Step-By-Step How To Make Catfish Stew (South Carolina Recipe)

As the months start to fade to fall, there are three things I look forward to. College Football, cooler weather, and soups and stews. Nothing warms you up like a nice pot of soup or a stew. I have many favorites that I like to make, but one of them has to be Catfish Stew.

The abundant catfish that live in the southern lakes are a delicacy in the south. Catfish is a moist, slightly sweet, and flaky texture. One of the main things on catfish fillets is taking out the bloodline before cooking them. This darker meat can have a strong fishy taste and removing it is the best practice. You are left with pearly white fillets that are moist and delicate. 

Considered by many as a South Carolina Traditional dish, Catfish stew combines tomatoes, bacon, potatoes, and Catfish filets to make a hearty and filling stew. Catfish stew was a staple along the banks of many fish camps back in the early days. Come along as I so you how to make catfish stew, South Carolina Style. 

In this Catfish stew recipe, the catfish breaks apart during the cooking process. You really don’t see much of it once it has cooked down to the consistency that I prefer. This is what makes a great southern catfish stew that is sure to please your taste bud!

Ingredients-What you will need to Make South Carolina Catfish Stew

Catfish Fillets

If you can get fresh catfish fillets, as in you caught them yourself, those are best. If not you can buy them from most grocery stores. 

Here are a few species of catfish that are in most southern waters. 

Channel Catfish: These are the most common catfish that people eat. These are very tasty but stay away from larger ones. Larger fish tend to be a little stronger in taste. I like to keep catfish that are under 10lbs for eating. Also, your larger fish is your breeder fish that helps replenish the waters. 

Blue Catfish: In my opinion, this is the best eating catfish in the freshwaters. Again try to stay away from larger ones. Larger ones can be stronger and are also breeder fish. 

Large Blue Catfish
Large Blue Catfish caught on Lake Wylie, SC

Flathead Catfish: These are very good eating catfish as well. Really all of these species make great fried fish except for the Bullhead catfish. 

Bullhead Catfish: In my opinion, this is not a good eating catfish. You will also hear these called by the name of mudcat or mudfish. 

Potatoes

I like to use red potatoes or russet potatoes. You will need about 8 potatoes for this recipe. 

Onions

2 medium onions. I like to dice the onions up into smaller pieces.

Bacon

Bacon is what really makes this dish. The smokey flavor of the bacon is really what sets this fish recipe apart from others.

I like to use a good quality thick-cut bacon to render out the fat. I cut the bacon into small pieces and  I will place the bacon in a large pot with my heat on medium-high heat then cook the bacon until the fat renders out. This is how I start this catfish stew recipe. 

Celery

2 to 3 Celery Stalks

Garlic

I will use 2 to 3 garlic cloves

Tomato Paste

I use one can of tomato paste

Diced Tomatoes

2 cans of diced tomatoes or diced fresh tomatoes if you have them.

Seasonings:

Worcestershire sauce

Can you say it? Because I sure can’t haha. This recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce

I like to use Texas Pete or Franks Red Hot for this Catfish Stew Recipe. 2 tablespoons is what I recommend. If you like it hotter, then you can use more. You can always let the individuals add more as they dip out their bowls when they are ready to eat it. 

Salt

I like to use sea salt or kosher salt. I feel regular table salt can give your dish an off-taste. I recommend adding in just a small amount of salt to start with. 1 teaspoon of salt should be a good starting point. Let it cook for a little while then taste it. 

Black Pepper

I like to use black pepper in this dish. I do not add in too much since I add in hot sauce but Black pepper has a nice warm and woody flavor that really adds depth to this dish. Start with 1 teaspoon.

Water

You will need roughly 2 quarts or 8 cups of water.

How to Cook:

Step 1: Start with a large heavy bottom pot or large dutch oven

Step 2: Cut up the bacon into small 1-inch pieces. Put in the dutch oven and turn the heat on to medium-high heat. We want to start rendering out the fat of the bacon. 

Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni

Step 3: Once the bacon has started rendering the fat out, we will next put in our celery, onions, and garlic. Let them cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the celery and onions become translucent. Make sure to stir often so as not to burn the garlic and onions. 

Catfish Stew

Step 4: Add in the water. Next, add the tomato paste and hot sauce. You can also add in the seasonings at this point too. Bring the mixture up to a boil and stir to incorporate the tomato paste. 

Step 5: Add in the potatoes once the tomato paste has been incorporated, turn the heat down to medium heat. 

Step 6: Add in the catfish fillets.  As the catfish fillets are cooking, I like to use my wooden spoon to break the fillets up. 

Step 7: I like to let the potatoes cook down really well. I will usually let this go on a simmer for roughly an hour and a half to two hours. This will cause the catfish stew to thicken up slightly as the potatoes cook down and the stew reduces. The total time will vary on how you like your stew. I like mine to thicken up a bit. Make sure to add a little water to it if it cooks down too much. 

Step: 8 Once it has gotten to the right consistency, it is time to serve it. Ladle out the stew into a bowl. Serve with saltine crackers and hot sauce. 

FAQ’s

Can I Use Olive Oil or Vegetable oil instead of Bacon?

Yes. You Can use olive oil or vegetable oil instead of bacon if you are looking for a healthy alternative. I will say that bacon is part of what gives this Catfish Stew recipe its unique flavor.

Can I Add in Cajun Seasoning?

Yes, you could add in cajun seasoning as well. Check out this Homemade Cajun Seasoning recipe.

Cajun seasoning

What Can I Add to Make The Catfish Stew spicer?

If you want to make the catfish spicer, you could add in some red pepper flakes, Cayenne pepper, or just add in some more hot sauce. If I am serving to a large crowd or my family, I will let them add in more of the spicer ingredients if they wish when they get their own bowl.

Can I Add Other Vegetables to this Dish?

Yes. You can add many other vegetables to this dish such as red bell peppers, green bell pepper, and okra to name a few. This catfish recipe is the basic recipe that is known from deep south cooking. From here you can make your own recipe.

What other spices and seasoning can I use?

Some people like to add in bay leaves, thyme leaves, Oregano leaves, and even a tablespoon of chili powder. Again, you can make this your own recipe but I am giving you the starting point.

Photo by Victoria Bowers

Side Dishes To Serve Catfish Stew With?

How To Make Catfish Stew (South Carolina Recipe)

Catfish stew is a hearty and filling stew that combines Catfish fillets, potatoes, tomatoes, and bacon. It originated in South Carolina and is loved by many in this local region. This recipe will show you how to make catfish stew.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Servings 10 People

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs Catfish Fillets
  • 1 lb Thick Cut Bacon
  • 2 medium Onions Diced
  • 2-3 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2-3 Stalks Celery
  • 8 Potatoes Diced into 1/2 inch cubes. Red or Russet potatoes
  • 2 cans Diced tomatoes
  • 2 Quarts Water
  • 1 Can Tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce Texas Pete or Franks Red Hot is what I prefer
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Step 1: Start with a large heavy bottom pot or large dutch oven. 
  • Step 2: Cut up the bacon into small 1-inch pieces. Put in the dutch oven and turn the heat on to medium-high heat. We want to start rendering out the fat of the bacon. 
  • Step 3: Once the bacon has started rendering the fat out, we will next put in our celery, onions, and garlic. Let them cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the celery and onions become translucent. Make sure to stir often so as not to burn the garlic and onions.
  •  
    Step 4: Add in the water. Next, add the tomato paste and hot sauce. You can also add in the seasonings at this point too. Bring the mixture up to a boil and stir to incorporate the tomato paste.
  • Step 5: Add in the potatoes once the tomato paste has been incorporated, turn the heat down to medium heat. 
  • Step 6: Add in the catfish fillets.  As the catfish fillets are cooking, I like to use my wooden spoon to break the fillets up.
  • Step 7: I like to let the potatoes cook down really well. I will usually let this go on a simmer for roughly an hour or two.  This will cause the catfish stew to thicken up slightly as the potatoes cook down and the stew reduces. Make sure to add a little water to it if it cooks down too much.
  • Step: 8 Once it has gotten to the right consistency, it is time to serve it. Ladle out the stew into a bowl. Serve with saltine crackers and hot sauce. 

Video

Notes

I like to cook my stew until the potatoes start to fall apart. Normally 2-3 hours simmer on low heat. If you do not like your potatoes like this you can cook it for about an hour and it will still be great. The potatoes help to thicken it up a bit once they start to fall apart.
Keyword Catfish Stew, how to make catfish stew (South Carolina Recipe), South Carolina Catfish Stew

I hope you really enjoyed this article on how to make catfish stew! Please leave me feedback and let me know what you think!

Also, check out one of these recipes:

Marinade for Smoked Beef Jerky
Chicken Bog | A Traditional South Carolina Dish
Southern Food Junkie Chili
Brunswick Stew
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4 thoughts on “Step-By-Step How To Make Catfish Stew (South Carolina Recipe)

  1. Reply
    Jim Taylor - June 25, 2021

    Good recipe Add onions to the Ingredients list

    1. Reply
      Southern Food Junkie - October 5, 2021

      Thanks, I will get that added.

  2. Reply
    Joyce Goodwin - May 22, 2022

    Basically that’s how my father used to fix his and it was delicious thanks for your recipe!!

    1. Reply
      Ronnie Williams - May 24, 2022

      You are welcome! Glad to know he made it like this too. One day I hope to get a better picture of it haha. Thanks again.

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