Southern Fried Catfish and Tartar Sauce
There’s nothing much better than homemade fried catfish and this recipe works every time! You’ll enjoy the crispy, seasoned coating and the flavorful fish, along with the tangy tartar sauce.
Catfish fried in a tasty cornmeal batter, served with homemade tartar sauce.
- 4 filets catfish a little over a pound, total
- 1 - 1/2 cups oil vegetable, canola or peanut
- 2 cups cornmeal yellow
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (red pepper, ground)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sweet relish squeezed in a paper towel
- 1 tablespoon dill relish squeezed in a paper towel
- 1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon
- pinch of salt
Pat filets with paper towel
In a large baking dish, pour 1/2 cup buttermilk
Place filets in buttermilk; coat each side then, lightly season filets with salt and pepper
Refrigerate filets for about 15 minutes
Meanwhile, make tartar sauce
After the tartar sauce is made, coat and cook the fish
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, dill and sweet relish, salt and vinegar; refrigerate until ready to serve
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 250ºF; 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 1/2 minutes on one side
After 2 1/2 minutes, using tongs, turn the filets over and cook for an additional 3 minutes
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
- The trickiest thing about frying catfish is the oil. First, you need a heavy-duty skillet; I recommend a cast-iron.
- If your 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.
- Pour enough oil into the skillet so that it's about an inch full; the actual amount will depend upon the size of your skillet.
- Do not move the catfish filets for the first 2 1/2 minutes; if you do, the coating will fall apart. Just stand there and watch...and wait
- When flipping the filets, you can use tongs or a fork; I do not recommend using a spatula because it's too hard to get the filet on the spatula and flip it when the other filet is in the skillet--it's too crowded in that pan already!
- 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.
Fried catfish goes great with Killer Baked Beans!