Cajun Catfish with Spicy Tartar Sauce

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This easy air fryer catfish recipe lets you quickly fry up Cajun catfish at home. The catfish are fried with cornmeal and served with a spicy tartar sauce. This Cajun inspired dinner can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.

This is a very simple recipe with minimal ingredients but lots of flavor. Catfish is a traditional food used in Cajun cooking, so in this recipe it is fried up with cornmeal and cajun seasoning and served with homemade Cajun tartar sauce for a spicy fish dinner.

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Catfish is easy to farm so it is a sustainable choice of fish. It is also one of the most commonly farmed fish in the U.S., which means it is relatively inexpensive. And it is tasty too!

The air fryer is great for frying food with less oil. Whether it is Nashville Chicken or Tater Tots you can have the taste of fried food without the calories!

Instead of deep frying or pan frying the catfish cooking in the air fryer is a healthy choice. I was able to make it without adding any extra fat to the recipe, making it a healthy and low calorie dinner that still has lots of flavor.

plate with air fryer catfish

Why Use an Air Fryer?

The air fryer isn’t really a fryer, it is a convection oven. The oven works by circulating hot air around the food, which cooks it more quickly than a conventional oven and with less fat.

An air fryer is able to achieve the crispiness associated with frying with less oil. Less oil means fewer calories and less fat, all of which means food that is better for you and your family to eat.

Fish in the Air Fryer

All this means that catfish is a great food to cook in the air fryer. Most fish is naturally low in calories and healthy to eat. But if you add a ton of breading and deep fry it – well it isn’t so healthy anymore.

Fish fry is tasty, but definitely not good for you. So making it in the air fryer means you can quickly and easily have fried fish that is good for you.

How to Fry Catfish in the Air Fryer

This recipe is super simple.

1. Coat the Catfish

To coat the catfish mix some cornmeal with some Cajun seasoning and put it in a gallon sized recloseable bag. Added the catfish fillets to the bag and shake them to coat them evenly with the cornmeal and spices.

bag with catfish and breading

Now a traditional fish fry will have buttermilk, flour, and breadcrumbs but I wanted a coating that would be light and not heavy.

I like to be able to taste the fish, not just the breading! Frying catfish with cornmeal seemed like a good choice that was Cajun appropriate.

2. Cook the Catfish

Then I put the fillets in the air fryer and cooked them for 15 minutes. When you put the fish (or anything really) in the air fryer you need to be careful not to crowd the basket.

The air fryer works by circulating air, so the there has to be room between the fish fillets.

3 catfish fillets in air fryer basket

Spray a little cooking oil on the air fryer basket and put the fillets in the air fryer basket. Two fillets probably would have been better, they were a little crowded in the basket.

Cook for 15 minutes, turning them half way through. After that my fillets weren’t quite brown enough so I increased the temperature a tiny bit and gave them another 5 minutes.

I had one fish fillet left over which I made for lunch the next day. With only one fillet in the basket the fish was cooked in 15 minutes.

air fryer cajun catfish on a plate showing a cut end

The cornmeal really formed a coating around the fish and it browned up nicely in the air fryer.

Even though I added no oil to the fish other than a little bit of cooking spray on the basket there was enough to crisp up the coating. The outside of the fish was crispy and the inside was moist.

Spicy Tartar Sauce

I decided to make some homemade spicy tartar sauce to go along with the fish. Traditionally Cajun catfish should be served with Remoulade sauce, which is similar to tartar sauce but has capers and horseradish.

ingredients for spicy tartar sauce

I didn’t make Remoulade sauce because I was making this meal super simple. And also I didn’t plan ahead and was limited to ingredients I had in my pantry, which didn’t include capers and horseradish! So I made a basic tartar sauce with added Cajun spices.

close up of spicy tartar sauce

The tartar sauce is made by mixing mayonnaise with chopped dill pickles, lemon juice, parsley and Cajun seasoning. It was really tasty and worth the 5 minutes it took me to mix it together.

What Side Dishes Go with Catfish?

Air fryer catfish is excellent served with all the side dishes you’d serve at a southern barbecue. Coleslaw and cornbread or hush puppies are probably the most common sides served with catfish.

air fryer catfish with cornmeal on a plate from the top

While I used catfish for this recipe I think it would work well with any type of thin fish fillet. I wouldn’t use it on something like salmon or swordfish, but tilapia, cod and haddock would all work nicely with this simple recipe in the air fryer.

fork with piece of air fryer catfish with tartar sauce

My husband loves to fish and he brings home perch or walleye for me to cook. The first fish he catches this season I am going to fry up with this recipe in my air fryer!

Find More Seafood Dishes

overhead view of air fryer catfish on plate
4.75 from 74 votes

Air Fryer Catfish with Spicy Tartar Sauce

Published By Anne
This easy air fryer catfish recipe lets you quickly fry up Cajun catfish at home.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings: 4
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Cajun Catfish

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • 4 catfish fillets

Spicy Tartar Sauce

  • 1/4 cup dill pickles
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning


Cajun Catfish

  • Combine the cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in a gallon size ziploc bag.
    3/4 cup cornmeal, 3 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • Dry the catfish fillets off with paper towels. Then add them to the bag, 2 at a time, and shake to cover the fillets in the mixture. Repeat until all of the fillets are coated.
    4 catfish fillets
  • Place the catfish fillets in the air fryer basket. Don’t stack them, make sure air can circulate around the fillets.
  • Cook on 390 F for 15 minutes, flipping the fillets half way through.
  • To brown the fillets up nicely increase the temperature to 400 F and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve with lemon wedges and spicy tartar sauce.

Spicy Tartar Sauce

  • Chop the dill pickles up into small pieces.
    1/4 cup dill pickles
  • Mix the mayonnaise, dill pickles, lemon and Cajun seasoning.
    1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning


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Nutrition Information

Serving: 1g | Calories: 481kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 1512mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g

Nutrition facts are estimates.

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fried catfish fillet on a plate with lemon wedges, spicy tartar sauce and beans

Hi, I’m Anne!

I love to cook and I want to share my recipes with you. I believe cooking should be approachable and fun, not a chore. I want to make simple recipes using everyday ingredients that you can make again and again, whether it is for a busy weeknight, a summer cookout or a special dessert. Read more...

5 thoughts on “Cajun Catfish with Spicy Tartar Sauce”

  1. Common side dishes are slaw, heated pinto beans with diced ham and a green tomato relish, fries, hush puppies, a slice of onion and a lemon wedge. That’s it.
    This northerner has lived in the South awhile and catfish is a big deal here.
    Plus the tartar is very simple. It is only meant to enhance the fish.


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