When I visit my Cajun family in Louisiana I have Fried Fish as often as possible. And the preferred fish to fry is Catfish. Read on to see my video on how my Mom does it and most Southern cooks, too.
There is not a lot to this recipe, just coat raw fish with cornmeal then fry it in hot oil. The extras are Cajun Seasoning and Garlic Powder. You could make my Southern Fried Fish with simply seasoned Cornmeal using salt and pepper.
I lived on the Gulf Coast of Texas and everyone fried seafood coated with cornmeal. When we moved to Louisiana, when I started High School, they did the same.
Go to any restaurant, gas station, or grocery with a kitchen in the back and you will often find Fried Catfish on the menu (especially on Fridays.) The crispy crunchy fried fish comes as part of a plate lunch with slow-cooked veggies.
The second best way to have Fried Catfish is in a Louisiana sandwich called a Po-Boy. The sandwich is simply dressed in mayo, lettuce, and tomato and served on French bread (or any crunchy crust and soft interior bread roll.) You definitely want to try one if you are driving through Louisiana. Of course, use my Fried Catfish recipe for this Po-Boy.
Freshwater Catfish are plentiful in Louisiana rivers and bayous. They are fierce fighters and thick-skinned, so they are not easy to prepare for cooking, so locals just buy them at seafood markets and grocers.
The catfish fillets are deboned and skinless and come ready to fry. The pieces are anywhere from three to six inches long, and an inch or so thick. They are usually farm-raised and mild in taste. When cooked the flesh is firm but flaky, and very moist.
Catfish is generally a cheaper fish. I don't see it at 99c per pound lately, but regular sales hover between 2 and 3 dollars per pound.
My recipe is the way my Mom orders it on Fish Fridays from her fave local eatery, Cajun Catch. It's piping hot out of the deep fryer with Tarter and Cocktail Sauce on the side and served with Green Beans and Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with a Dinner Roll. By the way, Tarter Sauce is just mayo mixed with pickle relish.
While Fried Chicken is coated with flour, most Southern Fried Fish is coated with cornmeal. Sometimes it's a combination of half flour and half cornmeal.
You'll want to spice up the coating by mixing in salt, pepper, and a favorite Cajun Seasonings or Old Bay, and pungent Garlic Powder. If you can't get these season mixes, then make your own with a bit of garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika or red chili powder.
I've made a simple mix with just salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cornmeal - that's enough for a lot of flavor.
I've met some who do not like cornmeal because it's a bit crumbly and the flavor's just not for them. Try a half mix of flour and cornmeal if that is the case, you might get away with it.
You do need an inch or so of oil to fry the coated fish in. I use generic vegetable oil, but you can use any favorite oil. Just make sure the oil is hot when you add the fish so there is less oil absorption -- it's easy enough to drain the fish once it's fried. I place mine on a wire rack, or you can pat dry with paper napkins.
Just fry until the cornmeal coating is slightly browned. It may be hard to tell as cornmeal is usually yellow, so it doesn't brown as much as white flour. It's easy enough to break off a piece of frying catfish to test - the flesh should be firm and flakey when done.
With a medium/hot oil it should take about 5 minutes of frying cornmeal coated fish, depending on the size of the fillets.
Here are some of the best types of seafood to fry: Catfish, Tilapia, Alaskan Cod, Halibut, Striped Bass, Trout, Perch, Shrimp, and Oysters. Try out any local fish you prefer.
My easy Southern Fried Fish recipe is quick to do and so good you will want to invite the neighbors over for a Fish Fry patio party. Best to serve with a simple Coleslaw or Potato Salad (click on names for my recipes) and a cold brew.
Fried Fish - Video
Play it here, video runs 3 minutes, 29 seconds.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
- 10 to 16 ounces Catfish fillets - skin removed and deboned. The fillets are cut into about 3 to 6 inch pieces.
- 1 cup Cornmeal - okay to make the mix half cornmeal and half flour.
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning - Old Bay seasoning is easy to find as well. A homemade seasoning is a tablespoon each of garlic powder and paprika or red chili powder.
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Black Pepper to taste - about a teaspoon. Salt is optional.
- Vegetable Oil - enough to fill the frying pan to an inch deep. About a cup.
Catfish fillets should be thawed and ready to cook. Add oil to a frying pan over medium/high heat.
Prepare coating. Add cornmeal to a wide plate. Mix in garlic powder and Creole Seasoning. I like a teaspoon of black pepper, too. Salt is optional as Cajun Seasoning usually has plenty.
When the oil is hot it's time to coat the fish in a Cornmeal Mixture. Add a few pieces of catfish and coat all sides with the Cornmeal Mix. The Cornmeal Mix should stick to the fish fillets. Press fillets into the mixture if necessary.
Add cornmeal coated fish fillets to the hot oil. Be careful as the oil may splatter at first. The typical temperature of the oil is around 350 degrees hot. I just go by looks, if the fish bubbles when it hits the oil then that's hot enough.
Allow fish to brown on one side for two to three minutes before turning to cook the other side. Don't move the fish when first added to hot oil or the coating will pull off. If you use a deep fryer this is not a problem.
Total frying time should not be much more than 5 minutes if the oil is hot enough. It's okay to pull out a piece of fish to check for doneness. The Fried Fish should be firm and flakey when pulled apart. It should still be moist as well.
You might not be able to fry all the fish at once so don't overcrowd the frying pan. As a batch of fish finishes frying remove and place on a paper towel or a wire rack to drain excess oil.
That's it. Allow cooling for a minute then dig in. I make a simple Tarter Sauce to go with Fried Fish. Just mix a quarter cup of mayo with a tablespoon of pickle relish.