Dec 6, 2016

Southern Blackened Catfish Tacos with Fried Corn & Old Bay Aioli

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
This recipe puts a southern twist on fish tacos. While southern style catfish is often served battered in cornmeal and fried, I opt to pan-fry it and serve it blackened instead.

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Seasoned catfish is served on flour tortillas with shredded cabbage topped with pan-fried corn and Old Bay® aioli. Catfish is a versatile whitefish with dense meat and a mild, sweet flavor. For more tacos, check out my recipes here.

Southern Blackened Catfish Tacos with Fried Corn & Old Bay Aioli

southern blackened catfish tacos with fried corn and old bay aioli

What you need to make this recipe

  • Catfish – Catfish is a consistent fish with a sweet, mild flavor making it an extremely versatile fish to use in recipes. It doesn’t have a very “fishy” flavor. It’s often served battered and fried but I like serving it “blackened” in this recipe. It’s also a fairly affordable fish compared to most other seafood. If you are unable to find catfish you can substitute another flakey whitefish such as tilapia or rockfish instead.
  • Seasoning – I use a blend of paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. The spices are stirred together and used to “blacken” the fish. Hold back on
  • Bacon – While meat and seafood aren’t typically served in tacos together this combination works well together for a Southern twist. The corn cooks in the bacon fat while the crispy bacon adds texture and a salty quality to the tacos. Since the bacon adds a fair amount of salt, hold back on over-salting the other ingredients.
  • Corn – I use fresh corn in this recipe though frozen or canned sweet corn can easily be substituted, especially based on seasonality.
  • Cream – This corn recipe is inspired by Southern creamed corn so this helps bind the corn together though it can be easily omitted.
  • Jalapeño – The sautéed jalapeño adds just a bit of spice to the corn.
  • Mayonnaise – Rather than making a homemade aioli using oil and egg yolks I chose to “dress up” a mayonnaise and transform it into an aioli which is served over the catfish tacos.
  • Garlic – Adding garlic to the mayonnaise transforms it into more of an aioli.
  • Old Bay® seasoning – Old Bay is a blend of herbs and seasonings used frequently for seafood. The mixture includes celery salt, crushed red pepper, paprika and more so I find it easier to use the blend rather than making my own.
  • Tortillas – I prefer flour tortilla to corn for these tacos though they can easily be substituted. Before assembling the tacos, either warm them by holding them with tongs over a gas flame for a few seconds or in the microwave topped with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out.
  • Cabbage – Use a mandolin to finely shred cabbage to use as the base of these tacos. As a result the cabbage is tender and almost shaved. Hand-cutting is fine though I prefer the finer texture from the mandolin.
southern style blackened catfish tacos with fried corn and old bay aioli

How to make catfish tacos

  1. Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl stir together the paprika, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, kosher salt and black pepper. Generously season the catfish pieces on both sides.
  2. Cook the fish. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the catfish and cook until dark on both sides and cooked through.
  3. Cook the bacon. Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy.
  4. Return the pan to heat. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon. Return the pan to the heat and add the butter, allowing to melt.
  5. Cook the corn. Toss the corn in sugar then add to the pan and cook until the corn is soft and some pieces are golden brown.
  6. Season the corn. Add the cream and stir to combine, cooking until the cream thickens. Remove from heat and add the jalapeño and bacon back to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and top with the parsley.
  7. Make the old bay aioli. Whisk the mayonnaise, garlic, Old bay seasoning, pepper and 1 tablespoon of water together until completely combined.
  8. Serve. Divide the cabbage among the tortillas and top with the catfish pieces. Top with the fried corn and old bay aioli. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
southern blackened catfish tacos closeup

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use other fish?

Yes! Substitute another flakey whitefish such as tilapia or rockfish instead or mix things up and try using salmon in this recipe or even shrimp!

How can I simplify this recipe?

While I love the combination of all the flavors, to simplify the recipe, simply fry the corn in the bacon fat with the crispy bacon and add it over the top of the tacos. Rather than making the Old Bay Aioli simply top with sour cream.

What are some other fish taco recipes?

If you love fish tacos as much as I do, try these fish tacos with cilantro lime sauce, beer-battered Baja fish tacos, or this fish taco rice bowl with jicama salsa.

Southern Blackened Catfish Tacos with Fried Corn & Old Bay Aioli

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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the blackened catfish:

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound catfish filets, cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the fried corn:

  • 3 slices bacon, sliced into ½” pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ears of corn, husked and cut off the cob
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons diced jalapeño
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the old bay aioli:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay® seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • 6 6-inch flour tortillas, warmed
  • 3 cups shredded purple and green cabbage
  • lemon wedges

Instructions:

For the blackened catfish:

  • In a small bowl stir together the paprika, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, kosher salt and black pepper. Generously season the catfish pieces on both sides.
  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the catfish and cook until dark on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes each side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

For the fried corn:

  • Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy.
  • Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate using a slotted spoon. Return the pan to the heat and add the butter, allowing to melt. Toss the corn in sugar then add to the pan.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until the corn is soft and some pieces are golden brown. Add the cream and stir to combine, cooking until the cream thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the jalapeño and bacon back to the pan, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper then top with the parsley.

For the old bay aioli:

  • In a small bowl whisk the mayonnaise, garlic, Old bay seasoning, pepper and 1 tablespoon of water together until completely combined.

For serving:

  • Divide the cabbage among the tortillas and top with the catfish pieces. Top with the fried corn and old bay aioli. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

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  1. Made these last night and they were a major hit! The flavors work wonderfully together, the seasoning hits all the right notes and heat level is perfect. Will make again and again. Thank you!

  2. I was looking for a fish taco recipe different from all the rest and I found it. All the fish tacos I make are mexican with pico, avocado, lime, etc which I love but these tacos were so delicious. The corn with the bacon and jalapenos, the old bay aioli with garlic, everything worked so well together. Can’t wait to make again, great recipe!