How to Make Perfect Blackened Catfish | Yummly

How to Make Perfect Blackened Catfish

Our Cajun blackened catfish recipe is guaranteed to get your tastebuds dancing!

Healthier, better-tasting meals are easier than you think with help from Yummly! Try it free now.

Blackened Catfish. Recipe and photographs by Marrekus and Krysten Wilkes of Cooks with Soul.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you follow the link and make a purchase, Yummly makes a commission.

Growing up in the South, catfish was a staple in our food catalog. The fact that we could literally catch them in just about every single body of water that was near us, and the versatility of this fish, made it a go-to for us. Normally we had it deep-fried, which is crispy and amazing, but as I get older, I try to avoid cooking with all the oil you need for that style of cooking. 

This simple Blackened Catfish recipe combines my love for catfish with my love for Cajun cooking. The mild and flaky texture of the fish lets it take on whatever spices you throw at it — and in this case, the big flavors in Cajun seasonings really take the fish to the next level. The simplicity of the dish with only 5 main ingredients will make this weeknight recipe an instant hit with your family. 

Jump ahead to:

Ingredients for Blackened Catfish >>

Get ready to cook >>

Blackened Catfish step by step >>

Get the recipe >>

Explore more Southern recipes >>

Note: The Yummly Meal Planner is available to paid subscribers.

Ingredients for Blackened Catfish

Ingredients for Blackened Catfish, including all-purpose seasoning, grapeseed oil, unsalted butter, blackening rub, and catfish fillets

The limited number of ingredients in this dish makes it super easy to pull off. Catfish fillets, cooking oil, butter, and seasonings are all it takes to deliver a top-notch meal. 

Catfish. Even though I enjoy a good fishing trip and go as often as I can, for weeknight meals I typically head to my local fish market to pick up fresh catfish fillets. There are two main types in the United States that make good table fare: channel catfish and blue catfish. Channel catfish are normally found in warmer waters, whereas blue catfish are found in colder locations. Blue catfish also grow substantially bigger. Personally, I prefer blue catfish, as I find the meat sweeter, but in most cities, channel catfish are easiest to find (they’re often farmed). Whether it’s channel catfish or blue catfish, this dish will still turn out to be excellent. (No catfish? You can try the recipe with snapper or tilapia.)

All-purpose seasoning. Look for a simple blend that’s a combination of salty and savory. We like to include one made with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. 

Blackening rub. We prefer a blend that incorporates spicy, earthy, and savory flavors like cayenne pepper, rosemary, and thyme. At your local grocery store these blends might also be called blackening seasoning or blackened seasoning.

Grapeseed oil. You want an oil like grapeseed with a high smoke point that can take temperatures about 400°F, because you’re going to get your skillet piping hot to give your fish that deep blackened color. Olive oil doesn't work here.

Unsalted butter. This is a key ingredient to this dish, because as the butter begins to brown it adds a nutty flavor that perfectly complements the spices and herbs from the blackening rub.

Get ready to cook

How to season Blackened Catfish from high up with blackening rub

When making blackened catfish, there are a couple of keys to success.

1. Gather the right tools

  • A large cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed skillet

  • A fish spatula or other wide, thin metal spatula that lets you flip the fish easily, without disturbing the crust you’ve worked to build up

2. Allow time for seasoning

When working with blackening spices, you want to make sure that you give the fish time to absorb the spice mixture and begin to sweat a little so that you do not lose all your spice on the prep table.

First I season my fish with the all-purpose seasoning and give it a good press, and then I come behind that with the blackening rub. 

You want to season from up high so that you get a thick even coat to cover the fish. Let it sit about 10 minutes before you flip it to season the other side. By the time the fish hits the pan, it should have a dark reddish tint to it. 

A picture of catfish fillets coated with blackening spices

Blackened Catfish step by step

A picture of setting Blackened Catfish in a hot skillet

Cooking blackened catfish is an easy technique but in order to achieve that perfect blackened crust that we love, be sure to go step by step. I use an oil and butter mix because it lets me cook the fish as well as give it a rich brown butter flavor from the melted butter. Also, including some oil is a trick that keeps your butter from burning at high temperatures. 

1. Preheat the pan

Start heating up your skillet until you see a little smoke coming from it. Use medium-high heat rather than high heat so the spices won't scorch.

2. Add the oil to the hot skillet

Let the oil sit for 1-2 minutes until shimmering.

3. Add your butter and crank up the fan

Be sure to crack a window and turn your exhaust fan on high because you are about to have a nice billow of earthy, spicy, buttery smoke fill the room. Once you see the bubbles from your butter form, it’s time to add the fish.

4. Add the fish

Lay the fish fillets in the pan away from you to keep from getting splattered by the hot oil. To make sure that every part of the fish is in contact with the skillet, I like to give it a little press just to make sure it’s flat. 

5. Resist the urge to flip too early

The fish is going to seem like it’s burning, but you must resist the urge to move it around. A good blackened fish will have a nice crust on it from the herbs in the spice roasting in the oil and butter. I let mine cook about 4-5 minutes before I flip it. 

A picture of turning browned Blackened Catfish in a hot cast-iron skillet

6. Flip the fish over

Give it a little press, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. When the fish is done it will easily flake apart and be white on the inside. 

7. Drain

I like to place my fish on a tray with paper towels just to soak up a little of the oil and butter from the skillet. 

Get the recipe

Wondering what to serve with Blackened Catfish? You can serve this dish with your favorite sides, such as mashed potatoes, sauteed vegetables, or Cajun dirty rice, but do not dare throw away that flavorful butter and oil mixture from the skillet. Spoon a little over the top of your fish when it’s time to serve. Give the fish a good squeeze of lemon juice, and you will have the perfect combination of tanginess, earthiness, and spiciness that will have your tastebuds in overdrive. 

Blackened Catfish

Yummly Original

A picture of Blackened Catfish on a plate with lemon and a fork

Explore more Southern recipes

Keep reading for more ways to put your favorite seasonings and techniques to tasty use in Southern recipes.

Healthy Soul Food

Looking for some healthy soul food recipes? We’ve rounded up 19 delicious options to help you get cooking!

Celebrating Juneteenth, from the Heart

A food-blogging couple marks Black Independence Day with friends, family, and memorable Juneteenth foods including Texas-style pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans, fried pickles, and red velvet cake

Try a Healthy Southern-style Cast-Iron Chicken Dinner

Instead of deep-frying chicken as his family did growing up, this cook sears it with Southern spices and adds veggies for a one-pot meal