Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish Fillet

Pan-seared lemon herb catfish fillet is crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, without any breading or frying! It is the healthier version of a traditional cornmeal catfish, bursting with lemon flavor.

Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish

Lemon, thyme, and butter are the best of friends, so I thought they would be perfect for this catfish that my husband caught. We don’t normally eat catfish, but because my husband caught it, and we know exactly where it came from, I’m good with it.

How to Cook Catfish ->

From all of the catfish recipes that I’ve seen, most are breaded in some type of flour or cornmeal batter. But I thought I would go a different route today and just pan-sear them to get that nice crispy texture on the outside. I prefer to use a cast iron for this dish because it yields a nice char on the fish. You want to cook it over medium heat to get the color on the outside, while keeping it flaky on the inside.

Ingredients for Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish

It couldn’t be more simple, you only need a few ingredients, and preferably a cast iron pan if you have one. It just really gives the fish that charred flavor, which is amazing for this. I like to serve it with rice and some type of roasted veggie, but you do what your little heart desires.

  • good quality catfish – my husband caught ours from a lake that our family visits
  • lemon – this really brightens up the dish, I think lemon and fish go so well together
  • dried thyme – this compliments the fresh lemon so well!
  • good quality olive oil – you could also use avocado oil, it is a good neutral flavored oil
  • butter – I used vegan butter, but you can use whatever type of butter you want
  • salt & pepper – we can’t forget the staples
  • fresh parsley – fresh herbs to garnish add pretty color and fresh flavor
Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish

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Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish
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2.64 from 19 votes

Pan-Seared Lemon Herb Catfish

Servings 2


  • 2 catfish fillets
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter or ghee (I used vegan butter)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • parsley for garnish


  • Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter and let it melt.
  • Season both sides of the catfish with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Carefully place the fillets into the skillet.
  • Let them cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then use a large spatula to flip.
  • Squeeze the juice from half a lemon onto the fish as it cooks on the second side. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to remove the fish from the skillet and onto your serving plates. You can squeeze more lemon juice over the top when serving if you want, and garnish with chopped parsley.


  1. I just found your recipe by Googling ‘catfish without breading’ Man ohh man am I glad I did! It was amazing. Both my husband and I spent the whole meal amazed at how delicious it was. I’m bookmarking and will be back again for sure. Thank you!!

  2. My husband loved the catfish without the breading. He just started a diet for theNew Year, He couldn’t believe how tasty it was. Thank you, for the great recipe!

    I used Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic as the seasoning, but followed your directions…FABULOUS!!

  4. Will this work for thicker catfish? I just bought some preseasoned and they are the thickness of chicken breast.

    1. I think it will definitely work, you will probably just have to cook the fish for longer on each side to make sure you cook it all the way through. Those are some big catfish!

      1. I add sweet peppers sliced grape tomatoes and onion…and small amt of couscous…just ate it …yum yum yum….

    1. Thank you so much Candace! What a wonderful post.😀
      It was like hearing from my sister. Can’t wait to try it, I’ve been enjoying cornbread battered catfish lately and am ready for a change.
      One question for you and all; I have trouble cooking with thyme. I love it in many recipes and uses, but it seems too easy to use too much. I’m talking 6-10 bits on my grilled cheese sandwich. (Try it if you haven’t! One side only.)
      So 1.5 tsp seems way over the top. Any input?

      Thanks again,

      By the way… I loved your: (or regular butter) So my sister!

      1. Thanks so much, Duane! I’m glad you liked the post, and I think your sister and I would be great friends 😉 ha! To answer your thyme question, I think it is all about personal preference here. If a little goes a long way for you, then definitely use less than what the recipe calls for. I have had other people tell me that they made this dish and they didn’t mind that amount of thyme. It all just depends on what you like! 🙂

    2. Hi Lisa, Google “how to cook catfish” and use the first selection on corn breaded fillets.
      It is to die for! Don’t make the mistake that I once did… The recipe says to shake off excess flour mixture,
      I piled it on once and had an unappetizing concrete corn coating! I tend to use butter or bacon grease.
      Also, if you are not aware -and my brother is a 26 year veteran at Red Lobster, and he agrees.-
      What Candace says about the: “prettiest little catfish fillets that you ever did see.” is important. Look at the selections closely and you will begin to be able to tell fresh fillets from not so fresh. Trust your gut.
      If it looks yummy buy it!

      Take care,

    3. Also, I don’t know what your taste in fish is… Mine is “not fishy tasting”, i.e. No salmon, herrings, or sardines, which my brother says is like enjoying steak that is not “steak tasting!”
      I enjoy Cod and Haddock, which are meaty and lend themselves to various spices, oils and cooking techniques. If you want to pursue cooking any of these fillets, just Google “How to cook…”
      Hope you enjoy and please let me know if you make any break throughs!

      Take care,

    4. One last thing that I’ve kept forgetting to add… If you are a non fishy tasting type…
      Any fillet with a dark strip down the center, usually 1/2″ to 1-1/2″ wide should be cut out cleanly with a sharp knife. This dark meat holds strong flavor. Others love it!

      Take care and enjoy,

  5. 5 stars
    We enjoyed this recipe that I followed exactly. So flavorful we didn’t even use ketchup! And, as others have said, a nice change from a breaded fillet of catfish. Easy and fast. Yum! Thank you!

2.64 from 19 votes (18 ratings without comment)

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