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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.
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!
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!
I made this recipe using the 5.8 QT Cosori Air Fryer. Its square basket makes it the perfect size for our family of 4.
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.
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).
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.
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!
How to Cook Frozen Catfish in an Air Fryer
- If you did not soak your catfish in the milk before freezing, soak the frozen fillets for an hour in room temperature milk.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
- 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
- Place the leftover fillets in the air fryer basket in a single layer.
- Air fry at 400 degrees for 4 minutes until warmed through.
Other Air Fryer Fish Recipes You’ll Love:
- Air Fryer Cod with Lemon and Dill
- Air Fryer Garlic Butter Salmon
- Air Fryer Crab Cakes
- Air Fryer Fish Sticks
- Air Fryer Mahi Mahi
- Air Fryer Tilapia
- The Best Air Fryer Fish Recipes
- 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
- 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.
HOW TO REHEAT AIR FRYER CATFISH:
- Place leftover fillets in the air fryer.
- Air fry at 400 degrees for 4 minutes, until warmed through.
HOW TO COOK AIR FRYER CATFISH FROM FROZEN:
- 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.
- If skipping the milk soak, skip directly to steps 2 and 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.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 263Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 3913mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 28g
This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.