This Air Fryer Tilapia recipe is so quick and easy. Simply seasoned, mild white fish is cooked to flaky perfection and served with a bright lemon-caper sauce. Requiring less than 20 minutes, it’s sure to make its way into your busy weeknight rotation.
Easy Air Fryer Tilapia
Short on time? This air fryer tilapia recipe will help you get dinner on the table in about 20 minutes. Mild white fish is seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper and cooked for just 6 minutes in the air fryer, rendering it flaky and delicious. It’s finished off with a buttery lemon-caper sauce that adds the perfect burst of flavor to the dish.
Life gets busy. We’ve all been there. It can be hard to get tasty, healthier food on the table when you have a million other things to do. Hassle-free and time-saving recipes like this one are perfect for those days. If you’d rather bake the tilapia, don’t pass up my Garlic Butter Oven Baked Tilapia.
Why Cook Tilapia in the Air Fryer?
Because it’s SO easy and SO delicious. All you have to do is rub the fish down with a little olive oil and seasoning, pop it in the air fryer, and let the machine work its magic. The air fryer works by circulating hot air around the tilapia, cooking every centimeter evenly. This makes the fish perfectly and evenly golden brown leaving a delicate, flaky center. Still not convinced? Just give it a try. You’ll see.
Another added benefit of using an air fryer is that you don’t have to use as much oil as you would if you pan-fry the fish. So for those of you looking out for your wellness, this is a great pick.
Below is a list of ingredients required to prepare air fryer tilapia. For precise measurements, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
For the tilapia
- Salt & Pepper
- Garlic powder
- Olive oil
- Fresh tilapia filets – Try to find fillets that are equal in size to ensure even cook time across the pieces.
- Salted butter
- Lemon juice – I highly suggest using freshly squeezed lemon juice here. The flavor is just so much brighter and better.
- Ground black pepper
How to Make Air Fryer Tilapia
Here is a general overview of how to cook tilapia in the air fryer.
To air fry the tilapia
- Season the fish. Coat the tilapia in olive oil and arrange it in a single layer in the basket of an air fryer. Season both sides with salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
- Air fry the tilapia. Cook the tilapia for 6 minutes in an air fryer preheated to 415˚F.
- Make the sauce. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant. Add the lemon juice and capers.
- Serve. Spoon the sauce over the cooked tilapia and serve.
Tips for Success
Whether you’re new to air frying or a seasoned guru, I have some simple tips and tricks that will help you make the perfect buttery, flaky air fryer tilapia you are looking for.
- Don’t skip the preheat. It might be tempting just to toss the fish in the cold air fryer. Don’t do it. Let the air fryer preheat first. It will shorten the cooking time and improve the end product’s texture.
- Keep an eye on the butter. When making the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat. You do not want the butter to brown. It will throw off the flavor of the sauce.
- Don’t skip the cooking spray. Unless you want your fish to stick to the air fryer basket and likely fall apart when you try to flip it, give the basket a light coating of cooking spray before putting the fish in it.
- Don’t crowd the air fryer. If you crowd the air fryer to the point where the fillets are touching one another, the heat will not be able to reach every inch of the tilapia. This will cause the fish will cook unevenly.
- Feel it out. If you have a slightly larger or thicker fillet, it might need extra time in the air fryer. Not to worry. Check the fish after 6 minutes. If the fish doesn’t flake easily when you poke it gently with a fork, give it another 2 minutes in the air fryer until it does.
This is a wonderfully simple recipe that can be adapted easily to your taste preferences. Here are some fun ideas that will help you make it your own.
- Consider a different fish. You can 100% apply this air fryer tilapia recipe to another kind of fish. Try sea bass, cod, or salmon. Note that cook times may vary depending on the heartiness and thickness of the fish. If your fish isn’t quite done after 6 minutes, feel free to give it another 2 minutes in the air fryer. Repeat until you achieve the desired doneness.
- Make it boozy. Add 2 tablespoons of white wine to the sauce and boil for about 30 seconds before adding the lemon juice and capers.
- Use a different sauce. Lemon-caper sauce is a classic, but feel free to play with other flavors. You could try the cream sauce from this Air Fryer Lobster recipe, a classic Hollandaise Sauce, or even the warm garlic soy dressing from this Baby Bok Choy recipe.
- Bread the tilapia. Instead of rubbing the tilapia with olive oil and seasoning, mix the same seasonings together with 2 cups of breadcrumbs. Beat 1 egg together with 1 tablespoon of water and evenly coat the fillets in the egg mixture followed by the seasoned breadcrumb. Air fry as if nothing has changed. Just flip the fish halfway through.
What Goes With Tilapia?
This mild fish dish does well with a variety of side dishes. It’s best to serve it with something that won’t overpower the beautiful simplicity of the tilapia but the choice is yours. Here are some ideas to get you inspired.
- Salad. A light, fresh salad is the perfect accompaniment to air fryer tilapia. I have been loving this Shopska Salad and my Green Goddess Salad.
- Potatoes. Fish and potatoes go beautifully together. I highly recommend serving this air fryer miracle with these Crispy Smashed Potatoes in the Air Fryer, my Basil Pesto Grilled Potatoes in Foil, or these Garlic Butter Hasselback Potatoes.
- Grains. Lay an elegant fillet of air fryer tilapia over a bed of Fluffy Couscous with Asparagus and Golden Raisins or this Jennifer Aniston’s Bulgur Salad
- Legumes. Add some oomph to this light entree by serving it with my Mediterranean White Bean Salad or this Chickpea Salad.
- Simple cooked veggies. It’s easy to overwhelm the delicate flavor of this tasty fish dish. Simply cooked vegetables do a great job of allowing the entree to shine. Try my Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Dressing and Feta Cheese, this Crispy Air Fryer Roasted Broccoli, or my Lemon Butter Green Beans.
I wanted to take a moment to answer some commonly asked questions about the sometimes misunderstood Tilapia. Please feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
Tilapia gets a bad wrap, but it’s actually good for you. It’s packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
Absolutely. Rumors abound that tilapia is a “man-made” fish but it’s not. It’s as real as any other fish you can find on the market.
Tilapia is a mild, relatively inexpensive fish native to the Middle East and Africa but farmed throughout the world. It’s in the top 5 most commonly consumed fish in the United States. Wow!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
- To refrigerate, let the tilapia cool, then put it in an airtight box and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Keep the sauce in a separate container. To reheat, place the fish in the air fryer at 325˚F for about 5 to 6 minutes or in the oven for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the sauce on the stove over low heat.
- To freeze, let the tilapia and sauce cool to room temperature, then put them in different containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge, then reheat. You may need just to add a couple more minutes when reheating in the oven or air fryer.
More Fish Recipes to Try
I have been loving seafood lately. It’s perfect for these warmer spring and summer months. This tilapia recipe is one of my favorites but here are a few other awesome fish recipes for you to try.
- Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos
- Grilled Swordfish Recipe
- Sheet Pan Fish and Chips
- Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce
- Mediterranean Style Baked Tilapia
- Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa
Air Fryer Tilapia
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 fillets fresh tilapia, about 6 ounces each
- cooking spray, to grease the air fryer basket
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons capers
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the air fryer to 415˚F and spray the basket of your air fryer with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the sea salt, garlic powder, and ground black pepper and set aside.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the tilapia and massage it into the fish, coating it evenly.
- Arrange the tilapia fillets in the basket with at least ½ inch of space between each fillet. If the basket is too small, cook the fish in batches.
- Sprinkle half of the seasoning over the fillets. Flip, and sprinkle with the other half of the seasoning.
- Air fry for 6 minutes; flip the fish halfway through the cooking time.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce and start by melting the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and sauté for about 15 seconds or until fragrant.
- Whisk in the lemon juice to combine, then stir in the capers. Remove from heat.
- Remove the tilapia from the air fryer and arrange the fillets on a serving platter.
- Spoon the sauce over the cooked tilapia and serve.
- You can use this recipe with other fish like sea bass or salmon, but cooking times might change.
- If you want, add white wine to the sauce or use a different sauce to serve with the fish. I like Hollandaise.
- Instead of just seasoning the tilapia, mix the same seasonings with 2 cups of breadcrumbs. Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water and evenly coat the fillets in the egg mixture, followed by the seasoned breadcrumbs. Air fry as per the recipe.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.