Southern Fried Catfish is easy to make and this restaurant-quality recipe won't disappoint! Tender catfish filets, lightly breaded in a Southern seasoned cornmeal mix and fried to perfection! Ready in less than 20-minutes!
There's no need to go out to dinner when you can make restaurant-quality fried catfish at home in less than 20-minutes! Tartar sauce recipe included!
Why you'll love this recipe!
- Crispy and flavorful - this recipe has a great flavor and the cornmeal coating turns out crunchy and delicious!
- Quick - each filet only takes about 5-minutes to fry
- Restaurant quality fried catfish filets that actually have flavor
- Tartar sauce recipe included - whip this up while the fish is soaking
Here's what you'll need:
Catfish filets, buttermilk, cornmeal, frying oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
Here's how to make it:
If you thought making Southern Fried Catfish was an all-day event, you are wrong! I use a 10"inch cast-iron skillet and cook two filets at a time.
The process takes about 15-20 minutes!
Frying fish isn't hard, but requires a little practice and expertise. Here are tips to help your catfish turn out superb!
Type of frying pan:
I recommend using a cast-iron skillet or a tall stock pot or Dutch oven so when you flip the catfish filet, it doesn't splatter all over.
Type of oil:
- This is important and key to this recipe. Use a high-heat oil: either canola, vegetable, walnut, grapeseed or peanut.
- Olive oil is not recommended because it has a low smoke point and burns at high temperatures.
- This is the most common challenge for homemade fried fish. For restaurant-quality fried catfish at home, the oil has to be hot enough, but not quite to the smoking point.
- Restaurants fry at 350ºF, but that's too hot for me, so at home, I fry fish around 312-325ºF
- The best way to determine if it's hot enough for frying is to use a good thermometer
- Another good way to determine if it's is hot enough (or too hot) is to sprinkle a little cornmeal in it. If it sizzles, it's hot enough. If it doesn't sizzle, raise the temperature and re-test.
Catfish frying tips and how to keep the batter from falling off
- Fry the catfish filets in batches, usually one or two filets at a time.
- Once the filet is placed in the pan DON'T TOUCH IT for at least 3 minutes. As tempting as it may be to turn it--don't. Three minutes allows the bottom side of the filet to cook and become firm. Once the bottom is a light golden brown, flip the filet.
- After flipping the filet, let it cook for another 3 minutes... again, DON'T TOUCH IT.
- Once both sides are crisp, if you prefer a darker crust, then gently flip the filet until it is the desired color.
- Place cooked filets on a paper towel to drain, then place them in a 200ºF oven uncovered. (When covered with foil, they get mushy and all your patience is in vain.)
- The first batch always turns out lighter than the others because the oil is fresh. If the darker color bother you, start over with new oil for each batch
Why do I need to soak the catfish in buttermilk?
Soaking fish in buttermilk is a method for minimizing the "fishy" smell. Catfish are bottom-feeders, meaning they swim on the bottom of the lake or reservoir floor.
It is believed that soaking the filet in buttermilk reduces the "muddy" flavor...there's a bit of controversy about this, but it is recommended for this recipe.
Make in advance and reheating:
Wrap the cooked and cooled catfish filets in foil and refrigerate. When you're ready to serve, remove the foil and place filets on baking sheet in a 450ºF oven for about 15-minutes.
Wrap in foil and store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Freezing is not recommended.
Serve restaurant-quality Fried Catfish individually or on a platter!
Serve fried catfish with any of these delicious dishes!
- Smothered Okra and Tomatoes
- Cream Style Corn
- How to make Southern Sweet Tea
- No Mayo Coleslaw
- No Beer Fish 'n Chips
- How to Season and Cook Purple Hull Peas
- Creamy Creole Coleslaw
If you make this recipe, please scroll down and leave a rating and comment! I love to hear from you!
Restaurant-Quality Fried Catfish
Catfish Coating Ingredients
- 4 filets catfish a little over a pound, total
- 1½ cups oil vegetable, canola or peanut (you may need more or less; depends on how deep your skillet is)
- 2 cups cornmeal yellow, not self-rising
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (red pepper, ground)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Tartar Sauce Ingredients
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2½ tablespoons relish , (dill or sweet); squeezed in a paper towel
- ¼ teaspoon onion
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon
Catfish Filet Preparation
- Pat filets with paper towel
- Place fish in a large baking dish or plastic storage bag, pour in buttermilk; coat well; allow to sit for 10-minutes in refrigerator
- Meanwhile, make tartar sauce;After the tartar sauce is made, coat and cook the fish
- In a large bowl, add cornmeal, salt, pepper and cayenne; stir with fork till blended
- Using a cast-iron, or heavy bottom skillet, pour oil into skillet and heat to medium;
- While oil is heating, take a filet directly from the buttermilk and place it in the cornmeal; pat the cornmeal on the filet; coat it all over, twice; repeat with remaining filets
- Check your skillet; the oil needs to be around 312 - 350ºF; you can sprinkle a few pieces of cornmeal in the oil to see if it sizzles; if it does sizzle, the oil is ready
- Cooking in batches of two filets, place them in the hot oil; DO NOT MOVE THE FILETS until they've cooked for 2 ½ - 3 minutes on one side
- After 2 ½ -3 minutes, use tongs and flip the fish over and cook for an additional 3 minutes
- Use a thermometer to measure internal temperature; it should be 145ºF
- Remove filets from oil and place on a paper towel
- Repeat until all filets are cooked and drained
- Plate filets and serve with lemon and tartar sauce
Tartar Sauce Preparation
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; refrigerate until ready to serve
- Use a heavy-duty skillet (cast-iron) or Dutch oven
- The amount of oil depends upon the size of your skillet; you want about 2" inches of oil
- If the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down and remove the skillet from the burner for a few minutes. After the heat has been reduced, put the skillet back on the burner. Keep an eye on the oil.
- Do not move the catfish filets for the first 3-minutes; if you do, the coating will fall apart. Just stand there and watch...and wait
- When flipping the filets, use tongs or a spider
- Your second batch of filets will be darker than the first; that's because they're being cooked in oil that's already been used. If this really bugs you, throw out the first batch of oil and start over.
- Use a thermometer; internal temperature should be 145ºF