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Pan Fried Catfish No Breading Recipe (2-Ways)

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Pan fried catfish no breading recipe is a simple, delicious dish without the extra calories and carbs of cornmeal. Pair with steamed jasmine rice for a complete dinner or enjoy as a fishy snack, easy starter, or tasty side.

Pan-fried catfish no breading with crispy edges and golden garlic bits, served on a blue and yellow patterned plate, laid on a banana leaf.

Thai fried catfish recipe

While the typical American-fried catfish is often battered, dredged in flour or breaded with cornmeal, this recipe offers a unique, no-breading pan-fried catfish method with subtle yet delicious Thai flavors. Consider this dish my Thai version of fried catfish without breading.

Close-up of no breading pan-fried catfish with crispy edges, topped with fried garlic, in a blue and white dish.

The rainy season in Thailand is a time when the fish practically leaps into our nets. Living deep in the rice fields, my hubby and I have the opportunity to catch many fresh fish and other seafood.

We’ve caught plenty of fish, and I had the chance to experiment with different cooking techniques for fish. I’ve tried both pan-frying and deep-frying catfish, so today I’ll share all my top tips and secrets to make sure your fried catfish without breading is the best in town!

Golden pan-fried catfish on a blue and yellow patterned plate, paired with white rice in a clay bowl, all set on a banana leaf.

In this recipe, I’ll show you how to pan-fry catfish with simple but delicious flavors.

The catfish is flavored with a seasoning mix of fish sauce, garlic, white peppercorns, and salt.

If you’re new to Thai cuisine and never cooked with fish sauce before, don’t be put off by its aroma. Once combined and cooked, it adds a subtle umami flavor.

5 Reasons to try this recipe

  • No breading pan fried catfish: We’re skipping the breading, so we’re cutting down on carbs and calories. If you’re looking for the healthiest option, pan-fry instead of deep-fry.
  • Minimal clean-up: No cornmeal, no buttermilk, and no flour = no mess.
  • Budget-friendly: How much does catfish cost? The cost of a catfish can vary depending on the type, size, and location. On average, you’ll find catfish going for around $6 to $10 a pound, based on the U.S. market.
  • Quick and easy: With straightforward steps, instructional images, and simple ingredients, you’ll have a meal on the table faster than takeout delivers.
  • Versatile: This fried catfish recipe isn’t just for dinner, it also makes a tasty snack or starter to combine with other dishes.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Bird's eye view of recipe ingredients; fresh catfish pieces, white pepper, salt, fish sauce, and garlic in clay cups, set on a banana leaf.
  • Catfish – Catfish has mild, flaky flesh that easily absorbs flavors. You can substitute with other white fish like tilapia, cod, or others.
  • White pepper – Adds a mild heat without overpowering the other flavors.
  • Fish sauce – Fish sauce provides umami and depth.
  • Garlic – I love to use lots of fresh garlic.
  • Salt – Added to the oil to prevent splashing while cooking.

Cooking instructions

  1. Clean the catfish

    Four-step process showing how to clean catfish: Gutting the catfish, slicing the catfish into segments, coating the catfish in cornstarch, rinsing the floured fish pieces in water.

    1. Gut the catfish. Make a small incision in the belly of the catfish. Pull out the innards using your fingers and rinse the inside.

    2. Section the catfish. On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to slice the catfish into uniform sized segments.

    3. Remove the slimy layer. Coat each piece with cornstarch and salt, ensuring all sides are well-coated. I used 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.

    4. Rinse off the flour. Transfer the fish pieces into a bowl of water. Rub each piece and rinse with running water.

  2. Season

    Close-up of seasoned catfish pieces in a glass bowl on a bamboo background.

    Season the catfish pieces with fish sauce, garlic, and white pepper. Let it rest for 5 minutes. If you’re deep-frying the catfish, do not add the garlic in this step.

  3. Instructions for pan-frying catfish

    Three-step sequence of pan-frying catfish: Hand sprinkling salt into a pan with oil, pan-frying raw catfish with garlic, and golden-brown catfish pieces in the pan.

    1. Over medium heat, fill the bottom of your pan with oil and add a sprinkle of salt to prevent the oil from splashing when cooking.

    2. Add the catfish pieces and cook each side for 30 seconds. Switch to a low heat and continue to fry until the catfish is cooked.

    3. When the catfish is golden-brown and crispy, around 10 minutes, it should be done. The meat should still be tender and the outside crisp.

    4. After frying, transfer the fish pieces to a colander to let excess oil drip away. Serve afterward.

  4. Deep-fry catfish

    Five-step instructions for deep-frying catfish. Adding salt to oil in a pan, catfish bubbling in the oil, fish pieces resting in a sieve, frying garlic, and crispy fried catfish topped with garlic bits.

    1. Fill a pan with enough oil for deep-frying. Heat over medium heat, sprinkling in salt to prevent splashing while cooking.

    2. Slide in your catfish pieces and deep-fry until cooked and golden-brown.

    3. Transfer the pieces to a sieve or colander and let any excess oil leak.

    4. In that same pan, throw in finely chopped garlic. Fry until golden.

    5. Add your crispy catfish and combine with the crispy garlic bits. Serve immediately.

Tips for the best no breading pan fried catfish

  • The right oil temperature for frying fish ranges between 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C). Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure a crispy, golden exterior and a tender interior. If your oil isn’t up to temperature, do not attempt to fry your fish – no one likes soggy fish.
  • The best oil for frying catfish is an oil with a high smoke point and neutral flavors. A good choice for frying fish is peanut oil. Other common choices are canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, and sunflower oil. Avoid using oils with low smoke point or strong flavors, like olive oil.
  • Opt for fresh catfish at a fish market for the best taste. Fresh fish is more flavorful and retains more nutrients than frozen fish. Alternatively, you can buy catfish at the seafood section of your local supermarket.
  • Make sure to not overcrowd your pan, each piece should lie flat without overlapping. The number of pieces of catfish you can fry at once depends on the size of your pan or fryer, and the thickness of your fish.

Kitchen tools

For pan-frying catfish without breading, you’ll need a basic set of kitchen tools.

  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Skillet or frying pan: For pan-frying, use a non-stick or cast-iron skillet.
  • Mixing bowl
  • Tongs: For flipping and handling the fish.

How to serve

Serve the crispy fried catfish as a main-dish with rice or as a side-dish. Move it to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining fried garlic over the top.

Catfish goes good with many dishes. Here are some delicious sides for fried catfish:

How to store

Let the fried catfish come to room temperature. Place on paper towels and transfer to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Freezing instructions: Let the fried fish cool down to room temperature and store it in the freezer in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Reheating instructions: Reheat both sides of the fish in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil.

Fun fact

  • During the months of August and September, locals of Isan head into the rice fields to span their nets or position their fishing rods. Amongst the catches are snakehead fish and catfish, which are commonly used to make traditional Isan food.

Frequently asked questions

What does fried catfish taste like?

Fried catfish has a mild flavor and not so much a “fishy” taste compared to most other fish. Catfish has white and flaky flesh, and when fried it develops a crispy, golden-brown crust. The flavor of fried catfish is often enhanced by seasoning it.

How many carbs in fried catfish?

Catfish has zero carbs, so if you fry your catfish without any breading or flour, the outcome will be close to zero carbohydrates. However, if you do bread or batter the catfish, the carb count increases. A breaded and fried catfish fillet can contain 15–30 grams of carbs from the breading.

How to reheat fried catfish in air fryer?

Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (190°C). Coat the air fryer with a small amount of oil to prevent sticking. Place fried catfish in a single layer. Cook for about 5–7 minutes, flip halfway through.

How to reheat fried catfish in the oven?

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange fried catfish in a single layer on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and reheat for 10 minutes, or until heated through and crispy.

Is catfish good to eat?

Yes, catfish is a healthy fish choice and a low-fat source of protein with low calories and essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

More fish recipes you’ll love

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Pan Fried Catfish No Breading Recipe (2-Ways)

Pan-fried catfish no breading with crispy edges and golden garlic bits, served on a blue and yellow patterned plate, laid on a banana leaf.
A crispy pan fried catfish no breading recipe with delicious Thai flavors.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 18 ounces catfish
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • oil enough to coat the bottom of your pan

Instructions

CLEAN THE CATFISH

  • Gut the catfish. Make a small incision of the belly of the catfish. Pull out the innards using your fingers and rinse the inside.
  • Section the catfish. On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to slice the catfish into uniform sized segments.
  • Remove the slimy layer. Coat each piece with cornstarch and salt, ensuring all sides are well-coated. I used 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1/2 tablespoon of salt.
  • Rinse off the flour. Transfer the fish pieces into a bowl of water. Rub each piece and rinse with running water.

SEASON THE CATFISH

  • Combine the catfish pieces with fish sauce, garlic, and white pepper. Let it rest for 5 minutes. If you're deep-frying the catfish, do not add the garlic in this step.

PAN-FRY THE CATFISH

  • Over medium heat, coat the bottom of your pan with oil and add a sprinkle of salt to prevent the oil from splashing when cooking.
  • Add the catfish pieces and cook each side for 30 seconds. Switch to a low heat and continue to fry until the catfish is cooked.
  • When the catfish is golden-brown and crispy, around 10 minutes, it should be done. The meat should still be tender and the outside crisp.
  • After frying, transfer the fish pieces to a colander to let excess oil drip away. Serve afterward.

DEEP-FRY THE CATFISH

  • Fill a pan with enough oil for deep-frying. Heat over medium heat, sprinkling in salt to prevent splashing while cooking.
  • Slide in your catfish pieces and deep-fry until cooked and golden-brown.
  • Transfer the pieces to a sieve or colander and let any excess oil leak.
  • In that same pan, throw in finely chopped garlic. Fry until golden.
  • Add your crispy catfish and combine with the crispy garlic bits. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • If you can, get fresh catfish at a market.
  • Use an oil with a high smoke point and neutral flavors, like canola oil or peanut oil.

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4 Comments

    1. Fish sauce is a seasoning in Southeast Asian cuisine, it’s the most important one in Thai kitchens. You should be able to find a bottle of fish sauce at any larger supermarket.
      It is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and then left to ferment.

5 from 2 votes

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