chill: Slide those coated beauties into the fridge for 10-15 minutes. They need a moment to get fabulous.
The Sizzle: Heat your oil (about 4 inches) in a dutch oven, pot, or deep fryer over medium-high heat until you hit 340 degrees. It’s showtime!
Fry Time: Work those fillets in batches until golden brown. Remove and let the excess oil drip off on racks or paper towels. Patience, darling – they need 5-10 minutes to cool.
Serve It Up: 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!
This may be a shock to you, but fried catfish is not very hard to make. It’s truly as simple as buying fresh fish, making a well-seasoned crust and brushing up on a few frying skills. From start to finish, this recipe takes no longer than an hour to whip up.
Here’s how you get it done:
Use Fresh Fish
Avoid any fish that has a fishy odor; a fresh fish should smell like clean water. Trust me, the odor is an indication of old, ill-tasting fish. I personally prefer fillets but you can use anything for this recipe from whole catfish to catfish steaks. It comes down to a preference.
Heat Your Oil to the Correct Temp
If you haven’t invested in one yet, now is the time to buy a deep-frying thermometer. Heating the oil to the correct temperature ensures that the batter will create a barrier between the oil and the fish. If the temp is too low, the fish will soak up oil. If the temp is too hot, the exterior will burn before the fish cooks.
Don’t Overcrowd the Oil
Be patient. Only place 2-3 pieces of fish in the oil at a time. Overcrowding your fryer will lower the oil’s temperature and make for soggy fish. P.S. You can deep fry or pan fry this in a cast iron skillet.
Set Up a Wire Rack
I’m sure you’re used to the classic plate piled high with paper towels used to soak up grease. Though this may be a tried and true method, I’ve got a better one. Place a metal cooling rack on top of a sheet pan and place it on the side of your fryer. Once out of the fryer, plop the fish right on there and prepare for the crispiest fish you’ve ever had.
How to Serve
I’m a huge fan of a good ‘ole fashioned fish fry. There’s something so wonderfully classic about a few fillets of fried fish served with french fries, fried shrimp, fried pickles, fried onion rings, coleslaw or thick-cut, vinegary potato chips and ice cold sweet tea.
Tip: Do it Chicago style and serve with Spaghetti! Fried fish and spaghetti are a delicacy where I come from!
Want to create a little balance? Serve up a fresh salad or a vegetable heavy succotash.
How to Store and Reheat
Fried catfish will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days. If you would like to store your fish for longer, you can freeze the leftovers for up to a month. Just be sure to put the fish in an air-tight container or ziploc bag.
To reheat, 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). The oven is the best way to keep that crispy exterior.
Best Seafood Recipes
Why stop the party here? Keep it going with a few of the BEST seafood recipes ever! Enjoy.
- Crispy Fish Sticks
- The Best Fish and Chips
- Crab Cakes
- Frogmore Stew
- Shrimp Po’Boy
- How To Fry Fish
- Oven Fried Catfish
Fried Catfish Recipe
- 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt up to 2 teaspoons/ taste the seasoned cornmeal and adjust
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp hot sauce
- 1 lb catfish fillets
- lemon wedges, tartar sauce and hot sauce for serving
- In a brown bag or ziploc bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon pepper, and paprika 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. Place the fillet on the coated baking sheet. Repeat with each fillet.
- Let fish set for about 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator then remove.
- 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 340 degrees.
- Working in batches, fry fillets until golden brown then remove and drain on racks or paper towels.
- Cool for 5-10 minutes then serve with lemon and chopped parsley.