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 love fried fish but I didn’t know that they use cornmeal in the recipe. That looks crispy and yummy.5 stars

  2. I’m drooling just looking at these photos! I think cornmeal batter goes so well with fried seafood. There’s a restaurant here that’s only open seasonally which is exactly like the ones you talked about. They have four things on the menu: fried catfish, fried chicken, hushpuppies, and fries. Too bad the river flooding will prevent them from opening this year.5 stars

    1. Oh wow that’s not good. I bet they had the best fried fish. I love fish takeouts! Thank you!

  3. I’ve made my own battered fish before, but never tried southern-fried fish! I bet the seasoning is absolutely scrumptious.5 stars

    1. Definitely give it a try. It’s super good! Thank you!

  4. I am unfamiliar with whiting, but I love a good fish fry! This coating looks splendid and I love that you added a bit of cayenne because I personally don’t make a fish batter without it. It just needs a little pinch to give it the right kick. This recipe looks tasty and I am super craving fried fish now!5 stars

    1. A lot of people haven’t tried it’s very good. Thank you!

  5. I am such a huge fan of southern fried fish. my mom wasn’t much of a fish fryer, but as an adult I have grown to love it very much. I’ll have to try this recipe!5 stars

    1. I love a good fried fish…so easy but delicious! Thanks Danielle!

  6. Karyl Henry says:

    My cousin lived with us for a couple of years when we were both young adults, and we NEVER had leftovers when he was there! He ate EVERYTHING LOL! I love a good white fish…not sure if I’ve ever had whiting before, but I’m going to have to give it a try because I love fried fish5 stars

    1. Haha we all have that one cousin that will finish off everything lol. You should give whiting fish a try. It’s one of my favorites!

  7. Stine Mari says:

    I really loved your tips as to how to make the fish! Makes this a fool proof recipe. And all the seasonings in the breading sounds delicious!5 stars

  8. Growing up in Houston, we used to eat a lot of fried catfish, and this recipe totally takes me back! The seasoning in the cornmeal is perfect. Thanks for sharing!5 stars

  9. Fried fish reminds me of my childhood as well. My parents would make fried catfish quite frequently and I would always eat more than my share. Thanks for sharing a special recipe.5 stars

  10. This southern fried fish looks so delicious. I have a weakness for fried fish. Here in Italy we eat a lot of whitebait or fresh sardines fried but they’re small and not coated in flour! I want to try your Southern version!5 stars

  11. This is my go to recipe for fried fish. I’ve tried the recipe with both fresh whiting and frozen whiting. Although both recipes are excellent using fresh whiting makes the recipe even more better. This is the only way I make my fried fish..5 stars

    1. Winning! I’m excited that it’s your go to recipe! Fresh is always better! Thank you so much 🙂

  12. Exactly! That’s why I love it! Thank you Tiffany!

  13. You have to give it a try someday. You will be surprised! Thank you Lathiya! By the way, I love your name.

  14. I was just thinking that I need to put a new fish recipe into rotation at my house, I’ve been getting bored! I’m so happy to have found this recipe! Fried fish?! Yes please!

  15. You made my mouth water and now I’m craving a fish sandwich! I’m terrified of frying things but I’ll get my boyfriend to do it for me 😉5 stars

  16. Omg this recipe looks AMAZING!! In Wisconsin, going to a Friday Fish Fry is basically a weekly tradition. This recipe would make it so much easier to just make the fish at home!! Can’t wait to try it!!5 stars

    1. Oh wow, I never knew that. A Friday fish fry sounds exciting and fun! Thank you Sarah!