This is the perfect crispy, crunchy Fried Catfish with a ton of flavor! This southern favorite comes together quickly with minimal ingredients!
CRUNCHY BREADED CATFISH IN UNDER 20 MINUTES!
Fried Catfish is a classic southern dish! Catfish were often thought of as a “throw away” fish in other parts of the country but southern culture treats catfish like a delicacy! It’s full of flavor and pairs well with a variety of sides, making it the perfect meal for any occasion. This recipe uses very simple ingredients but I promise the end result is amazing. it’s all about building up layers of flavor and using a delicious seasoning! If you’ve struggled with getting your catfish to taste like it does at your favorite southern restaurants, then this is the one you need to try!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Catfish has a mild flavor, slightly sweet with a very meaty texture. It is often compared to cod or haddock in terms of flavor and sweetness but it’s not as flaky as other white fish. It does really well absorbing the flavor that it is seasoned with. Catfish can be cooked in many ways including baking, frying, grilling, and poaching.
You can if you have time but it’s not absolutely necessary. Soaking can help to tenderize the meat a bit more if you think it needs it. To soak catfish, put it in a bowl with enough cold water to cover the fish and add 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water. Allow it to sit for 10-20 minutes before cooking.
It’s actually really quick to fry catfish. You only need about 4 minutes in the fryer per filet. Over-frying can cause the meat to become less tender.
Typically this happens when you didn’t pat dry the fish well enough before adding the coating. This is a crucial step that should not be skipped.
You need to use a high smoke point oil for frying. I like to use peanut oil since. Peanut oil can be pricey, so if that’s not something you want to use, you could use vegetable oil or even Crisco or lard.
Yes. This fried catfish recipe has a nice cornmeal breading that can be used on other fish varieties that you want to fry.
Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes, cooked catfish can be frozen for up to 3 months in a freezer safe container.
Technically it can but you are not going to get that exact same flavor or ultra crispy coating. Air fryers are great but they can’t always get it exactly like frying it in oil would. Prepare the catfish as listed below. Then, working batches so you don’t overcrowd your air fryer, you would cook at 400F degrees for about 10 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 10 minutes on the other side.
Yup! To reheat your fried fish, pop it back in the oil or place it in the oven on a wire rack over top of a sheet tray so it doesn’t get soggy on the bottom while reheating.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR THE FULL RECIPE)
- catfish filets – don’t like catfish? Haddock or cod can be substituted in this recipe.
- Old Bay seasoning – I feel like this is a classic seasoning for any seafood dish. The flavors go together so perfectly! Here is a recipe if you want to make it homemade.
- garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper – you can go with your other favorite seasonings here. I think catfish needs a lot of seasoning so I try to build layers of flavor with the seasoning.
- all-purpose flour – you could use self-rising flour if that is all you have. It will cause the coating to puff up a bit since self-rising flour has baking powder in it.
- yellow cornmeal – yellow cornmeal is the classic coating for southern fried catfish but you could use white cornmeal if that is all you have. Just make sure it is not self-rising cornmeal. You could use unseasoned breadcrumbs as well.
- large eggs – this acts as a binder and helps to keep the coating in place.
- buttermilk – buttermilk is always the classic choice when making catfish. It adds a bit of tangy flavor and brings a little fat to the dish (fat equals flavor!) but milk could be used in a pinch (but definitely try it with the buttermilk, it really does make a difference)!
- hot sauce – if you don’t like hot sauce, you can leave it out but it really doesn’t add much spice to this. Most southern folks eat nearly everything with hot sauce, and again, it is adding another layer of flavor to really make the catfish shine.
HOW TO MAKE FRIED CATFISH
Preheat a deep fryer or a large pot with 4 inches of vegetable oil up the sides to 350°F. Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and set them aside. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Season the fish on both sides with the spice mix.
In a large shallow bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and the leftover spice mix.
In another large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce. One at a time, dip a fish fillet into the flour mixture and coat the fish in the mixture. Shake off any excess.
Dip the fish fillet into the egg mixture until coated and let any excess drip off.
Dip the fish fillet back into the flour mixture and coat it well. Shake off any excess and place it on a sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining fish fillets.
When ready to fry, gently add one fish fillet at a time to the fryer and fry for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Flip the fillet if needed.
Place the fried fish fillets on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up any excess oil, and then place them on a sheet tray with a wire rack on top. This will help keep the fish crispy.
Repeat with the remaining fish fillets and serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
CRAVING MORE RECIPES?
- Air Fryer Homemade Fish Sticks
- The Best Air Fryer Salmon
- Perfect Smoked Salmon
- Country Fried Pork Chops and Gravy
- Bacon Cornbread
- 2 pounds catfish filets
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
- lemon wedges and tartar sauce for serving (optional)
- Preheat a deep fryer or a large pot with 4 inches of vegetable oil up the sides to 350°F.
- Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and set them aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Season the fish on both sides with the spice mix.
- In a large shallow bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and the leftover spice mix.
- In another large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce.
- One at a time, dip a fish fillet into the flour mixture and coat the fish in the mixture. Shake off any excess.
- Dip the fish fillet into the egg mixture until coated and let any excess drip off.
- Dip the fish fillet back into the flour mixture and coat it well. Shake off any excess and place it on a sheet tray. Repeat with the remaining fish fillets.
- When ready to fry, gently add one fish fillet at a time to the fryer and fry for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Flip the fillet if needed.
- Place the fried fish fillets on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up any excess oil, and then place them on a sheet tray with a wire rack on top. This will help keep the fish crispy.
- Repeat with the remaining fish fillets and serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.
- Please refer to my FAQ’s and ingredient list above for other substitutions or for the answers to the most common questions.
- Catfish can burn in the fryer easily, so keep a fast eye and quick hand on them.
- If you find that the breading isn’t sticking to your filets, it’s most often because you didn’t properly dry them off. Don’t skip this!
- Seasoning the fish first really brings a yummy flavor, don’t skip this either.
- You can use whatever frying oil you have on hand, as long as it has a high smoke point. I like peanut oil, but other high smoke point oil will work just fine.
- You can use this recipe to bread and fry other fish as well.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven or air fryer.
- You can freeze leftovers, if stored properly, for up to 3 months.