Fried catfish with hushpuppies and chipotle dipping sauce DSC 9762
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Fried catfish with hushpuppies and chipotle dipping sauce

One of the best things about traveling around the United States is the chance to chow on a region’s seafood specialty. For instance, in Maine, you’ll find lobster rolls. In Massachusetts, fried clams. In Louisiana, a hearty bowl of gumbo. And in Texas you’ll find fried catfish.

After barbecue, fried catfish is the dish of choice when a group of Texans gather to celebrate. Family reunions, wedding receptions, birthdays, Juneteenth and Fridays (especially during Lent if you’re Catholic) are all best served with endless supplies of delectable deep-fried, cornmeal-coated catfish.

Statistics say that more than 50% of the nation’s catfish consumption occurs in Texas. That’s no surprise since in countless small towns across the state it’s more ubiquitous than either Tex-Mex or barbecue—chance are, in most places if there is only one restaurant it’s a catfish joint. That’s certainly the case for my grandparents. A stone’s throw up the road from their farm (which is in the no-light town of Chambersville) is the one-light town of Weston. It has a gas station, a post office and a cafe called Grady’s that specializes in, you guessed it—catfish.

While for years, catfish was not consumed in polite society outside the South—Texans have long been fans of this unattractive bottom-feeding fish. You can understand people’s aversion: catfish’s contact with the ugly stick left it with freakish long whiskers and a slimy, scale-less skin much more suited for an eel than a fish. Because it’s not pretty, it was initially a poor-man’s food—a cheap meat ubiquitous in the countless streams, creeks, rivers and ponds that dot Texas’ landscape. And since they’re a cinch to catch, many families would send their children down to the creek to bring home dinner.

Today, however, most people buy their catfish pre-filleted at the store, and chances are it’s been farmed in Mississippi. Yep, Texans get riled up about this fact, as many consider this big business the state’s birthright. No matter, I’m not here to discuss aquacultural politics, I’m here to talk about the sweet, moist and delicate deliciousness that is catfish.

Fried catfish with hushpuppies and chipotle dipping sauce | Homesick Texan
There are many reasons why it’s popular beyond its terrific taste. Catfish is also inexpensive to buy (though not as cheap as dragging in a trot line filled with them), so even if you don’t have access to a stream, you can feed large amounts of people for very little money. And while many fish get a bad rap these days due to mercury levels, you won’t find catfish on those lists. The official catfish season begins in March and runs through August, which is probably why I saw a large display in the fresh-fish section at Whole Foods recently. It’s been a while since I’ve cooked it, and even though I’m going to a catfish fry in Austin at the end of the month, I couldn’t resist.

Fried catfish is a simple affair, and while there are endless variations and debates on how best to create your batter, all agree that yellow corn meal is the grain of choice. I prefer to dip my catfish in an egg and milk bath before doing my corn-meal dredge, others prefer beer or some just omit the liquid all together and just dredge. The latter is probably the most authentic method, especially when you think of cowboys and long-ago pioneers with limited rations on hand for cooking. But no matter how it’s battered, I’ve yet to eat a fried catfish I didn’t love.

Cole slaw, collard greens and potato salad are all fine accoutrements, but I don’t think any fish fry is complete without hush puppies. These little balls of fried corn dough and peppers are not only addictive but also a perfect complement to the catfish. Plus, it’s an excellent way to recycle the oil after frying your fillets. And while fried catfish are so flaky and juicy they don’t need a sauce, I like to dip them in chipotle-lime mayonnaise. This, of course, would be considered sacrilege in certain circles, but I don’t mind—it’s tasty.

Fried catfish with hushpuppies and chipotle dipping sauce | Homesick Texan

Since catfish has swum out of the South, it’s been gussied up—either broiled with garlic and lemon, baked en papillote with seasonal vegetables or incorporated into bouillabaisse. And these are commendable (if not healthier) options. But I still find fried catfish the most satisfying way to enjoy this homely critter. And unlike the brutal drama of chicken-fried steak, cooking catfish is almost downright civilized. It doesn’t make much of a mess and it’s fast—you can fry enough catfish and whip up enough hush puppies to feed your friends and family in under an hour. So even if you’re simply celebrating the end of the day, there’s really no time that isn’t right for a good ol’ catfish fry—Texas’ offering to this nation’s list of seafood specialties.

5 from 2 votes

Fried catfish with hushpuppies and chipotle dipping sauce

Servings 4
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the catfish:

  • 1 pound catfish fillets, cut into inch-wide strips
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Oil for frying

Ingredients for the hush puppies:

  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil or melted bacon drippings
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/3 cup diced onions

Ingredients for the chipotle-lime mayonnaise:

  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


  • To prepare the catfish, salt and pepper the fillets with half the salt and pepper. Put the cornmeal on a plate and stir in the remaining salt and pepper. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Dip the fillets in egg-milk mixture and then dredge in cornmeal, covering both sides.
  • To make the hush puppy batter, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg and stir into the dried mixture until well combined. Add the oil, jalapeño, and onion and stir until well combined.
  • Line a sheet pan with paper towels. Heat up about 3-inches of oil in an iron skillet or a Dutch oven.
  • You’ll want to cook the hush puppies first, so they won’t taste fishy. To cook, working in batches, add tablespoon-sized balls of dough in hot oil, until crisp and golden brown (about 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon to the paper-lined sheet.
  • To cook the fish, place battered fish into hot oil and cook 4 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon tot he paper-lined sheet.
  • To make the chipotle-lime mayonnaise, stir together the chipotle chiles, lime juice, mayonnaise, and cilantro.
  • Serve the catfish and hush puppies warm with the chipotle-lime mayonnaise.

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Recipe Rating


  1. yes mississippi is the catfish capital, over 70 percent is grown there, but all farm raised catfish in the USA is great, so please next time you buy some catfish make sure its not from asia as they do not have the same regulations on their catfish as we do here, you dont even want to know about their "farm raised fish" anyway great recipe!!

  2. I have a friend who is Cajun and grew up in the Beaumont area. They make their catfish much the same way as you do, except they marinate it in yellow mustard before cooking it. And no, they don't rinse it off and no, you don't taste the mustard, when it's cooked.

  3. missingtx78 says:

    Many "eons" ago, I found a tartar sauce for seafood in a very old booklet of recipes from an order of Catholic nuns in Louisiana and it is so good. It is extremely tart and you need to make it the day before to allow the flavors to meld and also to thicken up.
    1 qt. of mayonnaise (do NOT use Miracle Whip)
    4 very large lemons freshly squeezed (leave any pulp you might have in the juice, if small you will need 5, also after cutting them and removing the seeds, you can nuke them for about 15 to 20 seconds and they give a little more juice. They need to be room temperature to obtain their full amount of juice.
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    NO salt
    Liberal dash of cayenne, liberal amount of garlic powder and some paprika. I pour these powders into the lemon juice after the lemon juice to the mayo before stirring everything together to sort of reconstitute the powders.
    6 to 8 green onions about Just long enough to include a small amount of the green portion, choose them about as big around as your middle finger, after trimming them I quarter them lengthwise and then cut them across in small increments. also don't use the packaged "Cajun seasonings" as these contain salt.
    This sauce in the beginning appears a bit "too loose" but when made very early the morning you're to use it or better still the night before. It is just the right consistency. If the jar of mayo is a bit more than 1 qt. I use an extra lemon. If You taste this, you will definitely "pucker up" but on your shrimp or fish, it is the perfect tartness. Any salt added will truly kill the tart lemon flavor. As far as the cayenne pepper goes unless you trip and use 2/3 of the can, it will not be too "hot" as the mayo tones it down preventing it from being too hot. I hope ya'll like it as much as we do, I have never loved tater sauce with pickle in it. Margo Haynes
    BTW Lisa, your blog is my FIRST go to for anything!

  4. missingtx78 says:

    BTW, I was searching for a mix for hush puppies, because they don't sell hush puppy mix in KS, BTW,you also can't obtain salt pork very often and you will pass from this world before you locate a smoked ham hock! they do smoked pork hocks, but it does NOT fit the bill. We last went home last October and I have run out of my smoked ham hocks and my salt pork! It is definitely time for a "Texas Fix" (hoping for a permanent move home before I pass from this earth) lol
    Thanks to Lisa especially and everyone else that posts here …Margo

  5. missingtx78 says:

    My younger brother has 25 acres, in Edgewood, TX and the only fish he loves in catfish. He dug himself and huge pond about 50'x 25' filled it with fresh clean sand and hit un expected well water, clear, cool and delicious, filled his pond with catfish!…sooo delicious. BTW I snagged your recipe for hush puppies today, love hush puppies, but the main reason for snagging the recipe today is that I had bought some nice thick delicious boneless pork chops and the recipe called for breading them in Autry's hush puppy mix which is unavailable in Kansas, besides, fresh hush puppy mix beats boxed any day of the week. Lordy Lisa, I spend hours here each time I visit and I visit each time I get your blog for sure and in between too. I made your Chipotle-lime mayonnaise this afternoon. Talk about a keeper! There will always be some in my fridge! thank you so much for your love, of cooking, recipe clipping and sharing! Margo