When you think of a fish fry, you have to think of Southern Fried Catfish! Super crispy, flaky, and full of flavor. This is undoubtedly some of the best fried catfish you'll ever have!
Catfish is one of the most iconic fishes to have for a fish fry. My family has enjoyed this delicious fried fish for years and years!
Table of contents
How to cook southern fried catfish:
You want to start by brining your catfish in a buttermilk and hot sauce mixture. This brining process helps get off any murky flavors and helps with the overall flavor.
After the fish has soaked in the buttermilk for 10-15 minutes, set up your breading station. Heat your oil over medium high heat.
Remove one piece of fish at a time and coat it in the cornmeal mixture. Once each fish filet is fully coated in the breading, set it off to the side on a cooling rack for at least five minutes so that the breading can set.
Then you will gently place each piece of fish into the hot grease being careful not to overcrowd the skillet or deep fryer. Fry the catfish until it is golden brown, and remove it and place on the clean cooling rack to drain excess oil.
Ingredients you need:
These are the ingredients you need for this fried catfish recipe:
- Catfish fillets: If your store does not have the fillets, the catfish nuggets will be made the same way this recipe lists.
- Buttermilk: This is essential to achieving the most flavorful and tender fish. Continue reading to learn how to make a buttermilk substitute.
- Cornmeal: you will add ample seasonings to the cornmeal to give the southern fried catfish all of its delicious flavor.
- Oil: a mild or flavorless oil is best for frying fish.
Ditch the pre-packaged fish fry breading!
A store bought fish fry, like the Louisiana Fish Fry mix, is usually just a mixture of cornmeal, and a lot of seasonings. You can absolutely make this simple southern fried catfish breading mixture at home.
Grab your cornmeal, add in just a touch of the baking powder (which is optional), and season that mixture up! You'll need some of the classic seasonings: old bay, seasoned salt, onion powder and more.
How do you keep the fried fish crispy?
Brining, or soaking the catfish in the buttermilk is key to achieving an extra crispy fried fish. The buttermilk will help you keep the cornmeal on the fish while it fries.
Furthermore, you will need to set the fish aside on a rack or tray once it is breaded. This allows the breading to set in and not just slip right off when you add it to the hot oil.
What makes cat fish mushy?
Not letting your oil heat up all the way is one of the main culprits to mushy fish. Another huge mistake you might make is placing the fried catfish on a bed of paper towels after it fries.
A lot of us southern folk learned to fry chicken, pork chops, and fish and remove it from the grease and straight to a bed of paper towels!
Instead of placing it on paper towels to drain the excess grease, place the fried fish on a cooling rack. This allows the air to circulate and doesn't smother the oil into the fish.
Is it better to soak catfish in milk or buttermilk?
Soaking the catfish in buttermilk helps to eliminate most of the weird flavors that catfish may have. Wild caught catfish, and sometimes farm raised, tend to have a some what muddy flavor to them.
Therefore, soaking the fish in buttermilk before frying it is highly recommended. If you do not have buttermilk, simply mix one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of milk.
The best side dishes to eat with catfish:
One of our absolute favorite side dish to eat with catfish is baked spaghetti. I'm not sure if it's just a southern thing, but these two just go together! Here are some other delicious sides to eat with your fried catfish:
Coleslaw goes very well with catfish too. That crispy fried catfish paired with the cool creaminess of the coleslaw is a great combination.
FAQ about southern fried catfish:
No you do not rinse the catfish off after soaking it. In fact, the buttermilk brine is part of the breading process. It will help the dry ingredients, such as the cornmeal, stick to the fish so it can fry.
The best oil to use to fry the fish in is vegetable oil, peanut oil, or canola oil. You want to choose one that is mostly flavorless so that it does not alter the flavor of the cat fish.
If you do not want to coat the fish in a cornmeal breading, you would simply pan sear it instead of deep frying it.
- 6 filets Catfish
- 1 ½ cups Buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Hot sauce, Frank's red hot or Louisiana (optional but highly recommended)
- 3 cups Cornmeal
- ¼ teaspoon Baking powder (optional)
- 1 ½ tablespoon Seasoned salt
- ½ tablespoon Old bay seasoning
- ½ tablespoon Garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon Onion powder
- 2 teaspoons Black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Paprika
- 4 cups Vegetable oil to fry
- Add the buttermilk and hot sauce into a large bowl and mix them up until fully combined. The hot sauce is optional but highly recommended (it will not make the fried fish too spicy).
- Place the cleaned catfish directly into the buttermilk mixture and make sure that each piece is fully coated and submerged. Place this in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes while you work on the breading.
- In a separate bowl or large Ziploc bag, add the cornmeal, baking powder (optional), and all of the seasonings: seasoned salt, old bay seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and paprika.
- Mix the seasonings into the cornmeal very well until it is all fully combined.
- Take the bowl of the buttermilk and catfish out of the refrigerator. Add the vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, or heat the oil in a deep fryer until the temperature reaches 350 degrees.
- Remove one piece of fish from the buttermilk at a time and let most of the excess liquid drain by dangling it over the bowl for a few seconds.
- Place the fish directly into the cornmeal mixture. Press the cornmeal into the fish to ensure it is completely coated. take it out and place it on a cooling rack.
- Continue this process until all of the fish filets have been breaded in the cornmeal. Allow them to set on the cooling rack for at least five minutes before adding to the oil.
- Gently place the catfish in the preheated oil, one filet at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan, allow at least ½ inch of space between each piece of fish.
- Fry the fish for ten minutes and then carefully flip it over and fry it on the other side for an additional 7-8 minutes. The catfish should be golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the fish from the oil and place it on a clean cooling rack to allow the excess grease to drain off.
- Let the oil come back up to temperature (350°), then follow the same steps above to fry any additional catfish.
- Serve right away with your favorite sides!
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 864Total Fat: 67gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 40gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 281mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 6gSugar: 2gProtein: 35g
This website provides approximate nutrition information as a courtesy and for convenience only.