Air Fryer Catfish

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You’re going to love this Air Fryer southern-style Cajun catfish! It’s tender and flaky on the inside, and the seasoned crispy outer crust locks in all of its moisture, making this one of the best fish recipes you’ll ever try!

Finishing it off with a squirt of lemon juice brings it to a new level and is always a delicious addition to any dinner menu.

plate of air fryer catfish with a bite on the fork.

We try and eat fish at least once a week in my family. I know that not all fish are created equal, and researching what to eat and what to avoid can feel like a full-time job, but the same could be said with red meat and poultry too! So, this low-carb, high protein, high in Omega 3s piece of fish is exactly what we need once in a while!

It looks beautifully golden on the outside, just like it does when it’s been dunked in a big pot of oil. However, getting these results using the air fryer means no major grease splatter, no strong fish smells coming from the kitchen, and no turning on a grill, oven, or stove!

This Cajun catfish is not just reserved for trips to the south or your favorite Creole restaurant. It’s super convenient for a quick and easy, flavorful meal any night of the week, and making this air fryer catfish at home couldn’t be easier!

Why You’ll Love This Air Fryer Catfish Recipe

  • Catfish falls under the category of white fish, which means, mild in flavor, cooks quickly, and it’s budget-friendly.
  • Using the air fryer to cook the fish gives it that deep-fried texture without all the extra grease. A way to keep the fish nice and healthy without sacrificing anything!
  • It’s a protein that is perfect for those celebrating Good Friday or those looking for ways to eat less red meat throughout the week.
  • An easy-to-follow recipe made with seasonings you probably already have means you can make this delicious air fryer catfish recipe anytime!

Ingredients Needed

Ingredients needed for air fryer catfish.
  • Catfish fillets – I use 4 fillets which is plenty for our family. Easily double or triple this recipe to fit more. You’ll need to cook in batches either way!
  • Yellow cornmeal – I love the crunch this flour made from ground-up corn gives the crust. It’s gluten-free too!
  • Cajun seasoning – A combination of spices. Everyone has their take on it, so you can absolutely use a homemade blend. Typically it’s composed of cayenne, paprika (smoked or not), pepper, garlic powder, etc.
  • Salt & pepper – An extra bit of seasoning to complement the Cajun seasoning and give the fish even more flavor.
  • Unsalted butter – We use melted butter to coat the fish before dredging it in the seasoned cornmeal. It acts the same way an egg would in that it helps bind the flour to the fish.
  • Olive oil spray – This helps to brown the crust and help it not stick to the air fryer basket.
  • Lemon wedges – For serving!

How to Make Catfish in the Air Fryer

step by step process of how to bread catfish for the air fryer.

Step 1: Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Be sure to pat the catfish with a paper towel to try and get as much moisture off of its surface as you can. Then, place it into a bowl.

Step 2: In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Drizzle it on top of the catfish and rub it onto all sides. In a shallow dish, mix the yellow cornmeal, Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Step 3: Dredge each catfish fillet in the cornmeal on both sides. Press the cornmeal onto the fish, making sure it adheres.

Step 5: Carefully spray the air fryer basket (it’s hot now, don’t forget!). Place the fish fillets into the basket in a single layer. Leave room between them so they don’t get soggy. Lightly spray the surface of the fish and close the basket door (too much oil will make the fish soggy).

Step 6: Air fry for 14 minutes, flipping halfway. Catfish are delicate, so use a thin spatula if you have one.

Step 7: Once 14 minutes are up, open the basket, and carefully flip just one more time for another 3-4 minutes of cooking time. Catfish is done when it is crispy and golden brown on the outside and opaque and flakey on the inside, or the internal temperature reaches 145°F.

air fried catfish in air fryer basket.

Recipe Tips

  • My top tip is not to overcrowd the air fryer basket! If you’re looking for a beautiful golden crust, you need to leave room for the hot air to circulate all around each piece.
  • Spray the air fryer basket well. If the fish gets stuck, all the coating comes off with it!
  • Season it to your liking. If this batch has a bit too much or too little, adjust for next time.
  • If you are sensitive to any fish smell, no matter how mild, soaking the fillets in milk for 30 minutes ahead of time can help rid them of that.
plate of air fryer catfish, french fries, coleslaw and sliced lemon.

What can I serve with catfish?

Air fryer catfish goes with so many things! It’s got a lot of flavors to stand on its own, so a neutral side like rice or potatoes is always a good idea. Veggie sides like air fryer broccoli or Instant Pot asparagus are great. Even a bowl of Instant Pot broccoli cheddar soup and a piece of cheesy air fryer garlic bread is a must.
Air fryer potato skins or Instant Pot mac and cheese are heavier sides, but still work, especially when serving a hungry crowd!
Don’t forget to have some extra lemon wedges on the table so everyone can add their zesty finish!

FAQs

How do I know if my catfish is done?

Air fryer catfish is considered done when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. It will be golden and crispy on the outside, but tender and flaky on the inside. If you don’t have a thermometer, the only way to tell is by pulling at it gently with a fork.

How to store leftover air fryer catfish?

If you’re making the 4 fillets, chances are you won’t have any leftovers! However, if you should be so lucky, then be sure to cover them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Reheat them in the air fryer to crisp them back up again. If you use the microwave (which you can), they will remain soft and soggy.

plate of air fryer catfish with a bite on the fork.
air fried catfish on an air fryer basket.

Air Fryer Catfish

Quynh Nguyen
Air Fryer southern-style Cajun catfish – It's tender and flaky on the inside and the seasoned crispy outer crust locks in all of its moisture making this one of the best fish recipes you'll ever try!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 26 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 370 kcal

Equipment

  • Air Fryer

Ingredients
  

  • 4 catfish fillets
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • olive oil spray
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
  • Pat the catfish dry with a paper towel. Place it in a bowl. Then, in a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Drizzle and rub it on the catfish.
  • In a shallow dish, mix together yellow cornmeal, cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Dip each fish in the cornmeal mixture and press it on so that it sticks to the sides of the fish.
  • Open and spray the air fryer basket/tray with olive oil. Place the coated fish fillets into the air fryer basket in a single layer, leaving some space in between. Spray the surface of the fish with olive oil. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook in batches.
  • Air fry for 14 minutes, carefully flipping halfway.
  • Open the air fryer basket and carefully flip the fish one more time. Air fry for another 3-4 minutes. Catfish is done when it is crispy and golden brown on the outside and opaque and flakey on the inside, or the internal temperature reaches 145°F.
  • Serve with lemon wedges.

Notes

Helpful tips

  • Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket.
  • Lightly spray the air fryer basket with olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
  • Do not use too much oil, or the fish will get soggy.
air fryer catfish.

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