Blackened catfish cakes

The catfish used in preparing this was a blue cat, from the Yadkin River Lakes chain in N.C., and was caught on a trip with Capt. Butch Foster and his wife/first mate Barbara of Butch and Barbara’s Fishing Adventures, which is a part of Yeah Right Fishing Charters (

A short section of turkey season carries over into May, but this is the time to enjoy some fresh fish. Many years, this month’s recipe features a blue water fish like dolphin, tuna, wahoo or grouper. However, we have delicious freshwater fish too, and one of them gets the call this time. Offshore, nearshore, inshore and inland fishing is all going well and while there are fish markets to purchase fresh fish, nothing beats cooking fish you caught and cleaned yourself. You’ll have to eat it on the boat for it to be any fresher.

This is a unique way to eat catfish. Many of my friends, who enjoy it rolled in breader and introduced to hot oil, consider this a bit fancy for their tastes, but the cakes still manage to disappear from the platter pretty quickly. The cakes look nice and this also helps some of the folks who have a less than positive opinion about catfish try the first bite. Once they do, it’s game on.

This recipe works well with blue, channel and flathead catfish. All have white meat, with a mild flavor. It’s a great recipe to get the finicky eater at your house to try (and enjoy) eating catfish.

Blackened catfish cakes

This recipe involves a few simple steps. The most difficult thing is to avoid eating the blackened catfish as it is removed from the pan. Over the years, I have learned to cook a little extra so I can taste it early to be sure the correct amount of seasoning was used.

Some folks like this lightly seasoned, while others prefer it loaded with seasoning. This was prepared to be milder and is somewhere spicier than mild, but not what I’d consider medium. The picture should help you judge the amount of seasoning to add for your taste.

My suggestion is to cook it outside, so the initial smoke isn’t an issue and the smell of cooking fish dissipates quickly. Many ladies don’t care for this odor in their kitchens.

It takes good heat to blacken properly. I don’t know the temperature number, but the handle of the frying pan is too hot to handle, sometimes too hot even with a single pot holder. My grill has double burners, but no thermostat. I preheat it with both burners on high. I use a cast iron frying pan and it has a bit of what my dad called a sheen when it’s ready for the fillets. The butter will be just beginning to smoke. If your grill is this hot, the pan is hot too and all it takes is a couple of minutes on each side to cook the fillets.

A cast iron pan is perfect for preparing this meal outside during nice spring weather. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

When you’re looking for an easy method to get away from the ordinary ways to cook catfish, give this a try. Serve it as quickly as it cools enough to eat and think out of the box for sides. I believe you’ll find it is well worth the little extra prep time and you’ll cook it again. Enjoy!


1 Pound catfish fillets

1 Medium sweet onion

1 Large egg

2 ½ Cups butter flavored crackers

1/2 TSP minced garlic

1 TSP spicy mustard

1 TBSP mayonnaise

Blackened seasoning (to personal taste)

1/2 Stick butter

1/4 Cup peanut oil

Assorted dipping sauces

OPTIONS: Chopped jalapenos


  1. Chop onion and crush crackers.
  2. Coat catfish (both sides) with blackened seasoning (to desired taste).
  3. Melt butter in a heavy frying pan over high heat.
  4. Cook catfish until fillets flake easily.
  5. Remove catfish and allow it to sit and cool for a few minutes.
  6. Crack and whip an egg.
  7. Place the catfish fillets in a medium bowl and break them down into small pieces.
  8. Stir in the crackers, onion, garlic, egg, mustard and mayonnaise, blending well.
  9. Form the mixture into 6-8 cakes roughly the size of hamburgers.
  10. Heat the oil in a large, heavy (cast iron) skillet over medium to medium-high heat and fry the cakes (both sides) until they are light brown.
  11. Drain the cakes for a minute or so on a draining rack or on a paper towel-lined plate.
  12. Serve the cakes accompanied with your favorite dipping sauces. My favorite is sweet chili sauce.

Begin the meal with a green salad or lettuce wedge. This pairs well with corn on the cob or a baked potato. If you would like dessert, try something light, like pudding.

This was prepared to be the center of a meal, like crab or salmon cakes and can also be used for sandwiches and sliders. I enjoy the taste of these catfish cakes and often make a bunch to have some in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks. They have even been pressed into service as a quick tasty breakfast several times and were well up to the task.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1172 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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