Nothing says summertime like a fish fry, and nothing says Southern like golden brown, cornmeal-crusted, crispy fish fillets that are fried in hot oil… there’s nothing better!

With this fish fry recipe, you can have a perfect cornmeal breading ready to make crispy fried fish whenever someone comes home with a cooler filled with fresh fish. (And be sure to whip up some homemade tartar sauce or Creole remoulade sauce to go with it!)

I love to use this recipe to make Southern fried catfish, but this is also how I fry up all kinds of fish – grouper, snapper, crappie, perch, blue gill, speckled sea trout, and other panfish. (I like to fry most mild, white fish. You can also pan-fry most of these fish. And beautiful fish like redfish should be cooked on the half-shell and enjoyed in its purest form. I have a lot of fish recipes up my sleeve!) 

A cast iron pan filled with cornmeal crusted fried fish next to a lemon.

With this easy fish fry recipe, you can make an easy breading to make the most delicious golden crust on your fried cornmeal-crusted fish every time. You don’t need to dredge your fillets in buttermilk before frying them – but it really takes them over the top, so I’ve included the recipe for how I fry catfish.

We also love to pour a scoop of crawfish étouffée over fried catfish and green onion rice to make Catfish Atchafalaya – it is the perfect fried fish dinner and is a great way to use leftover fried fish or leftover étouffée.

The ingredients in homemade fish fry mix, laid out and labeled.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for the best southern cornbread recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

For the Dry Flour Mix

I like to make this mix and keep it in a jar. It makes a great gift and makes it so much easier to get a fish fry started when half of the preparation is already done!

  • Yellow Cornmeal
  • Whole Wheat Flour – I like to use whole wheat flour as I think the texture combines well with the cornmeal to give the fish a nice crispy crust, but you can also use regular all-purpose flour. To make Gluten-Free fried fish, you can use your favorite 1-1 all-purpose flour replacement.
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper

For even more flavor, you can add ¾ teaspoon garlic powder & ¾ teaspoon onion powder to the dry mix; just be careful because it can overpower mild fish!

For the Wet Mixture

  • Buttermilk
  • Eggs
  • Hot Sauce
  • You can also skip the buttermilk and use a beer, but I love the flavor of the buttermilk. 

For Deep Frying

  • Peanut Oil – You can also use canola oil or vegetable oil, but I love the mild taste of peanut oil.

How to Make It

To make this delicious fish fry mix, combine the dry ingredients – wheat flour, cornmeal, seasoning salt, paprika, lemon pepper, and cayenne pepper. Whisk until well combined, then transfer to a jar for long-term storage. You can also just combine everything in a jar and give it a good shake.

A collage of images showing the ingredients in cornmeal fish fry mix and how to mix it up.

About one cup will be one “serving” of my Ultimate Fish Fry Mix, but if you are only frying a few fillets, you can use less – that’s the benefit of using a prepared mix!

A jar of homemade fish fry mix.

How to Fry Fish Using Fish Fry Mix

Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl, whisking together the eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce.

Now, soak your cleaned fish fillets in that egg mixture. Make sure the fillets are fully coated. Let that sit while you mix up the dry ingredients.

In a shallow bowl, pour out one serving of my Ultimate Fish Fry Mix – about 1 cup. (If you are only frying a few small fillets, you can reduce this quantity.)

Now, dip the soaked fish fillets in the cornmeal fish fry mixture and make sure the breading fully coats the fish. Shake off any excess breading.

Place the fillets on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them sit in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes while you heat up your oil – this will help the breading stick to the fish.

To Fry Fish in a Deep Fryer

Heat a deep fryer to 350°F.

When the oil is hot, drop the fish fillets in and cook for 5-7 minutes for small fish and 7-10 minutes for large pieces of fish like catfish fillets – until the fish fillets are golden brown and the internal temperature is 145°F. (For thinner fillets, it can take less time, so watch them carefully.)

Rest the cooked fillets on a wire cooling rack – not a towel – this will allow for the crispiest fish.

To Fry Fish on the Stove

In a large pot, Dutch oven, or deep skillet, heat 3 to 4 inches of oil over medium heat. (If you don’t have a pot or deep skillet, you can shallow fry your fish for 2-3 minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet, just be careful when flipping the fish as the oil can splash out.) Use a thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the oil is 350°F. (If the oil is too cold, the breading will absorb the oil, and the fish will be soggy. If it is too hot, the outside breading will cook before the fish cooks.)

Fry the fillets in small batches so that you don’t crowd the oil – if you put too much fish in the oil at one time, it will lower the temperature, and the fish won’t cook. If you use a large skillet, be especially careful of overcrowding.

Cook for 7 – 10 minutes – until the fillets are golden brown and the internal temperature is 145°F. (For thinner fillets, it can take less time, so watch them.)

Rest the cooked fillets on a wire cooling rack – not a towel – this will allow for the crispiest fish.

Recipe Tip

If you are frying a lot of fish, lay the fried fish fillets on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet in the oven set to “Warm” or 200°F to keep the fish from getting soggy.

A pile of cornmeal breaded fried fish sitting in a cast iron pan.

Recipe Yield

The dry mix, as prepared, fills a quart-sized mason jar and is at least enough for three fish fries. The great thing about using a mix is that you can start with a small amount and shake out some more as needed – you tend to waste less.

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make Gluten-Free fish fry mix?

Yes! To make Gluten-Free fish fry, you can use your favorite all-purpose flour replacement. A friend of mine with celiac loves Cup for Cup, though it is the most expensive.

Button linking to the Pinterest page for Southern Bytes.
A jar of cornmeal fish fry mix with a spoon in it.

Storage and Reheating Suggestions

How to Store

Fried fish is best eaten when it is freshly fried, but leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Once cooled, store the fish fillets in an airtight container.

Store the fish fry mix in an airtight container or jar in a cool, dry place for 6 months or so. I like to use a glass container or a mason jar so it doesn’t take on a plastic taste.

How to Reheat

For the crunchiest leftover fish fillets, I recommend air-frying leftovers. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F and cook the fish for 5-6 minutes until the crunchy coating is nice and crispy again. If you don’t have an air fryer, you can reheat leftover fish in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.

A jar of homemade fish fry mix with a desiccant packet next to it.

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🍟 What to Serve at a Fish Fry

A good fish fry is not complete without side dishes. Here are some of our favorites:

Looking for more? Here’s a long list of recipes to serve with fried catfish.

🎁 Give a Jar of Fish Fry Mix as a Gift!

A jar of fish fry seasoning is a great gift for someone who loves to fry fish. Cut a square of fabric and put it in between the top of the lid and the mason jar ring, then tie a ribbon around the jar. It is a practical and useful gift – and it is delicious!

A mason jar of homemade cornmeal fish fry mix with a bow tied around it.

Have You Tried This Recipe?

Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!

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A jar of cornmeal fish fry mix with a spoon in it.

Cornmeal Fish Fry Seasoning Mix

5 from 1 vote
Nothing says summertime like a fish fry, and nothing says Southern like golden brown, cornmeal-crusted, crispy fish fillets that are fried in hot oil… there's nothing better!
Author: Kari
Servings: 3 batches
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour you can also use all-purpose flour, I just like the texture of wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons seasoning salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco Sauce

Frying Oil

Instructions 

  • To make the fish fry mix, combine the dry ingredients – wheat flour, cornmeal, seasoning salt, paprika, lemon pepper, and cayenne pepper. Whisk until well combined, then transfer to a jar for long-term storage. You can also just combine everything in a jar and give it a good shake.
    This recipe will just about fill a quart jar. Store in a jar in a cool, dark place for long-term storage.
    2 cups yellow cornmeal, ¾ cup whole wheat flour, 1 ½ tablespoons seasoning salt, 1 ½ teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning, ¾ teaspoon paprika, ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

How to Use Fish Fry Seasoning

  • Combine eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl.
  • Now, soak your cleaned fish fillets in that egg mixture. Make sure the fillets are fully coated. Let that sit while you mix up the dry ingredients. In a shallow bowl, pour out one serving of my Ultimate Fish Fry Mix – about 1 cup. (If you are only frying a few small fillets, you can reduce this quantity.)
  • Now, dip the soaked fish fillets in the cornmeal fish fry mixture and make sure the breading fully coats the fish. Shake off any excess breading.
  • Place the fillets on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them sit in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes while you heat up your oil – this will help the breading stick to the fish.

To Fry Fish in a Deep Fryer

  • Heat a deep fryer to 350°F.
  • When the oil is hot, drop the fish fillets in and cook for 5-7 minutes for small fish and 7-10 minutes for large pieces of fish like catfish fillets – until the fish fillets are golden brown and the internal temperature is 145°F. (For thinner fillets, it can take less time, so watch them carefully.)
  • Rest the cooked fillets on a wire cooling rack – not a towel – this will allow for the crispiest fish.

To Fry Fish on the Stove

  • In a large pot, Dutch oven, or deep skillet, heat 3 to 4 inches of oil over medium heat. (If you don't have a pot or deep skillet, you can shallow fry your fish for 2-3 minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet, just be careful when flipping the fish as the oil can splash out.) Use a thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the oil is 350°F. (If the oil is too cold, the breading will absorb the oil, and the fish will be soggy. If it is too hot, the outside breading will cook before the fish cooks.)
    Fry the fillets in small batches so that you don't crowd the oil – if you put too much fish in the oil at one time, it will lower the temperature, and the fish won't cook. If you use a large skillet, be especially careful of overcrowding.
  • Cook for 7 – 10 minutes – until the fillets are golden brown and the internal temperature is 145°F. (For thinner fillets, it can take less time, so watch them carefully.)
  • Rest the cooked fillets on a wire cooling rack – not a towel – this will allow for the crispiest fish.

Notes

For even more flavor, you can add ¾ teaspoon garlic powder & ¾ teaspoon onion powder to the dry mix; just be careful because it can overpower mild fish!
For this recipe, the nutrition facts reflect one full batch of the fish fry mix, which should be enough to coat 6-8 small fish fillets, not the fried fish themselves or the oil – you can look up more about that in my Southern Catfish Recipe. (So divide it by 6-8 if you need specifics!)

Fish Frying Tips

  • Rest the cooked fillets on a wire cooling rack – not a towel – this will allow for the crispiest fish.
  • If you are frying a lot of fish, lay the fried fish fillets on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet in the oven set to “Warm” or 200°F to keep the fish from getting soggy.

Special Equipment Needeed

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 515kcalCarbohydrates: 100gProtein: 15gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 3494mgPotassium: 486mgFiber: 14gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 462IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 5mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Condiments, Main Course, Pantry
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: homemade fish fry mix
Did you make this recipe?Mention @southernbytes or tag #southernbytes!

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Hi, I'm Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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