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Southern Fried Catfish

This Southern Fried Catfish is golden brown on the outside and flaky and delicious on the inside. Seasoned through and through, it’s the perfect recipe for when you want a good piece of fried fish.

fried catfish filets on white plate with lemon wedges

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Fried fish is a staple among the Black community in the United States and it’s a vital part of African-American culinary traditions. Many celebrations call for a fish fry where pieces of fish are seasoned and deep-fried until golden brown. Not only does this tradition calls for some delicious piping hot fish to be served, but there is also a form of unity and connection that comes along with it. 

Now when it comes to catfish, Black folks like to season their catfish and deep fry it, resulting in the most delicious and crispy filets. For this recipe, I use a technique that is common in frying any piece of fish. Season the fish, use seasoned cornmeal mix in the coating, and fry the fish until it’s golden brown. Following those basic steps will lead to some pretty darn good Southern fried fish.  

piece of catfish that has been broken apart to show inside of fish

Ingredients Needed for Southern Fried Catfish

ingredients of southern fried catfish on white board
  • Catfish filets – In the South, it would be common for fishermen to bring home catches of catfish to fry. Catfish will range in size. Larger wild-caught catfish can sometimes have a “muddy” taste and are sometimes soaked in milk or buttermilk to remove that aftertaste. Farm-raised catfish do not tend to have this aftertaste and can skip the buttermilk soak. 
  • Buttermilk or milk (optional) – If you have a larger wild-caught catfish filet, you may want to soak it to remove the muddy aftertaste. Smaller catfish and farm-raised catfish tend not have this issue and don’t need the buttermilk soak. 
  • Hot sauce – this is used to add seasoning to the catfish before dredging. A tip I learned from my mother-in-law and one I love to add to many golden fried types of meat and seafood. 
  • Cornmeal and Flour – cornmeal gives the catfish a nice crispy golden layer. Adding the flour to the mix lightens the grittiness of the cornmeal. If you can find it, use very fine cornmeal to cut down on the grittiness of cornmeal.  
  • Seasoning – you can use whatever you like I like a mix of Old Bay Seasoning, salt and black pepper, and paprika. Additional salt and pepper can also be used to season the fish after it’s fried. It really makes every single piece of fried fish pop. 

How to make Southern Fried Catfish

If soaking your catfish filets, start by adding the filets to a flat container and covering them with buttermilk or milk. Allow the filets to soak for 45 minutes to an hour. This is an optional step but one I’ve been stuck on using for my field-caught catfish. 

catfish being soaked in milk

Next, add about 4-5 inches of oil to a heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to use a deep-frying thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil. 

While the oil is heating, create a dredging station. In one shallow bowl, add the hot sauce. In another shallow bowl, add cornmeal, flour, Old Bay Seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine. 

Remove the filets from the milk mixture and shake off any excess buttermilk. Dip the fillets into the hot sauce mixture and then into the seasoned cornmeal mixture, shaking off any excess cornmeal. Place fillets on a plate until the oil has reached the desired temperature. 

catfish dredging station with catfish filets in milk, hot sauce, and cornmeal mixture

Once the oil has reached the correct temperature, gently drop the catfish fillets into the hot oil. Be careful not to cause any oil splatter. Fry each filet for about 3-4 minutes until the fillets are golden brown. 

Remove the filets with a slotted spoon and lay them on a wire rack or paper towels. 

fried catfish being lifted out of oil

Serve the filets as is or season with additional salt and pepper. 

catfish filets on white plate with lemon wedges

Enjoy.

What does catfish taste like?

Catfish should taste mild and slightly sweet with a flaky and moist interior when cooked.

How to keep the catfish warm

When frying lots of catfish, you can keep the batches warm by placing them in an oven that has been preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What do people eat with fried fish?

Coleslaw! That’s a must, in my opinion. You could also serve the fish with varying sauces like tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and remoulade sauce. 

Some people like to eat fried fish with spaghetti too. 

How to reheat catfish filets?

It’s uncommon to have leftovers but sometimes it happens. If you have leftover fish, reheat them by adding them to a preheated oven of 350 degrees Fahrenheit and allow them to cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

Can I make this healthier?

Absolutely! This Air Fryer catfish recipe is a great healthy option if you’d rather skip the frying. 

Notes

  • Larger wild-caught catfish will sometimes have a muddy aftertaste. Soak those filets in milk or buttermilk to remove the muddy taste. 
  • Do not overcrowd the pot when frying. Fry only 2-3 fillets at a time. 

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fried catfish filets on white plate with lemon wedges
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Southern Fried Catfish

This Southern Fried Catfish is golden brown on the outside and flaky and delicious on the inside. Seasoned through and through, it’s the perfect recipe for when you want a good piece of fried fish.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 199kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Catfish filleted with skin removed
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk or milk optional
  • oil for deep frying
  • ½ cup hot sauce
  • ¾ cup very fine cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  • If soaking your catfish filets, start by adding the filets in a flat container and covering them with buttermilk or milk. Allow the filets to soak for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Next, add about 4-5 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to use a deep-frying thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil.
  • While the oil is heating, create a dredging station. In one shallow bowl, add the hot sauce. In another shallow bowl, add cornmeal, all purpose flour, Old Bay Seasoning, paprika, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  • Remove the filets from the milk mixture and shake off any excess buttermilk. Dip the fillets into the hot sauce mixture, and then into the seasoned cornmeal mixture, shaking off any excess cornmeal. Place fillets on a plate until the oil has reached the desired temperature.
  • Once the oil has reached the correct temperature, gently drop the catfish fillets into the hot oil. Be careful not to cause any oil splatter. Fry each filet for about 3-4 minutes, until the fillets are golden brown.
  • Remove the filets with a slotted spoon and lay them on a wire rack or paper towels.
  • Serve the filets as is or season with additional salt and pepper.
  • Enjoy.

Notes

  • Larger wild-caught catfish will sometimes have a muddy aftertaste. Soak those filets in milk or buttermilk to remove the muddy taste. 
  • Do not overcrowd the pot when frying. Fry only 2-3 filets at a time. 

Nutrition

Calories: 199kcal
Recipe Rating




Mary Meyer

Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

Cat fish is the best. Soaking in Buttermilk really does take that muddy taste away. In a pinch I use regular milk. I use Tabasco for the hot sauce. In my part of the Country we don't have Cat Fish often. When I can get it, I usually buy enough for 2or 3 batches. Fairly expensive, but well worth it.

Sam

Monday 25th of April 2022

Delicious

Tanya

Thursday 28th of April 2022

Thank you Sam!