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Southern Fried Catfish

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This southern fried catfish has a crispy golden brown cornmeal crust and is seasoned to perfection. It’s a real crowd-pleaser and the best recipe for your next fish fry or cookout! Serve it with spaghetti, red beans and rice, coleslaw, French fries, or even bread slices for a tried and true down home southern meal.

Southern fried catfish is a recipe you should always have in your repertoire, even if you don’t eat a lot of deep-fried foods. It’s a staple dish in Black soul food cuisine and learning how to cook it is almost like a rite of passage. This southern fried catfish recipe is loved by all of our friends and family, even our kids (who are sometimes picky eaters!). Our favorite is catfish and spaghetti.

What makes our southern fried catfish unique is that it is made without buttermilk or flour. Our secret ingredients are cornmeal and yellow mustard! Not only does cornmeal and mustard fried catfish make the crust feel light and crispy, but it also enhances the flavor and keeps the inside flaky and delicious.

Ingredients for Southern Fried Catfish

  • Catfish filets: We live in Maryland, so we typically use blue catfish. It has a less muddy taste than channel catfish. It’s also still very flaky and has a mild flavor. If using wild-caught or channel catfish, you may want to consider soaking the fish in a buttermilk bath beforehand.
  • Yellow cornmeal: Yellow cornmeal gives fried catfish the crispy coating that we all know and love. We don’t really have a preference for a particular cornmeal brand, just as long as it’s yellow.
  • Old Bay seasoning: Old Bay, which originated here in Maryland, is a blend of versatile seasonings and spices. We love the flavor it lends to fried fish and other seafood.
  • Lemon pepper seasoning: Lemon pepper seasoning enhances the flavor of fried catfish.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: We use Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt (in the red box) for all our recipes. You can also use table salt, but we recommend using a lesser amount. One teaspoon of kosher salt is equal to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt. Ground black pepper adds a little spice.
  • Granulated garlic: Granulated garlic is used for flavor. It’s preferred over garlic powder because it doesn’t clump. However, if using garlic powder, however, use a lesser amount because the powder form is more concentrated and lends a more intense flavor.
  • Yellow mustard: Mustard acts as a glue or binder for the catfish seasoning. Marrekus prefers French’s Classic Yellow Mustard, but any yellow mustard will work. Board’s Head and Annie’s are also good options.
  • Hot sauce: Crystal or Louisiana hot sauce is preferred.
  • Cooking oil: Neutral cooking oil such as canola or vegetable is best for deep frying fish.

Special Equipment and Tools

  • Deep Frying Thermometer: To ensure that the oil reaches and maintains the correct temperature (350° F), you should use a cooking thermometer. It’s essential for achieving perfectly fried catfish.

How to Fry Catfish

Step 1: Clean and trim: The first step to preparing southern fried catfish is to clean and trim the catfish. If you are using blue catfish, which is what we primarily have in Maryland, you will especially want to remove the fat strip.

The fat strip will appear as an elevated fatty ridge down the back. Take a sharp knife and remove all of the dark fatty ridges and trim any red flesh that remains from the entire length of the catfish. This will leave you with nice, white catfish filets.

After removing the fat deposits from the belly, lay each filet down on a clean flat surface and cut lengthwise into a strip. Then, cut each strips into cooking-size portions.

Step 2: Prepare cornmeal and seasoning mixture: The next step is to combine the cornmeal, lemon pepper seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. This will be the dredge for your catfish fillets. Set it aside until you’re ready to use it.

Step 3: Lather in mustard and hot sauce: In this step, you will spread mustard all over the catfish filets. Then, add a little hot sauce and toss the filets to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Step 4: Dredge and fry: Heat oil in a large fry pan or deep-fryer to 350° F. While the oil is heating, coat the catfish filets in the cornmeal mixture. Once the oil is heated to the correct temperature, fry the filets in batches until the fish flakes easily with a fork and the internal temperature reads 145° F. Transfer the fried filets to a wire rack set over a paper towel and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

southern fried catfish
southern fried catfish

What to Serve with Southern Fried Catfish

Spaghetti, Red Beans and Rice, dirty rice, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, french fries, coleslaw, and white bread (yes, white bread!), are all acceptable side dishes to serve with fried catfish. Don’t forget the hot sauce! You can also use this recipe to make catfish nuggets or a catfish fish sandwich.

If you are looking for another way to prepare catfish, check out our Blackened Catfish with Pontchartrain Sauce and Seafood Nachos with Catfish, Crab, and Shrimp.

Commonly Asked Questions

What kind of oil should I use for frying catfish?

Vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and corn oil are some good options for frying catfish.

Can I use a different type of fish for this recipe?

Yes! We often fry whiting. Bream, crappies, or Big Bone buffalo are other great alternatives for true southern fried fish.

How can I tell if the catfish is cooked through?

The catfish should turn a golden brown color as they cook. The crust should be crispy, and the fish should look flaky and tender on the inside. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the fillet. Catfish is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Undercooked fish will be translucent and may feel mushy.

What can I use instead of Old Bay seasoning?

Old Bay seasoning is a mix of paprika, salt, dried thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and celery seed. You can make your end blend using equal parts of each ingredient or adjust the flavors to your liking. You can also substitute for any other store-bought seafood seasoning.

Have you tried our delicious Southern Fried Catfish Recipe? Share your thoughts in the comments below! If you’re snapping pics or shooting videos of your culinary masterpiece, be sure to tag us at @cookswithsoul on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok! We can’t wait to see and share your incredible creations with our community.

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Southern Fried Catfish

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner
  • Method: deep fry
  • Cuisine: southern


This southern fried catfish has a crispy golden brown cornmeal crust and is seasoned to perfection. It’s a real crowd-pleaser and the best recipe for your next fish fry or cookout! 


  • 2 pounds of catfish filets
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • oil for deep frying (preferably vegetable or canola oil)

Fish Fry Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 3/4 cup yellow mustard


  1. Clean and trim catfish filets.
  2. Combine cornmeal, Old Bay, lemon pepper, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic in a shallow bowl; set aside until ready to use.
  3. Place catfish in a separate large bowl and add mustard and hot sauce—toss filets in mustard mixture to coat evenly on all sides.
  4. In a large fry pan or deep-fryer, heat oil to 350° F. 
  5. While the oil is coming to temperature, dredge the catfish filets in the cornmeal seasoning mixture.
  6. Once the oil is heated to the correct temperature, fry fillets in batches for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork and the internal temperature reads 145° F.
  7. Carefully remove fried catfish from hot oil with a slotted spoon or spatula, set it on a wire rack over a paper towel, and cool for 5 minutes before serving.


This recipe is featured in our Fish and Spaghetti recipe.

Keywords: southern fried catfish, fried catfish, fried fish, mustard fried catfish, cornmeal, fish fry


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