Fried Fish Cornmeal

Knowing how to prepare this Southern crispy fried fish cornmeal recipe in a skillet is important for every cook. So, keep reading to see about the ingredients options and tips on a crispy crust. Also, see others in our Seafood Recipes Category.

This Southern recipe for pan fried fish filet is the best method of country cooking fish in the South. It uses easy, common ingredients, minimal oil, with a well-organized method to cook up quickly. Can be tilapia, swai, flounder, catfish, trout, whiting, or other preferred filet.
Recipe for Pan Fried Fish Filet

Overview of Fried Fish Cornmeal Recipe

This pan fried fish cornmeal recipe gives you flexible options of either flour, cornmeal, or both for an authentic Southern recipe. Also, it’s the perfect example of how to cook fried fish like tilapia, catfish, swai, flounder, trout, and whitefish. You’ll see these options for the recipe covered:

  • 100% Cornmeal
  • 100% Flour
  • or Southern way of 2/3 cornmeal and 1/3 flour, as shown in the recipe

Ingredients in Seasoned Cornmeal for Fish

Here’s how you use the ingredients in this recipe for pan frying fish. Overall, the procedure involves the fish filets, seasoning, 3 containers of dunking & dredging. Then, you use a little oil in the fry pan and cook them. So, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. All the ingredients are very common in the kitchen, in addition to the Old Bay Seasoning. It’s setting up and following an organized process that makes it rather simple to prepare for frying in the pan.

Fried Fish Seasoning

Old Bay, salt, and pepper are going to be your classic fried fish seasonings. We use these all the time in the South. Also, we have our individual, special sets of alternate homemade or branded seasonings. But most of us also still have and use Old Bay. I have seen some kitchens and restaurants in New Orleans when I worked in foods management there for Morrison’s Cafeterias. Everyone had Old Bay on the shelves, along with some other fancy spice mixtures for all kinds of seafoods.

How To Make the Recipe for Pan Frying Fish

Follow this process of how to fry fish. It makes it extremely simple for both small and large batches of frying fish in a pan or deep fryer. You will have 4 areas to run the fish filets through in order to end up in the frying pan. So, from left to right, you’ll have these areas prepared in advance to make it a very continuous method.

  1. Fish fillets
  2. Beaten egg(s) in a bowl
  3. Buttermilk in a bowl (or substitute 1 tsp lemon juice for each cup of milk)
  4. Flour, cornmeal, & spices on a saucer (or in a bowl)

The process to follow is to have all your fish prepped and rinsed. It’s unnecessary to pat them dry. That’s because you’re going to next drench each piece in egg, then buttermilk, and then dredge into the seasoned cornmeal/flour mixture. So, be sure you press them down while dredging.

Frying Fish in Pan on First Side
Frying Fish in Pan on First Side
Frying Fish in Pan on Second Side
Frying Fish in Pan on Second Side

How long should you pan fry fish?

How long should you fry fish is always an excellent question. So, that will depend on the thickness and burner temp you use. For example, if each filet is about 1/2 pound and the burner is about medium heat. Finally, it takes about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, using more time on the initial side.

You can manually check for doneness levels based on the pan fried fish flakiness. To check, just insert a regular fork about halfway into a thick area. Then, gently twist it. You’ll be able to tell if it separates easily and if it shows powerful signs of flakiness. This is another way you know when fried fish is done and ready, based on texture.

What temp for cooked fish

It’s important to know what temp for cooked fish. The internal fish done temp should be at least 145°F, also recommended by the FDA. In this case, you can check the internal temperature with a food probe temp tool. In addition, knowing what temp is fish done enhances your skills in food safety.

How to Keep Cornmeal on Fish when Frying

There are 2 steps of how to keep cornmeal on fish when frying is to coat it properly before going into the pan. Both steps are equally important.

Step 1. When dredging the filets in the cornmeal, ensure you apply a bit of downward pressure across the filet while in the cornmeal. This will ensure you experience a more successful result during the frying time.

Step 2. Then, when frying the fish, avoid the temptation to turn it over too early. The secret is to cook the initial side longer than the 2nd side. When you have followed the recipe times, you’ll observe the fish edges browning. That’s a good indicator. It has a solid coating that will stay in place when you turn it over.

Frying Fish With Cornmeal and Flour Both

Fried Fish Seasonings with Old Bay and Flour and Cornmeal
Fried Fish Seasonings with Old Bay and Flour and Cornmeal

This recipe calls for frying fish with cornmeal and flour. There are most recipes for pan fried fish that will use either all flour or all cornmeal as a breading ingredient. So the challenge is making the fried fish cornmeal vs flour decision. So, the big questions is: Can you mix flour and cornmeal to fry fish? The answer is a resounding “Yes”!

Fried Fish Using 100% Flour or 100% Cornmeal

Some people don’t like any cornmeal or any flour on their fried fish. But this Southern recipe calls for some of both. With that said, using both also gives it an added crispness. However, fortunately, it’s also good if you replace the undesired item with the other. So, you can make it with 100% all flour or 100% all cornmeal. Just know that using all cornmeal is less crispy than using both ingredients.

Best Fish To Use for Fried Fish Cornmeal

Here is the list of the best fish to fry using cornmeal. And that includes partial cornmeal mixed with flour. We used tilapia specifically for the recipe ingredients but always use these other fish with the same recipe. So, the best fish to fry with cornmeal are tilapia, catfish, swai, flounder, trout, and whitefish as just a few examples.

Sauce for Fried Fish Cornmeal Filets

Adding homemade tartar sauce to country fried fish

Adding Tartar Sauce to Fried Fish

Accompany this fish by making one of our homemade tartar sauce recipes.

Or, just use a mixture of 2 tsp lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of melted butter for every 2 fillets. So, it’s a 1 tsp lemon juice for 1 tablespoon butter ratio per fish. You can also optionally add in 1/4 tsp of dill.

This recipe is listed on our Christmas Dinner Meals and Holiday Dinner Suggestions articles. There you’ll also see other traditional and non-traditional fun recipes for main courses, sides, appetizers, salads, and breads.

Sides for Fried Fish Cornmeal Recipe

There are choice sides for fried fish. There are hot sides and cold sides for fried fish. Here are some great ideas for properly paired sides for fried fish.

Fried Fish Dinner with Sides

Southern Fried Fish Dinner with Saffron Rice and Green Beans

Ideas of Hot Sides for Fried Fish

Ideas of Cold Sides for Fried Fish

Conclusion of Fried Fish Cornmeal Recipe

In conclusion, you can learn more about tilapia, including its health benefits and nutrition. The varieties of ways you can have pan fried fish are many. Some options for changing the recipe for experiencing those variations were given. I hope you have an enjoyable experience in trying this recipe. I think you will find it can be a quickly prepared main course for dinner.

Recipe for Pan Fried Fish Filet

Recipe for Pan Fried Fish Filet

This Southern recipe for pan fried fish filet is the best method of country cooking fish in the South. It uses easy, common ingredients, minimal oil, with a well-organized method to cook up quickly. Can be tilapia, swai, flounder, catfish, trout, whiting, or other preferred filet.
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 389kcal

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  • 1 lb fish filet 6-8 ozs per filet such as tilapia, catfish, whiting, flounder, swai, trout, etc.
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk or substitute 1 tsp lemon juice with each cup regular milk
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal yellow
  • 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning or ¼ tsp each basil & parsley flakes, ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp Ground Black Pepper


  • Put the beaten egg and milk into 2 separate bowls to later drench the fish.
    1 large egg, 1 cup buttermilk
    Egg and Buttermilk Individual Bowls
  • Add flour, cornmeal, and seasonings to 1 bowl and mix it well. Put onto a saucer/plate or in a bowl.
    ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup cornmeal, 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning, ¼ tsp salt, ⅛ tsp Ground Black Pepper
    Fried Fish Flour Cornmeal and Seasonings in Bowl
  • Prepare an organized production line of fish, egg bowl, milk bowl, flour w/seasonings plate, and fry pan on cooktop.
    Production Line Ready for Frying Fish
  • Pour a very thin layer of oil into a frying pan and heat to medium. When oil is hot, drench each fish filet into the egg, followed by the milk, and then coat in the seasoned flour mixture. Place into the frying pan.
    1 lb fish filet
    Add Prepared Filets to Light Oiled Hot Pan
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side until fish is done.
    Fry Fish on Each Side Until Done
  • Place each cooked fish filet onto a paper towel to drain. Serve fish filet with other sides. Can have a bit of lemon juice and tartar sauce available as condiments.
    Place Fried Fish on Paper Towel to Drain



Calories: 389kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 238mg | Sodium: 551mg | Potassium: 1041mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 500IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 207mg | Iron: 3mg
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