Air Fryer Catfish

With an air fryer or Ninja Foodi and 3 ingredients, you can make Southern-style catfish in 30 minutes or less. This Air Fryer Catfish has flakey, succulent meat and that classic fish fry crunch. It’s made with less oil used in traditional recipes, yet it is just as delicious!

fried catfish with fries and lemon

Catfish is a freshwater fish with a mild, slightly sweet, buttery flavor. It’s a staple in Southern cooking, and when prepared correctly, it’s comfort food at its finest!

Today, we’re cooking up breaded catfish in the air fryer -and it couldn’t be any easier. You’ll need fresh catfish, fish fry breading, and cooking spray.

The fish fry breading gives this air fryer catfish all of the crunch and all of the flavor. It’s essentially just seasoned cornmeal, but it’s the BEST with catfish. Check for it in the section with the bread crumbs, or order it online!

Why Cook Catfish In Air Fryer?

  • It’s the perfect way to make a fish fry for 2.
  • You’ll only need a few ingredients, and it’s ready in less than 30.
  • The air fryer creates a gorgeous crust with melt-in-your-mouth meat.
  • Less oil means less mess. Clean-up is a breeze.

🐟 Ingredients & Tools

  • Catfish fillets – Fresh catfish meat is white, sometimes a faint pink, with a distinguishable translucency. It’s best cooked the same day it’s caught or bought. If you aren’t planning to make this right away, freeze the fish until you’re ready.
  • Fish fry seasoning – Southern fish fry seasoning is typically cornmeal seasoned with garlic, salt, and various spices. It’s relatively simple to make from scratch, but there are also a few highly-rated brands. Louisiana Fish Fry Products, Zatarain’s, and Tony Chachares are great options.
  • Cooking spray – A light coating of cooking spray over the breading gets it extra golden brown and crispy.

🥣 How To Make Catfish In The Air Fryer

1️⃣ Preheat air fryer. First, power on your air fryer, set it to 400F, and let it preheat while you prep the catfish.

2️⃣ Bread catfish to air fry. Meanwhile, clean up the catfish (if you need to), and pat the fillets very dry with paper towels. Then, add the fish fry seasoning to a shallow bowl and dredge the dry fillets in the seasonings.

3️⃣ Air fry catfish. Place the breaded fillets in the bottom of the preheated air fryer basket in a single layer. Spray the top of each piece with a light coating of cooking spray, and air fry at 400°F for 20 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through. Serve hot!

Air Fryer Catfish Nuggets

Adapting this recipe to make catfish nuggets is easy! Cut the fillets into nugget-size shapes and follow the same steps listed above. You may need to cook catfish nuggets a few minutes less.

💭 Recipe Tips

  • Pat the fillets completely dry. An excess of moisture will keep the seasoning from getting crispy. No one likes soggy fried catfish!
  • Don’t overcrowd the basket. The hot air needs room to move to achieve the irresistible crunch of classic fish fry. Arrange the fillets in a single layer without overlapping. Work in batches if you need to.
  • The exact time and air frying temperature will vary. If your fillets are thicker, they may need to cook at a lower temperature (360-380) for a few minutes longer.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Catfish should reach at least 145F to consume safely.
  • Catfish are delicate, so use a spatula. Flip only once during the cooking time and use your spatula to keep the fillets in one piece.

🧂 Variations

Make fried catfish without breading – Feel free to coat your fish fillets in seasonings and spice blends instead of fish fry batter. Dredge in a light layer of Cajun or Creole seasoning to make blackened catfish.

Air fry frozen catfish – If your catfish is frozen and you’re short on time, you can cook the frozen fillets in the air fryer without breading (the fish fry seasoning will slide right off frozen pieces of fish). Instead, season the fish with your favorite dry spices halfway through cooking.

🧊 Storing & Freezing

Storing: Catfish is best served hot from the air fryer. If you, by chance, have extra, let it cool, then wrap it loosely in a paper towel and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Freezing: Fried fish freezes surprisingly well. First, let it cool to room temperature, place the fish in a freezer-secure bag and freeze for 2-3 months.


Is catfish good in the air fryer?

Absolutely. The constant flow of super-hot air on all sides of the fillets crisps the fish fry breading evenly without needing excess oil. Meanwhile, the meat is soft and flakey with a pleasantly delicate bite.

How long do catfish take to cook in the air fryer?

The precise length of time will vary based on the thickness of the fillets and the functionality of your air fryer. However, cooking for 20 minutes at 400F is an excellent start.

Can you air fry whole catfish?

Yes, but it requires more effort than cooking cleaned catfish fillets, and you’ll need an air fryer large enough to accommodate a whole fish. Cooking an entire catfish in the air fryer will also take longer, and skinning, deboning, etc., is a lot of work.

Can I reheat fried catfish in the air fryer?

Yes. Air fryers are a great kitchen gadget to reheat leftovers as good as new! To reheat fried catfish in an air fryer, cook at 360 degrees for 5-6 minutes, flipping halfway through.

🍤 More Air Fryer Seafood Recipes

Air Fryer Frozen Shrimp
Air Fryer Frozen Salmon
Keto Bang Bang Shrimp
Air Fryer Salmon Burgers
Air Fryer Crab Cakes
Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
Air Fryer Frozen Calamari

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fried catfish with fries and lemon

Air Fryer Catfish

These easy-to-follow instructions will teach you how to prepare a fish fry for two in your air fryer in less than 30 minutes. Fresh catfish fillets are coated in a light dusting of fish fry breading, then cooked in the air fryer until crunchy on the surface and the flesh is moist and flakey.
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories: 570kcal


  • air fryer or Ninja Foodi
  • shallow bowl to dredge
  • metal spatula


  • 1 pound catfish 2 fillets
  • 1 cup fish fry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon cooking spray


  • Set the air fryer to 400°F, and let preheat for 3-5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, skin, clean, and fillet the catfish (if necessary), and pat the fillets dry with paper towels.
  • Add the fish fry seasoning to a shallow bowl, and dredge the dry fillets in the seasonings. Press the fillets gently into the spices for a light, even coating on both sides.
  • Place the breaded fillets in the bottom of the preheated air fryer basket in a single layer. Spray the surface of each piece with a light coating of cooking spray.
  • Then, air fry at 400°F for 20 minutes. Carefully flip the fillets halfway through with a spatula, lightly spray the opposite side, and cook for the remaining 10 minutes (or until the catfish is cooked all the way through and the breading is golden brown and crispy). Serve hot.


Calories: 570kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 1223mg | Potassium: 988mg | Fiber: 5g | Vitamin A: 357IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 286mg | Iron: 5mg

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