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Low Carb Southern Fish Fry

As I’ve said many times before, down here in the south food is tied inextricably to social affairs.  Your family gets together for Sunday dinner.  Birthdays turn into buffets with extended family and friends.  Church events are often potlucks.  You go out for tacos and margaritas with your coworkers after finishing a tough project.  Your grieving family is buried under piles of food whenever there’s a funeral.  And fundraisers are often thrown in the form of fish fries.

My great aunt and uncle are heavily involved in the local Kiwanis and Jaycees, and every year, like clockwork, we’d get tickets to go to the annual fish fry.  For the price of a ticket, you’d get to load up on all the cornmeal-battered, deep-fried catfish you wanted, along with traditional sides like coleslaw and hushpuppies and french fries and macaroni and cheese.  You’d sit at tables covered with plastic red-and-white checked tablecloths, passing bottles of tartar sauce and ketchup around, listening as donated items were auctioned off to create more funds for donation.  And you could buy pieces of excellent buttermilk or chess or coconut cream pie baked by someone’s grandma for an extra dollar or two.

So I love me a good fish fry.  Fortunately, my Canadian husband also grew up eating fried fish (although he’d usually caught it himself a few hours before), so he’s generally on board when I want to fry up a whole mess of fish.  This is also one of those meals that – gasp! – my Meemaw will eat.

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Just look at that. You know you want to eat it.

Now, the kind of fish you use is up to you.  Down here in the south, we traditionally eat catfish.  It’s both firm and fatty, so it fries up really well, and it’s delicious.  That’s all that Meemaw will eat.  But CB doesn’t care for it – he once told me that catfish are “disgusting bottom-feeders” – so I usually pick something different for the two of us.  He prefers walleye, which I’ve never seen sold at the market around here, so I usually pick out tilapia or cod… again, both of which are fairly firm fish.  That’s important.  You don’t want something that’s really soft or flaky, because it’ll be a nightmare to fry.  Haddock and pollock would probably be good choices, also.

Around here, a pound of catfish costs about $4.99, and a pound of tilapia is about $5.99.  I buy from Kroger, which is slightly cheaper and seems to have a pretty good fresh fish selection.  I’ve also bought from Publix, which is slightly pricier.  And it’s worth noting that I’ve only ever fried “fresh” fish – not the kind that you buy frozen and then have to thaw.  A good portion size is about a half pound per person.

Generally I settle on tilapia for both myself and CB, because it has a mild flavor, is low in mercury, and is high in protein and potassium, an electrolyte that is usually necessary to supplement on a keto diet.

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Ingredients

  • Fresh whitefish suitable for frying – catfish, tilapia, cod, etc, 1/2lb per person
  • One serving of my 3-2-1 Keto Breading per half pound of fish
  • One egg
  • Seasoning of choice – I use either Old Bay or Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
  • Oil for frying (not pictured) – coconut, canola, olive, or hell, even lard or bacon grease

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You can fry a whole filet at a time, or you can cut the fish into bite-sized nuggets, which is what I do.  There’s no difference in taste, but I like to dunk mine like fish sticks into reduced sugar ketchup, so I find the nuggets easier.

Make sure you have your oil heating while you prep the fish.  You can use a deep fryer, but I don’t have one so I just heat my oil in a cast iron skillet on the stove.  You want it deep enough that it will cover the bottom half of the fish – so about a quarter inch deep.

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Follow the directions to my 3-2-1 Keto Breading recipe to make your batter.  At this point add your seasoning.  Old Bay is a more traditional fish fry flavor and is quite good.  Sometimes, though, I prefer to use Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning for a spicier flavor.

You will also need to put together an egg wash.  Traditionally, you would dredge your fish in buttermilk.  However, buttermilk is fairly high in carbs and doesn’t add that much flavor to the fish, so we are going to coat our fish in an egg wash so the batter will stick.  To create an egg wash, use a fork to whip a raw egg in a bowl with a few tablespoons of water.

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Add your fish to the egg wash and coat thoroughly.

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Following its egg wash, dredge the fish through the breading until fully coated.

The oil in your skillet is hot enough for frying when a droplet of water will bounce off of it.

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Add the fish and allow it to fry for about 3 minutes, or until the underside is turning a dark golden brown.  If you have a really thick piece of fish, you may have to fry for closer to 5 minutes.

Use a fork to flip it.

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See how we’re getting some nice browning there?  As the bottom half cooks – again, for about 3 minutes – the top will continue to darken.

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When fish is golden brown on both sides, pull it out of the hot oil and set it on a paper towel to drain while you fry the next batch.  A pound usually takes me 3 rounds in my small cast iron skillet.

At this point I’ll try one of the smaller nuggets.  Usually they’re perfect, but sometimes if I’m looking for a little extra heat I’ll add some more cajun spice right here.

Serve with your choice of side.  I’m not a fan of coleslaw, but that would be a good traditional (and keto-friendly!) pick.  I love these with fresh-cooked green beans with hog jowl, but this particular night we had buttery broccoli.

low carb southern fish fry

Usually this is the time I’d tell you guys the nutritional facts for this meal.  But I’m not going to do that this time, just because this dish is so customizable.  The type of fish you use matters.  The type of oil you use matters.  You can find my 3-2-1 Keto Breading listed in MyFitnessPal, so if I were you, I’d just import that, add in your fish, and measure your oil when you fry this up.  I CAN tell you that this cooking method always turns out crispy, perfectly fried fish that’s reminiscent of down-home southern cornmeal-rolled catfish.  It’s worth giving it a try… maybe especially now that it’s getting close to Lent and many folks will be looking for fish recipes for Friday nights.  This is a good alternate if you’re getting tired of baked salmon or other “healthy” fish dishes, and it still packs a nutritional punch while staying perfectly keto.

As always, if you enjoyed this recipe, would you pretty please consider liking my Facebook page? You could also follow me on Instagram. And I love comments here – let me know how you like a recipe, and/or how you tweak it to make it your own!

(As a disclaimer, the product links are linked to my Amazon Affiliate account. I’ve never used this before but I’m going to give it a shot and see how well it works. In theory, I should get a small kickback if you purchase the product through that link. Product costs are not increased for you, just Amazon gives me a tiny percent of the profit for sending you their way. Maybe I’ll get rich and can retire from this life of crime.)


19 comments

  1. Thank you for this! I can’t wait to try it tonight. I love that the breading is in MFP! Bookmarking your site :)

  2. I made this, it’s not even close to the taste of flour or batter, it’s just ok. I know when I ketose because the tops of my hands get a sizzley feeling. Sometimes I ketose when I don’t expect to at all, for ex., once when I had fried shrimp and french fries at Long John Silvers. This defies the logic of induction atkinsing which causes ketosis! I think that if you have tons of protein with tons of fats it can happen by accident. Therefore, I would prefer to just fry a huge mound of white fish like cod, with a dusting of self-rising flour(works better)in oil and see what happens. I’ll do it soon and let you know if my hands sizzle from ketosis, if they don’t I will also tell you, but either way, I’d say cheat, and eat the flour or batter recipe because this recipe does not meet the need for fried fish/chicken, but great try and thanks for doing this and posting it, it was fun to try and really not bad at all. I’d say sprinkle salt on top before eating. I will say that I had worries that the crumb mixture would burn and not withstand the hot oil, it was not a problem at all, but I cooked it on low and it still did that ultra bubbly thing deep fried things do.

    • This isn’t really supposed to be close to the taste of flour or batter – it’s more similar to a good southern cornmeal coating. It’s definitely close in texture to the cornmeal coating and it has a really good flavor.

      If you don’t enjoy it as a breading, that’s fine! – do what works for you. But I really like it, and several other people have commented positively as well. What’s worth cheating for you may not be worth cheating for others. I know that I don’t even like my fish dredged in flour, so I won’t be doing that.

  3. Guess what we are having for dinner tonight? If it is anything like your Salmon Cakes…it will be delicious!

    • I hope you liked the breading on the fish!! I think from your later reply on my 3-2-1- breading post that you did… lol. It’s so versatile!!

  4. I know this post is over a year old, but I HAD to get on here and rave about this. I am a true southern girl, doing low carb and at times it’s hard as hell especially when I’m in a mood to deep fry.. well… every fricking thing! Earlier today I was moaning because one of my friends had a fish fry and it reminded me how much I missed fried catfish. So I went hunting and found this recipe. I had everything already on hand (such a relief, some recipes out there call for some shit I’ve never even heard of) so I got to work and the results were amazing!

    Nope, this isn’t battered fish people, it’s not long john silvers or whatever. This reminded me of down-home southern fried catfish. I had some cole slaw with it and I was in heaven! Even the bf liked it, and he’s super judgmental when it comes to anything keto or low carb, the twerp. He kept walking past my plate trying to steal another piece until I threatened to stab him with a fork.. I don’t play when it comes to my food >.> <.<

    Anywho, I know this is a long review, but I just wanted to say thank you! You rock and you have a brand new fan!

    • This makes me so happy!! Especially the part where you say “it’s not like john silvers or whatever” because I HATE Long John’s so much, LOL! My whole family seems to love that place and I think it’s freaking disgusting. So that’s pretty much the best compliment you could ever give me!! :)

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I haven’t been writing much lately (in a rut of eating the same old thing, and working two jobs!), but comments like these sure do make me smile :)

  5. I’m trying this tonight. I’m from SC. Yankees do not understand corn meal breading. I have a small hunk of frozen cod to use up. I’m going to slice it into thick sliced so it will cook evenly.

    PS, have you ever tried this on shrimp?

    • I have never tried it on shrimp. I usually find shrimp to be too damn expensive so I don’t buy it. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, though.

      My Canadian inlaws definitely don’t “get” corn meal breading, but I love it! This isn’t exactly the same but it’s the best keto-safe replica I could find. How did it wind up working out for you?

  6. Oh boy, I just realized it needs flax meal and I don’t have that. Oh well.

    • You could always do half and half almond flour and parmesan. I usually just use flax for the health benefits + it’s a helluva lot cheaper than almond meal.

  7. I tried this tonight. Didn’t have the flax meal so i substituted coconut flour and it was good. Not the same as a cornmeal costing but if I can make that pass on a low carb diet without cheating I’ll take it. Excellent recipe

  8. You probably just literally saved my life. Fried fish is my low carb kryptonite…I…just. can’t. resist. it….and I can never stay low carb because I never overcome the craving for cornmeal breaded fried fish. So I took a chance and tried this recipe tonight… I will be honest, I was REALLY doubtful it would taste good and thought the breading would fall off as soon as it hit the grease. I was REALLY leery of the Parmesan cheese, because my brain was like…ummm parmesan and fish…nah, I only do parmesan with scampi or spaghetti… BUT I forged ahead anyway. I took your advice and added Tony Chacheres, Garlic powder and onion powder. My only deviation was that I added a smidgin of coconut milk to my eggwash and I used a deep fryer to cook the fish. IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I will never cook it any other way, and hopefully, I will stay on track now that I have found an awesome recipe. The flavor is bomb and it still has a GREAT crunch! That 3-2-1 Breading is the best breading I’ve ever tried on my low carb journey so far. Thank you so much for sharing this! :)

  9. Thank you for this recipe! I just tried it and it’s just what I needed! I used tilapia, but I can’t wait to try it on shrimp! This will definitely be a staple in my home!

  10. Sooooo good! I have been craving a good “cornmeal” type fried fish, which is a huge no no when eating Keto and this hits the spot. We made this tonight along with some roasted broccoli and Keto cheese bread. I will keep this in our rotation from now on. Thank you for sharing!

    • So glad you liked it! By keto cheese bread, do you mean the fathead dough bread? Or is there another recipe I need to track down?!

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