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Southern Fried Catfish Recipe

This fried catfish recipe is an easy-to-make southern delicacy

Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
Deep frying catfish is the best way to make use of your catfish fillets. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
Print Recipe

A catfish recipe is as Southern as fried chicken. Eaten often and enthusiastically, it is a delicacy in the Deep South, and the fishing of cats is right at the top of many outdoorsmen's favorite pastimes lists. Though there are a few ways to prepare this fish, to Southerners, deep fat frying is the only way and understandably so – it's tasty!

Serves: 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 1 pound of catfish fillets
  • ½ cup of cornmeal
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Milk or buttermilk
  • Lemon wedges
  • Peanut oil for frying
Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
Serve this catfish dish with a serving of homemade coleslaw. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

Broccoli Coleslaw Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of broccoli slaw mix
  • ⅓ cup of Best Foods mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar
  • Dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce, to taste
  • Pinch of celery seed
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper


  1. To make coleslaw, combine broccoli slaw mix, mayo, vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, celery seed and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Cover and refrigerate to allow flavors to marry before frying fish.
  2. Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
    Trimming catfish fillets around dark, red areas helps to neutralize any "fishy" taste.(Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  3. Trim catfish fillets of any dark, red areas – this is called the bloodline and removing it will reduce the "fishy" flavor for those sensitive to it. Make sure there are no leftover rib bones. Run fillets under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
    Soak fillets in milk or buttermilk before frying. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  5. Lay catfish in a bowl or deep plate and soak in milk or buttermilk while you prepare the coating and the oil is heating.
  6. Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
    Cornmeal, Old Bay and salt is all that you need for this breading mix. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  7. On a plate, combine cornmeal, flour, Old Bay and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Heat ½ inch of oil in a cast iron pan or heavy skillet over medium heat. Don't get hasty and turn up the heat to high. You will burn the oil, and cast iron will hold heat for a long time, even if you take the pan off the heat.
  8. Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
    Fry catfish fillets until they are golden brown. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  9. Once oil is heated, between 350 and 375 degrees, remove catfish fillets from milk or buttermilk, and coat both sides of fish with cornmeal mix. Carefully lay the fillet(s) into the hot oil and fry each side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden and cooked through – carefully flip fish with a large spatula to avoid breaking up the fillets. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of fillets. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches so that the oil temperature doesn't drop too much. To deep fat fry, use more oil to completely submerge the fish, eliminating the need to flip.
  10. Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
    After frying, allow catfish to dry before serving. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  11. Drain fish on a baking sheet rack. Finish with a sprinkling of kosher salt.
  12. Serve immediately with coleslaw and lemon wedges. I also enjoy this catfish recipe with sliced tomatoes marinated in olive oil, a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and basil. French fries or hush puppies are always tasty with fish.

Best Catfish for This Recipe?

Catfish caught from a cool, running stream or river is my favorite. It's succulent, meaty and clean tasting, vastly different from the farmed catfish found in grocery stores, which can often be mushy and off tasting. The best catfish I've ever eaten was out of the Niobrara River, Nebraska, in spring. I can't wait to be able to fill my freezer with more.

Spring and summer are popular times to catch catfish, but truly, they can be caught year round. For those living in more northern states, get in some fall fishing with your family and friends before the water ices over. Enjoy the fall colors, the comfortable cool weather, and celebrate the season with your loved ones with a great catfish recipe.

Check out Game & Fish Recipes for more great ideas!

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