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Best Fried Catfish Recipes

Best Fried Catfish Recipes

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Fried Catfish Shopping Tips

Buy cooking oils with high smoke points like peanut, canola, and safflower which don’t break down at the high temperatures needed for deep-frying.

Fried Catfish Cooking Tips

Don’t overcrowd the pan – if too much food is added at once, the oil temperature will drop and the food will steam instead of brown.

Fried Catfish

“T he catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anybody,” as Mark Twain, called upon to defend the honor of the bewhiskered critter and its muddy-watered home, wrote in Life on the Mississippi. Truth is, the homely fella has always had an image problem, what with his fleshy lips, squooshy skin, and propensity for eating off the floor. But none of that has ever bothered Texans we eat a heck of a lot of catfish, and casting about for channels and blues is a veritable rite of passage for many of us. Like my dad, who talks of fishing with his dad on the Medina River, where they’d attach a cowbell to the trotline and then retire to their cabin to wait for the telltale “clank . . . clank . . . clankclankclankclank.

Unless you catch it yourself, you’ll be eating farmed catfish, which this state produces in great quantities (22 million pounds in 2015). Aerated ponds nurture fingerlings who feast on floating food pellets, which results in flesh that’s flaky and not at all muddy tasting (which some do not see as an improvement—“Mild, tender, and tasteless,” proclaimed one participant in an online debate on the matter). Well, at least it’s ecologically responsible. And no doubt Huck Finn’s pronouncement rings true regardless: “His meat’s as white as snow and makes a good fry.”

2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cups finely ground cornmeal
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 pounds catfish filets (about 4 can be cut into smaller filets, or tenders)
peanut oil for frying

In a shallow bowl stir together milk and hot sauce. In another shallow bowl combine cornmeal, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Dip the fish in the milk, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture, coating thoroughly. Let sit for a few minutes while you heat about 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a deep cast-iron pot (a thermometer is immensely helpful in maintaining the oil temperature adjust your heat accordingly). When oil is hot, gently add the fish (a few pieces at a time—don’t crowd the pot) and fry until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Let drain on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges or your preferred sauce.

Classic Fried Catfish

There&rsquos just something special a homemade batch of Southern fried catfish. Catch the fish at your favorite lake and we bet it will taste even sweeter. This fried catfish recipe calls for yellow cornmeal, our secret to a crispy, satisfying crust. That classic crunch pairs perfectly with lemon slices and your favorite tartar sauce. Another trick to our best fried catfish recipe? Keep that deep-fry thermometer handy. Pay close attention to the temperature of the oil, especially between batches. This will ensure that each fish filet cooks evenly. We&rsquove all had soggy fried catfish, and that&rsquos just not what we&rsquore aiming for today. Every Southerner knows that a good piece of fried fish can become great, depending on the company it keeps. We like to serve our catfish with coleslaw, baked beans, and homemade hush puppies (If we can spare the time!) Once you&rsquove learned how to fry catfish, we hope you&rsquoll pass the recipe on and start a new tradition in your family.

  1. Heavy-bottomed dutch oven OR deep cast-iron skillet– these types of cookware are essential vessels to have on hand when deep frying. They’re big and roomy and provide the needed spacing.
  2. Deep fry thermometer– I cannot recommend this tool enough to have among your kitchen gadgets. It tells you the precise and exact temperature of your cooking oil at all times so that you’re not guessing.

A great fish fry is accompanied by a nice set of the most scrumptious and fitting side dishes!

  • Hush puppies are an absolute must, y’all (peep my recipe for them below!)
  • Southern collard greens, another lovely and ultra Southern pairing, or candied yams.
  • Cole slaw– the creaminess is such a nice contrast against the fried catfish.
  • Mac and cheese: try my smoked gouda mac or baked mac and cheese!
  • Pasta salad, grits, biscuits>> cheddar scallion or buttermilk or sweet potato biscuits.

Fried Catfish

Like Rodney Dangerfield, catfish don’t get no respect. Yet who but the most arrogant snob could resist a platter of golden-brown filets, moist and sweet in their crunchy cornmeal jackets? Forget that outside the South, anglers dismiss these bewhiskered members of the Siluriformes order as homely, galumphing bottom-feeders. Never mind that self-styled gourmands deem their bland, cottony flesh suitable only for catfish parlors frequented by people who drive pickup trucks and spit tobacco juice out the window. A huge national fan base—which consumes more than 425 million pounds of domestically raised catfish a year—begs to differ. And which state eats the most? Why, Texas, of course, weighing in with nearly a quarter of the total, more than the next four states combined. Mark Twain may not have been from around here, but he got it right when he said, “The catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anyone.”

How to Make It

Brisket is an hours-long ordeal. Tamales require an entire family. Chili drives you to drink (too much beer). But frying catfish is easier than falling off a log backward, and you can be done in ten minutes flat. No one knows this better than Kathy Wofford, the owner of Mrs. Kathy’s Southern Comforts, in Snyder. “My dad loved to fish, and my mother was an excellent cook,” says the Mississippi native. “Momma’s the one who taught me how to drop the fish in a sack with some cornmeal, shake it up, and pop it in the pan.” In a few minutes, “out would come the most beautiful golden fish you ever saw.” In 1974, at the age of nineteen, Wofford and her husband, Tony, moved to Snyder, between Lubbock and Abilene. When their children were older, in 2007, she opened Mrs. Kathy’s, using a lot of her mother’s old recipes. Regular customers get there early on Friday for her famous spicy fried catfish, because when it’s gone, it’s gone. —PS

Mrs. Kathy’s Spicy Fried Catfish

vegetable oil for frying
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for seasoning
6–8 catfish filets

Heat oil in a fryer or skillet (enough to cover fish and allow it to float) to 360 to 365 degrees. In a shallow bowl, mix cornmeal with salt, cayenne, and paprika, and set aside. Rinse fish and shake excess water off. Lay filets out on a cutting board and season both sides with salt, cayenne, and paprika, rubbing the seasoning into the fish. With a sharp knife, cut filets into 2-inch strips. Dredge in cornmeal mixture. Carefully drop fish into hot oil (do not overcrowd) and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until fish floats and is golden brown. Serves 6.

Hush Puppies

from Kathy Wofford

vegetable oil (such as peanut), enough to cover the hush puppies
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1–3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2–3/4 cup milk

Heat oil in a skillet, large pot, or Dutch oven to 360 degrees. Mix all ingredients until well incorporated, then spoon into oil (a melon baller works well). Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 10 to 12.

Tomato-Onion Relish

2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup green onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2–1 fresh or canned jalapeño, chopped (optional)

Best Recipe for Pan-Fried Catfish

Over the last decade or so Catfish has grown in popularity as table fare. It has a sweet and mild flavor and when prepared properly a white and flaky flesh. A very common fish in North America with the Channel Catfish and the Blue Catfish being the most common to make it to your table. Catfish are caught in the wild but are also commonly farmed.

One of the most common methods of cooking catfish is to pan fry them. Anyone who has seen an old episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” would know this!

Pan-Fried Catfish
This is really a fast and easy recipe that should only take you about 15 minutes in total and about 5 mins in the pan!

1-½ lbs of Catfish fillets
¼ teaspoon of salt (I like to use Himalayan Pink Salt, but any will do)
¼ teaspoon of Pepper
1 large egg, beaten vigorously
¼ cup corn meal
2 tablespoons canola oil (I sometimes use coconut oil but cooking times vary with this)

How to Prepare Pan-Fried Catfish

Preheat a large sauté’ or fry pan on medium, season the fillets with salt and pepper (I sometimes just use Adobo seasoning)

Dip the fish in the egg batter and coat completely with the cornmeal
Heat the oil in the pan and then add the catfish fillets
Cook each fillet for 3-5 minutes on each side
Make sure the crust is a golden brown and the catfish flesh is flaky.
Drain the oil by placing the fillets on a paper towel

Nutritional information for Pan-fried catfish
Serving size is ¼ of this recipe (substitutions change these values a bit)
Calories: 350
Fat: 21g
Cholesterol: 165mg
Sodium 390mg
Carbs: 6g
Fiber 1g Protein: 34g

Recipe Summary

  • 1 pound skinless catfish fillets (2 to 3), halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Lemon wedges and hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Pat fish dry transfer to a pie dish or other wide, shallow dish. Season generously with salt andpepper. Add buttermilk, turning and arranging fish strips to fully submerge. Let stand 2 hours, or refrigerate, loosely covered, up to 8 hours.

In another pie dish, season cornmeal with salt and pepper. Working one at a time, lift fishstrips from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off, and dredge in cornmeal mixture, turning toevenly coat. Gently shake off any excess transfer to a wire rack.

Pour enough oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) to come 1/4 inchup sides (about 3/4 cup) heat over medium-high. When oil shimmers and a bit of cornmeal sizzles when dropped in, add fish in a single layer (do not crowd pan fry in batches if necessary). Cook, undisturbed, until fish is golden brown on bottoms and lifts easily from skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until golden on bottoms and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a clean wire rack, season with salt, and let cool 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, or one of the fish sauces.

Lemon Pepper Fried Catfish

I have such fond memories of fishing with my grandfather and then coming back and frying fish right in his yard using an old propane fish fryer. He would clean and fillet the fish right outside using the water hose and then he’d fry them up after a simple cornmeal dredge.

There’s something about eating a piece of fried catfish that takes me right back to those summer days in Camden, Alabama.

But you don’t need a propane fish fryer or gigantic pecan-tree-lined yard to make perfect fried catfish – though I might argue it does make it taste better. A simple cast iron skillet or dutch oven in your own kitchen will work just fine. Let me show you…

Let’s start with the catfish. If you’re not catching your own, you’re probably grabbing catfish fillets are your local grocer. Be sure to ask for farm-raised US catfish. The unique, sustainable farming methods mean sweet, mild fish every single time. This is actually my preferred method of aquiring catfish.

Though I do love spending a day with a line in a pond, I often find that the flavor of catfish from some ponds can be quite “muddy,” so I like the more mild flavor of the farm-raised variety. Regardless, any catfish fillets will work.

I like to rinse my fillets and then do a quick soak in buttermilk. The buttermilk helps to remove any extra fishy flavors, keeps the fish moist, and helps the breading stick.

When it comes to the breading, cornmeal is a must. I go with a blend of plain cornmeal with a little all purpose flour. And for flavor, I mix in some garlic powder and a generous portion of lemon pepper seasoning. That magical combination of catfish and cornmeal goes perfectly with lemon pepper seasoning.

When it comes to the lemon pepper seasoning, I really like the Badia brand. One thing to keep in mind is that different brands of seasoning will have different levels of salt – some having none at all. So keep that in mind as you might need to add salt to the dredge if it doesn’t.

After they get coated, a 5 to 10 minute rest allows that coating to stick together better so it doesn’t fall off when frying. Then it’s in the hot oil to get them cooked off. For me, I love the flavor of cooking catfish in peanut oil, but realize it’s a little more expensive and not everyone can do peanut oil, so vegetable oil will work just as well. A quick fry of 5 to 6 minutes on each side will get most grocery-store-sized fillets cooked through without overcooking it. Just keep in mind that thinner fillets will cook faster.

And catfish is best served immediately so have your hushpuppies, tartar sauce, and coleslaw ready to go because as soon as that fish is done, it’s time to eat!


Step 1

Whisk 3 Tbsp. salt, hot pepper sauce, and 8 cups hot water in a large bowl until salt dissolves. Chill in freezer until cold, about 30 minutes. Place catfish in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Step 2

Whisk cornmeal, next 5 ingredients, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Attach deep-fry thermometer to the side of a 10" cast-iron skillet or other large heavy skillet. Add oil to come a little less than halfway up side of skillet. Heat over medium heat until thermometer reads 335°.

Step 3

Rinse catfish pat dry. Dredge catfish in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess. Working with 2 fillets at a time, fry catfish, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crispy, 10–12 minutes per batch. Transfer fish to paper towels to drain.

How would you rate Fried Catfish?

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The recipe served at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain offers diners a mouth-pleasing crunchy external coating paired with a delicate and moist internal fish.

Texas Roadhouse Fried Catfish is traditionally served with a Creole Mustard Sauce and a selection of two sides.

You might consider our coleslaw for one of the sides. Here are a couple of popular recipes you may want to make (click either one to see the recipe):

And here in Kentucky, we like tartar sauce with our catfish. (Click the link below to see the recipe):

And some hush puppies or cornbread to round out the meal.

If starting with fresh catfish, the process takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.