Crispy Cajun catfish cook-up

When a cat and a fish love each other very much.


Read Time: 6 minutes

Is it a cat or a fish?

Catfish are freshwater fish known for their barbels—thin, sensory organs near their mouth—which resemble whiskers of a cat. Some sources say there are almost 2,900 different species of catfish from 35 families in the world. Two of the most popular types that you might be able to purchase in the United States are channel catfish and blue catfish.

Channel catfish make up 90% of the catfish farmed in the United States. According to the USDA, channel catfish are “the most important species of aquatic animal commercially cultured in the U.S.” Blue catfish are native to many middle American states and they are typically larger with a higher percentage of meat than channel catfish.

Catfish are not just a North American fish either. You can find a species of catfish on every continent except Antarctica.

How long have people been eating catfish?

Early human ancestors were eating catfish almost 2 million years ago. Archaeologists have found deboned catfish along the banks of what was possibly an ancient lake or river in Kenya dating back 1.9 million years. If you want to read more, Science.org has an article about the world’s first fish supper.

Since humans have probably been eating catfish since our inception, I felt it made sense that we should turn some into sandwiches.

What is this sandwich?

This is a sandwich made from a filet of Cajun spiced and cornmeal battered and fried catfish. I’ve created a pretty simple tangy sandwich sauce that works really well on a fish sandwich that accompanies this crispy, fried fish and the whole sandwich is tucked inside one of my soft and simple homemade sandwich buns.

Simple burger buns

I’ve shared these buns a bunch of times and even created a YouTube video showing how easy the recipe is to make.

For this batch, I let the buns rise close together so that they rose and baked together. This is something I have tried a few times recently and I think if you’re looking to create buns that look like commercial buns, this is a good trick.

The butter adds flavor and softens the crust of the bun. The shinyness fades after 30 minutes or so.
Freshly butter-basted buns ready to be catfished.

I think when you’re dealing with a fish sandwich, you need a bun that is soft and easy to bite through. This recipe works great but I have a lot of other bun recipes that would work well too.

Or just buy your favorite brand of soft bun and move on to making the other parts of this sandwich.

The crumb on these buns is tight and the inside of the bun is super soft.
2 hours and 45 minutes
Simple soft hamburger buns

With only six ingredients, this is the most simple, soft bun recipe I could create. Perfect for your next burger night or grilled chicken sandwich.

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Cajun seasoning blend

I have two different versions of a Cajun spice blend for this blog. One has a tiny bit of sugar in it and the other one has a lot more. The second version—with a larger amount of sugar—is a copycat for the seasoning blend that Bojangle’s uses for their fries and other food items on their menu. This is not that blend.

I used this Cajun seasoning blend in both the cornmeal dredge for the catfish and also the spicy Cajun sandwich sauce that I write about down below. Like most spice blends, it’s easy to make and will last in a sealed container in your pantry or cupboard for a few months at least.

I used kosher salt, but the whole seasoning blend would be smoother with regular table salt.

You can buy your own favorite Cajun spice blend to use in this recipe if you want. I usually keep a container of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning in my spice cabinet and have used it for seasoning meats and sprinkling on french fries. The Chachere’s brand should be available at most grocery stores if you don’t want to make your own Cajun seasonings for this recipe.

5 minutes
Cajun spice blend

A quick seasoning blend for Cajun flavors.

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Crispy catfish

My local grocery had fairly large filets of catfish for a pretty good price of around 6 dollars a pound. The two filets that I bought were big enough for four different sandwich-sized portions.

Two large catfish filets that are probably a bit too big for a sandwich.
I sliced them into four pieces and don’t forget to feel the top of the meat to make sure there aren’t any bones that you need to remove.

Buttermilk marinade

Catfish benefits from a soak in buttermilk just like fried chicken does. First, the buttermilk helps to keep the fish moist and the acidity in buttermilk also helps to tenderize the fish. In my recipe, I state that you can marinade anywhere from 1 hour to overnight, but I would at least try to shoot for 4 hours. That 1-hour window is just a suggestion for those people in a big rush. Put together a little plan and give the marinade a bit of time to work.

Crispy cornmeal coating

Some people cook catfish with only cornmeal and some folks use a combination of cornmeal and all-purpose flour. I think the flour helps in keeping the crust stuck to the fish so I use a combination of both, but the majority of the dredge is cornmeal.

Other than the cornmeal and flour, you need some seasoning and I chose to use more of my Cajun seasoning blend to bring salt and spices to your fish. The buttermilk helps the cornmeal dredge to stick tot he outside of the fish as well so this process is really easy.

The buttermilk marinade adds flavor and the acid in the buttermilk helps tenderize the fish.
Catfish is fairly thin so it only needs about 5 or 6 minutes to cook.

Frying process

Catfish is typically thin so it cooks fairly quickly. For frying, I use peanut oil, and since this is a thin piece of meat you don’t need a deep amount of oil for your pan. Five or six minutes and one flip total and the fish should be done, golden brown and crispy.

Crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside is exactly what you’ll get from a fried catfish.
I fried a few filets at the same time. If you want to reheat one for a later sandwich, 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes will do the trick.

Now that we know how to make our Cajun spiced catfish, this sandwich needs a sauce.

Spicy Cajun sandwich sauce

I created this sauce specifically for this catfish sandwich. I was leaning toward using a tartar sauce but at the last minute, I decided to embrace the Cajun seasoning that I created earlier. Basically, this is a simple version of a remoulade.

I ended up doubling the pickle-y tartness in the sauce with both diced dill pickles as well as capers (which would be in tartar sauce or remoulade).

Sometimes you spill a little spicy Cajun sandwich sauce.
10 minutes
Spicy Cajun sandwich sauce

Add a lot of kick to your next sandwich with this vinegary and slightly spicy spread. Great dip for french fries as well.

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Crispy Cajun catfish sandwich

Here are some photos of the simple build process for this sandwich.

I put sauce on the bottom toasted bun to start the sandwich build.
Then we add a crispy fried filet of catfish on top of the sauce.
Lettuce and tomato (with a sprinkle of salt, please) go on top.
You don’t have to add more sauce, but I suggest you do.
Add the sandwich hat, serve and enjoy.

Here are a few photos of the catfish sandwiches I ate during the few days I spent writing this sandwich blog post. The full recipe is below and I also made a special version of this sandwich with one additional southern ingredient and shared photos and techniques for that crispy catfish sandwich below the recipe (keep scrolling).

If you’re a bit worried about the taste of fish, I think that catfish today is probably a good fish to turn into a sandwich because it’s fairly mild in flavor.

I did not add pickles to any of these sandwiches but I think they would be a great addition.
The sandwich sauce I made for these sandwiches has a great twang that works perfectly with fish.
Crispy Cajun catfish sandwich view printable page for this recipe

A filet of Cajun spiced, cornmeal battered, and fried catfish becomes a simple sandwich packed with flavors. Add a touch of slightly spicy and pickle-y sandwich sauce and you've got a banger of a sandwich.

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Ingredients:

Spicy Cajun sandwich sauce
  • 14 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon dill pickle, diced
  • 2 teaspoons capers, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vinegary hot sauce (Louisiana brand or Tabasco are good options)
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
Catfish marinade and cornmeal dredge
  • 2 sandwich sized filets of catfish
  • 12 cup buttermilk
  • 10 to 20 shakes of hot sauce
  • 1 12 cups cornmeal
  • 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • peanut or vegetable oil for frying (1 to 2 inches deep in pan)
Sandwich assembly
  • 2 soft burger buns, toasted
  • Spicy Cajun sandwich sauce (from above)
  • 2 crispy fried catfish filets (from above)
  • lettuce, tomato slices, or pickles (all optional)

Directions:

Spicy Cajun sandwich sauce: combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. 

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 

Catfish marinade: Add catfish filets to a small container or plastic zip-top bag and pour in the buttermilk and hot sauce. Mix everything to combine and add to the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. 

Catfish dredge and frying: when it is time to fry, add cornmeal, flour, and Cajun seasoning to a large plate or bowl. Mix to combine everything very well.

Remove each catfish filet from the marinade, add it to the plate, and coat each piece of fish very well with the cornmeal mixture. Make sure there are no dry spots. 

In a large pot or pan over medium-high heat, bring peanut or vegetable oil to 350 degrees F (176 C). 

Once the oil is at the proper temperature, slowly add each catfish filet and fry for 2 to 3 minutes before flipping and frying for another 2 to 3 minutes on the second side. At this point, the fish should be golden brown and crispy and cooked all through. 

Remove the fried fish to a paper towel-lined sheet pan or a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan to rest. 

Sandwich assembly: while the fish rests you can toast your buns. 

Once the buns are toasted, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of spicy Cajun sandwich sauce to the bottom piece of each bun. Then top the sauce with a fried catfish filet. 

Then add any toppings like lettuce, tomato slices, and/or pickles. Add more sandwich sauce to the top bun if desired. 

Serve and enjoy. 

Catfish is easy to find at the store and easy to fry up for sandwiching.
I made several versions of this catfish sandwich but the most interesting version is below.

Pimento cheese version?

Summer to me means a batch of pimento cheese needs to be made. So I made some. I decided to see what a pimento cheese-topped catfish sandwich would taste like and I’m here to tell you that it tasted pretty good.

The cheese spread really works well with the crispy catfish sandwich.
I used mayonnaise for the sauce for these pimento cheese catfish sandwiches because I was worried about conflicting flavors.

I sort of expected the fish and the cheese spread to not flatter each other, but the opposite happened. The fish is fairly mild in flavor with a crunchy exterior that worked well with the slightly sharp pimento cheese. Overall, I felt like I had discovered something here, but it turns out The Catfish Institute already has a pimento cheese and catfish sandwich recipe that you can check out here.

Pimento cheese recipe

I also created an Instagram reel for the process of making my mom’s pimento cheese which I have also shared here. It’s a super easy process if you own a food processor, but you can make it without a food processor as well if you don’t have one.

20 minutes
Mom's pimento cheese

Pimento cheese is an awesome addition to a sausage biscuit sandwich. Growing up, I enjoyed a lot of pimento cheese sandwiches, with just the spread and sliced bread. This recipe also works great as a snack with crackers or pretzels.

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Check back next week

Next week I’m going back in time to recreate another sandwich I haven’t had in 20+ years. Tune in to find out how I did. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (if you know what this last phrase means, you’re getting old).


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