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. I’m soo craving this right now!! I don’t eat fish enough 🙂 This looks super good and easy, too!

  2. I love love a good fried fish sandwich. It was actually my favorite thing to eat at MickyD’s. Don’t tell anyone!!!5 stars

    1. Rezel I won’t tell because I love it too! Haha! Thank you so much!

  3. Looks amazing! This sounds great right now with tartar sauce! Yum. Thanks for the gluten free instructions as well :). That’s appreciated since I am constantly having to figure out the best way to adapt a recipe. I bet it would also work well with a GF all purpose blend without gums added.

  4. Catherine Brown says:

    I do love fish! and I love fried fish, esp with a bit of cornmeal in the batter. Growing up in the South, my grandparents and relatives were big fish-fry eaters too. Lots of tartar sauce, lemon wedges and tobasco. My favorite is catfish, esp. if it was served with hush puppies! I believe there’s room for keeping food traditions in a healthy lifestyle. Great post as always April!

    1. You are making me hungry this morning! Yes, love it! Thank you, Catherine!

  5. Elizabeth | The Recipe Revival says:

    I love how golden brown and crispy the outside looks! I’ve never been a fan of fish, but this new year i’m trying things i wouldn’t normally eat so I’ll definitely have to give this a try!5 stars

    1. Totally try it. You will be surprised how easy and tasty it is! Thanks Elizabeth!

  6. I love a good fried fish as well! You are so right, there’s nothing quite like it. I’m one of those people who will eat it almost straight out of the pan. I’ve never made my own tarter sauce, but I know it’s so easy to do. Now you’ve inspired me for a new meal on the meal plan!

    1. I had the urge to eat it straight from the pan but then I probably wouldn’t be able to control myself and I needed them for pictures hahah. Thank you Karyl!

  7. This looks delicious! I just made my kids fish and chips for New Year’s Eve, and man, they were acting like your little brother, haha. I did a beer batter, since that’s what I grew up with, but after reading your recipe, I realize that I probably could have added a bit more salt to mine without having overdone it. Next time!

    1. People go nuts over fried fish haha. Fried fish is just amazing and simple! I’d take it over a juicy burger any day! Thank you!

  8. April you brought back so many childhood memories for me haha! I loved reading your story about eating fried fish as a kid and having your brother always wanting your left overs! The same goes for me, except I had an older brother, and he ALWAYSSS ate my food LOL. I don’t eat fish anymore but fried fish was def a staple in my house.

    1. Haha! Brothers, I’ll tell ya lol. I am making more fish this week. I can’t get enough of it. Love fish. Thank you!

  9. This recipe screams southern cooking! I love it! Pinning for later.

    1. It is so delicious! I can eat fish any day of the week, baked,fried. I love it either way. Thank you Gloria.

    1. You have to try it at least once. You’ll be amazed! Thanks again Guadalupe.

  10. Being raised in the South as well, this fried fish reminds me of the catfish frys we used to have when I was a kid. Looks amazing!

  11. Yummmmm this is making me hungry! I love the touch of herbs on top of the fried fish to bring a little color and freshness to it. Your homemade tartar sauce sounds amazing too! Fried fish is definitely underrated

    1. Right? So underrated. Thank you Fiona! Enjoy your week!

  12. I haven’t had fried fish in soooo long! I’m making some tomorrow, you’ve convinced me!

      1. Eating this right now!! Oh so good! Thank you for the deliciousness! 🙂

        1. Sweeeeeeet! Thank you Nicole! Very glad you like it!:)

  13. April, your recipes and staging are simply impeccable. I always get hungry when I visit your site.. the fried fish (yummy) and the salmon has my mouth watering.. I’ve got a serious recipe file with several from you…Happy New Year to you!!

    1. Hey Jamala. Thank you so much for the kind comment! I hope you can try some of them out one day! I hope all is well with you and Happy New Year! 🙂

  14. This looks like heaven! I love a good cripsy fried fish sandwich! I love the idea of adding hot sauce too!5 stars

    1. It’s mouthwatering delicious! One of my favorite foods. Crispy fish is everything! Thank you Sarah!