The key to producing a crispy, crunchy crust, and sealing in the catfish's moisture and flavor, is cooking the fish quickly at a very high temperature. Recreate this Arkansas institution in your own kitchen and serve with our homemade tartar sauce.
Recipe courtesy of Young Sun Huh
Southern Fried Catfish
25 min
15 min
10 min
4 servings
25 min
15 min
10 min
4 servings


  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 catfish fillets (about 6 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • Serving suggestions: hush puppies, coleslaw, french fries


Heat 1/2-inch oil in a large, high-sided skillet to 365 degrees F. 

Mix the mayonnaise, pickle relish, lemon juice, mustard, hot sauce and scallions in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the tartar sauce until ready to serve. 

Sprinkle the catfish fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. 

Mix the flour with paprika and some salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a second dish. Place the cornmeal in a third dish. Dredge each fillet in the seasoned flour first, then the eggs and finally the cornmeal. 

Gently place the fillets, spaced apart, in the hot oil. You will probably have to cook the fillets in two separate batches. When the undersides are crisp and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, carefully flip the fillets and continue frying until cooked through, another 2 minutes. 

Blot the fried catfish on a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with the tartar sauce on the side.

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