Crispy & delicious Southern fried catfish recipe

Hey there, fellow foodies! Are you ready to indulge in one of the most classic southern dishes? I’m talking about none other than crispy Southern Fried Catfish. This dish is a true staple in the Deep South, and for good reason. When done right, it’s the ultimate comfort food that gives you both savory and crispy flavors all in one bite. Trust me, once you take a bite of this golden cornmeal-crusted fish fillet, you’ll be transported to the heart of the south.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Frying fish sounds intimidating and complicated.” Not to worry, with my step-by-step recipe guide, you’ll soon realize that making fried catfish is not just possible, but also a lot easier than you think. I promise to give you all the tips and tricks you need to perfect this classic southern dish in no time.

So grab your aprons and put on your chef hats because it’s time to cook up some delicious catfish fillets with me!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern “fried” Catfish

Friends, I’m going to tell you something – this Southern fried catfish recipe is the best one out there. But let me back that up with some reasons why you’ll love it.

Firstly, the crispy southern fried coating. It’s made with seasoned cornmeal that gives the catfish fillets a satisfying crunch. The cornmeal crust is perfectly golden and holds up well against the succulent fish inside. It’s not just any old breading we’re talking about here, it’s a breading that has been perfected over generations of Southern cooks.

Secondly, the cooking method. We pan-fry the catfish instead of deep-frying like most recipes call for. This means that we can achieve that crispy outer layer without making the fish greasy or soggy, and our choice of high-smoke-point canola oil ensures that everything stays crispy! With this recipe, you get all of the deliciousness of a classic Southern dish without compromising your tastebuds.

Lastly, it’s just simple and easy to cook! All you need are some basic ingredients like salt, skim milk and cornmeal breading – no expensive ingredients or complicated techniques required.

Believe me when I say this recipe tastes just as good as what you’ll find at a restaurant. Plus, it’s affordable, quick to cook up, and totally customizable too! So why not give it a try? You might just end up with your new favorite dinner recipe.

Ingredient List

 Golden brown and crispy fried catfish, Southern-style.
Golden brown and crispy fried catfish, Southern-style.

Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to make this Southern fried catfish recipe in your own kitchen. You’ll likely have most of these ingredients on-hand if you’re already familiar with Southern-style cooking! Here’s what you’ll need:


  • Skim milk: 1 cup
  • Salt: 1 tablespoon
  • Catfish fillets: 4 (6-ounce)
  • Canola oil: for frying
  • Cornmeal: 1 cup
  • Seasoned salt: 2 teaspoons
  • Garlic powder: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Onion powder: 1/2 teaspoon

That’s it—just a few simple ingredients for flavorful, crispy Southern fried catfish.

The Recipe How-To

 Get ready to dig into some finger-licking good catfish.
Get ready to dig into some finger-licking good catfish.

Now that we have all our ingredients ready, let’s get down to business and cook some delicious Southern Fried Catfish! This recipe is not only easy to follow, but it will also leave you with a crispy golden cornmeal crust that will make you feel like you’re dining in a fancy southern restaurant. Here’s how I do it:


  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 4 catfish fillets
  • Canola oil for frying


Step 1: In a shallow dish, mix one cup of cornmeal with one tablespoon of salt.

Step 2: In a separate dish, pour one cup of skim milk and place the four catfish fillets in it. Soak the fillets in the milk for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Heat up a skillet or deep-frying pan with enough canola oil to cover the bottom half inch of the pan. Make sure not to use too much oil as this will cause your catfish to be greasy.

Step 4: While waiting for the oil to heat up, coat each catfish fillet in the seasoned cornmeal. Make sure the entire fillet is coated and pat off any excess cornmeal.

Step 5: Once the oil is hot enough (around 375°F), carefully place each fillet in the pan. Cook each side for about five minutes or until they turn a beautiful crispy golden brown color.

Step 6: After frying each fillet, use tongs or a slotted spoon to take them out and place them on a paper towel-lined plate. This will help soak up any excess oil.

And there you have it – crispy, delicious fried catfish that are made right at home!

Substitutions and Variations

 This classic Southern dish is sure to satisfy any seafood lover.
This classic Southern dish is sure to satisfy any seafood lover.

Alright, let’s talk about Substitutions and Variations of this Southern Fried Catfish recipe. Maybe you ran out of an ingredient or you want to put your own spin on the dish – I totally get it. Here are a few things you can try:

1. Buttermilk instead of Skim Milk: Traditionally, Southern Fried Catfish is soaked in buttermilk before being dipped in seasoned cornmeal. If you have some on hand, use it instead of skim milk for a tangier and creamier flavor.

2. Corn Flour instead of Cornmeal: If you’re looking for a finer texture in the breading, use corn flour instead of cornmeal. It will give you a thinner and crispier crust.

3. Cajun Spices: For a little kick in your Southern Fried Catfish recipe, add some cajun spices to your seasoned cornmeal breading mix. It’ll give your catfish that flavorful Louisiana-style taste.

4. Oven-Fried Catfish: If you prefer less oil in your cooking, you can try oven-frying your catfish fillets instead of pan-frying them. Just preheat your oven to 425°F, arrange the breaded catfish fillets on a non-stick baking sheet, and bake them for about 10-12 minutes per side until they’re golden brown and crispy.

5. Hush Puppies: No Southern Fried Catfish meal is complete without these delicious little balls of deep-fried cornmeal batter! You can easily make them with leftover breading mix by adding some chopped onion and jalapeños (if desired). Drop the batter by spoonfuls into hot oil and fry until crispy and golden brown.

Remember, cooking is all about experimenting and making things your own – don’t be afraid to switch things up!

Serving and Pairing

 A perfectly cooked fillet of catfish - crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.
A perfectly cooked fillet of catfish – crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.

Now that you have cooked up a crispy, flavorful southern fried catfish, it’s time to talk about serving and pairing it with the perfect complementary side dishes. You can serve this classic southern dish as a main course or pair it with other seafood delights.

I prefer to serve my crispy southern-style catfish alongside hush puppies, which are deep-fried cornmeal dumplings packed with flavor. If you’re looking for a healthier option, you can choose a side of steamed collard greens or sautéed green beans. These sides will balance out the richness of the catfish and add some fresh greens to your plate.

When pairing your catfish, you can opt for a refreshing glass of sweet iced tea or a cold bottle of beer. The sweetness of the tea will counterbalance the savory and slightly spicy flavor of the catfish, while the bubbly beer will cleanse your palate between bites and cool down any heat from any hot sauce used in the cooking process.

If you want to take it up a notch and experiment with flavors, try whipping up some spicy catfish nuggets lightly coated with cajun seasoning or oven-fried catfish fillets topped with hot sauce for extra kick. These variations will give you a unique twist on the classic southern dish that is sure to impress your guests.

Overall, this quality fried catfish recipe is perfect for any gathering or even just for a quiet night at home. There’s no need to go out to fancy seafood restaurants when you can easily make this dish in your kitchen with just a few ingredients found in any grocery store. So why not treat yourself to a whole catfish dinner tonight?

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Don't forget the lemon wedge for that extra tangy flavor burst.
Don’t forget the lemon wedge for that extra tangy flavor burst.

Listen up y’all, Southern fried catfish is a classic Southern dish that everyone loves. But what if I told you that you could make it ahead of time and easily reheat it when you’re ready to serve? That’s right, with this recipe, you can!

To make ahead, simply cook the catfish according to the recipe instructions and let it cool to room temperature. Place the catfish fillets in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve, preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C) and place the catfish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until heated through.

Storing fried catfish can be tricky because no one likes soggy or mushy catfish. To keep your crispy golden cornmeal crust intact, place the cooked catfish fillets on a wire rack set over a baking sheet in a single layer. Allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

When it comes time to reheat your leftover fried catfish, avoid using the microwave as it will only make your catfish soggy (and nobody wants that!). The best method for reheating is in the oven or toaster oven. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 350°F (176°C) and reheat for about 10-12 minutes or until heated through.

Now y’all know how to make-ahead, store, and reheat your delicious Southern fried catfish like a pro! Don’t let any of this delicious fish go to waste!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Time to indulge in some classic soul food with a twist.
Time to indulge in some classic soul food with a twist.

Alright, let’s talk about how to nail the perfect southern “fried” catfish recipe. So you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, what do you need to do next?

Tip number one: To ensure the cornmeal adheres to the catfish, it’s essential to soak the fillets in a mixture of skim milk and salt for at least 30 minutes. Soaking them overnight in the refrigerator can take this dish from great to heavenly.

Tip number two: Before breading the catfish with seasoned cornmeal, heat your canola oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Make sure not to let it get too hot as the high smoking point of canola oil may make the oil burn before the catfish is cooked through.

Tip number three: Dredge the catfish fillets in seasoned cornmeal using a plastic bag, shaking until fully coated in a light layer of breading. Ensure that you don’t add too much breading as the catfish must be visible.

Tip number four: When placing the catfish in the pan with hot oil, do not overcrowd it, or it will lower your pan’s temperature and result in uneven cooking. A well-spaced-out catfish fillet will become perfectly crispy southern fried or pan-fried goodness.

Tip number five: Cook at moderate heat for only 3-4 minutes per side if cooking thin fillets, up to 6-7 minutes if they’re thicker cut. Flip once and try not to move them around in the pan too much since that could cause excessive breading to fall off.

Tip number six: Once cooked, place on paper towels or a wire rack to cool slightly – but don’t wait too long because who doesn’t want hot and crispy golden cornmeal crust with their juicy, flaky fish?

Tip number seven: Optional but delicious – serve alongside hush puppies made from scratch, or toss on some spicy seasoning onto the cooked fillets, paired with a side of hot sauce.

By following these tips, your crispy, southern fried catfish will leave people wondering if you secretly trained at Paula Deen’s house. You can thank me later.


Before we wrap up this recipe, we need to go through the frequently asked questions so you can get comfortable making the best version of southern fried catfish. Read through them to debunk any concerns or issues that may occur during your cooking process. Let’s dive in!

Why do you soak catfish in milk?

Whenever I cook catfish, I always begin by soaking it in milk for an hour to remove any unwanted fishy flavor. After that, I create a cornmeal crust to give it a satisfying, crispy texture. One of my friends swears that you’ll know the catfish are cooked perfectly when you notice the bubbling begin to slow and the fillets begin to float.

How do you keep fried catfish crispy?

If you want to achieve perfect results when draining excess oil from your fried seafood, a practical method is to use a cooling rack, which is usually employed to cool baked goods. Just set the rack on top of a cookie sheet and let the oil drip to the bottom, leaving the fish delightfully crispy and your guests fully satisfied.

What oil is best for frying catfish?

When it comes to frying fish, there are several oils that are commonly used due to their neutral flavor, affordability, and high smoke point. Canola oil is the most popular choice, while peanut, cottonseed, and coconut oil are also great alternatives for frying fish.

What is the best cooking method for catfish?

Catfish is a versatile fish with a mild, sweet flavor that can be cooked in various ways. While deep-frying is a popular method, it can also be grilled, baked or pan-fried to perfection. Catfish has a slightly dense texture which sets it apart from other whitefish and allows for a range of culinary possibilities. Additionally, when marinated in brine, the fillet can even be enjoyed raw.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this Southern-style “fried” catfish recipe is one of the best you will ever try. The seasoned cornmeal breading fries up crispy and golden, giving you that classic Southern taste you know and love. What makes this recipe special is the use of skim milk to soak the catfish before dredging it in the cornmeal mixture. This method ensures that the fish cooks up tender and flaky, with a perfect crust every time.

Not only is this recipe simple and easy to follow, but it also lends itself to a variety of substitutions and variations. You can try oven-frying or pan-frying your catfish fillets for a healthier take on this classic Southern dish. Or add some spice with Cajun seasoning or hot sauce to make spicy catfish nuggets that will blow your mind.

Whether you’re serving it up with hush puppies or pairing it with a whole fried chicken dinner, this Southern-style “fried” catfish recipe is sure to impress. With its restaurant-quality fried flavor, there’s no doubt this dish will become a favorite among your family and friends.

So what are you waiting for? Get those catfish fillets ready, heat up your skillet with some canola oil, and start cooking delicious Southern-style “fried” catfish right at home!

Southern "fried" Catfish

Southern “fried” Catfish Recipe

Another recipe from a low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium cookbook.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Southern American
Calories 280.6 kcal


  • 6 catfish fillets
  • 2 slices bread, thin sliced
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal, stone-ground yellow
  • 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash seasoning mix, table blend
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon skim milk


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray a shallow baking dish with vegetable spray.
  • Combine bread slices (torn into pieces), oat bran, cornmeal, and seasonings in food processor. Put mixture in bag.
  • Beat egg whites and milk with fork until blended.
  • Dip fillets in egg and then place in bag and shake gently until well coated.
  • Place in prepared baking dish. Spray each piece with cooking spray.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 214gCalories: 280.6kcalCarbohydrates: 12.3gProtein: 28.5gFat: 12.9gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 74.8mgSodium: 172.4mgFiber: 1.3gSugar: 0.6g
Keyword < 60 Mins
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