This air fryer tilapia is absolutely the healthiest and easiest way to fry fish to perfection! It's a cheap and easy meal making it great for those busy weeknights, but has the taste and wow factor to make for a special meal, too. It's low-carb and keto-friendly.
Making your own fried fish is easier than you think, and with the help of air fryer tilapia may become a meal you add to your regular rotation.
Air Fryer Tilapia
Do you like the taste of fried fish but are concerned about the health factor? Then this air fryer whole fish is the perfect solution for you.
This air fryer tilapia is the best way to cook fish for the health-conscious eater.
Five years back I’d probably just fry fish up in a pan, not anymore. Air fryers are such game-changers to get on a path to healthier eating habits, and a healthy fish meal is a great place to start.
Crispy Air Fryer Whole Fish
The fish has a beautiful crispy golden crust and juicy flesh inside as if it just came out from a deep-fryer!
There’s no big mess to clean up and you aren’t getting all of that grease, either. The outside is seasoned with a bit of lime, kosher salt, and black pepper. I also infused it with garlic which goes so well with the Tilapia taste!
I have actually been preparing this for my husband as a healthy option snack for him to munch on. He likes how tilapia has bigger bones that are simple to see and eat around. Each tilapia gives a good portion of fish to eat, so just one does the trick to fill him up.
Why You'll Love This Crispy Air Fryer Tilapia:
1. It’s a Cheap Dinner Idea that is Actually Healthy
Tilapia is a freshwater fish and is inexpensive. It's an affordable source of protein that is packed with selenium, vitamin B12, niacin, and potassium. I bought the whole tilapia from my local Costco for about $3.99 per pound or around $2 - 2.50 per fish. I think that's a steal!
2. It’s the Best Way to Deep Fry Fish Without the Extra Calories
Frying fish in a ton of oil adds calories. To cook fish in an air fryer only requires about 2 teaspoon of oil.
3. It Uses a Simple Seasoning
Thanks to my mom who shared her family recipe to get the seasoning absolutely perfect!
I seasoned this tilapia with fresh lime juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. I also stuffed the cavity with garlic cloves to add flavor and aroma to the fish.
Also, check out these tasty Fish soup and Sweet and sour fish recipes.
How to Cook Whole Tilapia in an Air Fryer
Step 1. Marinate the Fish
Place the fish on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut three deep, diagonal slits on both sides of the fish.
Place the fish in a large bowl or large zip-lock. Add lime juice and marinate the fish for about 20 minutes.
Step 2. Season the Fish
Remove the fish from the marinade, and discard the liquid. Rub the inside and outside of the fish with 2 teaspoons of oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Stuff the cavity of the fish with smashed garlic cloves.
Step 3. Air Fry
In this recipe, I cooked the fish using my Gourmia 8qt air fryer. I think the best temperature to cook tilapia in an air fryer is 400°F. Be sure to preheat the air fryer before adding the food.
Cook the whole tilapia for about 20 minutes, flipping the fish halfway through cooking.
Always check for doneness. If the fish is not ready, cook for 1-2 minutes and check it again. Continue cooking until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, or until the safe internal temperature for cooked fish is 145°F.
More Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Calamari
- How to cook perfectly crispy bacon in an air fryer
- How to air fry frozen fries
- Air fryer brussels sprouts
- Air fryer whole chicken
- How to cook bacon asparagus in an air fryer
- Crispy okra
- Crispy zucchini fries
- Air fryer chicken thighs
Check Out More Delicious Fish Recipes
- Fried Catfish
- 10-Minute Pan-Fried Branzino Fillets with Lemon Butter
- Award-Winning Fish Soup Recipe
- Sweet and Sour Fish Fillets
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! I'd appreciate it.
Air Fryer Tilapia
- 1 fresh whole tilapia , (about 1 pound) pat the fish dry with paper towels.
- 1 medium-size lime, (juiced)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, (for a smaller fish, use only ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt)
- ¼ black pepper
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or avocado oil
For the Cavity:
- 3-4 garlic cloves, (smashed)
- Place the fish on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut three deep, diagonal slits on both sides of the fish, cutting all the way down to the bone.Transfer to a ziplock bag, add lime juice and marinate for 20 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the marinade. Give a little shake to remove excess liquid and discard the lime juice. Rub the inside and outside of the fish with oil then season with salt and pepper.Stuff the cavity of the fish with smashed garlic cloves.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Cook the fish for about 20 minutes (or less if you are using a smaller fish), flipping it halfway through cooking. Check the doneness at 15 minutes. If the fish is not ready, cook for 1-2 minutes and check it again. Continue cooking until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
Air Fryer Tilapia looks delicious perfect meal.
Definitely trying this tonight. I have a 7 qt air fryer. It's pretty big. Do you think I could air fry 2 tilapia at once? Would you suggest lying them on top of each other or trying to stand them up?
You can cook 2 pieces of tilapia at once only if there is enough room. Do not stack the tilapia on top of each other.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Success, my husband loved it! Next time I will reduce the cooking time, I think 15 minutes would have been sufficient. Thanks for the recipe!
Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback and what you did! I am glad that this recipe turned out well and your husband loved it.
This was superb! What a great technique! For the body cavity, I mixed minced garlic, chopped shallots, chopped scallions, and salt. It was fabulous. Thanks!
Thanks for taking the time to review this recipe. I love how you stuffed the body cavity with the aromatic veggies. A great way to add wonderful subtle flavor to the fish and to make the meal shine!
Can I use lemon juice instead of lime juice?
I haven't tried using lemon in this particular recipe but I've used lemon and lime interchangeably in other fish recipes. Another great option is to skip the marinating process and instead add 1-2 slices of lemon inside the cavity.
Please let me know if you still have any questions.
Great recipe! Just made 2 small ones in my 6qt air fryer and it's so tasty my 8yo son ate one whole fish all by himself. I didn't have lime at home so I substituted it with lemon and it's fine. Thank you and I'll be back for more of your recipes 🙂
Thanks for sharing your feedback! Yes, swapping the lime with lemon was a good call.. nice substitute for citrus! and I am sure that other readers will find your comment useful. So glad that your 8 year old ate the entire fish, that's awesome!
Tried this recipe today 4/1/22 and it was SO good and easy. Thank you for this recipe.. Will never go another way then AIR Fry…..❤️
Thanks for trying and coming back here to share your feedback. I agree with you, the air fryer not only makes it healthier but also tastier. There is really no reason to cook tilapia any other way.
I saw the whole tilapia at Costco and my interest was piqued! We cooked two tonight in the air fryer according to your instructions, except that I only marinated them in the like juice for 5 minutes. We stuffed the inside cavity with garlic and green onions and cooked for about 15 minutes.
What an easy and tasty way to cook fish. It reminded me of the grilled fish I had on the beach in SE Asia! Thanks again for this yummy idea.
You're welcome! Thanks for sharing what you did with this recipe. I am glad that this recipe turned out well for you 🙂
Easy yet delicious. Best way to eat fish. Thanks for sharing.
You're welcome! Thanks for giving this recipe a try and for taking the time to share your feedback. I am glad that you liked it.