Classic Fried Catfish


Skip the restaurants, and make your own fried catfish at home.

Marinate Time:
8 hrs
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
8 hrs 25 mins
6 to 8 servings

There's just something special a batch of homemade Southern fried catfish. Catch the fish at your favorite lake, and we bet it will taste even sweeter.

This fried catfish recipe calls for yellow cornmeal, our secret to a crispy, satisfying crust. That classic crunch pairs perfectly with lemon slices and your favorite tartar sauce.

Classic Fried Catfish
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Another trick to our best fried catfish recipe? Keep that deep-fry thermometer handy. Pay close attention to the temperature of the oil, especially between batches. This will ensure that each fish filet cooks evenly. We've all had soggy fried catfish, and that's just not what we're aiming for today.

Every Southerner knows that a good piece of fried fish can become great, depending on the company it keeps. We like to serve our catfish with coleslaw, baked beans, and homemade hush puppies (if we can spare the time). Once you've learned how to fry catfish, we hope you'll pass the recipe on and start a new tradition in your family.


  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

  • 6 (4- to 6-oz.) catfish fillets

  • 1/3 cup plain yellow cornmeal

  • 1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)*

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • Peanut oil


  1. Whisk together buttermilk and hot sauce.

  2. Place catfish in a single layer in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; pour buttermilk mixture over fish. Cover and chill 8 hours, turning once.

  3. Combine cornmeal and next 6 ingredients in a shallow dish.

  4. Let fish stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Remove from buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.

  5. Pour oil to depth of 2 inches into a large, deep cast-iron or heavy-duty skillet; heat to 360°F.

  6. Fry fish, in batches, 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack on a paper towel-lined jelly-roll pan. Keep warm in a 225°F oven until ready to serve.

Chef's Notes

*All-purpose flour or plain yellow cornmeal may be substituted.

As of July 2022, this recipe has been updated with a fish quantity.

Related Articles