This easy air fryer tilapia lets you have a healthy dinner on the table in about 15 minutes. The air fryer cooks the tilapia quickly and evenly resulting in a tender and flaky fish dinner, seasoned with garlic and lemon.
A simple white fish like tilapia makes an easy and healthy dinner. Fish is a great source of protein without extra fat. And using the air fryer to cook fish helps keep it nutritious and tender.
The high heat of the air fryer cooks the fish quickly without adding much extra oil or butter. Sometimes I add a light breading to air fried fish, like in my air fryer catfish recipe, but this tilapia recipe has no breading.
For tilapia I prefer to just use simple lemon juice and spices to make a moist flaky fish. This is a low effort and low mess dinner with just a few ingredients, which makes it perfect for a busy weeknight dinner.
The simplicity of this recipe means it is naturally gluten free, dairy free, low carb, keto friendly and generally compatible with a wide variety of diets.
There are just a few ingredients in this easy recipe:
- Tilapia filets
- Lemon or lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Garlic or garlic scapes
- Salt and pepper
I used garlic scapes in the pictures for this post, which are the stalks cut from young garlic bulbs in the spring. But a garlic clove would work just as well to give the fish a subtle garlic flavor that contrasts nicely with the lemon.
Similarly I prefer to use a whole lemon and juice it for fresh lemon juice. But bottled lemon juice works too!
How to Make Air Fried Tilapia
1. Preheat the Air Fryer
Preheating the air fryer helps ensure the fish cooks evenly and quickly. So preheat it at 400 F for 2 minutes while you season the tilapia fillets.
2. Season the Fish
If you are using a fresh lemon juice it, which should give you about 2 Tablespoons of fresh juice. Combine the lemon juice with the olive oil in a small bowl and add the minced garlic
Before seasoning the tilapia fillets pat them dry with paper towels. This will help the seasoning stick to the fillets.
Brush the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic mixture on the fish. Coat both sides of the tilapia, so that fish doesn’t stick to the air fryer basket.
Then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on the fish. I use about 1/4 teaspoon of each salt and pepper per fillet.
3. Air Fry the Fish
Put the fish in the air fryer basket. My air fryer basket fits two tilapia fillets without crowding, yours might fit more or only one.
Don’t overcrowd the basket or stack the fish. If you want to cook more fillets just do it in batches. The fish cooks so quickly anyway, so making a couple batches is no big deal.
Air fry the fish at 400 F for 8 minutes. Then pull the basket out and check the fish. You can use an instant read thermometer to make sure the tilapia has reached 145 F.
When it is done it will be a little bit brown at the edges and maybe a little brown on the top. But it will mostly be white – this is not a recipe that will get crispy on top. The fish should flake easily with a fork.
Do I Need to Flip the Fish?
I prefer not to flip the tilapia when cooking it in this recipe. For most air fryer recipes you get better browning if you flip the ingredients halfway through.
In this case you aren’t really going to get anything more than light brown fish anyway. And if you flip the fish fillet they might very well break apart. So I don’t bother flipping the fish in this recipe.
Can I Air Fry Frozen Tilapia?
I would thaw the tilapia before cooking it in the air fryer. I haven’t tried cooking it from frozen, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Frozen tilapia can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator or even more quickly in a sink with running water. I think the results of air frying frozen tilapia would be inconsistent and probably not taste as good.
I always like to serve fish with lemon wedges. Lemon and fish go together amazingly well, and an extra squeeze of lemon on the tilapia accentuates the flavors. Fresh herbs like basil, parsley or chives are great to sprinkle on top.
This is a quick healthy dinner, so I generally serve it with a green salad or a simple vegetable like zucchini or asparagus that I can cook in the short time it takes to cook the fish. Instant rice also makes a good side dish for this tilapia!
Tilapia is a very common fish in grocery stores in the U.S. and is fairly inexpensive. It is a generic white fish that has a mild taste. I use it in this recipe because it is:
- Not very “fishy” tasting
- fillets are well sized for my air fryer
- easy to find
Alternatives to Tilapia
Some people prefer not to use tilapia because it is a farmed fish and is not wild caught. Also some people prefer fish that has a stronger, more distinctive taste.
This simple recipe would work well with any white, lean and flaky white fish. This would include species like:
- red snapper
- rainbow trout
Some white fish like haddock and cod are noticeably thicker than tilapia. So the recipe would would work with them, but the cooking time would probably need to be longer.
Find More Easy Air Fryer Dinners
- 2 tilapia fillets
- 1 lemon or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove or 1 garlic scapes, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 F for 2-3 minutes.
- If using a fresh lemon juice it to obtain about 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
- Mix the lemon juice, oil, garlic in a small bowl and stir.
- Pat the tilapia fillets dry with paper towels to ensure the spices stick.
- Brush both sides of the fish fillets with the lemon juice and oil mixture. Then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on the fish fillet. I use about 1/4 teaspoon of each per fillet.
- Place the fillets in the air fryer basket, making sure there is space for the air to circulate.
- Cook at 400 F for 8-12 minutes, until the fish has reached an internal temperature of 145 F. When it is done the fish will be lightly brown at the edges but not crispy. It should flake easily with a fork.
- Serve with lemon wedges and fresh herbs like basil, parsley or chives.
You don't need to flip the fish halfway through cooking.
Thaw the tilapia before cooking it.
This recipe will work with other white fish like flounder, rainbow trout or catfish.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 343Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 97mgSodium: 628mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 45g
Nutrition facts are estimates.