This Air Fryer Tilapia is a great way to get crispy fried fish without all the oil and grease of deep frying. The crunchy exterior gets golden brown in the air fryer in just 15 minutes.
This recipe uses and egg wash and breadcrumbs with flour and spices to make an easy breading for the fish. You won’t need a lot of oil, but a quick spray on both sides of the breading will help make it that crispy, golden brown exterior you crave.
The only thing you want to keep in mind when cooking in the air fryer is that you can really only cook what fits on the surface of the basket. You can overlap the fish a little bit, but the more it overlaps, the less crispy the exterior will get. It needs air circulation to crisp up.
I have a 5 quart air fryer basket, and I can easily fit 2 pieces of tilapia in the basket with very little overlap. If you want to make 4 or more servings, they’ll turn out best if you cook them in 2 batches. You can place the cooked pieces of fish on a wire rack while you’re waiting for the other pieces to cook. Then reheat them all for 1 minute in the air fryer at the end.
Air Fryer Tilapia Ingredients
I like to bread the tilapia before cooking it in the air fryer. With just a little bit of oil on the breading, it makes a perfectly crispy piece of fish that can be eaten alongside your favorite side dish. You can use it for fish tacos or fish sandwiches, as well.
Of course you don’t have to bread the fish, if you’d rather not add those extra calories from the breading. Just season the fish directly and cook it for 5-6 minutes per side.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:
- Two tilapia filets (you can also use cod, halibut, mahi mahi, etc)
- Buttermilk or cream (optional)
- All-purpose flour
- Garlic Salt
- Ground black pepper
How to Make Air Fryer Tilapia
The easiest way to bread the fish is to make two dredging stations. One bowl with egg and buttermilk. Whisk those together. And one plate with breadcrumbs, flour, paprika, garlic salt, salt and pepper mixed together.
Dredge the tilapia through the egg mixture. Allow any extra to run off before dredging through the breadcrumbs. Make sure you flip the fish in the breadcrumbs and move it around a bit to fully coat the fish.
Spray the fish evenly with cooking oil. I use an olive oil spray. You can use Pam cooking spray. You just want to make sure you can get a nice even coating of oil without over-saturating it. This will help get the breadcrumbs crispy. If you don’t use oil, the breadcrumbs may be a little floury and dry.
Pre-heat the air fryer to 350 degrees for 2-3 minutes. It’s good to let the fish rest for these few minutes, so the coating has a chance to stick to the surface. Cook for 10 minutes on one side, then flip and cook another 5 minutes on the other side.
Additional Questions About Air Fryer Tilapia
Tilapia should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F. Usually you can tell that fish is cooked through when it’s no longer transparent, but with the breading it’s hard to tell. As long as the fish isn’t more than 1 1/2″ thick and wasn’t frozen, it will cook through in 15 minutes. If you’re not sure, use a meat thermometer.
Yes, you can cook the tilapia from frozen in the air fryer. It will take an additional 5 minutes, so cook on both sides for 10 minutes. It’s always good to check the internal temperature of the fish before serving when you’ve started from frozen, just to be sure. Keep in mind that the breadcrumbs won’t be able to properly adhere to a frozen piece of fish.
Yes, you can use any type of fish you want for this recipe. I’ve used cod, mahi mahi, mackarel, trout, and halibut. If the piece of fish is thicker than 1 1/2″, you may need to cook it longer.
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Air Fryer Tilapia
- 2 pieces Tilapia 200g or 7oz
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tbsp buttermilk or cream
- Mix together the breadcrumbs, flour, paprika, garlic salt, salt and pepper on a plate.
- In a bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk and whisk together.
- Dredge the tilapia through the egg then through the breadcrumbs to coat. Spray evenly with cooking oil.
- Pre-heat the air fryer to 350 degrees for 2-3 minutes. Cook for 10 minutes on one side, then flip and cook an additional 5 minutes.
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Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.