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Air Fryer Catfish

Ditch the breading and enjoy this simple air fryer catfish recipe! The fish turns out so tender, flaky, and delicious, you’ll never even miss the panko.

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Crispy and tender catfish being cut and eaten with fork

I’m sure we all enjoy treating ourselves to fish that’s been breaded and fried from time to time. But when you’re looking for something a little healthier that doesn’t require messy prep, this air fryer catfish is just what you need!

There’s no cornmeal, no panko, no breading whatsoever needed for this recipe. Thanks to the air fryer and seasoning blend, the catfish gets a lovely blackened crisp on the outside while the meat turns out beautifully flaky and tender. And it’s so easy!

white plate with air fryer catfish fillets and lemon wedges

Here’s what I’m going to teach you in this post:

  • How to make the best air fryer catfish with no breading
  • The reason you should always soak raw catfish before cooking
  • How to cook catfish in the air fryer from frozen
  • My favorite way to reheat air fried catfish

This recipe for blackened catfish in the air fryer is just what you need if you’ve been looking for a healthier or keto-friendly option. The seasonings give it the perfect flavor and crispy exterior without the need for breading, and I like the texture so much more than grilled catfish!

Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal or a leisurely family dinner, air fryer catfish is always a winner. Plus, while you soak the fillets, you can whip up any sides you want so your meal will be ready to go!

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Air Fryer I recommend: Large, easy to clean, square basket, burner on top and bottom. Click to see it.
prepared ingredients for air fryer catfish

How to Make Catfish in the Air Fryer

A full printable version of this recipe with ingredient measurements is available at the bottom of this post.

STEP ONE: At least 30 minutes before cooking, place the catfish fillets in a plastic zipper bag or large bowl. Pour the milk or buttermilk over it and allow the fillets to soak to remove the fishy flavor.

STEP TWO: In a small bowl, combine the blackening or cajun seasoning (I love to use Phillips Blackening Seasoning), oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper then set aside. 

STEP THREE: When ready to cook, preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees. Remove the fish and pat it dry. Drizzle the fillets with olive oil, then sprinkle the spice mixture onto both sides of each fillet, coating them completely.

STEP FOUR: Place the catfish strips in a single layer inside. Spray the tops of the fish using an EVO Oil Sprayer.

place seasoned fillets side by side in air fryer

STEP FIVE: Air fry for 10 minutes, then carefully flip the fish and fry for another 10 to 12 minutes until it reaches your desired doneness (20 to 22 minutes total). 

flip catfish fillets to cook evenly

STEP SIX: Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with parsley.

How to Choose the Best Catfish

Your fillets should have a nice white color and be firm to the touch. If you notice any strong odor coming from the fish, I recommend choosing a different fillet. 

Tips to Make the Best Air Fryer Catfish Fillets

  • Soaking the fish in milk or buttermilk is the best way to remove that fishy flavor that catfish can have. Definitely don’t skip this step!
  • Cook the fillets in a single layer to make sure the air can properly circulate. This will help the fish fully crisp up and get you that perfect blackened exterior.
  • Always flip the catfish halfway through the cooking time to ensure it cooks evenly.
two air fryer catfish fillets on plate with lemon wedge garnish

Do I Need to Soak the Catfish in Milk Before Cooking?

Yes! This step makes a huge difference in the flavor of your catfish.

Freshwater fish can get a bad reputation for having a “muddy” flavor, but soaking the fillets in milk completely eliminates this problem. That’s why I always recommend it regardless of whether you’re grilling, baking, or making fried catfish in the air fryer.

What Temperature Should I Cook Catfish in an Air Fryer?

For this recipe, I recommend cooking the catfish at 400 degrees F. At that temperature, it should take between 20 and 22 minutes to cook all the way through. Don’t forget to flip after 10 minutes!

catfish fillets cooked in air fryer with lemon wedges as garnish

How to Cook Frozen Catfish in an Air Fryer

  1. If you did not soak your catfish in the milk before freezing, soak the frozen fillets for an hour in room temperature milk.
  2. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes. 
  3. Air fry the fish for 13 minutes, then flip and fry for an additional 13 to 15 minutes until fully cooked. 

How to Reheat Catfish in an Air Fryer

  1. Place the leftover fillets in the air fryer basket in a single layer. 
  2. Air fry at 400 degrees for 4 minutes until warmed through.

See more information on reheating fish in the air fryer here.

More Air Fryer Fish Recipes

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flip catfish fillets to cook evenly

Air Fryer Catfish

Samantha Erb
This easy air fryer catfish recipe requires no breading. The fish is flaky, tender, and flavorful with minimal prep and just 20 minutes!
4.67 from 30 votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Air Fryer Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 2 servings
Calories 263 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 catfish fillets
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons blackening seasoning or Cajun seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions
 

  • At least 30 minutes before cooking, place the catfish fillets in a plastic zipper bag or large bowl and pour the milk (or buttermilk) over it, allowing it to soak to remove the fishy flavor.
  • In a small bowl, combine the blackening or Cajun seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper then set it aside. 
  • When ready to cook, preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees. Remove the fish and pat it dry. Drizzle the fillets with olive oil. Sprinkle the spice mixture onto both sides of each fillet, coating them completely.
  • Place the fillets in a single layer inside. Spray the tops of the fish.
  • Air fry at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Carefully flip the fish and fry for another 10 to 12 minutes (20 to 22 minutes total), until it reaches your desired doneness. Serve with lemon wedges and garnished with parsley.

Notes

HOW TO REHEAT AIR FRYER CATFISH:

  1. Place leftover fillets in the air fryer. 
  2. Air fry at 400 degrees for 4 minutes, until warmed through.

HOW TO COOK AIR FRYER CATFISH FROM FROZEN:

  1. Ideally, you want to soak your catfish in the milk before freezing. If this is not possible, it can still be done while frozen, just soak it for an hour in room temperature milk, which will also help thaw it. If you do this, follow the directions as written.
  2. If skipping the milk soak, skip directly to steps 2 and 3. 
  3. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Then, air fry the fish for 13 minutes, flip and fry an additional 13 to 15 minutes (26 to 28 minutes total), until fully cooked.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 28gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 3913mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


samantha

About Samantha

I’ve always had a love of cooking and creating new recipes, so it only made sense to create a food blog so I could share those recipes with you. This site is designed to provide easy and flavorful recipes with as little ingredients as possible. That means you still get great flavor combinations without all that extra time and effort. Read more...

14 thoughts on “Air Fryer Catfish”

  1. I usually stay away from Cajun but I have catfish to use up and I remember making a diy Cajun spice that wasn’t too hot for me so I decided to try this tonight. It was delicious! And easy. I’m really into easy as I get older.
    Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

    Reply
  2. I’m an older man who recently received an air fryer. I’m trying to learn to cook healthy, good tasting meals. I appreciate this recipe sooo much! I too am trying to eat healthier so removing the breading is great! I also greatly appreciate your other recipes and information as well. This the first time I’ve EVER taken the time to comment on a recipe so props to you!

    Reply
  3. That catfish is going to be dust if you cook it that long at that temperature! What are you thinking? Use a thermometer after about 12 minutes and tell me what you see!

    Reply
    • You are right, overcooking catfish can result in a dry and less appetizing meal. Using a thermometer to check the internal temperature is a great way to ensure it’s cooked properly without drying out. Aim for an internal temperature of around 145°F to ensure it’s safe to eat while retaining its moistness and flavor. With that being said, I have cooked catfish at the temperature and time suggested in the recipe and had wonderful results!

    • Hi Manon, Cook time may vary depending on the size of fillets you are using. If you are unsure, you could always check the temperature mid way and adjust the cook time as needed.

  4. I tried this recipe tonight and while the flavor itself seemed it would have been good, I found this to me a little too spicy for me (and way too salty). Size of each catfish piece should be considered as well. We change salt and blackened seasoning portions next time…I know blackened seasoning is salty in general but this recipe including the seasoning combo, had me a little too confident in what I was reading.

    Reply
    • Sorry this recipe didn’t work out as you expected. I recommend scaling back on the amount of seasoning when using smaller catfish fillets. Also, please keep in mind that different brands of seasoning may be saltier than others, which would also change the final result of the recipe.

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