I love a lean fish dinner, and this air fryer tilapia is one of my favorites. You can add the frozen fish fillets straight to your air fryer, and have dinner ready in 15 minutes. I love how easy it is to make, and how tasty the result is!
Can you air fry fish?
I used to cook my fish either in the oven or in a skillet on my stove top. However, since I bought my air fryer, it's quickly become my favorite method for cooking any fish, including tilapia.
I love using my air fryer for this, because it preheats in a matter of minutes, it doesn't require any extra oil, and cooks my fish in the same amount of time every time. It's faster than using an oven, and less messy than using a skillet. The result is perfect, tender fish, every single time.
What is tilapia
Tilapia is a white fish, quite similar to basa, sea bass or cod. I've noticed that it seems to be more commonly found on the American continents, while it's not so easy to find in Europe and the UK.
Tilapia is often used in Southern American and Latin American dishes. However, it also tastes great with Mediterranean or Asian style flavor combinations.
Tilapia both tastes and behaves like other white fish. If you can't find tilapia in your store, don't worry, you can cook any other white fish using the same method!
You will naturally need tilapia for this recipe. If you can't find tilapia in your local store, you can also air fry any other lean white fish using this method.
Additionally, you will need an air fryer. If your appliance doesn't have a non stick coating, you might want to use an oil spray to prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom of the air fryer, however this is often not necessary.
Lastly, you will need your choice of seasoning. I made mine with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning, but you can find other seasoning options below.
Using fresh tilapia (recommended)
Season the tilapia well on both sides with your choice of seasoning.
Air fry the fish for about 4-7 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets and the efficiency of your air fryer. You can check if they have cooked through by touching the fillets with a fork. If the fish flakes at the touch, they are ready to serve.
Using frozen tilapia
Air fry the fish for about 5 minutes. This will allow the surface of the fish to thaw. Remove it from the air fryer basket, and season well on both sides.
Add it back to the basket, and air fry for another 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your fish. The tilapia is ready to serve when it flakes at the touch of a fork.
Fresh vs frozen fish
You can air fry frozen tilapia, or use fresh fish. I like to use fresh fillets, as these are easier to season.
Frozen tilapia fillets will take longer to air fry. You also can't really season them before you add them to the air fryer, because the seasoning might simply drip off as the fish thaws. I therefore highly recommend air frying the frozen fish for a few minutes to allow the surface to thaw before you add any seasoning.
If you have frozen tilapia, you can also thaw the fillets before use. If they are thawed, you can cook them following the instructions for using fresh fish.
Seasoning is everything! You can use any seasoning you like for your tilapia. I typically just eyeball the amount until there's a thin layer of seasoning on the fish, but aim to use about ½ tsp in total on each fish fillet. Here are some of my top choices:
Mediterranean: Use salt, lemon pepper and basil.
Salt and pepper: A simple combination of salt and pepper works well.
Here are my top tips to succeed with this recipe:
- Tilapia is quite bland and plain by itself. It heavily relies on seasoning.
- Use seasoning that works with your side dishes. If you want to use the fish for tacos, you can use taco seasoning. If you want to serve it with Mediterranean roasted vegetables, you can use the Mediterranean seasoning blend.
- Make sure to preheat your air fryer. This allows the fish to be more evenly cooked.
- Don't leave the fish in the air fryer for too long. Keep in mind that fish often cooks much faster than you'd think.
A great main deserves a great side dish. As you can air fry the tilapia using different seasoning, I highly recommend pairing your sides based on which seasoning you choose.
Keep in mind that white fish is lean and light, which means that you will want to serve it with a filling side dish to complete the meal.
Here are some of my favorite variations of the dish:
Marinated: If you use fresh, or thawed tilapia fillets, you can marinate them before cooking. You can try using a miso glaze, chili lime marinade or teriyaki sauce.
Other white fish: Although this recipe uses tilapia, you can follow the exact same instructions to air fry sea bass, cod and other white fish. They all cook very similarly.
You can store leftover tilapia in a refrigerator for up to 3 days. I like to reheat it in a microwave for about a minute, and serve it hot.
Since fish is so lean, it tends to try out a little when it's reheated. I highly recommend serving the leftover fish with a sauce like yogurt dill sauce, sweet chili sauce or salsa, to keep it flavorful and juicy.
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Frequently asked questions
Yes! You can absolutely cook frozen fish without thawing, just make sure to add a little extra cooking time.
No. You can cook tilapia straight from frozen.
Air Fryer Tilapia
- 4 tilapia fish fillets
- Preheat your air fryer to 390 °F / 200 °C. If necessary, spray the inside of your air fryer with cooking spray to prevent the fish from sticking to it.
- You don't want to stack any fish fillets on top of each other. If you're cooking a large amount, you might have to air fry the fish in several batches.
Using fresh fish
- Season the tilapia well on both sides with your choice of seasoning.
- Air fry the fish for about 4-7 minutes, depending on the size of your fillets and the efficiency of your air fryer. You can check if they have cooked through by touching the fillets with a fork. If the fish flakes at the touch, they are ready to serve.
Using frozen tilapia
- Air fry the fish for about 5 minutes. This will allow the surface of the fish to thaw. Remove it from the air fryer basket, and season well on both sides.
- Add it back to the basket, and air fry for another 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your fish. The tilapia is ready to serve when it flakes at the touch of a fork.