This Southern Fried Catfish recipe is perfectly seasoned with a crispy cornmeal breading. It’s a classic dish to make that always adds a little something special to the supper menu.
Easy Southern Fried Catfish Recipe
Fried catfish is one of those consummate Southern entrees that can be found on the menu at restaurants and seafood dives all through the South. Each comes with it’s own little twist to make it their own. Thankfully, you can find quality frozen catfish and won’t have to spend all day fishing for your own. Unless you want to, of course. This fried catfish recipe begins with a buttermilk marinade and coated in a seasoned cornmeal mixture that makes it tender and flaky. How to make the best Southern Fried Catfish: (Scroll down for full printable recipe.)
- Marinate Catfish – In a 13 x 9 inch shallow dish, whisk together buttermilk, hot sauce and egg. Season the catfish fillets, lightly with salt. Add catfish fillets in a single layer, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours OR overnight.
- Catfish – Remove catfish from fridge, let stand in marinade while you prepare the breading.
- Prepare Coating – In a shallow bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, seafood seasoning, garlic salt, lemon pepper and cayenne.
- Dredge Catfish – Remove fillets from marinade, letting excess drip off. Dredge fillets on both sides, pressing breading onto the fillets. Have nearby a pan, repeating until all fillets are bread. Chill to set while you heat the oil. (You can do this up to 30 minutes in advance)
- Cook – Heat oil to 355-365°F. Gently lower fillets into the hot oil, cooking per the recipe just until golden. (Catfish fillets are thin and cook quickly)
- Remove from hot oil using a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined pan or platter.
- Serve immediately.
How to Make the Best Fried Catfish Recipe
- Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Fried Catfish: To soak the catfish prior to frying you need buttermilk, hot sauce and egg. Brine 2 pounds of catfish in this flavorful marinade and it takes the earthy sort of “muddy” taste out of the fish.
- For the catfish breading you’ll need: Finely ground yellow cornmeal, all purpose flour, seafood seasoning, garlic salt, or plain table salt and garlic powder, lemon pepper or black pepper and cayenne pepper. You’ll also need peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying. You could also use canola oil.
- Kitchen gadgets you’ll need: A shallow dish for soaking the fish fillets in the buttermilk marinade, a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, a deep-frying thermometer, measuring cups and spoons, a whisk, a fish spatula for turning and removing from the oil, a baking pan or platter or a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. You could also use a deep fryer.
- When using frozen catfish for this recipe, thaw per the package directions and recommendation and drain any excess liquid before adding to the buttermilk marinade. It’s important to be certain that it’s thawed safely for your next fish fry.
- I love using a seafood blend called Seafood Magic in this recipe. You could use classic Old Bay seasoning or any variety of seafood seasoning that you enjoy in the same amount. You could also adapt using Creole or Cajun seasoning. Regardless, when doing so, consider the amount of sodium and make adjustments to the amount in the recipe as needed.
- Catfish fillets tend to be thinner than some other varieties of fish. Due to this, they cook quickly. Look for golden not dark brown color and test one piece to see if it flakes easily with a fork.
- It’s important to keep the oil at a constant temperature when frying. Also, the proper temperature prevents the cornmeal breading from absorbing too much of the oil and becoming greasy. Watching it closely will result in perfectly golden brown catfish.
- If you don’t routinely have buttermilk in your fridge, you can make your own. To each cup of milk add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white distilled vinegar to whole milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir, then proceed with the recipe.
- Storage: Catfish is best fried and eaten while fresh. If you need a smaller batch, simply fry less rather than plan for leftovers.
Side Dishes to Serve with Southern Fried Catfish
There are so many options you can serve alongside seafood. Things such as homemade Hushpuppies and Southern Style Cole Slaw are classic. You might also like to add Sweet Potato Fries or Crispy Baked Potato Wedges to the meal. Fresh yellow Squash Fritters with a Sriracha dipping sauce or a big pot of Homestyle Green Beans and Red Potatoes. The kiddos would flip for a side of Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese.
More Southern Style Fish and Seafood Recipes to Make
Seafood can be made easily at home there’s no need to go to a restaurant to enjoy the flavors of the sea. More yummy seafood recipes you may like to try:
- Easy Fish Tacos are made in minutes in the oven on a sheet pan.
- Beer Battered Fish is a classic you can master at home.
- Crispy Crab Hush Puppies are a cost effective way to serve crab to a crowd.
- Maple Glazed Salmon is made in a skillet in no time flat.
- Air Fryer Shrimp are perfectly seasoned and ready for dipping in a spicy aioli.
- Scallops with Cream Sauce from Will Cook for Smiles.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
- 2 cups buttermilk See Cook's note
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1 large egg beaten
- 2 lbs catfish fillets if frozen, thawed
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp seafood seasoning i.e. Old Bay or Seafood Magic
- 1 tsp garlic salt OR 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp lemon pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 1 quart peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying
- lemon wedges and Italian parsley for garnishing
- In a 13 x 9 inch shallow dish, whisk together buttermilk, hot sauce and egg. Season the catfish fillets, lightly with salt. Add catfish fillets in a single layer, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours OR overnight.
- Prepare: Remove catfish from fridge, let stand in marinade while you prepare the breading.
- Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, seafood seasoning, garlic salt, lemon pepper and cayenne.
- Remove fillets from marinade, letting excess drip off. Dredge fillets on both sides, pressing breading onto the fillets. Have nearby a pan, repeating until all fillets are bread. Chill to set while you heat the oil. (You can do this up to 30 minutes in advance)
- Fry: Heat oil to 355-365°F. Gently lower fillets into the hot oil, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side or just until golden. (Catfish fillets are thin and cook quickly) Remove from hot oil using a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined pan or platter.
- Serve immediately with a side of tartar sauce and lemon slices garnished with parsley.