Buttery Catfish in a Creamy Shallot Sauce

Catfish is often covered in a bulletproof coating of cornmeal and spices or drowned in a heavy, highly seasoned sauce. This leads one to believe that the main point of catfish recipes is to draw your taste bud’s attention away from the fish itself. This is a shame, because the flavor of catfish is actually quite delicate and pleasant, and rarely fishy. If you don’t believe us, try our recipe for Buttery Catfish with Creamy Shallot Sauce and just see if it doesn’t change your mind.

In this recipe the fish is seasoned only with salt, topped with a creamy shallot, butter and coconut milk sauce and finished with a garnish of chives. The catfish soaks up the rich sauce and whatever remains you’ll be tempted to lick right off the plate. “Buttery” is a good way to describe both the sauce and the texture of the fish – every bite melts in your mouth. You can use this recipe with any type of seafood but there are many reasons to give catfish a try.

Catfish has a tender texture that is hard to overcook, which makes it more fool-proof than some other types of fish. You can prepare it any way you like, although methods that crisp up the outside a little bit provide a nice contrast to the moist interior. Catfish is often one of the more affordable choices at the seafood counter and as we discussed last week, American farm-raised catfish has very few toxins and a decent amount of fatty-acids. Best of all, a fillet takes only about 8 minutes to cook which means you can have this elegant (yes, we are calling catfish elegant) meal on the table in less than 15 minutes.

2 –3 servings


  • 2 catfish fillets (about 1 pound of fish)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Finely chopped chives for garnish


Pat the fish dry and lightly salt.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté shallot about 30 seconds.

Add butter. When the butter is completely melted add the catfish.

Let fry about 4 minutes on each side. If the fish is really sticking to the pan, it’s probably not ready to flip yet.

Remove the fish from the skillet.

Turn heat down to medium and add lemon juice.

Scrape up the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan then add coconut milk. Let boil about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Pour over catfish. Garnish with chives.

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30 thoughts on “Buttery Catfish in a Creamy Shallot Sauce”

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  1. Sounds awesome! I almost made my bro buy catfish the other day. We enjoyed king crab instead.

  2. I wonder how other fish would fare prepared like that. What fish I cook is very often dependent on what my neighbors caught too much of over the weekend.

    1. I’ve started fishing myself and there’s so much satisfaction to eating what you catch. Besides saving the money you’d pay at the store, it just doesn’t get any more fresh than some hours old fillets on the grill.

      1. Agreed. Freshness is everything with fish. I’ve eaten fish that was out of the water for just minutes, and there is nothing like it. Crappie and Bluegills are some of the finest tasting fish too, often passed up by many anglers, and with liberal limits (50 per day, each species) you can really eat.

  3. Wow, that sounds fantastic! I will definitely try this.

    @Primal Toad Mmmm, I could really go for King Crab right about now. :3

  4. That looks so good. I’m going to use this recipe with other fish as well. Simple and easy.

  5. I cannot understand the rationale behind buying pricy cuts of meat and covering up the flavor with seasonings that can sometimes double the price.

    I’ve always been a big fan of seared Salmon with a spoonful of Butter. I think I’ll try Catfish and Butter now.

    Any other food minimalist out there?

  6. Sweet! I don’t know if you intended this to be a followup to your post on the 18th about purchasing fish from a fish market, but a very appropriate decision either way.

    How do you come up with these recipes?

  7. This sounds excellent. I do not have any catfish, but just caught a bunch of Black Rockfish yesterday. I am going to try it out with the rockfish tonight.

  8. I just tried this recipe, but without the butter, for a dairy-free version. I used coconut oil instead of the butter. Mmmmm, super duper yummy. And served with sides of steamed green beens and carrots, it was so delish!

  9. Tasty recipe! A bit on the citrusy side; I suggest only using the juice from half a lemon if you get one of those giant mutants from Whole Foods.

  10. While in general I refuse to eat catfish unless I’m in Mississippi, the catfish has been breaded and deep fried, and is served all-you-can-eat along with AYCE coleslaw and sweet tea….this recipe looks darn good. I think I’ll try it first with some other fish I have in the freezer.

  11. Just tried this with some tilapia. Very VERY good. I paired it with some mashed cauliflower and the whole meal was wonderful.

  12. Oooh that looks fantastic! I’ve been so stuck on salmon and haddock; time to expand the fish repetoire!

  13. Made this last night with snapper, turned out beautiful! I was practically licking the pan and spoon clean

  14. Saw this pop up so I picked up some catfish and tried this tonight. It was so good that I did lick the plate. That part didn’t endear me to the ladyfriend, but she liked the dish 😀

  15. Just made this tonight and it was OMG good! My husband was practically licking the plate. If you haven’t made this yet – get to it!

  16. This is great. The catfish came out so flaky and light. 1 filet is definitely not enough tho.

  17. Had this a few days ago. It was terrific. I think I’ll halve the lemon juice next time.

  18. I’m really glad someone mentioned rockfish in the comments, because it led me to this recipe last night when I was trying to figure out what to do with the rockfish I bought yesterday. Rockfish is a lot like catfish, so it’s a great match. This recipe worked out extremely well, but I did make some adjustments/additions. When I saw all the butter and shallots in the pan, I was inspired to throw in some sliced mushrooms; so glad I did! I used 2-3 oz of heavy whipping cream instead of coconut milk since I had some open already. And I seasoned with lemon pepper instead of chives. My girlfriend raved about the result — delicious! Plus, with all that good fat, we weren’t hungry at all until the next morning. This is why I always search MDA for recipes!

  19. I am going to try this but I have almond milk instead of coconut milk. I am not sure if that is a good substitute. Any thoughts?

  20. Very simple meal to make, made it with roasted squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. I doubled the recipe, & added extra lemon… Very Fresh. Would I prepare and serve again? YES.