Southern Pan Fried Fish (Whiting Fish Recipe)

Southern Pan fried whiting fish seasoned then fried until crispy and golden.  Tender, flaky whiting fish is so delicious! Perfect with hushpuppies or a side of coleslaw.

If you love this fish recipe you’ll really enjoy my crispy tuna patties with lemon garlic, herbs and parmesan. Amazing!
Pan fried fish on a plate

Southern Fried Fish 

Southern fried whiting fish is so underrated.  It’s like everyone forgot about it. I will never forget it. I can’t forget anything I  grew up eating.  Heirloom recipes make me feel some kind of way. I love them.  And eating  crispy pan fried fish bring back so many childhood memories. I don’t know which food I love more, this fried fish or my favorite tastiest meatloaf .
Many people are unfamiliar with whiting fish. But it’s very popular in African American homes. It has a mild fish and sweet flavor. So if you don’t care for fishy tasting fish then you will enjoy this whiting recipe.
Check out this Washington Post article if want to learn more about the history of fried whiting fish.
My little brother, well,  he was a greedy kid. He REALLY couldn’t wait to dig into the fried fish.  I can still hear his voice “Are you gonna eat all your fish?” I still don’t know how he ate so much but never gained a pound.
Who would give up crispy fried whiting? None of us wanted to share. We never had leftovers on fish fry nights.
The days I craved crispy fish. I’d take a walk to a tiny and I mean tiny takeout restaurant. Their limited menu. They had fried fish sandwiches, burgers, and fries and a couple of fried seafood choices.
I always ordered fried whiting fish with wheat bread a side of fries with lots of ketchup and a nice cold sweet tea. Those were the good old days.
Fried whiting fish is one of my guilty pleasures for sure. When my mom or grandmother made fried whiting, they only used a handful of ingredients. We didn’t use milk, eggs or in the batter. Only cornmeal and flour. Sometimes all cornmeal and a bit of seasonings and fried it in one her old trusty pan, the cast iron skillet. My mom uses all cornmeal but I like to use cornmeal and flour.
We prefer to use whiting fish because it’s one of the best fish to pan fry. Oh and of course we love the flavor of whiting fish…catfish is a great fish to pan fry too!

Fried fish sandwich

I love to eat my fried fish with tartar sauce. Make your own quick tartar sauce or buy a quality one and let’s not forget about wheat bread.  Slather the tartar sauce over each slice of wheat bread (or your choice of bread).

I always add tartar sauce onto both sides, a bit more on one side and minimal tartar sauce on the other slice of bread. Add the fried crispy fish on top of the tartar sauce with bread then drizzle on the hot sauce.


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I’m telling you if you haven’t tried frying whiting fish, nows your chance.  This recipe uses frozen whiting fish but if you can get your hands on fresh whiting..Omg it’ even better! 

How to make Pan fried fish 

This recipe is too easy. Whiting only takes 3-4 minutes on each side to fully cook. 

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Don’t over do it with the seasonings. Too much salt will make the fish salty.  Set aside.  In a large bowl or shallow plate, combine the flours and all the seasonings. Or if it’s easier add the flour and cornmeal to a bowl first whisk to combine then pour it on a shallow plate.

Dredge both sides of the whiting in the breading mixture. Place the fish on a large parchment paper lined baking sheet or pan. 
Continue coating all the fish in the cornmeal/flour mixture.  Let the fish sit for about 15 minutes. By doing so, the coating will stick to the fish and it will fry up nice and crispy.
Whiting fish coated in a cornmeal and flour mixture
Fry the fillets in a heavy bottom pan or cast iron for 3-4 minutes on each side.
Pan fried whiting
Drain on a paper towel. Serve right away with your choice of bread, tartar sauce and hot sauce. 
fried fish

Tips to make this fried whiting fish

  • Use a heavy bottom pan or cast iron skillet to fry the fish
  • Use your choice of fish. Tilapia, whiting, cod or catfish. I used whiting fish. 
  • If necessary, remove the bones from the fish
  • To make this gluten-free, don’t use flour.
  • Pat the fish dry before you dredge them.
  • Season the fish lightly with salt. Add pepper 
  • Gently press the breading onto the fish and shake off excess flour before you add it to the oil.
  • Coat the fish then leave it alone for 10-15 minutes. the longer the better. This will help keep the coating from falling off.
  • Use a cast iron skillet or a heavy duty frying pan
  • Do not fill the skillet more than halfway with oil.
  • Once the temperature reaches 350F it’s time to fry the fish.

Southern fried fish on a plate with coleslaw

Have you ever tried whiting fish? If so, I’d love to know. Leave a comment below. 

A plate of several pieces of fried whiting fish

Southern Pan Fried Fish

April Boller Wright
Classic delicious southern fried fish is lightly seasoned and fried in a pan until golden and crisp. Crispy whiting fish is the best!
5 from 24 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Fried Seafood, Seafood, soul food, Southern, Southern American, Whiting Fish
Servings 6 people


  • 2 lb Fish Fillet whiting, cod, catfish
  • salt and pepper for taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

Flour Mixture

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper for taste


  • Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. Set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the flours and all of the seasonings. 
  • Dredge the fillets in the breading mixture one at a time. Place the coated fillets on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes. 
    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the pan with the vegetable oil halfway.*See notes. Fry the fillets in batches but do not crowd the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately since the crispiness won't last very long! 



  • Use your choice of fish, whiting, cod, catfish.
  • Make sure all the bones are removed from the fish. 
  • To make this gluten free, eliminate the flour.
  • Pat the fish dry.
  • Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper. 
  • Gently press the breading into the fish and shake off excess flour before you add it to the oil. 
  • Coat the fish then leave it alone for 10 minutes. This will help keep the coating from falling off. 
  • Use a good quality non-stick pan or cast iron skillet to fry your fish.
  • Do not fill the skillet more than halfway with oil.
  • Make sure the hot oil is @ the correct temperature (350 degrees F) before the fish is added to the skillet. 
Recipe updated on 4/12/2019
Keyword fried fish, fried whiting, whiting fish, whiting fish recipe
Like this? Leave a comment below!Let us know how it was!


Southern Coleslaw

Southern Sweet Cornbread

Southern Candied Yams 

BBQ Pulled Beef 

Sweet Onion BBQ Sauce 

Sweet Hushpuppies 

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

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Southern Fried Fish (Whiting Fish Recipe)

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  1. Excellent recipe!! I added a tablespoon of butter to the oil, and added onion powder & paprika to the cornmeal mixture. We ate it all. I’ve been looking for this recipe forever. Thanks so much!5 stars

    1. Thank you for your wonderful feedback! Your creativity with the additions and finishing every bit shows how much you enjoyed it. I’m really glad the recipe met your expectations after your search. Your kind words are truly appreciated.

  2. sharon cohran says:

    Easy, Good, Delicious… It Has it all………………

  3. PAT LYNCH says:

    That’s Heaven on a plate girl!!! I also fried up some fried green tomatoes in the flour and cornmeal mix. Thank you! YOU HAVE MADE MY DAY!!!!5 stars

    1. You made my day :)! Thank you so much Pat! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. So good! Thanks for the recipe5 stars

  5. Yvette Pittman says:

    Yummsy yummsy yummsy! You laid your hands on this recipe April! Simple AND delicious! Minimal ingredients! My family and myself appreciate you for sharing your recipes! Cannot wait to try more!

  6. Do you have a potato salad recipe?

    1. No sorry, not yet but it will be posted in the near future.

  7. Kristy Davis says:

    Yes yes and yes!!!! Fried whiting is amazing. Made at least once a week in my house. I want my daughter to have the same memories I had growing up and this is one way that I can share with her a small piece of my upbringing.

    1. Awww yes and your daughter will cherish those memories forever! Thanks for your comment! Have a great weekend and stay safe!

  8. Donna Biddle says:

    Yes, I grow up on Whiting fish. We didn’t have much money and it was the cheapest fish. We loved it and thought the people that bought the expensive fish were missing some great flavor. Our family was divided into Methodists and Catholics, and family always felt free to drop in even at supper time. We solved the problem by every family having fish on Friday. Thanks for the memories. I haven’t seen Whiting in the groceries for years, but think I’ll ask one of the fish markets to get me some.

    1. Whiting is so underrated but my family looooves it. Maybe my love for it stems from eating it a lot growing up. If I can’t get it fresh, I usually get it frozen from Walmart. Thanks for stopping by Donna!:)

      1. Teresa Harris says:

        I purchase my fish from Walmart, and serve it southern style coleslaw.
        When my Dad and Uncle’s were living they fished and hunted, Very rarely got meat at the store. And we had a garden.

  9. I grew up on whiting fish. It is a delicious white fish. My Mom and Aunts would fry whiting fish most of the time., Sometimes they would fry catfish, tilapia or red snapper. My Mom was from the South so she loved fresh fish., Her favorite was perch but you don’t see it much anymore. I haven’t had any whiting fish in such a long time. I wish I could find it but for now I usually cook tilapia. Either way southern fried fish is delicious! Thank you.

    1. Paulette me too. I absolutely love whiting fish. It’s hard to find it fresh these days but I did get lucky and found a spot that sells it but unfortunately I’m going to have to settle for frozen whiting until these challenging times are over.Take care!

  10. This was very helpful, very detailed everything I would look for in frying Whitey face correctly5 stars

  11. Alicia Starr says:

    My father would go to the coast to fish and bring fresh whiting home. We loooved fish night. Hush puppies, cheese grits and collards. My mom was a wonderful cook.

    1. All that glorious food! I’m sure it was delicious. That’s good eating! Thanks for stopping by Alicia!

  12. I can never find fresh Whiting where I live, but frozen is available. Would frozen Whiting be as good? Thank you.

    1. Yes but fresh is much better. I used frozen to make this recipe.

  13. Gerard Johnson says:

    I use 1 cup fine cornmeal + 1/2 cup masa flour seasoned sparingly with salt for the breading. Dredge fish in a wetting mixture of 1 cup whole milk + 1/8 cup hot sauce (Louisiana, Franks, Texas Pete etc.) then pack on the breading. Fry as directed by April. Gooood!5 stars

    1. That sounds absolutely delicious! I need to try it your way next time! Thanks Gerard!

    2. Yes!!!!!! My mother always took 2 or 3 eggs whisking in milk & Hot sauce. Coat the whiting first with it before dredging through the cornmeal/flour mixture. PERFECT everytime!!
      This is the only way my whole family fries Whiting. We always serve it with cast iron cornbread, cheesy mac & cheese and collards 😋

      1. Okay now I really gotta try it lol! Thanks for your comment Jacqueline!

  14. The fried fish looks just perfect, crispy and yummy. At my place no weekend is complete without some fried fish or chicken. I am just loving it 🙂5 stars

  15. I love classic recipes. I think the reason why they become classic with time is because they are perfect in every sense. This southern friend fish is not an exception. Delicious looking dish that I am incredibly excited to try!5 stars