As I have mentioned in the past, I love to catch and consume catfish. Let it be known that the market for fried catfish is there, as many people still buy catfish from big chains, it’s an American classic. I will warn you that if you try to catch your own catfish and cook it the day of or only a few days after, you will never want to eat store bought/frozen catfish again as the quality is amazing.
People often are both shocked and amazed when I bring over some of the catfish filets from the fish I have caught and fry them up to share with friends and family. I often hear that the fish I cook is some of the best catfish they have ever had. Sometimes I even serve my fish recipe to people who have never had a good meal of catfish and change their overall opinion of the fish. I constantly have to reiterate the idea that all fish and meat are innately good or okay if you know how to cook them properly and take care of the meat.
I feel that in order to have a good experience eating fresh wild fish and game you must have a direct connection to your food. You must empathize with your food and respect your food. The closer you are with your food, the smaller the gap is between us and it. That is how food has always been until more recent years. I think this is why today we are spoon fed a lesser quality of food and life.
I won’t expand further on this subject as it will grow to be a rant, but I urge you to try and catch your own catfish legally if you can or fresh locally at a farmers market to ensure you gain the quality that many seem to have forgotten about. Below I have listed the backstory to this recipe, the ingredients I use, instructions for the fish, a run down of expenses, and sides that I personally like to eat with my fish.
This recipe is by no means extraordinarily unique. It is also not the most expensive and luxurious. It has been developed and changed as I gain courage and creativity with each summer with the fish I catch. Please keep in mind that this recipe has been developed by now currently 23 year old man so it is by no means perfect, but the appeal and audience is for people who don’t have any foundation to start.
This is my catfish recipe I used in college when cooking on late nights when I really wanted some fried catfish quick and cheap. I wanted to be able to get almost all of the ingredients at one place when I bought groceries. I went from overcooking catfish my first few times to producing some of the most delicious fish I have ever eaten. I hope someone reading gives it a try and maybe adds their own special twist or zest to it. If you do please send me an email or leave a comment as I would love to try your recipe on my next catch.
I plan to do a catch and cook on my YouTube account showcasing this recipe and also the whole process that goes into catching and cooking your own fish in a single day. I also hope to develop my own batter and seasoning mix so that I can have more control over what is being added into my fish, but that is an experiment in of itself.
1. Fresh Catfish
This is the most important thing to have obviously. I tend to find that it isn’t worth frying catfish if I don’t have at least 1 lb-1.5 lb. This quantity will serve 1-2 people alone without sides. The more the merrier as you will find that most of my ingredients allow you to make more than the recipe calls for. I recommend that everyone rinse off their fish with cold water to get off any dirt or blood if you caught the fish yourself as to ensure clean fish.
2. One Big Lemon
The lemon is not truly necessary, but I feel that lemon juice gives the fish extra flavoring and makes the raw fish smell very clean and appetizing. I don’t soak it for long period of time but typically give it 10-15 minutes to absorb in the fridge but you can choose to let it sit longer. Some people like to use buttermilk, salt water, or baking soda and vinegar. I prefer lemon, but I do wipe off the excess lemon juice with a paper towel as to allow the breading to stick more.
3. One Pack of Louisiana Seasoned Crispy Fish Fry Mix (The Blue Pack)
This seasoning mix alone creates a nice and balanced fish fry mix. I personally feel that it lacks the seasoning that I crave, but I just wanted to let that be known.
4. One Pack of Louisiana Seasoned Crispy Fish Fry Mix- Spicy Recipe (The Red Pack)
This seasoning mix is meant to be spicy. Some of the reviews for the mix say that it is too spicy. I personally feel that when I used only this mix that it wasn’t spicy enough. To each their own. Finding this pack is a little more tedious than the others as I seem to only be able to find it at Walmart and not regular Kroger/Dillon’s stores.
5. One pack of Louisiana New Orleans Style Fish Fry Mix (The Yellow Pack)
My mom recommended that I added this pack to my mix as the mix is more fine and was intended to coat the fish where the other mixes could not. She was right! This leads to the creation of a crisp crunch on the fish without all the extra labor.
6. Vegetable or Peanut Oil (enough to fill pan/skillet 1.5-2.5 inches (48 oz. for average batch))
The oil you choose to fry your fish in is really up to you. I know some people are moving away from traditional seed oils and going back to using lard or other types of oils to fry their food, but do what works best for you.
7. Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Pour oil into skillet or pot/Dutch oven and turn on medium-high heat
2. Rinse and dry the catfish fillets with cold clean water and dry paper towels and leave on a plate
3. Once dry, add freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 a lemon) over your fillets until a little excess begins to build up at the bottom of the plate. Leave the fish to absorb the lemon for 10-20 minutes
4. After the fish has sat in the lemon juice use another paper towel or two and dry the fish off until the meat is just moist, not too wet or too dry
5. In a small to medium sized bowl add the 3 types of Louisiana fish seasonings in equal parts. You should only add maybe 1/4 -1/3 of each pack to the bowl, but if you frying a lot of fish, you may need to add more
6. Check on you oil and see if it is hot enough to begin frying (to test the oil take a small piece with breading and add it to the oil and see if bubbles begin to form around the piece and listen for sizzling, if not, wait a few more minutes
7. Once the oil is hot now start adding your catfish to the fry mix and lightly dropping the fish into the hot oil being careful not to over fill the pot/skillet with fish as this will slow down cooking time
8. Cook the fish until golden brown on both sides (generally about 5-8 minutes) depending on how hot your oil is
9. Take your cooked fillets and place them on a clean plate with paper towels underneath to collect the excess oil
Lastly enjoy your fish! Fried catfish is best when eaten fresh from the pan/skillet. I like to eat the fish plain, but also like to use hot sauce with it. You could even make a sandwich!
This recipe is really cheap, especially if you catch the fish yourself. If you are buying your fish from the store the catfish will run you about $10-20 dollars (2023) for a pound or two of catfish fillets from your local grocery store. Lemons are under a dollar and each fish fry pack cost a little under $2 at your local grocery store. Oil can cost you $4-6 depending on where you are at.
This leaves the approximate total for the meal without sides to be anywhere from $7-30 depending on how you source your catfish and other store bought goods.
Some of my favorite sides for fried catfish include:
Collard greens: Collard greens are very nutritious and good tasting if cooked correctly!
Corn Bread: Corn bread is easy and very sweet if eaten with some butter and honey. The more simple the recipe the better!
Mac n’ Cheese: Everyone has their own favorite recipe, but I urge everyone to take the time and actually pick a recipe that requires you to buy blocks of cheese and hand shred it. It will be worth it over Velveeta and shells I promise.
There you have it. I have finally revleaed my beloved poor man’s fried catfish recipe for the average folk. Please enjoy and and share it with your friends and family. I hope it was easy to follow along with and gets your mouth hungry for more summer nights out on the lake and in the kithchen with friends and family.