Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: Tilapia is tender and mild in flavor. Enjoy it as is, or add it to a salad, fish taco, or sandwich. Even better is the fact that this air fryer tilapia is perfectly cooked in just over 10 minutes!

How long it takes: 11 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: air fryer
Servings: 3

Fillet of air fryer tilapia still in the air fryer basket.
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When I got my air fryer, I had visions of air fryer French fries and air fryer chicken nuggets. Those recipes are fantastic, of course, but what I didn’t anticipate was how much I love using it for cooking seafood! From air fryer salmon to air fryer coconut shrimp, the air fryer does such a fantastic job achieving perfectly cooked seafood without a lot of fuss—and it’s done in minutes.

Air frying tilapia not only cuts down on cooking time, it also reduces the amount of oil needed, so you can get great flavor without deep frying or even pan frying. That’s another win in my book because it means no oil spatters to clean up on the stove!

Easy Air Fryer Tilapia

  • Lightning fast. This fish recipe is perfect for a quick meal. Preheat the air fryer while you do the prep work and this recipe takes just 11 minutes from start to finish. It doesn’t get much faster than that! 
  • Mild flavor. Tilapia isn’t a fishy fish making it a great option for kids who normally turn up their noses at seafood. The flavor is mild and even a bit sweet.
  • Easy to customize. Consider this recipe a template for you to play around with. Keep the oil amount and cooking time the same but add your favorite seasonings to make it your own.
  • Budget-friendly. We’re not cooking king salmon here! Tilapia fillets are an affordable fish, perfect when you’re trying to watch what you spend on groceries.

Cooking Tip

You can use frozen tilapia for this recipe if you can’t find fresh. Thaw the fillets as directed on the package or simply cook them a bit longer.
Overhead view of ingredients needed for air fryer tilapia.

Ingredient Notes

  • Tilapia fillets: We tested both fresh and frozen; we decided fresh was a bit better-tasting. There really isn’t a lot of difference between the two, however, and frozen is definitely more convenient.
  • Olive Oil: I tried making air fryer tilapia without adding olive oil but the results were dry and unimpressive. Don’t skip the oil! Even though it’s a very small amount, just 1 tablespoon, it really does make a difference.
  • Seasonings: I use seasonings that are always in my pantry: garlic powder, paprika, dried thyme, kosher salt, and ground black pepper.  Feel free to change it up to suit your preferences or to match the tilapia with sides you’re serving.
  • Lemon Wedges: A squeeze of fresh lemon brightens things up.
  • Fresh Parsley: Garnishing with fresh herbs not only adds visual interest, herbs also add a lot of flavor.

How to make Air Fryer Tilapia

Get started. Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF for 4 to 5 minutes. This isn’t absolutely essential but I do find that the tilapia fillets are a bit juicier and more flavorful when you do preheat.

Make seasoning mix. While the air fryer heats, mix the olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.

Prep tilapia. Use a paper towel to pat the tilapia fillets dry. Brush both sides of the fish with the oil and seasonings. Arrange the tilapia fillets in a single layer in the air fryer basket. 

Air fry. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the fish easily flakes with a fork or the internal temperature reaches 145°F. It can be a little difficult to accurately measure with an instant read thermometer because the tilapia fillets are quite thin. The inside of the fillets should be white and opaque, not translucent.

Serve. Carefully remove the tilapia from the air fryer. The fillets are quite delicate so I like to use a fish spatula which is long and narrow, and supports the whole fillet. Finish with fresh lemon juice and parsley, if you’re using it.

Air fryer tilapia, partially on a fish spatula, topped with a lemon slice.

Recipe Tips and Variations

  • No need to flip. You may think I forgot to mention flipping the tilapia in the instructions. Nope! I tested this air fryer tilapia with and without flipping and found no discernible difference between the two. Save yourself the work and skip it.   
  • Cook in batches if needed. Overlapping the fish will yield disappointing results. If the thin parts of the fillet overlap a bit, that’s okay but it’s best if the fish is in a single layer as much as possible.
  • Don’t overcook the tilapia. Overcooked tilapia tends to be dry and tough. The cooking time will vary a bit depending on the thickness of the fillets. Keep a close eye on it!
  • Tweak the seasonings to your tastes. Adjust the seasoning according to your preferences. You can add a pinch of cayenne to make it spicy if you’d like. If you have a dry rub or seasoning mix that’s been sitting in your pantry, use it here! Lemon pepper, Cajun seasoning, Italian herbs, or even a marinade like teriyaki will work.
  • Add a sauce. Homemade tartar sauce is a classic choice. We also love tzatziki, a creamy cucumber yogurt sauce. Pico de gallo or chimichurri are delicious on the air fryer tilapia, too.
Tilapia, flaked to show texture.

Serving Suggestions

Storing & Reheating Leftovers

Refrigerate: Store leftover air fryer tilapia in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Reheat: The best method to reheat leftover tilapia is to place the fillets back in the air fryer at 350ºF until warmed through. The microwave also works, but the air fryer (or even a regular oven) should be your first choice.

More Seafood Recipes

Recipe

Air Fryer Tilapia

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Total: 11 minutes
Servings: 3 servings
This air fryer tilapia recipe is a quick, healthy weeknight dinner that requires minimal effort. Even better is the fact that this tilapia is perfectly cooked in just over 10 minutes!
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Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, salt, and black pepper.
    1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • Pat the tilapia fillets dry with a paper towel. Brush both sides of each fillet with the prepared seasoning mix. Place the seasoned tilapia fillets in the air fryer basket in a single layer. You may have to cook the fish in batches, depending on how large your air fryer is and how many fillets you're cooking.
    16 oz. tilapia fillets
  • Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Check for doneness.The tilapia is done when it easily flakes with a fork, and the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C).
  • Using a fish spatula or another long thin spatula, carefully transfer the tilapia to serving plates. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the tilapia fillets before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
    lemon wedges, for serving, minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Notes

  • Serve the tilapia with sides of your choice or on a bun, salad, taco, etc.
  • Adjust the seasoning according to your preferences. Consider adding a pinch of cayenne pepper for a bit of heat.
  • This cooking method works well for other types of fish that are similar in size and flavor, such as striped bass, rainbow trout, red snapper, etc.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1fillet, Calories: 192kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 76mg, Sodium: 467mg, Potassium: 487mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 0.1g, Vitamin A: 336IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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5 from 1 vote

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2 Comments

  1. Tialyn says:

    5 stars
    Love how fast this was to make! The seasoning was perfect!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      The quickest dinner for real!