Cripsy and Delicious Southern Fried Catfish Recipe

Welcome to my kitchen, where southern cuisine reigns supreme. Today, I am excited to share with you one of my all-time favorite recipes – Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish. This dish will take your taste buds on a journey down south with its crispy, golden-brown exterior and succulent, tender interior.

Growing up in the heart of the south, I was exposed early to the deliciousness of catfish. As a chef specializing in southern-style cuisine, I am always on the lookout for new ways to add flavor and flare to my dishes. Whether you prefer it spicy or mild, pan-fried or deep-fried, this recipe will have you hooked.

Here’s what sets this recipe apart from others – it uses a combination of cornmeal and flour to give the catfish a crunchy texture, while buttermilk adds moisture and flavor. And don’t forget the secret spice blend with turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and sugar – guaranteed to make your taste buds dance!

So gather round and get ready to cook up some Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish that is sure to impress. Let’s get started!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Big John's Southern Fried Catfish
Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish

Imagine this – a crispy, golden brown crust on the outside of a perfectly cooked, juicy piece of catfish. It’s not just any ordinary fried catfish but Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe that will leave your taste buds buzzing with delight. Trust me, this recipe is a game-changer in the world of Southern cuisine.

What I love about this recipe is the perfect blend of spices and herbs that create an explosion of flavor with every bite. The use of cornmeal and flour give it a crispy texture and make it a crowd-pleaser at parties, family gatherings or even as a weeknight dinner. The combination of buttermilk and hot sauce creates a tangy and spicy flavor that harmonizes with the subtle sweetness of sugar.

Not only is this recipe delicious and satisfying but it’s also simple to make. You don’t have to be a chef or skilled cook to master Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe. Just follow the instructions, use fresh ingredients and you’ll be able to whip up this mouth-watering dish in no time.

This recipe is not just about indulging in something delicious but also about experiencing Southern culture and traditions. It symbolizes love, family and community where food brings people together. In fact, there are few things as quintessential as Southern fried catfish when it comes to comfort food.

So whether you’re from the South or not, you’ll fall in love with this recipe for all the right reasons – its amazing flavor profile, texture, simplicity and most importantly, its ability to bring people together around a table full of good food and great company.

Ingredient List

 Get ready to fry up some of the tastiest catfish you've ever had!
Get ready to fry up some of the tastiest catfish you’ve ever had!

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish:

For the catfish fillets:

  • 1 lb catfish fillets, cut into strips of 1-2 inches wide and pat dry
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper

For the frying:

  • Vegetable oil or peanut oil for deep frying

For serving:

  • Hot sauce, to taste

The Recipe How-To

 Giving our catfish a quick dip in buttermilk is the first step to achieving a crispy crust.
Giving our catfish a quick dip in buttermilk is the first step to achieving a crispy crust.

Now that you have gathered all the ingredients and prepared them accordingly, it is now time to start frying! Here’s how you can make my Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish recipe come to life:

Step 1: Soak the Catfish in Buttermilk

In a large bowl, soak catfish fillets cut into strips 1 inch wide in a mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce for at least an hour. This will help tenderize the fish and infuse it with flavor.

Step 2: Prepare the Coating

In a wide bowl or a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt & pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated. You want your coating mix to be well-seasoned!

Step 3: Coat the Fish Strips

Working with a few pieces at a time, remove the catfish strips from the buttermilk mixture and coat them thoroughly in the flour/cornmeal mixture.

Step 4: Heat Up Your Frying Pan (or Deep Fryer)

Heat up your frying pan with some oil for pan-fried catfish or preheat your deep fryer if you prefer deep-fried catfish. Be sure to read your deep fryer manual beforehand if you’re using it for the first time.

Step 5: Fry Away!

Once your pan/deep fryer is hot enough (around 350°F), add in coated fish strips in batches. Cook until golden brown on all sides – this should take around 3-4 minutes for pan-fried and about 5-6 minutes for deep-fried catfish.

Step 6: Drain Excess Oil

Once cooked, place fried catfish on a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Step 7: Serve & Enjoy!

Finally, serve your Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish hot with a dipping sauce of your choice. I personally enjoy serving my catfish dredged with seasoning and corn flour that’s deep-fried for a crispy outer layer.

Substitutions and Variations

 Flour, cornmeal, and spices come together to create the perfect breading for our catfish.
Flour, cornmeal, and spices come together to create the perfect breading for our catfish.

If you’re looking to switch things up a bit, there are plenty of substitutions and variations you can try with this Southern Fried Catfish Recipe. Here are just a few suggestions:

– Cornmeal: If you don’t have yellow cornmeal on hand, you can use regular white cornmeal or even substitute it with all-purpose flour, breadcrumbs or Panko.

– Cayenne Pepper: If you want to bump up the heat factor, you can add more cayenne pepper or swap it out for red pepper flakes.

– Hot Sauce: Hot sauce is a classic pairing for fried catfish, but if you prefer something milder, you can omit it altogether or use a mild sauce of your choice.

– Buttermilk: If you can’t find buttermilk at your local grocery store, you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes before using it in the recipe.

– Catfish Fillets: While catfish is the recommended fish for this recipe, you can also use other types of fish such as tilapia or trout.

– Flour Mixture: The flour mixture used in this recipe includes cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, sugar, and salt. You can adjust the seasoning according to your taste by adding more or less of each ingredient.

– Pan-Fried Catfish: While this recipe calls for deep-frying the catfish fillets in a pot of oil, pan-frying them is also an option. Simply coat the fillets in the flour mixture and pan-fry them in a large skillet over medium-high heat until they are golden brown and crispy.

By making these changes or experimentations with different ingredients, you can create your own unique spin on Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe. Just make sure to keep your substitutions complementary to the overall flavor and texture of the dish.

Serving and Pairing

 Don't forget to heat up your oil to the right temperature to ensure your catfish cooks evenly and doesn't end up oily.
Don’t forget to heat up your oil to the right temperature to ensure your catfish cooks evenly and doesn’t end up oily.

What could be better than a platter of crispy, golden-brown southern fried catfish fillets waiting for your family and friends at the dinner table? For a southern-style feast, you can’t go wrong with traditional sides like coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, cornbread muffins, collard greens, and mashed potatoes. When it comes to serving this dish, I recommend grouping the fillets together on a large plate or platter for presentation. Don’t forget to add some fresh lemon wedges for squeezing over the top to enhance the flavor.

This dish pairs perfectly with a cold glass of sweet tea or an ice-cold beer. If you’re looking for something refreshing to sip on the side, try a nice glass of lemonade or Arnold Palmer. This fried catfish recipe also goes well with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or ketchup for dipping. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some Cajun hot sauce for an extra kick of spice.

For a twist on the classic recipe, why not try making fish tacos? Fill warm soft tortillas with sliced fried catfish fillets, crispy lettuce, diced tomatoes, and fresh cilantro. Top it off with a dollop of sour cream and your favorite hot sauce for an easy-to-prepare meal that’s sure to impress.

No matter how you choose to serve it, this big john southern fried catfish recipe is sure to be a crowd favorite at any gathering or mealtime. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking and enjoy!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Once you drop your catfish in the hot oil, leave it alone! No need to fuss with it while it cooks.
Once you drop your catfish in the hot oil, leave it alone! No need to fuss with it while it cooks.

Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe is best served hot and crispy right out of the fryer. However, if you have leftovers or want to make this recipe ahead of time, here are some helpful tips to ensure that the flavor and texture are still amazing.

To make-ahead for an event or dinner, you can prepare the catfish fillets up to a day in advance. Simply season them with salt, pepper and your desired amount of cayenne pepper. Then, dip each fillet into a mixture of flour and cornmeal until it is well-coated. Place the coated fillets onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to fry them, remove the fillets from the refrigerator and let them sit for a few minutes at room temperature. This step will help the fish come to room temperature, which is important for even cooking. Then proceed with the frying instructions as indicated in steps 5 and 6 of the recipe.

For storing leftovers or any cooked fish that may be left, place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days. To reheat your fried catfish, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees F until it’s heated all through without overcooking it or losing its crispiness. This will give it an even heat while preserving its texture.

Keep in mind that fried catfish will never be as crispy as fresh out of the fryer when reheated later but still delicious nevertheless.

Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe is perfect for make-ahead meals or leftovers. With just a little bit of planning and careful storage, you can enjoy this dish anytime!

Tips for Perfect Results

 The crust on our catfish should be golden brown and super crispy
The crust on our catfish should be golden brown and super crispy

Now that you have all the ingredients prepared and the recipe steps memorized, let me share some of my tried and tested tips to achieve the perfect Southern Fried Catfish recipe.

1. Soggy breading is a no go.

Ensure that you have properly drained and patted the catfish fillets dry before dredging in the breading mixture. Excess moisture can make your coating soggy, preventing it from turning crispy.

2. Fry in batches.

Do not overcrowd your frying pan or deep fryer. Frying too many fillets at once will make the temperature drop, resulting in longer cooking time and an uneven crust formation. Fry in small batches to ensure that each piece cooks evenly and has a crunchy exterior.

3. Keep it hot.

Maintain the oil temperature between 350-375°F (180-190°C) while frying. A consistent heat level is necessary to create a nice crispy crust without burning it.

4. Use cornstarch.

To prevent clumping of the breading mixture, add a tablespoon of cornstarch into the flour mixture. This helps to keep the coating light and airy, making it more enjoyable to eat.

5. Spice it up.

Don’t be afraid to add extra spices or hot sauce if you like your fried catfish with a bit of kick. Sprinkle some cayenne pepper or paprika into your flour mixture for some extra flavor. You can also drizzle some hot sauce onto your finished dish for additional heat.

6. Let it rest.

After frying your catfish fillets, let them rest on a wire rack or paper towel for a few minutes before serving. This allows any excess oil to drain, keeping them crispier for longer.

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll surely impress your friends and family with your perfect Southern Fried Catfish recipe!


Now, let’s move on to the FAQ section. I know preparing Southern Fried Catfish may seem daunting at first but trust me, with practice and patience, you’ll become a pro in no time! I’ve compiled a list of common questions that will help you with the process. So, read on!

Why do you soak catfish in milk before frying?

To get rid of that undesirable fishy flavor, soak the catfish in milk for an hour prior to cooking. The crust made from cornmeal gives the catfish a satisfyingly crispy finish. Jack’s rule of thumb for knowing when the catfish is cooked is to wait for the majority of the bubbling to cease and for the fillets to begin to levitate.

How do you keep fried catfish crispy?

If you’re searching for a clever technique to drain the surplus oil from your fried seafood without sacrificing its crunchiness, then try using a cooling rack. Deck your cooling rack over a cookie sheet and let the oil fall through onto the sheet. This way you’ll get crispy fish that your guests will surely relish.

What do you soak catfish in before cooking?

To get rid of any unwanted tastes that catfish may have, especially the muddy flavor apparent in wild caught or some farm-raised catfish, it is suggested to immerse it in buttermilk prior to frying. This method eliminates most of the off-notes and works wonders in enhancing the flavor of the dish.

How long should you soak catfish before cooking?

Alright y’all, let’s get started on making some mouth-watering southern-style catfish. Get your hands on some fresh catfish fillets and place them in a wide bowl. Pour in some buttermilk or milk, making sure the fillets are fully submerged, and let them soak for at least 30 minutes (an hour is even better!). This will enhance the flavor of the fish, trust me.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe is a true masterpiece that will bring the flavors of the south right to your kitchen. With its blend of spices, crispy crust, and juicy catfish fillets, this recipe is perfect for any occasion.

Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to get started! Gather your ingredients, invite some friends over and enjoy the magical taste of southern cuisine. Follow my detailed instructions and tips for perfect results, and don’t forget to experiment with variations according to your preference.

Remember, whether you’re craving pan-fried or deep-fried catfish with a cajun twist or a spicy flavoring of hot sauce, this recipe has got it all covered. With Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe in your arsenal, you’ll be ready to take on any fish fry.

So what are you waiting for? Get your hands on some fresh catfish fillets today and try this amazing recipe. I guarantee that once you taste this delicious dish, it will become a staple in your recipe collection. Don’t hesitate to share it with others and impress them with your southern cooking skills!

Thank you for choosing Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe as your go-to dish for any occasion. Enjoy!

Big John's Southern Fried Catfish

Big John’s Southern Fried Catfish Recipe

My friends in N'awlins inform me that "river cat" is better then the farmed fish so do try to get it if you can so they won't use the doll that looks like me.
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Southern American
Calories 444.8 kcal


  • 3 lbs catfish fillets, cut in 8 pieces
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, finely ground
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch


  • Pat outside if fish with paper towel to remove extra moisture.
  • In shallow dish, combine all dry ingredients except flour.
  • Dip fish in buttermilk, shake off excess buttermilk and coat with flour.
  • Dip again in buttermilk, then coat with cornmeal mixture.
  • In large heavy skillet (cast iron is best), heat oil over medium-high heat until hot.
  • Fry fish about 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until fish will flake away with a fork.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 259gCalories: 444.8kcalCarbohydrates: 26.9gProtein: 30.9gFat: 23.2gSaturated Fat: 4.5gCholesterol: 81.7mgSodium: 1016.2mgFiber: 1.7gSugar: 3g
Keyword < 30 Mins, Cajun, Catfish, Deep Fried
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