HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


What does catfish taste like?

I always wanted to try fried catfish but have never worked up the nerve because I am afraid I won't like it. But then again anything fried tastes good right?? I have had fried flounder but does catfish have its own distinct flavor?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. it's like a sweet white fleshy fish

    1. What's not to like?

      My taste buds are old and numbed by years of spicy food, but as far as I can tell catfish is just plain white mild fish, with a moist and succulent texture - you gonna love it! (Pardon me, it's a Southern favorite - "Bless yo' heart, ahm sure y'all will just love it!"

      1. I too am a big fan of catfish. Probably my favourite freshwater fish.

        I don't see why you don't just go ahead and try it. It's not like you're ordering caviar or a lobster. If you don't like it, don't eat it. It won't set you back very much.


        1. I don't know, I put cod and roughy in the plain, white, mild fish category. Catfish has a twangy taste (for lack of a better word) that defies my attempt at classification. If it's fried, and it mostly is, there is a taste in the background, behind the cornmeal coating plucking on a banjo.

          1. I agree with the above but I do know that my friends who aren't crazy about seafood usually esp. don't like catfish because it can be fishier than a lot of other fish.

            1. The current farm raised catfish is very mild and certainly not fishy in my opinion. The "old story" on catfish was that it was muddy tasting. This might have been true back in the days when catfish was lline caught from ponds and rivers. Being from the south, a big platter of golden fried catfish with some hushpuppies and cole slaw is a dinner to enjoy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rtmonty

                Wild catfish can be very fishy but farm raised cats are very mild, almost like the breast meat of chicken. I like catfish because it is so mild that I can do anything with it. Its a great palette for other flavors.

                It is easy to cook and doesn't over-cook quickly like many fish do.
                I do make certain that any farm raised catfish is raised in the US because I don't trust the food safety of China or other asian countries.

              2. I'd add that one should really not order catfish in the summer time, as when the water is hot, the fish will go deep into the mud and thus taste very muddy.

                Also, food service catfish is sometimes from very far away places, Korea, Vet Nam, some such, and is really mushy and REALLY tastes like dirt. I'd recommend that you ask your fishmonger what their brand is fed upon. Some fish farmers feed dog kibble to their ponds (You know, chicken feathers, etc...). Blech. If the fish man doesn't know, shop elsewhere.

                  1. I personally like to refer to the flavour of the catfish as "musty"... and there are other fishes that I'd identify as tasting like dirt (which seems to be more common for freshwater fish). Of course, that may just mean that I haven't had a really good piece of catfish. Also, thanks for the heads up, Lee.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Blueicus

                      I love catfish. And they DO sometimes have a very slight taste of the earth. I think it's that you probably have a very acute palate. Sometimes that taste is much less pronounced. I've found if the fish is wild caught you won't taste the mustiness much at all. With farm raised catfish, the musty taste is stronger.

                    2. I'll take the pond or river caught catfish anyday for flavor. I used to think farm-raised catfish had a chemical aroma but haven't bought it in several years. I rely on a couple of restaurants for my catfish fix -- I know they almost certainly use farm-raised but they have carefully selected suppliers and it's better than I can find in supermarkets.

                      Basa is correct name of the farm-raised Vietnamese 'catfish' that has been appearing in US markets. Some restaurantuers have no idea what they're serving. A reporter here investigated this a couple of years ago and found one restaurant manager (part of a chain) genuinely surprised when he turned over the box his catfish fillets came in and saw it said 'Product of Vietnam.'

                      1. Thanks for everything guys. I tried catfish tonight and had fried catfish tacos. They were amazing!!!! Now I know I like catfish....great discovery for me

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: steakrules85

                          Assume you'll now change to "catfishrules86"?

                        2. I lived in rural Georgia for several years during grad school and me and my two female roommates lived off the land in many ways. We hunted and grew a 1/4 acre kitchen garden. We had fish traps for catfish (and snapping turtles) and they were around 15% of our protein supply. I hated the catfish because they were often muddy tasting. Commercially farmed catfish sometimes have that muddy taste as well, and as someone else said a musty taste. Also I found that farmed catfish sometimes had a mushy texture to it. I haven't had any catfish in a dozen years and have no ambition to ever eat any again.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JMF

                            We had catfish from our local slough from time to time. Mom would clean and skin them, and then soak them overnight in salty water before frying them. The soak was to remove the muddy taste.

                            I never heard of fish traps for catfish. Sounds like a good idea.

                          2. i agree with the 'musty' description. and i have been getting the 'dirt' taste in a major way from the frozen asian basa i get in the grocery store, which is really making me not even want to cook it anymore.

                            there's been almost a grittiness to some catfish or basa that i've had, and i don't like that at all.

                            1. the worlds largest catfish from national geographic:


                              1. Is there a difference between Catfish and Hornpout or Bullheads?

                                In the river next to my home, and even in some of the ponds near me, I've been catching these for years, and we always called them Hornpout or Bullheads.

                                Growing up, the name was never important, just catching them and frying them up.

                                They look just like Catfish and now I'm wondering if these are all the same fish, or if there is any difference?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                  There are many different types of catfish. In the US I think there are five types of catfish: Blue, Bullhead, Channel, Flathead, and White catfish.

                                  Then there are two types of Bullhead Catfish, the Yellow Bullhead and the Black or Brown Bullhead.

                                  Hornpouts or Horned Pouts are another name for the Black Bullhead catfish

                                  1. re: JMF

                                    Thank's for the clarifications.
                                    I can't recall if I ever had farm raised catfish, but these varities I catch taste great.

                                2. I LOVE catfish, hmmm, maybe I just like mud! To me it actually tastes kind of sweet. No other fish has that juicy texture for me. Haddock comes close, but it's a totally different taste...also delicious.

                                  1. Farm-raished catfish are actually preferable to wild catfish in my humble opinion. In my experience, I've found that wild catfish do have a muddy taste in the center...and there is no better word for it than "muddy"...the middle tastes like dirt while the ends don't seem to collect that flavor. I haven't noticed that taste in farm-raised catfish.

                                    1. Small Bullhead and Speckled Trout are very similar in taste and texture - at least here in Ontario. And yes, I have friends who complain of a "muddy" backtaste in Specks. This fish demands clear, cold, oxygenated water. i want some of that mud.

                                      I've never tried our larger Channel Cats.

                                      1. I've never had fried catfish that I didn't really like! It's my favorite fish. I also love mullet.

                                        1. I'd never had it until about 6 months ago- they fried up a bunch at work. It tasted like generic fried fish- so did the hush puppies (same oil) - I asked for a piece unfried so I could broil it real quick (I can't handle a lot of deep fried food) but someone else snagged it!
                                          I would try it again, but wasn't overly impressed with it.

                                          1. There's a distinct muddy taste to it. Your first time you might want to try fried.

                                            It's distinctive like a dirty sock in a drawer full of clean ones.

                                            1. I've always liked catfish. The fried and grilled has a different distinctive flavor and taste. Combined well with fresh basil. Otherwise I feel the taste more like stale chicken.

                                              1. Of course, it depends on whether you are talking about wild caught or farm raised.

                                                1. 30-40 years ago, I found it to be a bit "fishy" for me, but in the recent 10-20 years, I've found it to be a very mild flavored fish. I suspect most all commercial catfish today is farm raised & thus all very mild in flavor.

                                                  If you like flounder, sole, cod, tilapia and other various whitefish, you will enjoy it. Key for fried is a minimum batter (as with any fish), preferred being dusted in corn meal. Heavier batters pull in too much grease.

                                                  1. I discovered it this summer. The muddy taste is in the brown meat, take it out! The white flesh is very good, not a light taste though, but not strong either.

                                                    I also soak it in milk about an 1 hour with a table spoon of salt to tenderize the meat, and to prevent rubbery texture if I overcooked it. It also reduce the fish taste for delicate palate.

                                                    Then wash it, pad dry it, roll it in cornmeal or simply flour, fry it in a light taste oil, and Voila!

                                                    Your favourite spice and herbs will do the rest. Personally, I love it with a pinch of Cajun spice.