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Air Fryer Catfish

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Crispy and packed with flavor, this air fryer catfish is a dinner you really don’t want to miss out on. Make it tonight and you’ll be in love!

Lemon slices sit in the basket of catfish.

Catfish isn’t a fish that’s used in a lot of kitchens, and I think that’s an outright crime. When prepared correctly, catfish is really one of my favorite fishes to eat! Made with ingredients like cayenne powder, paprika, and panko, this air fryer catfish is too good to ignore.

Air fryer catfish has the perfect combination of crunchy texture and bold flavors that have made it a staple dinner in my house.

What is catfish?

These days when you look up “what is catfish” you’re inundated with the definition of deceptive activity that targets victims especially on dating sites. If it needs clarification, we are not talking about that type of catfish here. We are talking about the actual fish here.

Why You’ll Love This

  • Crunchy and tender. The crunchy, air fried exterior is incredible to sink your teeth into! I also love how the air fryer cooks the fish to perfection – it’s juicy, tender, and not dried out at all.
  • Bold flavors. Ingredients like cayenne, paprika, and lemon, you can be sure this recipe has well-rounded flavor that you won’t be able to miss.
  • Perfect for seafood lovers and dabblers. If you like seafood, you’ll love this recipe. Honestly, even if you don’t love seafood you’ll love this recipe!
ingredients for air fryer catfish

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here is a list of ingredients you will need for air fried catfish. Make sure to scroll down to view the full recipe for exact measurements.

  • Catfish filets – you can use fresh or frozen.
  • Milk – you can use buttermilk if you prefer.
  • Lemon juice – this will help the milk turn to buttermilk, so if you choose to use buttermilk, omit this.
  • Mustard – you can use regular or dijon. This adds so much delicious flavor and helps the coating stay on, so slather it on good!
  • Panko breadcrumbs – helps the catfish have a nice crunch.
  • Cornmeal – catfish isn’t catfish without cornmeal, right?
  • Seasoning salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne – this adds some heat!
  • Paprika – it adds a little heat, but mostly flavor.
  • Parsley – gives it a fresh flavor and color.
  • Lemon – delish bright flavor when squeezed on the fish.
  • Non-stick cooking spray – you will need to spray the fish before putting it in the air fryer and also when you flip it over.

How To Make Air Fryer Catfish

Here is a general overview of the steps involved to make catfish in your air fryer. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.

Give the catfish a milk bath. In a shallow container, mix together milk and lemon juice then add the catfish filets and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Make the breading. Combine the panko, cornmeal, seasoning salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika and parsley in another shallow container.

Bread the catfish. Remove the catfish from the milk and place on a plate. Brush mustard over one side of the catfish then place the fish mustard side down in the panko. Brush the other side with mustard then flip it over, pressing gently to help the panko adhere to the fish.

Air fry the catfish. Place fish in the air fryer basket then set the temperature to 400 degrees F. Air fry for 7 minutes then once time is up, flip the fish and cook for an additional 6 minutes.

Substitutions and Variations

If you prefer to not make the breading from scratch, you may use 1 cup of fish fry coating or Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.

A basket of air fried catfish is lined with brown parchment paper.

Tips for Success

Air fryers make life easy and I’m here to make life easy too. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the best air fryer catfish!

  • Lay it on thick. Make sure the breading is on relatively thick. I love a crispy crust on my fish and it really makes it seem like it’s deep fried breaded when it’s on a little thicker.
  • Don’t overcrowd the basket. You don’t want to overcrowd the air fryer basket with too many filets. The crust won’t crisp up and may be soggy. In addition, the fish won’t cook if they’re stacked on top of each other.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

In an airtight container in the fridge, this air fried catfish will stay fresh for about 3-4 days.

When reheating, I highly advise against using the microwave! As delicious as this fish really is, the microwave will both dry it out AND make the house smell like fish. You know that coworker at the office that reheats their fish lunch in the break room? Yeah – no on likes that guy.

Instead, just reheat the leftover air fried catfish right back in the air fryer! It should only need to reheat for about 5 minutes at 400°F. If it’s still cold in the center after 5 minutes, continue air frying in 2 minute increments. It’ll be good as new!

A piece of catfish is dipped into tartar sauce.

What To Serve with Air Fried Catfish

Of course you’re going to need a cup of homemade tartar sauce on the side when you serve this catfish! It’s the perfect condiment for this flavorful fish.

The lemon wedges add a mouthwatering tanginess to the catfish that’s out of this world delicious. Do NOT forget to add the lemons to everyone’s plate!

Besides the tartar sauce, I usually toss together a quick basic chopped salad as a side dish for this entree. It’s truly the perfect summertime meal

Two white plates contain servings of catfish and side salad.

Here fishy fishy…enjoy more fish recipes!

Lemon slices sit in the basket of catfish.

Air Fryer Catfish

Tender, crispy catfish have all the flavor without the guilt (and mess) of fried food!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Julie Chiou
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  • 24 ounces catfish filets
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • cup mustard
  • ½ cup panko
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.



  • Mix the milk and lemon juice and let sit for 1 minute. Pour into a flat container and add the catfish, turn to coat. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  • In a bowl, combine the panko, cornmeal, seasoning salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika and parsley. Place in a shallow, wide dish for dipping.
  • Remove the catfish from the milk and place on a plate. Brush mustard over one side of the catfish.
  • Place the fish, mustard side down in the panko. Brush the other side, then flip it over, pressing gently to help the panko adhere to the fish.
  • Place fish in the air fryer basket and repeat. Make sure not to overcrowd the basket.
  • Spray all the fish with oil or non stick cooking spray.
  • Place in the air fryer and set for 400 °F for 7 minutes. When time is finished, flip the fish and spray the fish with nonstick cooking spray. Return to the air fryer and cook for an additional 6 minutes.
  • Remove and serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.


Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 329 kcal | Carbohydrates: 27 g | Protein: 34 g | Fat: 9 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 105 mg | Sodium: 973 mg | Potassium: 853 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 5 g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: air fryer, catfish
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