Fried Catfish

Buttermilk-and-Cornmeal-Fried Catfish on serving plate
Photo: Ryan Liebe
Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 20 mins

A buttermilk brine and cornmeal coating yield crisp fried catfish. Serve with lemon and hot sauce, or pile on a hoagie roll with shredded iceberg lettuce and tartar sauce. This recipe also works well with tilapia.


  • 1 pound skinless catfish fillets (2 to 3), halved lengthwise

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed

  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • Lemon wedges and hot sauce, for serving (optional)


  1. Pat fish dry; transfer to a pie dish or other wide, shallow dish. Season generously with salt andpepper. Add buttermilk, turning and arranging fish strips to fully submerge. Let stand 2 hours, or refrigerate, loosely covered, up to 8 hours.

  2. In another pie dish, season cornmeal with salt and pepper. Working one at a time, lift fishstrips from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off, and dredge in cornmeal mixture, turning toevenly coat. Gently shake off any excess; transfer to a wire rack.

  3. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) to come 1/4 inchup sides (about 3/4 cup); heat over medium-high. When oil shimmers and a bit of cornmeal sizzles when dropped in, add fish in a single layer (do not crowd pan; fry in batches if necessary). Cook, undisturbed, until fish is golden brown on bottoms and lifts easily from skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until golden on bottoms and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a clean wire rack, season with salt, and let cool 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce, or one of the fish sauces.

Cook's Notes

For sandwiches, stack cooked fish in split hoagie rolls with sliced tomato, shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce, mayo or tartar sauce, and hot sauce.

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