This air fryer tilapia is a quick, easy, and delicious dinner idea that cooks in just 7 minutes! This tender white fish is perfect for those skeptical of seafood.
Unlike using the oven or the pan, I never have to worry about overcooking or undercooking the fish. It’s also incredibly quick, and the cleanup is minimal.
Table of Contents
- Easy and quick. No marinating is needed, and the tilapia takes just a few minutes to cook. I often make this during busy weeknights.
- Economical yet delicious. Compared to other fish, tilapia is affordable and easy to find at most grocery stores.
- Fresh or frozen. Either fresh or frozen tilapia fillets work!
- Healthy. Tilapia is a low calorie and low carb fish, with just 120 calories per 4-ounce serving.
What I love about this tilapia recipe is that it NEVER leaves a fishy flavor. Unlike other seafood, it’s mildly flavored and can easily be customized. I mean, as someone who grew up not liking the taste of any fish, this one was an immediate winner!
You’ll love the basic ingredient list to make this air fryer tilapia recipe. Besides a few spices, the fish is really the only thing you’ll need to find, and honestly, everywhere sells it! Here is what you’ll need:
- Tilapia fillets. While fresh or frozen fillets work, always choose fresh tilapia fillets when possible. Also, try to choose equal-sized fillets so they cook evenly.
- Salt and pepper. To taste.
- Smoked paprika. Adds a lovely smokey flavor.
- Garlic powder. Adds a subtle garlic flavor without needing to use actual garlic.
- Lemon juice, garlic, and butter. To prepare the sauce. You can replace the butter with olive oil.
- Lemon wedges, cilantro, and parsley. To serve.
Find the printable recipe in the recipe card below.
How to cook tilapia in the air fryer
Like most air fryer recipes, this one is very simple to make. The air fryer takes care of all the hard work.
Step 1- Prepare the air fryer. Start by preheating the air fryer to 200C/400F and spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray.
Step 2- Prep the fish. Next, pat dry the tilapia fillets.
Step 3- Season the fish. Mix the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic in a bowl then rub it on both sides of your tilapia fillets using your hands.
Step 4- Air fry the tilapia. Now, add the fish to the air fryer basket and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Step 5- Make the sauce. Finally, whisk together the butter, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and cilantro in a bowl.
Step 6- Season and serve. Brush the sauce generously on your cooked tilapia fillets and sprinkle with more cilantro.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket so your tilapia cooks evenly. If needed, cook the fish in batches.
- If you are worried that the fish will stick to the basket, you can use parchment paper to line the base. I’ve also recently tried using air fryer liners, which work quite well (the base of the fish won’t be as crispy).
- Flip the tilapia fillets during cooking to avoid over-cooking on one side. Once is more than enough.
- I find the easiest way to tell if the fish is cooked is to check the internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Tilapia is safe to eat once the thickest part reaches 145F (as per the FDA).
The beauty of this fish is that it is so mild tasting, you can change up the spice mix a plethora of ways.
- Cajun– Coat the fish with Cajun or taco seasoning.
- Blackened– Make my blackened tilapia recipe.
- Teriyaki– Dredge the fillets in teriyaki sauce for ten minutes before air frying.
- Lemon pepper– The classic. Rub 1/2 large juiced lemon and black peppercorns over the fish.
- Spicy– Add some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the spice mix.
To store: Leftover tilapia can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three days.
To freeze: Place cooked and cooled tilapia in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to two months.
Reheating: Either microwave the fish for 20-30 seconds or reheat it in the air fryer for 2 minutes until crispy around the edges.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whitefish, like tilapia, need just 7-8 minutes to cook in the air fryer.
It depends; you can thaw it or cook it without thawing. If the fish isn’t thawed, you’ll need to increase the cooking time.
Air frying fish is considered to be the best way to cook fish. It’s healthier, the fish is flakier, and it cooks in less time.
More air fryer recipes to try
- Air fryer chicken breast– The easiest way to cook juicy and tender chicken breasts.
- Air fryer chicken thighs– Crispy skin and juicy meat, it makes a fabulous weeknight dinner.
- Air fryer pork chops– Seasoned simply to really let the meat shine.
- Air fryer chicken drumsticks– Crispy, juicy, and perfectly seasoned.
- Air fryer chicken wings– These are so good you can enjoy them as a meal!
Air Fryer Tilapia
- 4 tilapia fillets 4-6 ounces each
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic
For the lemon butter sauce
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- Preheat the air fryer to 200C/400F. Spray the basket with cooking spray.
- Pat dry the tilapia fillets. Mix the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic and using your hands, rub the spices over both sides of the fish.
- Add the tilapia filets in the air fryer basket and spray the top with cooking spray. Air fry for 7-8 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- While the fish is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, garlic, lemon juice and parsley.
- Brush the lemon butter sauce generously over the top of the fish fillets and serve immediately.
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