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Fried catfish is a delicious quick to prepare main seafood dish. The seasoned cornmeal coating creates a golden crispy crust. Serve with your favorite Southern-inspired side dishes. 

Dinner from the ocean is a real treat! Try more seafood meals like this  The Best Lobster Tail Recipe, Garlic Butter Herb Scallops, or Cajun Garlic Butter Shrimp

Fried Catfish on a white plate with two lemon slices.

Pan Fried Catfish

If you’re looking for a quick and delicious fish dinner, fried catfish is a satisfying dish. The flakey white fish is perfect for pan-frying. The fillet is lightly coated with a cornmeal coating and fried until crispy. Plus, it only takes minutes to prepare and cook.

Serve with savory side dishes for a complete meal. When my family is craving southern comfort food, if I’m not making buttermilk fried chicken, this fish recipe is always a hit!

seasoned fillets of fish in a pan

How to Fry Catfish

  • Season the catfish fillets with salt and pepper.
  • Combine cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  • Dredge the fish in the cornmeal coating. 
  • Heat vegetable in a cast iron skillet until it reaches 350ºF. 
  • Fry the fish in batches until golden brown on each side. 

Preparing the Fish

Catfish comes in large fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces per piece. I like to cut them in half so that each piece cooks more evenly and faster. Once the fish is cut in half, I season with salt and pepper. The fish doesn’t need to be dried before. You want a little bit of moisture for the coating to stick to.

dredging catfish in flour

Making a Crunchy Coating

A light coating is added to the exterior of the fillets. I use a combination of yellow cornmeal and a small amount of flour to help it stick. The ground dried cornmeal adds the perfect amount of crunch to the fish without being overpowering. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little bit of spicy cayenne powder and a nice savory flavor. Make sure to completely dredge the surface for complete pieces.

How Long to Fry Catfish

Use a large skillet like cast iron or nonstick to fry the fish. Use a high smoke point oil like vegetable oil because you will be frying between 350 to 360ºF. You want to add just enough oil to come up to at least halfway up the fish’s sides, about 1-inch high. The moderate temperature will ensure that the fish cooks through, and the crust gets golden and crisp. It only takes about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

frying fish in a cast iron skillet

What to Serve with the Catfish

I like to serve lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and hot sauce with the fried fish. Collard greens, candied yams, cornbread, or mashed potatoes are excellent side dishes to add to make it a complete meal. 

fried catfish on a plate

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Fried Catfish

By: Jessica Gavin
Fried catfish is a delicious quick to prepare main seafood dish. The seasoned cornmeal coating creates a golden crispy crust.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings



  • In a shallow bowl whisk together corneal, flour, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Season both sides of the catfish with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides in the cornmeal mixture.
  • Add enough vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan or cast iron skillet to reach ¾ to 1-inches in depth. Heat over medium heat until temperature reaches 350 to 360ºF (177 to 182ºC). Check the temperature between each batch and adjust the heat as needed to maintain this range.
  • Add two pieces of fish at a time to the pan, fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, and internal temperature reaches 145 °F (63°C). Transfer to a paper towel-lined pan to drain—Fry the remaining pieces of fish.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.


Calories: 333kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 24gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 439mgPotassium: 583mgFiber: 5gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 91IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

About Jessica Gavin

Jessica is a Certified Food and Culinary Scientist. She's also a culinary school graduate and a teacher at heart. Jessica loves nothing more than unraveling the science behind better, healthier cooking and sharing that know-how with her readers at

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