Making a batch of catfish tacos is an excellent way to liven up a fishing trip. The addition of a jalapeno aioli will add some acidity and creaminess to perfectly offset the fried catfish and has the bonus of being made at home before your trip.
All you’ll have to do is toast some tortillas and fry up your catfish.
We’ve rated this recipe as MODERATE difficulty due to the amount of multitasking and the number of steps required. None of the steps are overly technical though, so it should be very approachable for most cooks.
If you want to make it even easier, you can trade out the corn tortillas for flour so that you don’t have to toast them.
I don’t recommend it though. Catfish tacos are perfect with corn tortillas. Using two corn tortillas per taco will make you a pro.
A hot cast iron pan on your camp stove will toast them up nicely. I use a cast iron griddle (or comal) to toast mine up, but any old cast iron pan will work.
As you toast them, put them in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a cotton towel to soften them up and make them more pliable.
See all of our catfish recipes.
Additionally, I like my catfish tacos spicy, so I use chipotle chili powder as opposed to regular chili powder as called for in the recipe below. You’re welcome to make that substitution if you want to spice things up. You can also use half chipotle chili powder and half regular chili powder if you want just a little bit of heat, but not too much.
What Makes a Catfish Taco Good?
All fish tacos suffer from a lack of texture. We’ve addressed this by doing ours Baja style (breading and frying the catfish) and adding finely shaved purple cabbage for additional crunch.
Baja style fish tacos are normally done with a beer batter, but we think these offer more crunch with less mess. If you want to do yours with a beer batter, you can use our beer batter catfish recipe in place of the breading we use here. Everything else would remain the same.
One thing that should never happen is putting cheese on fish. This is Italian culinary doctrine and extends even to non-Italians outside of Italy. It is a sin punishable by going to sleep without your supper and potentially a willow switch to the backside.
Please, leave that cheddar cheese at home!
Most cheeses will overwhelm the fish anyway. Lighter, brighter ingredients are the way to go with fish tacos. This is why we chose to go with the jalapeno aioli.
One final note, farm-raised catfish generally has a nice clean flavor, but wild-caught catfish will have the flavor of the water you’re fishing in. They are bottom feeders so they can get a “muddy” flavor that soaking in milk won’t solve. We’ve added just enough seasoning, along with the jalapeno and lime, to help tame that off-flavor in case it’s a problem.
- 3/4 cup mayo
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 jalapenos – seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 med. lime – juiced
- 1/2 tsp. Morton's Kosher Salt
- 1 lb. catfish fillets
- 1 pint whole milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. chili powder – or substitute chipotle chili powder (see above)
- 1 1/2 tsp. Morton's Kosher Salt
- 2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Assembly and Toppings
- 12 corn tortillas – 2 per taco
- 1/2 head purple cabbage – finely shredded
- 2 limes – cut into wedges (optional)
- 1 med. avocado – cut into slices
- 1/2 red onion – thinly sliced
Before You Leave Home
- Add all jalapeno aioli ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth. Place in a small resealable container or squirt bottle and store it in your refrigerator until your trip.
- Very finely shred the cabbage and place in a resealable plastic bag.
- Very finely slice the onion and place in an additional resealable plastic bag.
At the Campsite
- Cut catfish into 3/4 inch wide by 4 inch pieces.
- Add milk to a mixing bowl and place the catfish in it.
- In a second mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, chipotle powder, and the kosher salt and black pepper.
- Pour your vegetable oil into your cast iron pot and heat to 350 degrees.
- Dredge the catfish pieces in the flour, shaking off excess, and fry in the oil until golden brown. About 3-4 minutes on the first side, then an additional 1 minute on the other. Be certain that you don't crowd them in the pot.
- Place each catfish on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Preheat your cast-iron skillet until very hot. Toast corn tortillas on each side and place under a towel or in a tortilla warmer.
- Slice your avocados and a couple of limes (if using).
- Assemble your tacos. Take two corn tortillas, add some catfish, top with the shredded cabbage, sliced onion, avocado slices, a squeeze of lime, then a healthy drizzle of jalapeno aioli.