Chef P’s Penny Pincher Mock Southern Catfish

Southern Fried Tilapia

Had a hankering for fried catfish this week…until I priced it at my local fist monger’s shop.

The poor country-boy in me just couldn’t shell out $12.50/lb for somethin’ I can catch with a cane pole and a couple of smelly chicken livers. Glancing around, I noticed that tilapia fillets were on sale $2.98/lb.

Well, there you go.

Fresh tilapia fillets can be rarer than an honest politician, in chain grocery stores, but the frozen, individual portioned version will work just fine, too. Just make sure you thaw them before soaking.

If you’re feeling brave, buy whole tilapia (usually cheaper, too) and fillet them yourself. I like my whole tilapia fillets scaled, but with the skin left on, as it adds an extra crunch and a little fat, but to each their own. My local Asian super-market has tanks of live tilapia, which they’ll net and fillet for you…doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Chef P’s Mock Fried Catfish

  •     6 (4oz) tilapia fillets
  •     2 cups milk
  •     1 tsp sea salt
  •     2 cups yellow cornmeal
  •     1 Tbs seasoned salt
  •     2 tsp coarse black pepper
  •     1/2 tsp onion powder
  •     2 tsp garlic salt 
  •     Vegetable oil

Southern Fried Tilapia

Place tilapia fillets in a single layer in a shallow dish; cover with milk, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Combine cornmeal, seasoned salt, pepper, and onion powder in a shallow dish, and mix well.

Southern Fried Tilapia

Remove catfish fillets from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Remove from milk, allowing excess to drip off. Sprinkle evenly with garlic salt.

Pre-heat your deep fryer, or add oil to depth of 1 1/2 inches into a large skillet; heat to 350F.

Southern Fried Tilapia

Dredge catfish fillets in cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.

Home Chef’s Note: Dad had a trick he learned while cooking in Georgia. Place your fish fillet on top of the cornmeal mixture, mound the remaining cornmeal over the top until completely covered, then give the whole thing a firm press with an open hand. Shake off the excess and continue.

Southern Fried Tilapia

Fry fillets, in batches, about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.*

*The darker ou let them brown, within reason, the crispier the finished fillets will be.

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Southern Fried Tilapia

Drain on wire racks over paper towels.

Speaking for my people, you’ll be on these like a hungry ‘gator on a French poodle!

Chef Perry
MY KITCHEN Outreach Program


Blackened Tilapia Sandwich with Simple Tangy Coleslaw

Blackened Tilapia Sandwich

Blackened Tilapia Sandwich with Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise & Simple Tangy Coleslaw


Blackened Tilapia Sandwich

  • 2 tbsp. sweet paprika 1 tbsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 2 (6-oz. ea.) tilapia fillets 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Kaiser buns 1/4 cup mango salsa
  • 1/2 avocado

Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise

  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise 1 sprig cilantro
  • 1/2 lime

Mise en Place:

In a shallow dish, combine paprika, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, salt & red pepper. Remove skin & pit from avocado and slice the flesh. Chop the cilantro. Make the Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise: Juice the lime. In a small bowl combine, mayonnaise, cilantro, and lime juice. Cover and chill. Butter & toast the buns.


Brush fish with oil, and sprinkle with seasoning mixture.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook fish, in batches if necessary, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Spread Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise on the cut side of buns. Place blackened fish on bottom half of bun, add slices of avocado, top with mango salsa, and cover with top half of bun.


Simple Tangy Coleslaw

  • 1/2 lb. green cabbage
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Heat vinegar and sugar until sugar is dissolved, allow to cool.

Shred cabbage.

Toss dressing with cabbage, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

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Poisson Meuniere with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

How to make Tilapia Delicious (and very French)…Poisson Meuniere

In her autobiography, Julia Child writes:

“It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top … I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter. I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection.”

Julia would later state that it was the most exciting meal of her life.

SO looking forward to making this dish at our fundraising pop-up dinner in February, “Julia Child’s Paris!

Poisson Meuniere with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Poisson Meuniere

2 6- to 8-ounce skinless fish fillets (tilapia sole, cod, flounder, etc.)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Optional: lemon slices

Add the butter to a heavy saucepan and cook on medium heat until the butter melts, the foam starts to subside, brown flecks appear and the butter just starts to brown. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl. It will continue to darken once you remove from heat. It should smelly nutty. If it smells burned, you will have to start over (sorry!). Set butter aside.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, add the milk. Heat a heavy skillet on high heat (no oil) for four minutes.

Meanwhile, dip the fish fillets into the milk and then into the flour, tapping off any excess. Add the oil to the skillet, tilting the skillet to coat the bottom. Place the fish in the skillet — carefully, as the oil may splatter.

Cook for six minutes undisturbed on high heat. With a spatula, turn the fish over and, if the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, give or take a minute depending on the thickness of your fillet.

Drizzle the lemon juice on top of the fish followed by a scattering of parsley and a generous drizzling of brown butter. 

Enjoy immediately, serving with Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes and more lemon wedges at the table if desired.