This fried catfish recipe will be one of the tastiest pieces of fish you’ll ever make at home. Each bite of tender, flaky fish is encased in a light crispy, seasoned coating. The type of recipe that will make everyone reach for seconds.
In this post, you’ll find step-by-step directions and tips on how to bread and fry the fish pieces so your end results are delicious and every batch comes out perfectly golden and crisp.
Once you take a bite, you’ll know exactly why this catfish recipe is a popular Southern tradition.
What Makes Southern Fried Catfish the Best
Simply put: the seasoning in the light flour and cornmeal coating makes Southern catfish the best way to enjoy fried fish.
Southern-fried catfish is a whole experience. While homemade fish-sticks and baked salmon have their place, there’s something special about the strips of flaky white meat catfish fried in a yellow cornmeal coating.
Add some coleslaw, hushpuppies, and french fries on the side, and you have a typical Louisiana feast that’s popular during the Lent season. No joke, on a Friday evening, you can find some of the finest catfish dinner plates at local churches and schools.
With the recipe, I’m showing you how to easily make this southern tradition in the comfort of your own home.
Louisiana Fried Catfish Batter Ingredients
The batter is cornmeal and flour-based along with creole seasoning. The kicker is the buttermilk dip giving the fish a tangy taste that’s second to none.
Here’s everything you need to make Louisiana style fried fish:
- oil: to fry the catfish you want to use a neutral oil such as peanut or vegetable.
- ground cornmeal: this gives the coating a delicious crispy texture and golden flavor:
- all-purpose flour: a part of the breading. If you want to make this gluten-free use a 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour.
- seasonings: Creole seasonings, salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika for bold flavor and a little spice.
- catfish fillets: you’ll find fresh catfish fillets in the seafood department of your grocery store. If that option isn’t available you can also use frozen fillets, but make sure they are fully defrosted before cooking.
- buttermilk: gives the coating a tangy flavor. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to regular milk, and stir to combine.
Catfish can often be found in the fresh seafood and frozen sections of your grocery store. If you don’t have catfish available, any thin, white fish will work -such as tilapia, cod, or trout.
How To Fry Catfish
Grab those ingredients and let’s make a perfect batch of Louisiana fried catfish.
- Heat the oil
Pour the oil in a large frying pan with tall sides, or a cast-iron skillet, over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350F, making sure to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature. A 5-6 quart dutch oven will work too.
- The dry ingredients
In a shallow dish, big enough for the fish pieces, combine the cornmeal, flour, Creole seasoning, salt, paprika, and black pepper. A pie dish or casserole dish both work great.
- The wet ingredient
Place buttermilk in a separate shallow dish.
- Coat the fish
Dip each seasoned fish fillet in the buttermilk, flipping it once to coat both sides. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip off, then transfer the fillet to the cornmeal mixture, making sure to generously coat both sides.
Transfer the fish to a baking sheet while you repeat the process with the remaining fillets.
- Fry it up!
Gently add the fillets to the hot oil, about 2 at a time, and fry until golden brown, for 6 minutes if the oil is deep enough or about 3 minutes per side. Remove the fried fillets to a cooling rack while you fry the remaining fillets.
- Time to serve
Fried fish tastes best when it’s fresh! As soon as you’re done cooking, serve them with lemon wedges, ketchup, or tartar sauce.
If you’re looking to add more “meatless” recipes like this to your weekly menu, then I have to tell you about my meatless meal plan. It’s 4-weeks of delicious meatless dinners that your family is going to love. Learn more here.
Tips for the Best Fried Catfish
Some people love thin fried catfish, which is so thin you are eating fried batter with fish flavor. On the other hand, others like their fried catfish a little meatier (thicker cut).
Regardless of how you slice your fish, a good batter is the key to a perfect batch. Below are a few tips I’ve learned along the way for making perfect Louisiana fried catfish:
Get the oil temperature just right
Before adding the fish, use a regular kitchen or deep-frying thermometer to test the oil temperature, it should be 350F. If the oil temperature is too low, the fish will soak up the oil. If it’s too hot, the coating will burn.
Use the right skillet
You want a large enough pot or deep-rimmed skillet to give the fish enough room to fry without overcrowding. A 5 to 6-quart Dutch-oven or stainless steel saucepot works perfectly.
Don’t crowd the pan
Crowding the pot will reduce the oil’s temperature causing the breading to turn out soggy. Start with 2 to 3 fillets at a time, depending on the size.
Don’t skimp on the seasonings
Creole or Cajun seasoning, is what flavors the flour and cornmeal breading that coats each fish fillet.
How to Serve Fried Catfish
Traditionally, fried catfish is served with lemon wedges, french fries, and coleslaw, it’s certainly not the lightest meal, but the texture and flavor are worth it. Below are more delicious sides and dishes you can add to your fried fish feast:
New Orleans Fried Catfish Recipe
- Oil for frying, about 1 quart
- 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 fillets catfish, rinsed and patted dry
- ¾ cup buttermilk*
- Place a cooling rack on a large sheet pan or line with paper towels and set it aside.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan with tall sides, or a cast-iron skillet, over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350F, making sure to adjust the heat.
- In a shallow pie or baking dish, combine the cornmeal and flour with the Creole seasoning, salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper.
- Place buttermilk in a separate shallow dish.
- Dip each seasoned fish fillet in the buttermilk, flipping it once to coat both sides. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip off and transfer the fish to the cornmeal mixture, making sure to coat both sides.
- Transfer the breaded fillets to a large sheet pan while you repeat the process with the remaining fillets.
- Gently add the fillets to the hot oil, about 2 at a time, and fry until golden brown, for 6 minutes if the oil is deep enough or about 3 minutes per side.
- Remove the fried fillets to the cooling rack or paper towel-lined baking sheet while you fry the remaining fillets.