Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce

My mother made catfish on Fridays as part of her weekly rotation of dishes. I was always amazed by the crispiness of her fish. She let it sit in cornmeal for about 5 minutes — a technique I use today. Excerpted from Soul by Todd Richards. Copyright © 2018 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Mom's Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce
Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
4 serves

Chef Todd Richards’ Hot Sauce is the perfect compliment to his Mom’s Fried Catfish. With a balanced heat from Fresno and jalapeño peppers, and a mix of apple cider and red wine vinegars, Richards’ hot sauce brings flavor with heat.


Hot Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons blended olive oil

  • 3 red Fresno chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped

  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed and coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Fried Catfish

  • 2 cups whole buttermilk

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon granulated onion

  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 1⁄2 pounds catfish fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 2 cups plain yellow cornmeal

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable oil


Make the hot sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium. Add the chiles, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

  2. Add the vinegars and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

  3. Stir in the salt, and remove from the heat. Let stand 20 minutes.

  4. Process the chile mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides. (Remove the center of the blender top to prevent the mixture from overflowing, and be wary of inhaling pepper vapors.)

Make the catfish

  1. Combine the buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon of Hot Sauce, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and 1 teaspoon each of the salt and black pepper in a large bowl or large ziplock plastic freezer bag. Add catfish pieces; cover or seal, and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours.

  2. Whisk together the cornmeal, cayenne, remaining 3 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow dish or pie pan.

  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium.

  4. Remove the catfish from the buttermilk mixture, and dredge in the cornmeal. Let stand 5 minutes.

  5. Fry the catfish (large pieces first), in batches, until golden brown 5 to 7 minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with the Hot Sauce.


If using boneless catfish, this dish can be served as a sandwich with lettuce and Chive Aioli.

Serve With

Other fried foods; braised green, breakfast, potato, egg, or bean dishes; green or tomato salads

Suggested Pairing

Chardonnay, dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, amber beers, dark beers, hard ciders, IPAs

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