Blackened Catfish And Summery Corn Salsa Recipe

The American South has a long culinary history, especially in states like Louisiana that are rich in cuisines like Cajun and Creole. Catfish became a regional favorite because of how easily available the fish was in Southern waters, and was usually breaded with cornmeal and fried to mask the somewhat-muddy flavor. Not only this, but frying was the quickest method of preparation, and fish fries became a staple in the American South. 

Blackening didn't become a popular technique until the 1980's, when according to Alabama Seafood, Chef Paul Prudhomme seared a heavily seasoned redfish in a hot cast iron skillet to replicate the grill's smokey flavor. The dish became an instant classic, and has since been used on many sturdy fish, one of which being catfish. 

Catfish holds up well to the high-heat technique and blackens beautifully when covered in butter. Paired with a summery corn salsa, which developer Michelle McGlinn pairs with Italian-inspired tomato and basil, you'll have a totally new, healthy version of a delicious soul food staple.

Gathering the ingredients for blackened catfish and summery corn salsa

The first thing you'll need is, of course, catfish filets. These can be hard to locate if you live in Northern states. First, try the fishmonger for fresh filets, and if you're out of luck, look for catfish in the frozen sections. Stores like Walmart always have frozen catfish filets, which are just as good once thawed.

For the blackening seasoning, grab smoked paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Don't use the fresh stuff here; for blackening it's important to use ground spices. What's also non-negotiable is the butter, which is what is truly "blackening" in this technique. We use unsalted, so if you use salted butter, adjust the added salt to taste.

For the salsa, you'll just need corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes, basil, red onion, olive oil, and lime. If you don't have time to char the corn, you can also use frozen corn kernels, instead.

Season and butter the fish

Blackening is a process that chars the spices on a protein by cooking at extremely high heat. It's ideal for fish because the thin, flaky filets will cook all the way through in the short amount of time in the skillet. While the spices are bound to char, the real reason blackening works (and doesn't just taste burnt) is because of the butter. As butter heats up it turns brown, and during blackening, the butter will caramelize to a deep brown color as the fish sears. To do this without burning the butter, melt the butter first. Firmly press the seasonings onto the fish, then brush the butter over the seasonings to lock them in. Do this right before cooking so the butter doesn't solidify.

Blackening the fish

With the catfish seasoned and buttered, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with oil (anything but olive oil), and once you see a few wisps of smoke, add the catfish. If your skillet is smoking profusely, remove it from the heat and start over — the skillet is too hot and the oil is likely burned.

Don't touch the catfish once you add it to the skillet. Allow the fish to cook for 1-2 minutes, charring the underside completely. Flip the fish and char the other side. If either side is less dark than you'd prefer, just flip and sear again.

Prepping the corn for the salsa

Nothing really beats summertime sweet corn, so if you have a little extra time, try using it fresh in the salsa. Char the corn first for a smokier flavor — you can do this on the grill, or like us, broil the cobs. Lightly spray the corn with cooking oil, then place them on a foil-lined sheet a few inches from the broiler. Cook until the kernels begin to char, rotating often, about 10-15 minutes. Let the charred corn cool, then carefully slice the kernels from the cob.

Mix the salsa together

In a large bowl, add the corn, basil, tomato, onion, lime juice, and olive oil and mix together until all the vegetables are glossy. Sprinkle with salt to taste, then let rest for a few minutes before serving to let the flavors marinate.

Serving blackened catfish

Serve the fish while warm and top with the fresh corn salsa. The salsa tastes like an updated Caprese salad and perfectly cools down the spicy catfish. Both save well and make perfect meal prep options, too. We recommend storing the catfish and salsa in separate containers for easy reheating. Just throw the catfish in the microwave until heated through, and you'll have a seriously flavorful lunch in less than a minute. This dish pairs well with most carb options, too, and we recommend trying it with rice, grits, or grilled potatoes. Feeling traditional? You could even pair it with a saucy spaghetti.

Blackened Catfish And Summery Corn Salsa Recipe
5 from 47 ratings
Paired with a summery corn salsa, this blackened catfish offers a healthy version of a delicious soul food staple.
Prep Time
Cook Time
catfish sliced on plate
Total time: 29 minutes
  • 2 ears corn on the cob, shucked
  • 1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 10 basil leaves, chiffonade sliced
  • Juice from ½ a lime
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  1. Turn the broiler to high and arrange a rack 4 inches below broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Lightly spray the corn with cooking spray, then place on the baking sheet and broil until soft and beginning to char. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the blackening seasoning. Add the paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to a bowl. Whisk to combine the seasonings.
  4. Spoon 1 tablespoon of seasoning mix over each filet and rub, using your fingers, until completely coated. Flip the filets and repeat on the other side, coating the entire filet.
  5. Brush the tops of the catfish with butter.
  6. Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Spray the pan lightly with oil. Once the pan is beginning to smoke (but not smoking rapidly), add the catfish, buttered-side down. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until catfish has blackened.
  7. Brush butter on the top side and flip, cooking until blackened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet.
  8. To make the salsa, slice the corn kernels away from the cob and place in a bowl. Mix with tomatoes, onion, basil, lime juice, and olive oil. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, adding more as needed to taste.
  9. Serve the blackened catfish with the corn salsa. To tame heat, serve with lime wedges.
Calories per Serving 319
Total Fat 24.5 g
Saturated Fat 8.2 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 25.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 26.2 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Total Sugars 3.2 g
Sodium 470.7 mg
Protein 4.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe