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"Blind Alley" Southern Fried Catfish

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Southern fried catfish with jollof spice, my take on my Grandmother’s classic Friday night fish fry tried and true.

Welcome to the wonderful world of southern catfish! This delicious dish is made with a recipe that is seasoned with a homemade jollof spice seasoning mix.

The perfect blend of spices and herbs give this catfish a distinct flavor that is sure to please your taste buds.

The succulent, flaky fish pairs perfectly with the crispy, golden brown exterior cornmeal crust. Whether you serve it as an entree or appetizer, this dish is sure to be a hit at your next party or gathering. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

southern fried catfish on a red table

Jollof refers to a West African spice mix, that I was introduced to by Zoe Adjonyoh author of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. I tweaked her dry seasoning mix slightly and seasoned the fried catfish with it. This ain't your grandma's old bay seasoning recipe.

MOOD MUSIC

Full disclosure this was my first time ever eating or cooking fried fish of any kind. It’s a long story but longtime fish intolerance prevented me from ever participating fully in our weekly family fish fries.

I learned to cook fish blindly, relying on my wife for quality control input. Though I had no idea of the taste and texture profile, I used my site recollection of my grandmother in action to deliver this recipe.

For a cool breakdown on how the music chords in song “Blind Alley” relates to the recipe check-out this tasting notes feature which explores the connection between food and music using this Southern Fried Catfish recipe.

What kind of fish is catfish?

Catfish is a popular dish in the South. It's a white fish that's considered a bottom feeder. Blue catfish is a mild fish and the most popular type. It has a sweet flavor that makes them versatile and great for a number of different dishes.

COOKING INGREDIENTS

  • Fresh Catfish fillets
  • Cornmeal - the key to a crispy crust
  • Corn flour
  • Buttermilk
  • Dried Thyme
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Nutmeg
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Black Pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or Peanut oil

FRYING CATFISH THE SOUTHERN WAY

Mix all the spices together in a small mixing bowl and set aside

Marinate the fish

catfish marinating in buttermilk

Pour the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add a ¼ of the jollof seasoning and mix well. 

Add the fish to a glass container or large ziplock bag and cover with the buttermilk mix.

Let the fish marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Bread the fish

catfish breaded and sitting on a wire rack

Remove the fish from the fridge. Place a wire rack over a baking pan or cookie sheet as part of your frying station.

Mix the cornmeal and flour together in a shallow dish, then add half of the remaining spices and mix well.

Remove the fish from the buttermilk brine and dredge fillets in the cornmeal breading. Place breaded catfish on the wire rack.

Fry the catfish

catfish frying in oil

While the catfish warms to room temperature, heat up your fryer to 350 degrees F or alternatively heat oil in a cast iron skillet.

Place fillets one at a time to the deep fryer or dutch oven and cook about 4-5 minutes. If cooking in a skillet you’ll need to cook for about 3 minutes per side. Use a fish spatula to flip and remove the fish.

Remove the fish from the hot oil and allow to cool/drain on the wire rack. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining seasoning mix. Serve

fried catfish fillets on a wire rack

COOKING TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS

This recipe works with other types of white fish including tilapia, flounder, cod, etc.

For any fish recipes choose fresh fish. Avoid any fish with that strong fishy odor.

All-purpose flour can be used in place of corn flour. But, absolutely do not substitute anything for the cornmeal!

Use a good paprika! The seasoning mix is great and adds a lot of flavor and nuance, but a good paprika adds a level of smokiness and depth that levels this up

Mix the dredge ingredients thoroughly, especially given the spice seasonings added. Paprika and cayenne are quite red as you know, if not mixed properly into the cornmeal and flour you’ll have dark spots on different parts of the fish. It's not a dramatic impact on flavor, but visually you lose a little bit.

Don’t overcook the fish. The fish will continue to cook outside of the fryer as it cools.

No one wants soggy fish! Don't place your perfectly fried catfish on a paper towel. Once you remove the fillets from the fryer place them on a metal cooling rack above a sheet pan.

If you're cooking filets in batches be mindful of the temperature of the oil. Removing and adding fish will impact temperature levels. I like to use a good deep-fry thermometer to monitor for the correct temperature

Southern fried catfish is best enjoyed fresh out of the fryer, but leftovers can be reheated in the oven or microwave.

Serve with hush puppies, duck fat french fries and this collard greens slaw

Top with a quality vinegar-based hot sauce, tartar sauce, and/or lemon wedges.

southern fried catfish on a red table

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Frying Catfish

What kind of catfish is best for frying.

While there are several different types of catfish that can be used, the most popular type is the channel catfish. This type of catfish has a light, flaky flesh that is ideal for frying. Blue catfish is also common and a good choice.

How do you bread the catfish?

The most traditional method is to use a combination flour mixture using cornmeal and flour, but some people also like to add seasoning to the mix. Lemon pepper seasoning is quite common. Once the catfish is coated in the breading mixture, it is then fried in hot oil until it is golden brown and crisp.

What kind of oil do you use for frying catfish?

There are a few different oils you can use for frying catfish. Canola oil, vegetable oil, and peanut oil are popular options. You'll need to heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. I don't recommend olive oil is it has a low smoke point meaning it will not hold up well to high heat.

MORE RECIPES

Jerk Fried Chicken

Fried Lobster Tails

Fried Chicken Thighs

Brazilian Fried Chicken Wings

Naked Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Wings

Jerk Wings

Fish and Grits

Grilled Salmon with Hibiscus Rub

Grilled Salmon Steak

Easy Baked Cod w/ Panko

This is the ultimate Southern fried catfish recipe. Catfish is a delicious and versatile fish that can be breaded in a well-seasoned cornmeal mixture and fried to perfection.

This southern fried catfish recipe is easy to follow, and the end result will make your taste buds happy. So what are you waiting for? Get started on this tasty dish today!

If you make this Southern catfish recipe please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.

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southern fried catfish on a red table

Southern Fried Catfish

Southern fried catfish with jollof spice, my take on my Grandmother’s classic Friday night fish fry classic. Ingredients
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Soul Food
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 348kcal
Author: Marwin Brown

Ingredients

  • 1 lb catfish
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup corn flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Instructions

  • Mix all spices together in a mixing bowl. Add ¼ of the spice mix to buttermilk and mix well. Add fish to the buttermilk/spice mix. Marinate for at least an hour.
  • Mix cornmeal plus flour, and half of remaining spice mix and set aside. Preheat fryer with oil to 350 degrees F (or, alternatively, heat oil in a skillet).
  • Remove fish from buttermilk, then dredge in cornmeal mix. Add to the fryer and cook about 4 minutes. If cooking via skillet it will be about 3 minutes per side.
  • Remove fish from fryer and let cool/drain on a wire rack, lined baking sheet, or paper towels. Sprinkle remaining spice mix onto the cooked fish. Serve with slaw or fries, and don’t forget your favorite condiment.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

This recipe works with other types of white fish including tilapia, flounder, cod, etc.
All-purpose flour can be used in place of corn flour. But, absolutely do not substitute anything for the cornmeal!
Use a good paprika! The seasoning mix is great and adds a lot of flavor and nuance, but a good paprika adds a level of smokiness and depth that levels this up
Mix the dredge ingredients thoroughly, especially given the spice seasonings added. Paprika and cayenne are quite red as you know, if not mixed properly into the cornmeal and flour you’ll have dark spots on different parts of the fish. IT’s not a dramatic impact on flavor, but visually you lose a little bit.
Don’t overcook the fish. The fish will continue to cook outside of the fryer as it cools.

Nutrition

Calories: 348kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 1861mg | Potassium: 688mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1205IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 3mg
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Recipe Rating




Polly

Sunday 19th of June 2022

I've never made catfish, but had a request from two southerners that were coming for lunch. I made this exactly as the recipe said. and they LOVED it! I must say that I thought it was delicious too, even. though I don't usually like fried fish. I served it with hush puppies and green beans. just for fun, i'm going to try baking it next time.

Marwin Brown

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

Outstanding! Glad everyone enjoyed it and thanks for trying it!

Jo

Monday 26th of October 2020

That catfish is so tempting! I'm sure no one can resist this delicious crispy outer soft and moist inside fish! So delicious!

kerri

Sunday 25th of October 2020

jam packed with flavor! that can be hard to do with catfish! this recipe is really close to what i remember of my grandmas.

Debra

Sunday 25th of October 2020

I've never had catfish...wasn't sure what to expect, but this recipe sounded good. I saw in the notes what other fish to use....so I went with the safe choice: Cod. Super super tasty. Loved the seasoning and technique.

Erin

Sunday 25th of October 2020

Your first time frying fish? It looks so perfect! I didn't know about jollof spice before. Sounds like an interesting + delicious mix of spices!