Southern Oven-Fried Catfish with Tarter Sauce & Buttermilk Coleslaw

Cookin' up some kindness

This post goes out to my Canadian friend Dara way up yonder at Cookin’ Canuck where I can always count on good food and generosity. We have followed each other for about a year now and I think it’s time to show her a little southern hospitality.

When I think back on my earlier days, about a year and a half ago, of starting this recipe blog, it never occurred to me the many people so far away who would take the time to comment, leave a kind word of encouragement, a compliment, bit of guidance, even a helpful critique; not that Canada is that far away. I receive comments from the world over, hits from locations I have no clue of their whereabouts and from people I know I will never meet nor probably ever hear from again. So when I do find one, a person of interest and one that I like, I do my darnest to hold on and stay in contact. That’s not easy in a blogosphere when in one day, several hundred messages can unleash upon me from the several sites feeding from this post. Folks, I do my best.

Now I’m not a big fan of soaking fish in milk for long periods unless it’s really oily, dark or if I just don’t have a hankering for the taste. In this recipe, I wanted to give Dara a true taste of southern cookery plus I just didn’t feel like fooling around with an milk and egg bath. The buttermilk will do just fine replacing the egg-milk mixture and will give it just the right down-home tang I feel is needed.

Now Dara and everyone else, I have chosen to give you an ‘oven fried’ version of these fillets. You and I know, just like southern fried chicken, it ain't gonna taste the same as good ol’ fried but I know Dara is not into frying anymore these days. To be true to southern cooking, deep fry (like I did) these fillets for what I think is a tastier and better eating. Something about the hot oil setting up the crust of the batter and sealing in the moisture of the delicate flakey flesh doesn’t magically happen in the oven. On the other hand, we can cheat on some good potato logs I call Simply the Best Oven Fries and not miss any flavor. By pre-baking them first, the potatoes have enough time to steam to a nice texture and the seasoned coating along with the oil will seal in moisture all while creating a crispy outer crunch. To me, there’s nothing better to go along with crispy catfish than homemade fries, tarter sauce and creamy slaw.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk Slaw

1 large cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded 
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
    There is one southern tradition I believe in and that is draining cabbage of its water before making slaw. Nothing worse than 'soupy' slaw after setting around a few hours. A head of cabbage has a lot of moisture and by tossing it with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a colander, letting it drain for an hour will remove the excess water allowing the slaw to remain nice and crisp throughout the meal, even for the next. Just be sure to rinse well under running water, drain and allow to dry on a towel before proceeding with the recipe.
    Mix the carrots and cabbage in a large bowl. Stir the remaining ingredients together and mix into the cabbage coating well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours before serving.

    Homemade Tarter Sauce

    1 cup mayonnaise
    2 teaspoons minced white onions
    1/2 cup chopped bread & butter pickles, sweet or dill relish, whatever you fancy
    Lemon juice to taste
    Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
      Blend together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

      Buttermilk Battered Fish Fillets

      for each pound of fish fillets
      good for catfish, brim, perch - any lake fish or fillets of choice

      1/4 cup buttermilk
      1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
      1 tablespoon brown mustard
      1/2 cup plain cornmeal
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon paprika
      1 teaspoon granulated garlic
      1 teaspoon onion powder
      1/2 teaspoon thyme
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
        Whisk the buttermilk, vinegar and mustard in a wide bowl and add the fish fillets coating well. Let set for 30 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients in a shallow bowl and set aside.
        Coat a broiling pan with olive oil. Heat broiler oven to 475 F.
        Remove fillets one at a time and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Place on the pan separating the fillets about an inch apart. Turn up the broiler to 500 degrees and place pan about 4 inches under the broiler. Cook about 4 minutes per side. Test fillets with a fork checking the thickest part of the fish. Serve with lemon wedges and tarter sauce.


        1. Buttermilk seems to be making a come back. I am going to make some coles slaw this weekend!

        2. @penny - what's that... a comeback - never went away over here...

        3. Oooo. I swear by buttermilk batter, but I've NEVER thought of a buttermilk coleslaw.

          Drick, you're a genius!

        4. I have been using buttermilk mre often in recipes these days. Now this meal is something my husband grew up with and would love!

        5. You're a sweetheart, Drick! Thanks so much for dedicating this wonderful recipe to me. I could eat tartar sauce by the spoonful and I do appreciate that this catfish is oven-fried. I'm looking forward to reading about many more of your tempting recipes for a long time to come.

        6. Drick, you sure have put me in the mood for a good old fish fry. Fish fillets coated in cornmeal and deep fried to a golden brown. Slaw and french fries on the side. Of course, around here we'd have to have some hush puppies and "swamp gravy" too. (Betcha don't know what swamp gravy is!)

        7. @Lana - betcha bottom dollar it's similar to fish camp gravy... do you put potatoes is yours?

        8. Yep, sure do! Sometimes add a can of tomatoes, too. This is making me hungry and no fish in the house. Dang it.

        9. This looks so good, and really easy too. I'll try it out on my southern boyfriend and see if he gets a taste of home. Thanks!

        10. That big plate of battered fish just looks too tempting! Wow...such huge chunks...mmmm. This time I don't think I can finish the whole plate...LOL

        11. Awesome recipe keeps the moisture of the fish in crisp and so healthy!

        12. How about Drick here with his own version of Oven Fried Catfish! It's a Southern thang you know! Yummy!

          Did you get any inspiration from my post last week? Hummm....

          Bon appetit!

        13. @Cajun Chef Ryan - funny where inspirations come from, many are from you my friend... this recipe is from my cookbook, Grits to Guacamole, from the days on Lake Martin in central Alabama...

        14. Wow Drick, these looks totally amazing. Thank you for all these recipes. Now I can make some catfish not fried but oven fried, husband has been requesting for it, we love fried food, but I'm just kinda lazy (not in a frying mood actually) lately. The coleslaw looks great, and your homemade tartar sauce, awesome. Definitely a Saturday dinner.

        15. Your fish looks professionally done. What a great batter.

        16. What I wouldn't give to be a guest at this fabulous feast! The catfish looks superb and that buttermilk slaw is making me want to get in the kitchen at almost bedtime! You can bet I'll be cookin' it all up this weekend, cher! Merci beaucoup for sharing!

        17. The buttermilk batter for the catfish sounds just wonderful and I love the recipe for the buttermilk slaw too, yum!

        18. Thanks for sharing this, I've never did it in the oven. I love catfish, and I know frying isn't that good for you. I'm excited to go try this!

        19. Thanks for a baked recipe! I love your blog but have to keep things on the lighter side. My wife loves catfish so I'll be trying this soon!

        20. Hi Drick, Your recipes sound delicious and I love fish prepared this way. I'm curious about your catfish in the south, is it sold in the market as wild or farmed or both? We don't really see it much in our markets here in California although I know there are certain lakes here where people fish for catfish. It is really more of a delicacy here. Thanks for sharing, have a good weekend.

        21. now this dish does take me home.....I love good fried catfish, and I have to admit I have not seen buttermilk slaw, but it sounds so very very good!! I will have to try that recipe for my girls, I wish I could get them to eat catfish!

        22. @Pacheco Patty - thanks, the recipe will do nicely for just about any fish fillets .. most catfish sold here are farm raised in Mississippi, clean, pure white and sweet meat while the ones caught in ponds, along the delta and in lakes are a bit more 'muddy', hence the buttermilk soaking...

        23. Oh boy Drick, there is almost nothing I like better than some buttermilk battered catfish!! With cole slaw and tartar and some Crystal liberally applied. And then, for leftovers the next day: fish sandwiches for lunch! I love this!!!

        24. Living on the west coast, catfish is not as prevelent, but I do love it. Both dishes look SO tasty!

        25. Oh, Drick, those fish fillets make me want to get up from my desk, head to the car and drive straight to Mississippi Belle (our local soul food restaurant) for some catfish! I do believe these will have to go on the menu for next week along with Chef Ryan's pork/peach skewers. Thank you!! Kate (kateiscooking)

        26. Buttermilk slaw- brilliant! And my daughter thinks fried fish is as good as any dessert. I'm putting this on next week's menu
          xoxo Pattie

        27. I made your catfish (pretty close anyway)and my wife and loved it! Deciding to do it inspired me to take a shot a lightening a whole southern-inspired meal, including green beans with bacon, mashed sweet potatoes and cornbread. I was really happy with all of it! Do you mind if I do a post that includes and credits your fish?



        28. Wanted to let you know I've posted the fish:

        29. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.

          Potato Oven Melbourne

        30. I made this entire meal with french fries tonight and it was fabulous. I followed all recipes to the t. We here in Minnesota used walleye and it was more than a hit. I can't wait to try more of your recipes. Thank you.

        31. Darn it! I thought this was a recipe for fried catfish. I don't have a broiler oven.

          1. Sorry Anony, nope, the recipe is not in the traditional southern way of deep frying in hot oil.

            It says right up yonder, at the top 'Oven Fried'. I would guess it as close as it comes to a healthier way of cooking. That was the intent for the recipe written for Dara and as I stated, nothing like fish fried in hot oil.


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