Air-Fryer Fish Tacos Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 30 min. Cook: 10 min./batch
Crispy, crunchy air-fryer fish tacos are a classic So-Cal dish that's easy to replicate at home, no matter how far you are from the ocean.

Updated: May 24, 2024

I first tasted a fish taco on vacation in San Diego. It wasn’t like any other taco I’d had before: It was filled with lightly spicy, tender fish and a fresh, citrus-spiked vegetable topping, whereas most of the other tacos I’d eaten had crunchy shells and ground beef. The bright, punchy flavor was a revelation! However, I don’t love deep-frying, so I resigned myself to enjoying fish tacos from food trucks instead of making them at home—that is, until I found this recipe for air-fryer fish tacos. Like many other air-fryer recipes, they’re easy, quick and a bit healthier than their deep-fried counterparts.

A really good fish taco has three key parts: Fish that has a perfectly crunchy outside and a tender inside; a sauce that’s creamy, spicy and tangy, and a dollop of something fresh and crunchy on top, whether that’s simple shredded vegetables or an elaborate homemade slaw. Making air-fryer fish tacos at home means you can adjust each part to your liking, adding spice, using a different kind of fish or loading up on fresh herbs. The result? A meal worthy of your favorite Mexican restaurant—no reservation or take-out order required!

Ingredients for Air-Fryer Fish Tacos

  • Tilapia: Tilapia is a versatile, mild-tasting white fish that can stand up to the high heat of air frying. When shopping for fresh fish, avoid slimy or wet-looking fish. There shouldn’t be any fishy odor. After you pick a fillet, wrap it tightly in the fridge and cook within two days. However, this doesn’t have to be a tilapia recipe—feel free to use other types of white fish, including snapper, mahi mahi, grouper, flounder, halibut or cod.
  • Flour and bread crumbs: Classic fish tacos call for a light breading. Here, both flour and panko bread crumbs coat the tilapia. The fine flour ensures even coverage, while the crumbs add crunch. Feel free to use any bread crumb you like or even a substitute for bread crumbs, like cracker crumbs.
  • Spices: This fish is lightly spiced with white pepper and cayenne for heat and paprika for slightly sweet and smoky flavor. Feel free to play with other spices such as black pepper, chili powder or cumin.
  • Corn tortillas: The mellow flavor of corn tortillas (as opposed to flour tortillas) is a delicious match with fried fish. Gently warm the tortillas before assembling the tacos to ensure they’re pliable. Use store-bought or even homemade corn tortillas if you have time.
  • Sour cream: Sour cream serves as the base of a simple homemade taco sauce. We use a reduced-fat version, but you can use regular or nonfat sour cream too.
  • Green chiles: Canned green chiles infuse the sauce with rich, smoky heat. Pro tip: Use kitchen scissors to cut up the chiles directly in the can before pouring them into the sauce.
  • Lime juice: A squeeze of fresh lime adds a bright acidic note that keeps the fish tacos from feeling too heavy or salty. Fresh limes are best, but lime juice works fine in a pinch.

Directions

Step 1: Make the sauce

Place the sour cream, chiles, cilantro and lime juice in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.

Step 2: Bread the fish

Cut each tilapia fillet lengthwise into two portions. Place the flour, egg white and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip the tilapia pieces in the flour first, then the egg white, then the crumbs.

Editor’s Tip: Flip the fish to coat both sides in batter.

Step 3: Air fry the fish

Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. In batches, arrange the fillets in a single layer on a greased tray in the air-fryer basket, spritzing the fish with cooking spray. Cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes, turning once.

Test Kitchen Tip: In our testing, we find that cook times vary dramatically among different brands of air fryers. As a result, we give wider than normal ranges on suggested cook times. Begin checking at the first time listed and adjust as needed.

Step 4: Assemble the tacos

Combine the salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika, and sprinkle over the cooked fish. Place a portion of fish onto each tortilla and top with about 2 tablespoons of the sour cream sauce. Sprinkle with tomato. If desired, top with shredded cabbage, carrots and additional cilantro.

Air-Fryer Fish Taco Variations

  • Serve with a slaw: The acidic dressing of a good slaw recipe will brighten up the breaded fish, while the cabbage adds a hearty, fresh crunch.
  • Play with toppings: Fish tacos benefit from lots of toppings that add moisture, texture and flavor. Seared corn kernels, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, minced onion, pickled onions or leftover roasted vegetables are all great alternative taco toppings.
  • Use different tortillas: Corn tortillas are a nice size for a fish taco, but feel free to play with other types, from classic white flour tortillas to crunchy shells to alternative grain wraps, such as quinoa.
  • Spice things up with salsa: Augment the creamy, tangy taco sauce with a bit of salsa, whether it’s chunky and fresh pico de gallo or one of the best store-bought salsas.

How to Store Air-Fryer Fish Tacos

Each component of the leftover air-fried fish tacos should be stored in separate airtight containers. Keep everything but the tortillas in the refrigerator. The sauce and fish will keep for two to three days, while the tortillas and toppings will keep for a week.

Reheat the fish in the air fryer until warmed through, about five minutes. You may also reheat in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. We don’t recommend heating in the microwave, as it will make the breading soggy.

Air-Fryer Fish Taco Tips

Can you use frozen fish for air-fryer fish tacos?

Yes, you can use frozen fish to make air-fryer fish tacos. In fact, frozen fish is often a great choice, especially if you don’t live near a coast. The best frozen fish fillets are frozen when the fish is very fresh, so it will generally have a good texture and mild flavor. You can defrost the fish in the refrigerator overnight or fill a bowl with hot water, placing the fish in a plastic resealable bag in the water until the fish has some elasticity. Then proceed with the recipe as directed.

How else can you prepare fish for fish tacos?

There are so many ways to make fish tacos! Prep a beer batter to make fried fish tacos, or forgo the batter and air fryer and make skillet fish tacos with guacamole or Baja fish tacos with a dash of lime.

How do you know when fish is done cooking?

The USDA says the food-safe cooking temperature for fish is 145°, but it’s usually not necessary to check the temperature. Cooked fish will be opaque and the flesh will flake easily. In fact, it’s more common to overcook fish than undercook it, which can make the fish a bit tough. Once it turns opaque, check it often, using a fork to test for flakiness.

What can you serve with air-fryer fish tacos?

We love serving fish tacos with fresh cabbage slaw, such as mango slaw. You can also serve fish tacos with your favorite Spanish rice recipe and beans. For a more special meal, serve a Mexican side dish. And of course, a batch of margaritas is a classic cocktail pairing for tacos.

Air-Fryer Fish Tacos

Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 10 min
Yield 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 dashes hot pepper sauce, optional
  • 4 tilapia fillets (4 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each white pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika
  • 8 corn tortillas (6 inches), warmed
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • Optional: Shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and sliced radishes

Directions

  1. Place sour cream, chiles, cilantro, lime juice, salt and, if desired, hot pepper sauce in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.
  2. Cut each tilapia fillet lengthwise into 2 portions. Place flour, egg white and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip tilapia into flour, then egg white, then crumbs.
  3. Preheat air fryer to 400°. In batches, arrange fillets in a single layer on greased tray in air-fryer basket; spritz with cooking spray. Cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, 10-12 minutes, turning once.
  4. Combine seasonings; sprinkle over fish. Place a portion of fish on each tortilla; top with about 2 tablespoons sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with tomato. If desired, top with shredded cabbage, carrots, radishes and additional cilantro.

Nutrition Facts

1 taco: 178 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated fat), 30mg cholesterol, 269mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 2g fiber), 16g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

These crispy air-fryer fish tacos are good enough to challenge the best food truck. I love that the fish is deliciously guilt-free because it’s air fried instead of deep fried. —Lena Lim, Seattle, Washington