A little preparation goes a long way with this delicious catfish cake and avocado salsa recipe. The freshness of homemade salsa and subtle smokiness of the catfish makes for the perfect spin on a classic dish. 

This recipe was developed in conjunction with the Viking Cooking School.   

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 4+ hours

Cook time: 45 minutes


Catfish Brine:

  • 2 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1  ¼ tablespoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound Heartland Catfish fillets

Avocado Salsa:

  • ¼ small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded (if desired) and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon) or to taste
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and finely diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Special Instructions
Stovetop smoker; hardwood smoking chips

COMBINE brown sugar, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Press the mixture onto the surface of the catfish. Marinate for 4 hours or up to overnight. REMOVE catfish from the marinade, and wipe dry with a paper towel. Let the catfish air-dry for 30 minutes.

REMOVE the food rack and drip tray from the stovetop smoker. Place the chips in the bottom of the smoker; cover the chips with the drip tray and food rack. PLACE the catfish on the rack; place the smoker over high heat until the first wisps of smoke appear. Close the smoker lid tightly, reduce the heat and let rest for 10 more minutes, with the lid still closed.



TRANSFER catfish to a plate to rest. When cooled, use a fork to break into large flakes.




STIR together mayonnaise, egg, green onions, parsley, Creole mustard, cayenne and hot sauce in a medium bowl. Stir in 2 cups of the panko. Gently fold in the catfish, being careful not to break up the flakes. Place mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes. FORM the mixture into 3-inch cakes about 1-inch thick. Place the remaining cup of panko in a shallow dish. Press cakes into the breadcrumbs, gently coating both sides.

COMBINE red onion, green onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl; stir to combine. STIR in tomatoes and avocado gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

HEAT canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Fry cakes until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. SERVE warm, topped with avocado salsa.