Crispy Southern Fried Catfish Recipe for a Soulful Meal

Are you ready to take your taste buds on a trip to the South with my Crispy Southern Fried Catfish Recipe? This classic southern dish is a crowd pleaser and a staple of classic southern cuisine. Trust me when I say this recipe is sure to become one of your new favorites!

Growing up in the heart of Louisiana, southern cooking has always been a part of my life. From jambalaya and gumbo to red beans and rice, southern food never fails to satisfy. One of my all-time favorite dishes, however, is crispy southern fried catfish.

This recipe calls for simple ingredients like cornmeal, all-purpose flour, and salt, blended together with buttermilk and hot sauce to create the perfect coating for my fresh catfish fillets. The resulting fish is flavor-packed and crispy on the outside with tender and juicy flesh inside.

Not only is this recipe easy to prepare, but it also takes just minutes to cook up in a deep fryer. Whether you are hosting a summer cookout or simply looking for a hearty meal that will transport your taste buds straight from your kitchen to the soulful kitchens of the South, this dish will not disappoint.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started on this crispy southern fried catfish recipe!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern Fried Catfish
Southern Fried Catfish

If you’re a fan of crispy and juicy southern-style fried catfish, then you won’t be able to resist this amazing recipe! With just a few simple ingredients including catfish fillets, cornmeal, all-purpose flour, and buttermilk, you can cook up restaurant-quality fried catfish in the comfort of your own home.

What makes this southern-style fried catfish recipe truly special is the seasoned cornmeal coating which creates an irresistible crispy crust that is perfectly complemented by the tender and flaky fish on the inside. I know from personal experience that even those who don’t normally enjoy seafood will not be able to resist this delicious fish dish.

Not only is this recipe a classic southern favorite, but it’s also incredibly versatile. You can serve it up with sides like coleslaw, mashed potatoes or hush puppies for a whole catfish dinner. Or you can cut the catfish fillets into smaller pieces to make spicy catfish nuggets or cajun fried catfish for appetizers or snacks. The possibilities are endless!

Plus, this recipe is perfect for busy weeknights or entertaining because it’s easy to prepare and cook. In just 10-15 minutes of frying time in a deep-fryer or heavy-bottomed pot, your crispy Southern Fried Catfish will be ready to serve.

Believe me when I say that this is the best fried catfish recipe out there. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try and see for yourself why everyone loves this delicious fish dish!

Ingredient List

 Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.
Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.

Before diving into the recipe, let me go through the list of ingredients (recipe ingredients) you will need to make this southern fried catfish dish.

Here are the key ingredients:

  • 6 catfish fillets, 4-6 ounces each
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • Hot sauce, optional

Be sure to get fresh catfish filets as they will give the best results. Yellow cornmeal is highly recommended for a crispy and fine texture. Additionally, combining buttermilk and hot sauce in your soak mix will give your fish fillet a richer flavor.

The Recipe How-To

 A true Southern staple.
A true Southern staple.

Now, let’s dive into the main course of this recipe article: The Recipe How-To. This southern fried catfish dish is unbelievably flavorful and crispy. Here’s how to make this restaurant-quality southern fried catfish recipe in your very own kitchen.


You will need:

  • 6 catfish fillets
  • 1 ½ cups of cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 3 cups of buttermilk
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Oil for frying (vegetable or peanut oil)

Preparing the Catfish

  1. Rinse the catfish fillets under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels.
  2. Season the fillets with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides.
  3. Optional: Add hot sauce to the buttermilk mixture to add some heat.

Dredging the Catfish

  1. In a shallow dish, mix together the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper.
  2. Pour buttermilk in another shallow dish.
  3. Dip each fillet into the buttermilk mixture and then dredge them in the cornmeal mixture until they are well-coated.
  4. Shake off any excess coating and place the fillets on a sheet pan to rest for about 10 minutes before frying.

Frying the Catfish

  1. Heat up your oil in a deep fryer or a large skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350F/175C.
  2. Carefully drop each fillet one by one into the hot oil and fry for about 7-8 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
  3. Depending on the size of your fryer, you may have to fry the fillets in batches.
  4. Once done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the catfish fillets to a wire rack or paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Serving and Pairing

For an ultimate Southern experience, serve your crispy southern fried catfish with creamy coleslaw, hush puppies, and some tartar sauce on the side. Some other recommended side dishes include collard greens, mac & cheese, or even a classic potato salad.

The Verdict

There you have it! With these ingredients and instructions, you can now cook delicious southern fried catfish right at home. Your guests will be impressed with this restaurant-quality fried catfish. Don’t forget to add some hot sauce to kick things up a notch just like Paula Deen would do it.

Substitutions and Variations

 The perfect dish for a summer cookout.
The perfect dish for a summer cookout.

Are you in the mood to switch things up? Here are some substitutions and variations to try with this delicious Southern Fried Catfish recipe:

– Seasoned cornmeal: For a bit of extra flavor, swap out the plain yellow cornmeal for a seasoned version. This can add a little kick to your fried catfish and take it to the next level.

– Pan-fried or oven-fried: If you don’t have a deep fryer or prefer not to deep fry your catfish, you can still get that delicious crispy coating by pan-frying or oven-frying instead. Simply coat the catfish fillets in the same mixture of cornmeal and flour, then fry in a pan with a bit of oil or bake in the oven.

– Spicy catfish nuggets: Cut your catfish into smaller chunks and coat them in the same mixture of cornmeal and flour, but add some cajun spices or hot sauce to give them a spicy kick. These make great bite-sized snacks for game day or parties.

– Whole fried catfish dinner: Instead of fillets, fry up whole catfish using the same coating mixture. This is a classic way to enjoy fried catfish in the South and makes for an impressive presentation.

– Cajun fried catfish: Add some cajun seasoning to your coating mixture for an extra burst of flavor. Serve with a side of dirty rice for a true Louisiana-inspired meal.

Whether you’re looking for something spicier or just want to mix it up with different frying methods, these substitutions and variations are sure to make your Southern Fried Catfish even more delicious.

Serving and Pairing

 A dish that’ll make you feel like you’re in the South.
A dish that’ll make you feel like you’re in the South.

Now that you have successfully fried up some crispy and delicious Southern Fried Catfish, it’s time to think about serving and pairing your perfect dish.

Traditionally, Southern Fried Catfish is served with sides such as coleslaw, hush puppies, and baked beans. These dishes provide a perfect balance to the richness of the catfish, making them a match made in heaven.

If you’re looking to stray from traditional sides, corn on the cob or sweet potato fries are also excellent choices. The sweetness of the corn or sweet potato will complement the savory flavors of the catfish perfectly.

For those who want an extra kick with their meal, hot sauce is always a great addition. Drizzle it over the catfish or dip your hush puppies in it for an extra burst of flavor.

When it comes to pairing beverages with Southern Fried Catfish, it’s best to stick with something refreshing to balance out the richness of the dish. Sweet tea or lemonade are classic choices and go well with almost any Southern-style meal.

For those who prefer an alcoholic beverage, a light beer or a crisp white wine will pair nicely with this dish. Avoid heavy beers and red wines that may overpower the flavors of the catfish.

Serving Southern Fried Catfish at your next family gathering or BBQ will always be a crowd-pleaser. With its crispy exterior, flavorful interior, and endless pairing options – this dish is sure to leave everyone feeling satisfied and asking for seconds!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Takes your taste buds on a journey.
Takes your taste buds on a journey.

While Southern Fried Catfish is best served hot and crispy right out of the deep fryer, there are a few strategies to help you prepare this recipe ahead of time and store it until you’re ready to serve it again.

Firstly, if you want to make this dish ahead of time, you can prepare the seasoned cornmeal mixture and store it in an airtight container for up to three months. That way, when you’re ready to cook up some delicious fish, all you’ll need to do is soak the catfish fillets in buttermilk, coat them in the cornmeal mixture, and then deep fry them until they’re golden brown.

Secondly, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. To reheat fried catfish, place it on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes or until heated through. Alternatively, you can also reheat fried catfish in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the size of the leftover pieces.

It’s important to note that while reheating fried catfish is possible, it may not retain its crispy texture as well as when it was first cooked. To maximize the chances of retaining as much crispiness as possible during reheating, place the leftover pieces onto a wire rack and allow them to come to room temperature before reheating them.

By following these simple tips on how to make-ahead, store and reheat your Southern Fried Catfish, you can ensure that every bite remains just as delicious as when it was first prepared.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Family recipe for generations passed down.
Family recipe for generations passed down.

Fried catfish is a highly popular southern dish that has been enjoyed for generations. Cooking the perfect southern fried catfish takes time and skill, but with these helpful tips, you can be sure that your catfish will come out crispy and delicious every time.

Tip #1: Season Your Cornmeal

The key ingredient in any southern fried catfish recipe is cornmeal. To make it even more flavorful, try seasoning your cornmeal with garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika. This will add an extra layer of flavor to your dish that will make it stand out.

Tip #2: Soak Your Catfish in Buttermilk

Soaking your catfish in buttermilk before cooking makes for a tender and juicy fish. The acidity in the buttermilk helps to break down the proteins in the fish resulting in a deliciously moist fillet. To get the best results, soak your catfish fillets in buttermilk for at least an hour before cooking.

Tip #3: Use Fine Cornmeal

Using fine cornmeal instead of coarse cornmeal will create a thinner, crispier crust on your fried catfish. The finer texture allows for better adhesion to the fish and keeps it from falling off during frying.

Tip #4: Fry in Small Batches

When frying your catfish, it is important to fry them in small batches. If you overcrowd the fryer, the oil temperature will drop too much and result in soggy or greasy fish. Be patient and fry your catfish fillets in small batches until they are golden brown.

Tip #5: Keep Your Oil Hot

Maintaining the right temperature when frying is crucial to getting perfect results. Preheat your deep fryer or skillet to 375°F before adding the fish fillets. Once hot, carefully place each fillet into the oil and cook for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

By following these tips, you can cook delicious southern fried catfish that will impress your family and friends. So, grab your cornmeal and buttermilk and get ready to create restaurant-quality fried catfish in the comfort of your own home.


As a chef specializing in southern-style cuisine, I understand that trying out new recipes can come with some concerns or questions. Believe it or not, fried catfish is a dish that many people may have questions about – from cooking time to substitutions and more. In this section, I’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve encountered when it comes to making Southern Fried Catfish. So let’s dive into them and address any doubts you may have!

Why do you soak catfish in milk?

When preparing catfish for frying, a trick that adds an extra bit of flavor and helps to get rid of any strong fishy taste is soaking the fillets in milk for an hour before cooking. The secret to achieving a crispy, light texture when cooking southern-style catfish lies in the cornmeal crust. Judging whether or not the fish is done can be a challenge, but according to the expert opinion of Jack, a good indicator is when the bubbles on the surface of the cooking oil decrease in frequency and the fillets start rising to the top.

What is the best thing to soak catfish in?

To get rid of any unwanted flavors that may be present in catfish, soaking it in buttermilk is highly advised, especially when dealing with wild caught catfish or some farm raised ones, which have a tendency to have a slightly earthy taste.

How do you keep fried catfish crispy?

When it comes to getting rid of excess oil after frying seafood, there’s a savvy trick that is sure to impress your diners. Instead of using paper towels or napkins, try using a cooling rack typically used for cooling baked goods. Set the rack on top of a cookie sheet, which will allow the oil to collect at the bottom, while keeping the fish nice and crisp. Your guests are sure to appreciate the attention to detail.

What oil is best for frying catfish?

For frying fish, canola oil is widely preferred due to its affordability, high smoke point, and mild taste. Alongside canola, other great options for frying fish include peanut, cottonseed, and coconut oils.

Bottom Line

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking and impress your friends and family with this delicious Southern Fried Catfish! Don’t forget to experiment with different variations, like adding hot sauce or using seasoned cornmeal. This recipe is versatile enough to be enjoyed as a meal on its own or as a side dish to accompany other southern classics like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, or hushpuppies.

But most importantly, don’t forget to share the love that goes into every dish. As the saying goes, “Cooking is love made visible.” So gather around the table, share stories and laughter, and enjoy the delicious flavors of true southern hospitality.

Thank you for choosing my Southern Fried Catfish Recipe. I hope it becomes a staple in your kitchen just as it has in mine. Happy cooking!

Southern Fried Catfish

Southern Fried Catfish Recipe

This is a Zaar recipe that I adopted.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Southern American
Calories 947.9 kcal


  • 8 (5 ounce) catfish fillets, skin removed
  • salt
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • oil, for frying


  • Heat a fryer or a deep pot halfway filled with oil to 350 degrees F.
  • Sprinkle both sides of each catfish with salt and Old Bay seasoning.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the cornmeal.
  • Dredge the catfish in the flour mixture and place in fryer.
  • Deep fry for approximately 7 to 8 minutes until done.
  • Drain on paper towels.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 438gCalories: 947.9kcalCarbohydrates: 118.8gProtein: 59.5gFat: 23.8gSaturated Fat: 5.4gCholesterol: 133.2mgSodium: 163.3mgFiber: 5.6gSugar: 0.5g
Keyword < 30 Mins, Catfish, Deep Fried
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