One of my favorite parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity to the ocean. When the weather is scorching hot in the city, the coast boasts mild temperatures and cool breezes. But the real reason I drive out to the coast once a month is the seafood. It's so fresh at the source, and an order of fish and chips is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it. You don’t need access to a great restaurant to get great fried fish, though. And you don't need a deep fryer—just turn on your air fryer. Air-fryer fish is so simple to make. Like the traditional version, air-fried fish fillets feature a light, crispy batter that creates a delightful crunch with each bite. It's a perfect contrast to the moist, flaky fish inside. The dish works well with fresh fish, or you can use frozen cod.
How to Cook Fish in the Air Fryer
You don’t need a deep fryer to fry fish anymore, thanks to the air fryer. This tabletop convection oven is as effective as hot oil for crisping fish fillets. Once you know how to air-fry fish, you may never do it any other way!
If you're starting with frozen fish, the first step is to thaw the fish. Whether you’re using fresh or frozen fish, pat the fish dry to help the coating adhere. Then, dip the fish into flour, egg, and cornflakes. This three-step breading helps the crushed cornflakes stick to the fish as it cooks. From there, transfer the fish to a preheated air fryer, and cook until it becomes nice and crispy. Flip the fish halfway through to ensure it browns evenly on both sides.
What kind of fish can you make in the air fryer?
Cod or haddock fillets are two common types of fish used in fish and chips recipes. These white fish have a tender texture and mild flavor, and they hold up well in the frying process. They’re not the only options, so feel free to experiment. Almost any type of fish works for air-fryer fish. Some of the best fish to fry are tilapia, cod, catfish and walleye (and skate, pollock, rockfish or halibut also work well). It's best to avoid oily fish like tuna or swordfish, although that's not a hard-and-fast rule: I've had fried albacore before, and I loved every bite).
Gain inspiration from some of our favorite fried fish recipes: crispy salmon fish and chips, lemon batter perch, batter-up walleye, Parmesan-crusted tilapia, secret-ingredient fried catfish and air-fryer crumb-topped sole.
Ingredients for Air-Fryer Fish
- Fish fillets: We use haddock or cod fillets for this air-fryer fish recipe. But—as mentioned earlier—you can use another great-tasting fish for this recipe. We leave the fillets in large pieces to streamline the breading process. Fewer pieces mean fewer steps! However, you can cut the fish into strips for a traditional fish and chips presentation.
- Flour: The flour creates a dry coating for the fish, giving the egg something to stick to. It’s the first part of the three-step breading that creates crispy air-fryer fish.
- Egg: Egg is the glue that adheres the cornflakes to the fish. If you'd prefer to avoid eggs, swap in 1/4 cup of heavy cream or buttermilk. Or, keep things dairy-free and make a slurry using equal parts flour and water.
- Cornflakes: These toasted flakes are naturally crispy, ensuring the air-fryer fish turns out crunchy on the outside. You'll want to choose the original flavor for its mild, lightly sweet character. Using sweetened cornflakes would be weird with fish (especially the berry flavors).
- Potatoes: If you want fries (or, "chips") with your fried fish, you can cook them in the air fryer, too. The best type of potatoes for fries have a high starch content. The top options are Idaho or Russet potatoes, but all-purpose Yukon Gold potatoes also work well for frying.
Step 1: Cut the potatoes
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
If you're making fries for a classic fish and chips dinner, peel the potatoes, and cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Then, cut the pieces into 1/2-inch-thick sticks.
Step 2: Cook the fries
In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil, pepper and salt. Place the potatoes in a single layer in the air-fryer basket, working in batches if need be. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until just tender. Toss the potatoes to redistribute, and continue cooking until lightly browned and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Remove the fries from the basket. Keep warm.
Editor’s Tip: There are many different styles of air fryers. Depending on the kind you have, yours might be large enough to cook the potatoes and fish at the same time. Just make sure all the pieces are in a single layer with plenty of room for the hot air to circulate around the food. Otherwise, cook in batches. You can keep the potatoes warm in a 200° oven (or, reheat them in the final step.)
Step 3: Bread the fish
Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, mix the all-purpose flour and pepper. In another shallow bowl, whisk a large egg with water. In a third bowl, toss the crushed cornflakes with Parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper.
Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle the fillets with salt. Working with one fillet at a time, dip the fish into the flour mixture. Turn to coat on both sides, and shake off any excess flour. Then, dip the fish into the egg mixture, and turn to coat. Finish in the cornflake mixture, patting the fish gently to help the cornflakes adhere.
Step 4: Air-fry the fish
Place the fish in a single layer in the air-fryer basket. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until the fish is lightly browned and just beginning to flake easily when tested with a fork. Serve the fish with tartar sauce, if desired.
Test Kitchen Tip: Fish can overcook quickly, so watch it carefully! Cook times vary dramatically among brands of air fryers. Begin checking at the first time listed and adjust as needed. To avoid overcooking the fish, you may want to use a thermometer to see if the fish has reached food-safe cooking temperatures of 145°.
Step 5: Reheat the fries
If needed, return the fries to the basket. Reheat the fries in the air fryer until warmed through.
- Use panko bread crumbs: Like cornflakes, panko bread crumbs are naturally crunchy, so they’re ideal for coating air-fryer fish. Swap them in for the cornflakes (similar to our air-fryer salmon bites recipe).
- Make it in the oven: Don’t have an air fryer? No problem! You can bake the fish and fries in a 425° oven. Cook the potatoes first, as they take 25 to 30 minutes. Then, on a separate sheet pan, cook the fish for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Skip the chips: Potatoes are not required to make air-fryer fish fillets. Make air-fryer eggplant fries or air-fryer sweet potato fries instead. Or, skip the chips altogether, and whip up any of these sides for fried fish.
- Go gluten-free: To make gluten-free air-fryer fish, choose a gluten-free corn flake brand, and use a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend instead of the all-purpose flour.
How to Store Air-Fryer Fish
Let the air-fryer fish fillets cool completely. The coating has the best chance of staying crispy if the steam evaporates before covering it. Then, store the fish fillets in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days. Store the fries in a separate covered container for three to five days.
How to Reheat Fried Fish in the Air Fryer
The best way to reheat air-fryer fish is in the air fryer. The leftovers get nice and crisp, just like when they were freshly cooked. Preheat the air fryer to 350°. Arrange the fish in a single layer, and cook until heated through, about six to seven minutes. Flip the fish halfway through to promote even heating. Reheat the leftover fries at the same temperature, cooking for three to four minutes. Shake the basket halfway through.
Tips for Air-Fryer Fish
How long do you cook fish in the air fryer?
How long to cook fish depends on the size of the fillets and the air-fryer brand, as cooking times vary from brand to brand. Our Test Kitchen recommends cooking air-fryer fish for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Can you use frozen fish fillets to make air-fryer fish fillets?
Like most easy fish recipes, you can make this recipe with frozen fish. Thaw the fish overnight in the refrigerator. This helps the coating adhere, and ensures the outside of the fish doesn't get overcooked before the center is done.
How do you make the coating stick to the fish fillets?
The first step to making sure the coating sticks to air-fryer fish filets is to pat the fillets dry with a paper towel. This will remove excess moisture that would prevent the flour from creating a nice, even coating. Next, dip the fish in egg, which will help the cornflake mixture stick. To help the cornflakes adhere, press them gently onto the fish.