Air Fryer Tilapia

updated Jan 19, 2022
Air Fryer Tilapia Recipe

Crispy air fryer Parmesan- and panko-crusted tilapia is perfect for busy weeknights.

Serves4

Prep10 minutes

Cook12 minutes to 16 minutes

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Air fryer tilapia on a plate with a salad
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

A plate of tender tilapia is one of my favorite ways to serve a homemade meal even on the busiest of weeknights. Thanks to the air fryer, the fillets can go from thawed to crispy and browned faster than any pizza delivery. Plus, its mild flavor means the entire family approves — even discerning elementary-age palates! Here’s how I make perfect air fryer tilapia.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How Do You Make Tilapia in the Air Fryer?

  1. Set up breading stations: Portion seasoned flour, beaten eggs, and a mixture of Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs into three shallow dishes.
  2. Coat the fillets: Working with one fillet at a time, dip it in flour, then eggs, and finish with the panko mixture.
  3. Air fry: Air fry two tilapia fillets at a time. Hot air circulates in an air fryer, crisping the breading while keeping the fish fillets tender and moist.

Can You Use Frozen Tilapia?

Since it can be difficult to get the breading to adhere to frozen fillets, it’s best to thaw the tilapia first. Luckily, the thin fillets thaw in less than 5 minutes.

Air Fryer Tilapia Recipe

Crispy air fryer Parmesan- and panko-crusted tilapia is perfect for busy weeknights.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes to 16 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more for serving

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 3/4 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 ounces

    grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup store-bought or 1 cup freshly grated)

  • 4

    (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets, thawed if frozen

  • Cooking spray

  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if using, in a shallow dish or bowl, and stir to combine. Lightly beat 2 large eggs in a second shallow dish or bowl. Place 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese in a third bowl and stir to combine.

  2. Heat a 5 1/2-quart or larger air fryer to 400°F. Pat 4 tilapia fillets dry with a paper towel, then season all over with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Working with one fillet at a time, coat in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg and let the excess egg drip back into the bowl. Coat the tilapia completely in the panko mixture and place on a large plate in a single layer.

  3. Coat the top of the fillets with cooking spray. Arrange 2 tilapia fillets in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Do not overlap or overcrowd the basket, as doing so will cause the fish to steam rather than fry and won’t be as crispy. Air fry until golden-brown and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Transfer to a serving plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat air frying the remaining tilapia (check on them early, as they may cook faster). Season with more kosher salt if desired, and serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.