December 8, 2022

Canadiannpizza

Cooking Is My World

Air Fryer Tilapia (Two Ways!)

This spice-rubbed Air Fryer Tilapia is one of the easiest, yet tastiest meals to make! This nutritious dish can be prepared and on the table in about 20 minutes or less! Knowing the basics for air frying tilapia is a great resource to have on hand– it can be a springboard for so many other recipes. Plus, we’re not just sharing one spice rub, but two — a Mexican-inspired blend as well as a Cajun one!

Try some of our other favorite tilapia recipes like this Blackened Tilapia with a Pineapple Salsa or these Tilapia Fish Tacos.

Not sure about Air Fryers? Check out our Air Fryer Guide!

Overhead image of Air Fryer Tilapia

This Air Fryer Tilapia is part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Air Fryer Tilapia

Tilapia is such a great protein for busy weeknights — it cooks up so quickly, can be used in a myriad of ways, and it’s packed with nutritional benefits. 

Truthfully, my kids don’t love tilapia served right out of the air fryer, but pop it in some taco shells or in a grain bowl and they love it!

In fact, we’ve been eating it so much recently, that I’ve narrowed down two ways we like it best– a Mexican-inspired spice blend and a Cajun-inspired spice blend. Both are hugely popular at my home and can springboard to several different dishes.

Process shots-- images of the fish being pat dried

How To Cook Tilapia In the Air Fryer

  • If using frozen, be sure to thaw the fish overnight in the fridge. If you forget, a cold water bath will do it quickly (here’s a quick how-to).
  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels.
  • Mix together spices and olive oil. Then gently press into fish, covering all surface area with the mixture.
  • Then cook. Pop them in the air fryer and let it work its magic.

How Long To Cook Tilapia in An Air Fryer

It depends on the size of the fish and your particular model of Air Fryer, but for a 6-ounce filet, it takes around 7-10 minutes.

QUICK TIP

 How do you know if your fish is fully cooked? The best way to tell is by testing it with a fork. Pierce the fish at an angle, at the thickest point, and twist gently. The fish flakes easily when it’s done and it will have also lost its translucent (raw) appearance. A good rule of thumb is to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees F.

Process shots of Air Fryer Tilapia-- images of the spices and oil being added together and spread on the tilapia

How To Serve Air Fryer Tilapia

As mentioned earlier, we’re sharing our two favorite seasoning blends for tilapia. Here are our favorite ways to enjoy this fish (the next paragraph dives more into sauces):

  • For the Mexican-inspired tilapia: We like it best in crunchy corn tortillas (or atop a tostada shell) that have been spread with guacamole or a ripe mashed avocado. Top with a quick slaw (we love the one from this Fish Stick Tacos recipe) or crunchy shredded iceberg lettuce, the cooked fish, and a cilantro-lime sauce.
  • For the Cajun-inspired tilapia: We like it in a charred or crunchy corn tortilla with crunchy coleslaw,  cooked tilapia, some avocado, and tartar sauce. We also enjoy it even simpler– over a bed of coleslaw with lots of tartar sauce (no tortilla).
  • Other ideas: Add to a grain bowl (we love tri-color quinoa best — use microwave quinoa for quick prep time) and serve with Roasted Vegetables, served alongside a big salad (like this Jennifer Aniston Salad), or make a tilapia burger (use this Salmon Burger recipe for inspiration).

Overhead image of the spice rubbed fish ready to be cooked

To Sauce Or Not?

If you’re someone that loves a good sauce with fish (hi, fellow sauce-addicts!), here is what we typically serve this Air Fryer Tilapia with:

  • For the Mexican-Inspired Tilapia: This creamy, fresh-tasting Cilantro Lime Sauce pairs beautifully with the fish and seasonings.
  • For the Cajun-Inspired Tilapia: Nothing beats this tartar sauce (recipe shared in the “quick tip” box below) served alongside the fish (with a good squeeze of lemon of course!) 

QUICK TIP

For our favorite homemade tartar sauce, stir together the following in a small bowl: 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, 1/2 cup good, full-fat mayo, 1-1/2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish, 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 1/8 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

Process shots of Air Fryer Tilapia-- images of the tilapia being added to the air fryer and being cooked

Recipe Tips

  • Fresh lemon or lime wedges are really essential for this recipe. The extra liquid drizzled on top “seals” in the spices, so you don’t get a mouthful of seasoning.
  • As far as air frying goes, we use, love, and recommend this Air Fryer (affiliate link). Air fryers do vary a bit from brand to brand, so the timing for this recipe may need to be slightly tweaked for your specific model. Also keep in mind that after the initial air fry, the machine is warmed up and will cook each subsequent batch of fish a bit quicker.
  • Don’t overcrowd the fish — it should be in one even layer (not overlapping at all) at the base of the air fryer basket.

Up-close overhead image of the Air Fryer Tilapia with a bite being taken out of one of them

More Air Fryer Favorites:

Air Fryer Tilapia

This spice-rubbed Air Fryer Tilapia is one of the easiest, yet tastiest meals to make! This nutritious dish can be prepared and on the table in about 20 minutes or less! Knowing the basics for air frying tilapia is a great resource to have on hand–it can be a springboard to so many other recipes! Plus, we’re not just sharing one spice rub, but two!

Air Fryer Tilapia

This spice-rubbed Air Fryer Tilapia is one of the easiest, yet tastiest meals to make! This nutritious dish can be prepared and on the table in about 20 minutes or less! Knowing the basics for air frying tilapia is a great resource to have on hand–it can be a springboard to so many other recipes! Plus, we’re not just sharing one spice rub, but two!

Ingredients

Mexican-Inspired Spice Blend

Cajun-Inspired Spice Blend

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Serving suggestions: Check out the blog post for lots of ideas on how to serve these fish recipes. Our favorite quickest way to serve the tilapia (with either spice rub)? We grab hard taco shells or tostada shells and spread each side with store-bought mashed avocado or guac, then break apart the fish and add it in/on top. Sprinkle on some crunchy iceberg lettuce or a quick slaw, drizzle on some more lemon or lime and dig in!

  • If making the cajun-inspired tilapia, we love it with this quick tartar sauce:
    • Tartar sauce: stir together the following in a small bowl: 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, 1/2 cup good, full-fat mayo, 1-1/2 tbsp. sweet pickle relish, 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 1/8 tsp. each of salt and pepper
  • If making the Mexican-inspired tilapia, we love it with this Cilantro Lime Sauce.

Note 2: To Thaw: Remove fillets from vacuum wrap. Place fillets in a bowl of cool water until completely thawed or place in the refrigerator for 24 hours until thawed. 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 1.3g | Protein: 23.5g | Fat: 9.2g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 61.7mg | Fiber: 0.8g | Sugar: 0.1g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.