Cajun Catfish Courtbouillon

This spicy fish stew with a fancy-looking name is a Cajun classic

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes Print Recipe
prep time
cook time

Pronounced koo-bee-yon, this spicy Cajun fish stew is the perfect topper for a bowl of rice or grits. I like to make it with catfish steaks or fillets, but old-time Cajun cooks will tell you it isn’t really courtbouillon if you don’t make it with a catfish head or two.

The recipe calls for a quart of fish stock. If you still have the bones from your catfish, use those to make your own stock by slowly simmering the bones (remove the gills, which can impart a bitter flavor) in a gallon of water with a teaspoon or so of salt. After 1 to 2 hours, let the stock cool and strain it to remove any loose bones. Reserve 1 quart for this recipe and freeze the rest to use down the road for any seafood recipe that needs a little added liquid.

Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful broth.

Like any Cajun recipe, the base for this one starts with a roux. You’ll want it pretty dark for added flavor. The most important part of making a roux is to never turn your back on it. Roux will burn in an instant. And a burned roux can’t be salvaged. Stir almost constantly until the flour and oil reach the color you are looking for, in this case, a little darker than peanut butter.

Like most Cajun recipes, this one starts with a roux.


2 to 3 pounds catfish steaks

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 quart fish or seafood stock

2 14-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped green onions 

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons garlic salt

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

Cooking Instructions

Cut the catfish into serving-size steaks. Leaving it in large pieces like this keeps it from falling apart as it cooks. 

Cut the catfish into serving-sized steaks.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, start by adding the oil, then the flour. Using a wooden spoon or a whisk, stir the two until they come together in a roux. Keep stirring. As the roux cooks, it will begin to take on a darker color. When your roux has reached the color of a dark peanut butter, it’s ready. This one took around 30 minutes.

Add the Cajun trinity — diced onion, bell pepper, and celery — to the roux and cook until they are soft.

Add the peppers, celery, and onions. Stir to coat the vegetables with the roux. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring the pot to a simmer.

Simmer the ingredients except for the fish.

Add all remaining ingredients except the fish. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Add the fish and continue cooking another 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes apart.

Add the fish to the broth and continue simmering until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily.

Taste for salt and add more, if needed. Serve over rice with a piece of crusty bread to sop up any remaining broth.

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