This crispy and crunchy Air Fryer Fish recipe is a simple and healthy way to satisfy your fried fish cravings! White, flaky, fish is covered in a mayonnaise mixture to make sure the coating sticks, then rolled in a cornmeal coating, and air fried to golden perfection. This quick and easy dish is ready in 20 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights!
For the past four years my husband has completed what is called the Texas Water Safari – a 260-mile canoe race that starts in the headwaters of the San Marcos river and finishes up down at the coast.
Every year they have an enormous fish fry for all of the competitors and their families.
The fish and shrimp are caught locally in the Gulf coast, coated in a cornmeal crust (because that’s how we do it in the South!) and then deep fried until golden and crunchy.
While deep-fried fish is definitely something to be enjoyed on special occasions, it’s not exactly weeknight dinner friendly for those watching what they eat.
So instead, I took the basic recipe for that deep-fried fish and turned it into this easy air fryer fish recipe!
You’ll get all of the flavor and crunchiness you love but without a TON of oil.
The cornmeal adds a nice grit that gets crunchy when fried, and the flour helps it to bind to the fish.
Speaking of binding; mayonnaise is our secret binding agent in this air fryer fish recipe. Other recipes either don’t use a binder at all, or some simply use a drizzle of oil which results in the coating sliding right off of the fish.
But that’s not so with this recipe! Because of the egg-based sauce, the cornmeal crust sticks beautifully to the fish and won’t fall off after air frying.
The simple ingredients needed to make air fried fish include:
- Fish. Mild white fish is best for this recipe. You want no more than about ¼ to ½-inch thick filets. Read below for more information on selecting fish.
- Cornmeal. Find a medium to fine grit to achieve the right texture. Also, look for a certified gluten-free kind if you are avoiding gluten.
- Flour. Regular all purpose or a gluten-free 1-to-1 blend will both work. Mixing flour and cornmeal creates a crunchy exterior while also binding easily to the fish.
- Mayonnaise. The special secret ingredient that works incredibly well to bind the coating to the fish!
- Cajun seasoning. This gives the flavor a nice kick. You can also use blackened seasoning for a little more spice, or even old bay seasoning for a milder fish.
Best Fish to Air Fry
This recipe coats the fish in a crispy cornmeal crust. You want to use a firm, mildy flavored white fish. The types of fish that fit these characteristics include:
- Cod – Depending on where you live, either Atlantic or Pacific cod will be more readily available. While not technically cod, often Haddock and Whiting fish are sold as cod.
- Sole – This flatfish has a more firm texture than cod, with a mild and slightly sweet taste. Some compare it to a cross between tilapia and cod.
- Halibut – Another flatfish, halibut has dense, firm, flesh with a light and clean taste.
- Mahi-Mahi – Also known as Dorado or Dolphin (not to be confused with Flipper!), Mahi-Mahi’s firm texture and sweet taste resembles Swordfish, although a bit milder.
- Catfish – While firm, Catfish is less flaky than the other varieties. It also has the fishiest flavor, but a soak in milk before cooking can help take some of that taste away.
You can also air fry salmon, or another red fish without the cornmeal coating if you’d prefer!
How to Air Fry Fish
The basic steps for air frying fish are simple to follow:
- Place fish filets into the mayonnaise mixture.
Toss until completely covered.
- Coat the fish.
Dip each filet into the cornmeal mixture on all sides.
- Cook in a 400° Air Fryer for 8-10 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes.
Place the coated fish filets into a 6-quart Air Fryer basket in a single layer. You’ll know the fish is done cooking when it flakes easily with a fork. Repeat with remaining filets.
What Sauce to Serve with Air Fried Fish?
Serve this fish simply with a squeeze of lemon, or one of these simple homemade sauces:
- To Prep-Ahead: You can mix up the coating and binder in advance, store separately until ready to use.
- To Store: Keep air fried fish in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- To Freeze: Arrange fried fish in a single layer and freeze for 2-3 hours. Then transfer to a freezer safe Ziploc bag for up to 3-4 months.
- To Reheat: Add fried fish back into the air fryer at 350° for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.
The recipe you’ll find below is already dairy-free as written. Here are some adjustments and substitutions you can make to help it fit your other dietary requirements:
- Gluten-Free – Use gluten-free flour and a certified gluten-free cornmeal.
- Low-Carb – Substitute cornmeal for low-carb breadcrumbs.
If the fish is not coated yet it needs to be thawed. Otherwise it will release a lot of moisture into the coating and will come out soggy instead of crispy.
Yes you can! It’s a great healthy way to cook fish, especially to recreate the fried fish texture.
Yes it is since it avoids using any oil.
While air frying is a great way to get an oil-free crispy crust on breaded food, it is not necessary to bread food before air frying.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Coat it first. Use mayonnaise as a binder.
- Get the right texture. Choose a firm, white fish.
- Look at the thickness. Filets closer to ¼-inch thick will be done in as little as 8 minutes. Thicker fish can take 10 minutes or more.
- When it flakes, it’s finished. No need to pull out the meat thermometer, when the middle of the fish flakes easily, it’s ready to eat!
- Make it spicy! Substitute the cajun seasoning for a blackened seasoning.
Air Fryer Fish Recipe
This crispy and crunchy Air Fryer Fish recipe is a simple and healthy way to satisfy your fried fish cravings! This quick and easy dish is ready in 20 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights.
- 1 ½ lbs. white fish filets about ¼ to ½-inch thick
- ½ cup cornmeal medium grind
- ½ cup all purpose flour or gluten-free 1-to-1
- 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning or Old Bay
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. salt to taste
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Mix together cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a medium-sized shallow bowl.
Add mayonnaise and lemon juice to a large bowl and whisk until combined.
Place fish filets into the mayonnaise mixture and toss until completely covered.
Dip each filet into the cornmeal mixture and coat all sides.
Place the coated fish filets into a 6-quart Air Fryer basket in a single layer. Cook at 400 °F for 8-10 minutes.* Flip filets over after 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining filets.
You’ll know the fish is done cooking when it flakes easily with a fork.
This recipe works well with cod, sole, halibut, or any other firm and mild-tasting white fish.
You’ll need to cook the fish longer for thick filets, and shorter for thinner filets.
- To Store: Keep air fried fish in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- To Freeze: Arrange fried fish in a single layer and freeze for 3-4 hours. Then transfer to a freezer safe Ziploc bag for up to 3-4 months.