This delicious pan-seared catfish is made with seasoned fish seared in butter and oil, and then served with a lemon and caper pan sauce.
Growing up, we ate at Cracker Barrel fairly often.
Often enough that I knew what my mom would order — the catfish. Without fail.
I was more of a grilled chicken salad or a lemon pepper trout person.
More recently, though, I've found that I really enjoy catfish! Especially when it's prepared well.
This pan-seared catfish is based on one of my absolute favorite fish recipes, Julia Child’s fish meunière (fish in butter sauce), and is served with an easy lemon caper sauce.
Farmed vs. Wild Catfish
If you're out fishing and catch wild catfish, by all means, enjoy it!
With many types of fish, wild is preferred over farmed. For example, many people, myself included, opt for wild salmon over farmed when possible.
Just be aware that farmed catfish (aquaculture catfish) is sometimes preferred because of its more predicable flavors. Because of their diet, wild catfish can sometimes develop "off" or muddy flavors.
That said, if you're buying farmed catfish, make sure to look for BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) label to make sure that the fishery uses safe, ethical practices.
What Does Catfish Taste Like?
Catfish is sweet and somewhat mild-flavored.
It's a little firmer than some white fish.
Can I Make This Pan-Seared Catfish Gluten-Free?
This recipe has you dust the fish with all-purpose flour before cooking. For a gluten-free version, a gluten-free all-purpose flour such as Cup 4 Cup will work well.
Can I Skip the Flour?
The sear on the fish will be slightly less golden.
How to Make Pan-Seared Catfish
Start by patting the fish dry, and then dusting both sides of the fillets with flour.
Rub a little Cajun seasoning into the flour, and then season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Heat a little oil and butter in a heavy pan. I like to use this Lodge 12" carbon steel skillet.
Set the fish in the pan and avoid moving or touching the fish until it's time to flip.
After about three minutes, test the fish with a metal spatula to see if it's ready to flip.
If the spatula slides easily under the fish, it's time to flip! If it doesn't, wait about 30 seconds and try again.
After you flip the fish, add a little butter to the top of the fillets.
Cook for another couple minutes, and then remove the catfish from the pan.
How to Make the Pan Sauce
To make the sauce, squeeze lemon juice in the pan and add some capers.
Use a wooden spoon to stir it all together, along with any little bits of fish that have stuck to the pan. Stir in a few herbs and it's ready!
Top the pan-seared catfish with the lemon caper sauce, and serve right away!
- 8 ounce catfish (2 fillets)
- 1 tablespoon flour Use gluten-free AP flour if needed
- 1 teaspoon Cajun or blackening seasoning mix Or use Old Bay seasoning
- pinch salt, pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- small handful fresh herbs (such as fresh rosemary, chives, or oregano)
- Pat catfish fillets dry. Dust both sides with flour, and shake off any excess. Rub both sides of the fillets with the Cajun (or blackening) seasoning. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and pepper.Prepare a heavy pan with the olive oil and 1 TB butter. Heat on medium-high until butter is melted but not browned, then turn the heat down to medium.
- Place the fillets in the pan and cook about 3 minutes. Don't touch the fillets until they're ready to flip.Use a thin metal spatula to test the fish. If you can slide the spatula under the fish without the fish sticking to the pan, it's ready to flip. If the fillets won't release, give them another 30 seconds. They'll release when they've finished cooking.After flipping, divide the remaining 1 TB butter over both fillets.
- Cook fish another 2-3 minutes until done. Fish will be golden on both the top and bottom and opaque all the way through when finished cooking.Transfer the fish to plates, leaving the excess butter in the pan. Cover fish to keep warm, or set fish in a 200ºF oven.Reduce heat to medium. Add the lemon juice and capers, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add half the herbs and stir again. Serve fish hot with pan sauce and remaining herbs.