Texas Fried Catfish

Several pieces of Texas fried catfish, a bowl of tartar sauce, and lemon wedges on a metal tray lined with parchment

“Catfish can be found in most every river, lake, and pond in Texas, and we all grew up fishing for them,” says Tom Perini, owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas, where fried catfish is on the menu. “Catfish is one of the few things openly accepted by ranchers and cattlemen as an alternative to beef,” he continues, explaining that you can now find farm-raised catfish in most every supermarket across the country. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the same as beef, I won’t push it away at the table—especially not when it’s fried like this.–David Leite

LC Texas-Style Fried Catfish Note

Make no mistake, there are umpteen approaches to frying this Southern staple. None is necessarily right or wrong. But this one is superlative. As you may have gathered, this is Texas-style fried catfish. If you’re from Louisiana or Mississippi or anyplace else that also swears allegiance to this whiskered bottom-feeder, we beg your patience. It’s not that we’re partial to Texas, we’re simply partial to this recipe. We’ll work our way to your state. In the meantime, you should really try fried catfish the Texas way. That is to say, this way.

Texas Fried Catfish

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Ingredients


Directions

In a shallow bowl, combine the milk, egg, seasoning salt, and white pepper and mix well.

In a shallow dish or on a large plate, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne and black peppers, and onion and garlic powders.

Pour enough oil into a 7-quart cast-iron Dutch oven or other similarly sized vessel so that the fish fillets will be submerged. (You want to make the oil at least 1 1/2 inches deep and, if you prefer to deep-fry your fish, at least 3 or so inches deep.) Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 350° (175°C) on a deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer.

While the oil heats, slice each catfish fillet in half lengthwise and pat it dry. Dip the catfish fillets, 1 at a time, in the egg mixture, completely coating the fish and letting any excess drip off. Dredge each piece in the seasoned cornmeal, turning and coating it completely. Shake off any excess cornmeal.

When the oil is hot, carefully slip several fillets into the oil without crowding them (you will have to fry them in batches). Fry until the fillets are golden brown on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 6 minutes. Transfer the fried catfish to a wire rack and let rest for a few minutes prior to serving. If desired, serve the Tartar Sauce on the side.

Print RecipeBuy the Lodge Cast Iron Nation cookbook

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I didn’t expect this fried catfish recipe to be anything more than fried fish, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was fried fish, but it was especially tasty, light, crunchy fried fish. (The crunchy part is an especially big plus with me.) And it was quite simple to prepare. It involved nothing more than mixing the liquid ingredients and a couple spices, mixing the dry ingredients and a few more spices, and then a quick dip of the fish, and a fast fry. Heating the oil was the most time-consuming part of the recipe. I used about 3 inches oil so my fillets were completely submerged in the hot fat. The fish seemed to float after only a minute or so. I let the fillets fry 4 or 5 minutes total, until they were deeply golden. My husband ate his with tartar sauce and loved the crunch and flavor. I had a taste of the fried fillet unadorned and thought it was very nice just as it was. But I found this recipe’s true calling when I used the rest of the fried fish to make a couple seriously crunchy fish tacos. (My big complaint with fried fish tacos in restaurants is that the fish isn’t crisp. This easy DIY version solved that problem and more. This may not be the recipe's intended purpose, but this is how I’ll start my fish tacos from now on.)

I felt like I was back home in Texas when I made this Texas-style fried catfish recipe, which made a beautiful platter of perfectly fried fish to dig into. Seasoning salt in my mind is always Lawry's, but Tony Chachere's could definitely be used for a little spicier bite. I use yellow cornmeal for catfish--don't even think of using white. All the spices in the dipping mixture were great. My special equipment for frying fish is always a cast-iron skillet. I always fry fish in oil that's about 1 1/2 inches deep (this is about 2 cups oil). The oil is ready when you drop cornmeal in it and the grains immediately move and pop. I didn't use a thermometer, but it's probably a good idea if you're just learning to fry. The fillets need to be golden brown on both sides before removing them from the oil, which took 6 to 8 minutes total cooking time. Sweet coleslaw and cold beer complete the meal! Delicious!

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Comments

  1. I have been cooking catfish for over 50 years and this recipe is a real keeper!!! I do have a problem with saying if you want it to be a golden brown, just cook it a few more minutes. That is wrong!! If the frying oil is at the correct temperature, when it floats, it is done. When you cook it longer to get the “color” you are over cooking the fish and it will be dry. No further comment, except follow this directions for a great fried catfish.

    1. Thanks, James! That certainly means a lot from someone who knows their fried catfish.

  2. This is very, very close to the way we do it in Georgia, too. The finely ground cornmeal is a must! I do, however, use peanut oil for the frying, which is done outdoors on a propane side burner to the grill. Or either in a propane “fish fryer” which is not an uncommon item for Georgia girls to list in their bridal registry 🙂

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