Best Southern Fried Catfish

Print Recipe

As an Amazon Associate, I may receive a commission for a qualifying purchase. See disclosure for more info.

Best Southern Fried Catfish recipe. Ever wonder what catfish tastes like? If you’re not from the Eastern Shore, you might not be familiar with the dish. This strange-looking but delicious fish is served deep-fried or pan-fried but can also be grilled.

best southern fried catfish - use peanut oil for best results

Catfish have a unique taste, and there are two distinct types to choose from.

If you are shopping for catfish from your local supermarket you will typically see farm-raised and wild catfish.

Farm-raised and wild-caught catfish taste very different from each other.

Most wild fish taste better than their farm-raised counterparts. However, wild catfish are bottom dwellers. Ok, a scavenger is probably a more accurate description.

Because of the difference in their diet, farm-raised catfish tend to taste better or less muddy than their native counterparts.

What you’ll need to cook this “Best Southern Fried Catfish Recipe”

Being from the south, a big platter of golden fried catfish with some hushpuppies and coleslaw is a dinner to enjoy! The secret is hot oil, fresh catfish fillets and plenty of sides!

Best catfish for fish fry – wild caught vs farm-raised fish

This classic comfort food is a staple in many Southern homes, and there’s no better way to enjoy a warm evening than with a plate of crispy, golden-fried catfish.

But have you ever wondered about the difference between farm-raised and wild-caught catfish?

First, let’s talk about farm-raised catfish. They are typically raised in freshwater ponds or tanks in a controlled environment. This allows farmers to carefully monitor their catfish’s diet and living conditions. One major benefit of farm-raised catfish is that they are consistently available year-round, making them a reliable option for restaurants and home cooks alike.

On the other hand, wild-caught catfish are found in their natural habitat, such as rivers and lakes. They enjoy a more diverse diet, which can include insects, small fish, and aquatic plants. Some folks say that this varied diet lends wild-caught catfish a richer, more complex flavor.

Now to the big question… Which one is better for our beloved fried catfish recipe?

Well, opinions vary, but here are my two cents.

Farm-raised catfish have a milder flavor and a firmer texture, which works beautifully in a fried catfish dish. The controlled environment also ensures that the fish is free from potential contaminants, which can be a concern with wild-caught fish.

That being said, there’s something special about wild-caught catfish.

The more diverse diet they enjoy can give them a distinct, earthy flavor that some folks just can’t get enough of. And, of course, there’s the added satisfaction of knowing your meal came straight from nature.

In the end, it’s all about personal preference.

If you’re after a milder, cleaner flavor, farm-raised catfish might be your best bet. But if you’re craving something with a bit more flavor, wild-caught catfish could be the way to go.

Why is peanut oil good for frying?

One of the main reasons peanut oil is used as frying oil is because of its high smoke point. Peanut oil is more stable than many other ordinary vegetable oils, such as regular soybean oil, due to its considerably larger saturated fatty acid concentration.

How long does fish stay good in the fridge?

When it comes to storing fish in the fridge, freshness is key. As a general guideline, raw fish can last in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

However, it’s best to cook and consume the fish as soon as possible to ensure optimal taste and quality. Make sure to store the fish in the coldest part of your fridge, usually at the bottom or in a designated drawer. You can also wrap the fish tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container to minimize exposure to air.

If you have cooked fish, you can store it in the fridge for 3-4 days. Again, it’s important to store it in an airtight container to preserve its freshness.

How long does fish keep in the freezer?

If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat the fish within a few days of getting it, consider freezing it. Properly wrapped and stored fish can last in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just make sure to defrost it in the refrigerator or in cold water before cooking to maintain the best quality and taste.


  • 4-6 catfish fillets, about 1-2 pounds
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup fine cornmeal (do not use coarsely ground cornmeal)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • Oil for frying (use peanut oil if you can)


  1. Heat oil in pan, heat warming oven: In a heavy frying pan (I prefer to use cast iron), pour enough oil to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the pan on medium-high.

Heat your oven to 200°F and lay a cookie sheet inside. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet.

2. Soak catfish in milk or buttermilk: While the oil is heating, soak the catfish in the milk or buttermilk.

3. Mix together cornmeal, flour, and spices for dredging: Mix the cornmeal, flour, and spices together. (Or you can substitute your favorite seasoning instead.) Place in a shallow dish for dredging.

4. Dredge fillets in flour mixture, then fry in hot oil: Let the oil reach 350°F — a good test is to flick a little of the dry breading into the oil, and if it sizzles at once, you’re good to go.

Once the oil is hot, sprinkle the catfish fillets with salt and dredge them into the breading. Shake off the excess and gently lay into the hot oil.

Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes, depending on how thick the fillet is. Use a metal spatula and gently turn the fish over and cook for another 2-4 minutes.

Cast iron heats up and stays hot, so monitor the heat as you fry; you may need to lower the heat on the burner at some point.

5. Keep cooked fillets warm in the oven: Once the fish is ready, move it to the oven while you cook the rest of the catfish. Keeping the fried catfish warm in the oven will help keep it crispy.

When they’re all done, serve at once with your favorite hot sauce, coleslaw, and some hush puppies.

Go back to our main recipe page for more Eastern Shore recipes!

5/5 (2 Reviews)