Today’s air fryer tilapia recipe is the perfect choice if you’re craving a light meal or brunch. Ready within 40 minutes, our air fryer tilapia is crispy on the outside while juicy and flakey on the inside.
It’s easy, mess-free, and packed with flavor. With only one and a half tablespoons of oil, it still tastes as good as when deep fried.
Is Air-Fried Tilapia Healthy?
Tilapia is a broad term for freshwater fishes called cichlids, which belong to the Cichlidae family. Its flesh is firm and white and has a mild, delicate flavor.
Tilapia is now the fourth-most consumed seafood in the US, along with cod, crab, and clams. It’s available at most local grocery stores at a very reasonable price.
Tilapia offers the consumer a lean source of protein as well as vitamin B12, potassium, and phosphorus. Containing large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, tilapia is also linked with reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Not only is our air fryer tilapia recipe easy to prepare, but it can also be paired with any seasoning to make an assortment of dishes. It’s also freezer-friendly and kid-friendly.
In our air fryer tilapia recipe, the fish is seasoned with spices, then breaded with panko to achieve a crunchy crust when frying. For this reason, this dish might not be compatible with keto and other low-carb diets.
With 485 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate, and 23.2 grams of fat per serving, this recipe is a healthy option for fried-fish lovers. The dressing for the vegetables on the side is optional, and of course the ingredients can be adapted to taste.
Seasoning for Tilapia
As tilapia flesh has a very mild flavor, it can easily absorb strong-flavored seasonings and spices. For our air fryer tilapia recipe, we use a seasoning mix of olive oil, oregano, cayenne, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
Of course, since food is ultimately meant to be enjoyed by the consumer, we recommend experimenting with various seasoning blends to see what suits your taste best. Go for whatever your heart craves, and don’t worry, you can’t possibly go off the healthy track by simply tweaking the spices.
Besides our tilapia recipe, we also have an assortment of other air fryer fish recipes that might meet your need for a diverse collection of main fish dishes. Check them out!
How to Make Tilapia in Air Fryer
Get comfortable with air fryer cooking with these 8 simple steps to making today’s tilapia recipe. Images included below.
Season the tilapia with the spices and herbs.
Make the breadcrumb mixture.
Preheat the oven and prepare the coating.
For each fish fillet: coat in flour, dip in the eggs, and coat with breadcrumbs.
Air-fry the coated fish.
Make the mayo dressing.
Toss the vegetables with the dressing and mix evenly.
and enjoy with the vegetable side.
1. Tips for Making Air Fryer Tilapia
When cooking tilapia in the air fryer, there are a few rules of thumb you’ll need to follow.
Signs that the tilapia is done
The cooking time for tilapia in the air fryer could vary depending on many factors. These include different air-fryer models, different fillet sizes and thicknesses, and the number of fillets you put into each frying batch.
There’s no more accurate way to tell if tilapia is done than to check if the fish can be flaked easily with a fork. Also, the tilapia should have turned opaque from the inside out, even at its thickest part.
Our fillets were 0.2 inches thick and cooked at 360℉ for 15 minutes. While it might take longer to cook thicker fillets, you will need to check on thinner fillets more often, preferably every 5 minutes.
Don’t overcrowd the basket
For the best possible results, it’s important not to overpack the frying basket.
The fish fillets need space to allow the hot air to circulate around them on all sides and cook evenly. Generously spaced fillets will lead to crispier fish and a nice golden brown color.
Likewise, the fillets should be arranged in a single layer. If you can’t cook them all at once, fry them two or three at a time. Or simpler, get a larger air fryer!
Don’t shake or turn the basket mid-way
It is not necessary, if not even ill-advised, to shake the basket mid-way through frying.
The tilapia fillet can break if shaken before it’s fully cooked, especially larger, thicker fillets, so it’s absolutely imperative that shaking doesn’t occur. Don’t worry, you’ll still get that gorgeous browning and without any uneven charring, so just let it cook through without turning or shaking mid-way.
A little oil coating or spraying is needed
We recommend brushing the tilapia, or spraying the basket with oil before cooking. This helps keep the seasoning intact and prevents the fish from sticking to the bottom of the basket.
High heat oils such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, and canola oil lend themselves well to the air fryer. A little oil will surely help produce a nicely browned crust.
Or, instead of spraying oil, you can use parchment paper to prevent sticking.
2. How to Cook Frozen Tilapia in an Air Fryer
Some people cook frozen tilapia in the air fryer to give it a deliciously flaky consistency. However, if not handled properly, this could backfire badly.
You should never pop a frozen tilapia straight into the oven; it would surely result in a dry, unevenly cooked fish. Please allow it to fully defrost by placing the whole package in the fridge overnight, and remove it the next day when you’re ready to cook.
Another way to defrost tilapia is to place the frozen package in a bowl of cold water. Don’t use warm or hot water as this could affect the fillet’s texture before cooking.
Also, please make sure that you pat each fish fillet completely dry before seasoning and coating to avoid a soggy crust.
What to Serve with Air Fryer Tilapia
Air fryer tilapia can be easily paired with any kind of light salad and refreshing drink. If you like, you could also add a creamy dip.
1. Mashed Potatoes
Easy to make, creamy, and velvety — mashed potatoes are our first choice of side dish for air-fried tilapia. With ingredients including heavy cream, milk, butter, salt, and pepper, this fluffy and flavorsome dish really adds texture to the meal.
2. Cucumber and Lemon Juice
Cucumber and lemon juice accompanies the meal as a refreshing beverage, resetting your taste buds and overflowing with nutrients. It requires only four ingredients and three simple steps to mix up!
Air Fryer Tilapia Recipe
- 20 oz tilapia yields 4 fillets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper divided
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- 0.5 oz parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tbsp parsley finely chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 medium eggs beaten
- 3 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp coriander finely chopped
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 oz unsalted dark red kidney beans
- 3 oz corn
- 2 oz frozen peas thawed
- 6 oz cucumber diced
- 3 oz tomatoes diced
- Season the tilapia with 1.5 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Let rest.
- Make the breadcrumb mixture: In a small bowl, mix together the 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, 0.5 oz parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp parsley, and 2 tbsp unsalted butter until well combined. Set aside.
- Preheat the air fryer to 360℉.
- Prepare 3 shallow plates: the first one with 3 tbsp flour, the second with the beaten eggs (2 medium eggs), and the third with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Flour each fish fillet and shake off any excess. Next, dip in the beaten eggs and coat evenly.
- Transfer the fish fillet to the breadcrumb mixture. Coat evenly, tap off any excess bread crumbs and set aside on a clean plate.
- Repeat these coating steps with the remaining fillets.
- Place the coated tilapia fillets in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Cook for 15 minutes.
- While waiting, make the dressing: In a small bowl whisk together the 3 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise, 2 tbsp Greek yogurt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp coriander, 2 tsp lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- Toss the vegetable mix of 3 oz kidney beans, 3 oz corn, 2 oz peas, 6 oz cucumber, and 3 oz tomatoes with the dressing until evenly coated.
- Remove the tilapia from the oven. Enjoy it with the vegetable mix on the side.