Home > Dinner > Air Fryer Tilapia (Two Ways!) Air Fryer Tilapia (Two Ways!) September 16, 2022 | 2 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. 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! 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. 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. 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). 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. 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. More Air Fryer Favorites: Air Fryer Chickpeas with a robust seasoning blend Air Fryer Falafel made with chickpeas and herbs Southwest Egg Rolls with black beans and sweet potato Air Fryer Donuts made with canned biscuit dough Air Fryer Chicken Tenders with the best dipping sauce! FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Air Fryer Tilapia 5 from 2 votes - Review this recipe 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! SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Air Fryer Tilapia 5 from 2 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe 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! Course Dinner, Main Course Cuisine American, Healthy Keyword air fryer tilapia, tilapia in air fryer Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 10 minutes Total Time 20 minutes Servings 3 -4 servings Calories 177kcal Author Chelsea Lords Cost $12.56 IngredientsMexican-Inspired Spice Blend▢ 3 to 4 tilapia filets (~6 oz each; 1 lb total)▢ 2 teaspoons paprika▢ 1-1/4 teaspoons ground chili powder▢ 1/2 teaspoon each: ground cumin, garlic powder▢ 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander▢ 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil▢ tiny pinch of red pepper flakes, optional▢ Fine sea salt & pepper▢ For serving: Olive oil cooking spray, 1 large lime▢ Serving suggestions/ideas: See Note 1Cajun-Inspired Spice Blend▢ 3 to 4 tilapia filets (~6 oz each; 1 lb total)▢ 1-1/2 tablespoons paprika▢ 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder▢ 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder▢ 1/2 teaspoon each: ground cumin, dried thyme, dried oregano▢ 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, optional▢ 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil▢ For serving: Olive oil cooking spray, 1 large lemon InstructionsPREP TILAPIA: If frozen, thaw according to package directions (Note 2) and then pat dry all over with paper towels. If fresh, rinse under cold water and then pat dry all over with paper towels. PREP AIR FRYER: Preheat the air fryer at 400 degrees F for 3 minutes (run on empty). COMBINE SEASONINGS: Combine all the listed spices under either Mexican-inspired or Cajun-inspired seasonings in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt & pepper (I add 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper). Drizzle in olive oil and mix until you have a thick paste. COOK TILAPIA: Meanwhile, place fish on a large plate. Evenly rub the seasoning mixture onto each filet (both sides covering all parts of the fish). Once filets are well coated in spices, lightly spray each side with olive oil cooking spray. Add filets to air fryer basket in a single layer. (We can only fit 2 filets at a time in our air fryer). Cook for 7-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork (145 degrees F for internal temp is recommended). Remove and drizzle lemon juice or lime juice all over and enjoy. Or read Note 1 for our serving suggestions and how we enjoy this fish. Enjoy! Video Recipe NotesNote 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 FactsServing: 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. DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.