This Blackened Catfish is so delicious and flavorful! The crispy blackened crust is made using the best spices: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano which give the fish a smoky and slightly spicy flavor. This is an easy recipe to get a taste of Louisiana.
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You will love this recipe with my Fish and Grits.
What is Blackening
It’s a cooking technique that involves coating food, typically fish or meat, with a blend of spices and herbs and then searing it at a high temperature in a cast-iron skillet or on a grill. The spice blend typically includes ingredients such as paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
During the cooking process, the spices and herbs char and create a dark, almost blackened appearance on the surface of the food, which is how it gets its name. The high heat and quick cooking time help to lock in the moisture and flavor of the food, resulting in a juicy and flavorful dish.
People will sometimes confuse it for burnt. When done properly, it isn’t!
Blackening is a popular cooking technique in southern United States cuisine, particularly in Louisiana, where it is often used to prepare dishes such as blackened catfish or blackened chicken. Have you ever had a Blackened Fish Po Boy?! So good.
It can also be used to prepare vegetables and other types of seafood.
Butter is almost always used because the brown-black color of the crust results from the combination of browned milk solids from the butter and charred spices.
What Type of Fish to Use
Any white fish can be used in this recipe. Here are some options other than catfish:
- Tilapia: Mild-tasting white fish that is often used as a substitute for catfish in recipes. It has a similar texture.
- Cod: Cod is another mild-tasting white fish that can be used as a substitute. It has a firmer texture than tilapia.
- Flounder: It’s a white fish with a delicate, mild flavor, and tender texture.
- Halibut: Mild flavor and firm texture.
- Haddock: Firm, white flesh, and mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Key Ingredients for the Spices
Feel free to use a store-bought spice blend if preferred. I like to use my Homemade Blackened Fish Seasoning. It’s a blend of the following spices:
- Regular or Smoked Paprika
- Red Cayenne Pepper
- Dried Oregano
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Black Pepper
- Ground Thyme
How to Make Blackened Catfish
Full detailed instructions are below in the recipe card.
- Dry the fish completely.
- Combine the blackened spices in a bowl and sprinkle the spices over the fish and rub them in.
- Heat a cast iron or stainless-steel skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter.
- When the butter has melted, add the fish to the pan.
- Cook on each side until the fish is cooked through.
What Type of Pan to Use
It is best to use a heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet or a stainless steel skillet. These types of pans can withstand high heat without warping and can create a nice crust on the fish. Cast iron skillets are heavy and evenly distribute heat, which is important for getting a good sear on the fish. They also retain heat well.
Avoid using non-stick pans for blackening as they are not designed for high heat and may release toxic fumes if heated beyond their temperature limit. Also, non-stick pans may not produce the desired crust on the fish.
Air Fried Fish
The fish can be made in the air fryer and cooked at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until the fish is flaky.
How to Tell When the Fish is Done
- It should be opaque and have a golden-brown or blackened crust on the outside. The inside of the fish should be moist and flaky when you insert a fork into it.
- Gently press the fish with a fork or your finger. When the fish is cooked through, it should be firm and easily flake apart. If it is still raw, it will feel soft and squishy.
- The fish has reached a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. Use a meat thermometer.
Blackening is meant to be cooked quickly and at a high heat. This means that the fish will cook quickly and the internal temperature will rise quickly. It is important to not overcook the fish, because this will make it dry and tough.
- It is important to heat the pan until it is very hot before adding the fish. This helps to create the blackened crust on the fish. A hot pan also helps to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. If you add too much fish to the pan, it will steam instead of sear.
- Cook the fish for 2-3 minutes per side, or until it is cooked through.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftovers can be stored tightly covered and sealed for 3-4 days.
How to Reheat
You can reheat leftovers in the oven or air fryer at 350 degrees until warm. I avoid the microwave for fish. You risk it becoming tough and rubbery.
Pair With These Recipes
My Pineapple Mango Salsa pairs wonderfully and is a must for me when serving this dish. It balances out the heat so well!
Spaghetti With Sausage
Blackened Chicken Sandwich
Air Fryer Garlic Bread
Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice
Southern Green Beans with Bacon
More Fish Recipes
Salmon Rice Bowl
Crispy Fish Sandwich
Smoked Fish Dip
Cod Fish Tacos
Air Fryer Cod (Breaded or No Breading)
Homemade Fish Fingers (Fish Sticks)
Nobu Miso Black Cod
Pan Seared Cod with Lemon Butter
- 1 1/2 pounds catfish or white fish The number of fillets you will have will vary based on weight. See notes for substitutions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil Melted and measured solid.
Homemade Spice Blend (Feel free to use a store-bought blend if you want).
- 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika Regular paprika is fine.
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper See notes.
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- Dry the fish completely and allow the fish to come to room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Combine the spices in a bowl and sprinkle the spices over the fish and rub them in. Be sure to season the sides of the fish. I like to combine the spices before adding them to the fish because the amount you will need will vary based on the size of the fish you have. You don't want to overseason. Add enough to fully coat both sides. And add more spices if you need it.
Pan Seared Fish Instructions
- Heat a cast iron or stainless-steel skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Be sure to use a skillet that will fit the size of the fish you have or you may have to slice up the fillets so they fit. I used a 12 inch cast iron for large fillets.
- When the butter has melted, add the fish to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. The fish shouldn’t touch. Cook the fish in batches if needed.
- Cook the fish for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the fish is cooked through. It will turn opaque at the center. The fish will easily flake with a fork when it has finished cooking.
- Remove the fish and set aside to cool.
Air Fryer Instructions
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil. Add the seasoned fish to the air fryer. Air fry at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Cook time will vary based on the size and how thick the fish fillets are.
- If you aren’t into spicy food, omit the cayenne pepper. If you prefer something with less spice, only add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon.
- Dry the fish thoroughly before coating it in butter or oil. Wet fish is more likely to stick to the pan when pan searing.
- For best results, I recommend using butter. The brown-black color of the crust results from the combination of browned milk solids from the butter and charred spices.
- Avoid using fish cold and straight from the fridge. I like to pull the fish from the fridge and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
- When pan searing, the pan will need to get really hot. Cast iron usually smokes. This is normal. You can use a fan over the stove or open up a window as well.
- Don’t move the fish after you have placed it down on the skillet. It’s more likely to crumble, break, and not turn out pretty! Allow it to cook and get ready for flipping.
- Blackening is meant to be cooked quickly and at a high heat. This means that the fish will cook quickly and the internal temperature will rise quickly. It is important to not overcook the fish, because this will make it dry and tough.
Monday 1st of May 2023
This was amazing and such a treat! Thank you! Everyone in my family loved it.
Monday 1st of May 2023
So glad to hear it!
Sunday 30th of April 2023
This is my new favorite fish recipe! It has so much great flavor and it was so simple to make in the air fryer.
Monday 1st of May 2023
I'm glad to hear it was easy!