Crispy and crunchy Air Fryer Fish is a simple recipe that will satisfy your fried fish cravings! Flaky, white, fish is dredged in a flavorful mayonnaise mixture so the coating sticks, then coated in a seasoned cornmeal crust before being air fried to perfection. Make up this quick and easy dish in just 20 minutes for an easy weeknight meal.
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 fresh 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 on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside.
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 recipe. Others 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 this air fried fish recipe include:
- Fish. Mild white fish is best for this recipe. You want no more than about ¼ to ½-inch thick filets or the cooking times will vary. 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 secret ingredient that works incredibly well to help the coating stick 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.
How to Air Fry Fish
The basic steps for making air fryer fish are simple to follow. Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts.
Dredge the Filets
Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice in a separate bowl.
Toss the fish in the mayonnaise mixture until they are completely covered. Pat the filets dry before doing this so it will stick better.
Coat the Fish
Measure the cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper into a medium-sized bowl and mix.
One at a time, dip each filet into the cornmeal and flour mixture. Make sure the coating covers all of the sides, and then shake off the excess.
Arrange the coated fish filets into a 6-quart Air Fryer basket in a single layer. If the fish overlaps it won’t get crispy where the fish is touching. Work in batches to ensure there is plenty of room in the basket.
Cook at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, flipping the filets after 5 minutes.
You’ll know the fish is done cooking when it flakes easily with a fork. Repeat with remaining filets.
Serve with Sauce
Serve this fish simply with lemon wedges, or one of these easy homemade sauces:
Best Fish to Air Fry
This recipe coats the fish in a crispy cornmeal crust. You want to use a firm, mildly 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!
Meal Prep and Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: You can mix up the coating and binder in advance, or 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. Using mayonnaise as a binder adds flavor, and gets the coating to stick better.
- Get the right texture. Choose a firm, white fish so that it will be flaky while still holding its shape.
- 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 with a fork, it’s ready to eat!
- Make it spicy! Substitute the Cajun seasoning for a blackened seasoning.
More Air Fryer Recipes
Create the best flavors and crispy textures with this handy appliance! Here are a few more dishes to try next:
Air Fryer Fish Recipe
Crispy and crunchy Air Fryer Fish is a simple recipe that will satisfy your fried fish cravings! Make up this quick and easy dish in just 20 minutes for an easy weeknight meal.
- 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.