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Air Fryer Tilapia

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Who doesn’t love fish and chips?! But dunking fish in a boiling pit of oil at home can make for a messy time. Instead, we can use an air fryer and get a wonderfully crisp piece of air-fried fish and it is just as delicious! Plus, tilapia in the air fryer is healthier so you can spend those extra calorie points on an extra pale ale, or two! Tilapia is a delicate piece of fish and lends itself well to the air fryer. Keep reading below to find the easy seven-step recipe for making air fryer tilapia so you can finally have an easy and mess-free way to make fish and chips at home!

close up shot of air fryer tilapia showing the flaky fish

I have visited countless pubs and food trucks (yes, food trucks) in search of the perfect fish and chips. When we got married, my wife and I decided that we had to have a food truck at the wedding. I spent many weekends doing important research and eating my way through food truck festivals… someone has to do the difficult work. We finally settled on a food truck for the wedding, mostly because they had the most amazing and traditionally British fish and chips. No other place has topped these fish and chips, I am drooling now just thinking about them!

That food truck company is now out of business and I am chasing the dragon. I wanted a go-to recipe for fried fish so that I could easily relive the experience of our wedding. I didn’t want to have to pull out the deep fryer, thus I came up with this recipe. This air fryer tilapia recipe is an ode to our wedding day. Although it isn’t a traditional British fried fish, it is my favorite quick and easy way to make fish and chips and it is represents a traditional Josh and Sara! Check out the recipe below, but first an obligatory wedding photo plug…

wife and husband on wedding day, man wearing blue vest and blue dress shirt with wooden bow tie and woman wearing white wedding dress with neck straps and flower hair piece standing in a field of wheat
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What is tilapia?

Tilapia is actually a very broad term and refers to many species of chichlid fish. They are mainly freshwater fish. Tilapia has a mild flavor making it a great canvas for you to decorate with lots of flavor.

Tilapia is the fourth most common seafood consumed in the United States. You can always find a ton of it at Costco and it is always very cheap.

Air fryer tilapia on a serving platter with lemons

Tip: try this tilapia in some tacos in this recipe for air fryer tilapia fish tacos!

How to defrost fish:

If your tilapia is frozen you will want to make sure you allow it to fully defrost before cooking it. You can place your tilapia covered in the fridge overnight. Before coating the tilapia and cooking them in the air fryer you will want to pat dry each fillet completely. If you do not dry the fish fillet completely before coating then you will not get as crunchy of a crust on the fish.

collage of 9 photos showing steps for how to make air fryer tilapia

What about the chips!?

Of course, you could quickly air fry some frozen <insert brand name here> french fries, but what is the fun in that!? Instead, you can quickly put together some wedges to go with the fried fish. I just so happen to have a delicious recipe for some air fryer potato wedges with a crispy cheese crust. The great thing is that the coating for the tilapia uses the same coating as these potato wedges, except we added cheese, because, well why not!

air fryer fish and chips on a plate with tarter sauce and ketchup

Air Fryer tips and tricks

Help, why is my air fryer smoking?

When cooking high fat foods in the air fryer, you may experience a cloud of white smoke develop in the device. Don’t panic, this can be managed. And there are even some tips which can help prevent this from happening.

To prevent smoke in your air fryer you can add a couple of tablespoons of water to the bottom of the basket. If you are cooking especially greasy foods, like bacon, you can also put a piece of bread in the bottom of the basket, just take out the removable rack at the bottom of the basket and place a piece of bread down there and replace the rack. The bread will soak up the excess grease and prevent the air fryer from smoking.

Evenly cook your food by preheating the air fryer

The air fryer can cook quickly, but you also want even and thoroughly cooked food. I would suggest preheating your air fryer for the best results. Some air fryers do not have a preheat setting. If yours doesn’t have a preheat setting then you can set your temperature and run the air fryer for 2-5 minutes to bring it up to temperature before adding your food to the basket. The smaller your air fryer, the less time you will need to preheat it.

Should you use oil in your air fryer?

I almost always use oil in my air fryer, but you don’t have to! Oil coats your food and allows the seasoning to stick to it. It also prevents your food from sticking to your air fryer basket. However, if you want to cook low fat and leave the oil out of the recipe you can always use parchment paper to prevent sticking. And, if you are cooking high-fat foods, like bacon, you will not need to include oil in your air fryer.

Leave space in your air fryer basket. Space it out, man!

Air fryers work by circulating air around the basket and as it circulates, oils and fats are also circulated and deposited onto the food. If you overcrowd your basket then you will have disappointingly un-crispy food. Space everything out in your air fryer basket and you will have a much crispier result.

Flip and shake the air fryer basket

Similar to the tip for leaving plenty of space for your food to achieve a good crisp, you will also want to shake the basket periodically or flip the food halfway through cooking. This will allow the food to cook well on both sides and you will have a crispy result.

How to modify a recipe for an air fryer

Air fryers are often much more efficient at cooking foods. Since the air is circulating air, similar to a convection oven, I always recommend setting your air fryer to a lower temperature and monitoring the cooking progress throughout the cooking time. Even at lower temperatures, your items may finish cooking sooner than expected. As a rule of thumb, adjust the cooking temperature about 10% lower and the cooking time about 25% shorter.

An air fried tilapia fillet

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close up shot of air fryer tilapia showing the flaky fish

Air Fryer Tilapia

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 21 minutes

This tilapia fries super quick and comes out crispy in the air fryer. The parmesan crust with lemon zest is fresh and light and adds a delicious crunch! Pair these with some air fryer chips for fish and chips night!

Ingredients

  • 4 fillets of Tilapia
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

Coat the Tilapia fillets:

  1. Set up 3 shallow dishes (I used pie dishes). Place the flour in one dish. Crack the egg into another and whisk the eggs really well. In the third dish, combine the cheese, paprika, lemon zest, salt and pepper and combine.
  2. Pat the tilapia fillets dry then dip each fillet into the flour and coat both sides. Dip them into the egg wash and transfer them to the cheese mixture to coat both sides of each fillet. 

Cook the Tilapia:

  1. Place a small piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the air fryer basket then place 1 to 2 fillets in the basket. See notes. 
  2. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes at 400°F until the cheese melts and the crust is golden brown. (see notes)

Notes

  • Do not crowd the fish into the air fryer basket or they will end up steaming and get a soggy crust.  If you have a small air fryer you may only be able to fit one at a time. 
  • Make sure to use parchment paper in the air fryer basket. The cheese coating tends to stick to the bottom of the basket even if you use non-stick spray. Parchment paper will make this recipe painless. Cut the parchment paper to fit the bottom of the basket. If it is too large, it can be burned by the heating element in the air fryer.
  • Tilapia fillets cook quickly because they are thin and you will not need to flip them. If you use a different fish for this recipe make sure they 1/2 inch thick or thinner. If you use thicker fillets you will need to flip them and cook them for another 4 to 5 minutes. 
  • If you use frozen fish fillets make sure they are completely thawed before you cook them. 
Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 381Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 191mgSodium 1149mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 47g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

Did you make this recipe?

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Kalishta

Saturday 9th of January 2021

That was the most amazing flavor ever. I got an air fryer for Christmas and have been trying out different recipes. My hubby is on a keto diet so I had to use crushed pork skins instead of flour. But they were perfect, crunchy tender and the amazing flavor. Thank you for sharing.

Joshua Boquist

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Kalishta, thank you for the great comment! That is an incredible idea to use crushed pork skins instead of flour. Enjoy the new air fryer!

Emily

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

This recipe is

Without a doubt

One of the top five best entrees we have ever had. This is our first time posting a review or anything and we felt the need to say this recipe is that good.

Joshua Boquist

Friday 11th of December 2020

Emily, thank you for the great comment! I am happy you enjoyed it!!

Christie

Thursday 19th of November 2020

So delicious! I substituted almond flour for leas carbs and it was crispy and flaked perfectly !

Joshua Boquist

Thursday 19th of November 2020

Awesome! Thank you for the comment Christie, I am glad you enjoyed it!

Ashley

Monday 14th of September 2020

This recipe was delicious. I have a ninja foodi and used quite large of a size tilapia and 4 min was still a bit too long. Perhaps it runs hot. Great recipe though and next time I’ll try 3 min.

Joshua Boquist

Wednesday 16th of September 2020

Ashley, thank you for the comment! It can be tricky since it seems not all air fryers cook the same. I am glad you enjoyed it though!

Charlie Trotter

Thursday 26th of March 2020

I like tilapia. Can you please suggest any air fryer specially for tilapia?

Mary Warick

Tuesday 1st of September 2020

I tried the recipe tonite and used parchment paper per your suggestion. My air fryer started on fire during the pre heat and burned up parchment. Cleaned everything up and started over by spraying the basket and it was great! DONT USE PARCHMENT PAPER!!!!!

Joshua Boquist

Thursday 26th of March 2020

Hey Charlie, thanks for the comment! I also enjoy tilapia, especially in the air fryer. I have several different air fryers and they all work well for tilapia. I prefer to fry my tilapia at 400°F so I would recommend an air fryer that can get HOT! I have a GoWISE 5.8 Qt. and a Gourmia 6 Qt. air fryer, and I enjoy them both! Cheers!