Air Fryer Catfish is the crispiest white fish without all the hot oil! These crunchy filets are coated in seasoned cornmeal and marinated in buttermilk for the best flaky fish in a flash.

Overhead shot of a plate of fried catfish with parsley and lemon wedges next to tartar sauce and hot sauce

AIR FRYER CATFISH RECIPE

Making fish in the air fryer is one of the best ways to get crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside fish every time. This Air Fryer Catfish is the best!

You get perfectly crunchy fish fry filets every time with no lingering smell of burnt oil all week.

You’ll be dreaming of Louisiana with this Cajun fried catfish — but not the lower calorie count! A quick buttermilk and hot sauce marinade before dredging it in crunchy yellow cornmeal gives you the perfect flaky catfish. Yum!

Close-up shot of crunchy catfish filets garnished with fresh parsley and lemon wedges

INGREDIENTS IN AIR FRYER CATFISH

Catfish filets: You can use fresh or frozen catfish for this recipe. Be sure you dry the filets well before dredging them in cornmeal.

Buttermilk: This tangy marinade makes the best fried fish and fried chicken, too. You can make your own buttermilk with a little vinegar and regular milk.

Hot sauce: I use a little hot sauce in my catfish marinade to get a gentle spice! It also helps marinate the fish before breading it.

Yellow cornmeal: The best catfish is coated in crunchy cornmeal for the ultimate crust.

Flour: You need a little flour to help the cornmeal stick to the fish. It also helps make a super crunchy crust on the catfish!

Cajun seasoning: I love blackened catfish, and Cajun seasoning brings a great punch to this fish dish!

Black pepper: The pungent flavor of freshly cracked pepper is perfect in this catfish crust. It brings just enough heat to the palate without overwhelming.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP!

Collage of steps to make air fryer catfish with a buttermilk and hot sauce marinade

HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER CATFISH

  1. First, whisk the buttermilk and hot sauce together for a quick marinade. I use gallon sized baggies to cut down on dirty dishes. Cover the fish completely in the marinade and chill.
  2. While the fish marinates, whisk together the flour, yellow cornmeal, cajun seasoning, and pepper.
  3. When it’s time to cook, let the fish drain off any extra marinade in a colander.
  4. Then, dredge the filets in the cornmeal mixture on all sides. Press the filets gently into the dry ingredients to help coat the fish. Let it rest a few minutes on a plate or baking sheet before air frying.
  5. Now, place one layer of breaded filets in the air fryer and spray lightly with oil.
  6. Finally, air fry the filets until crispy and flakey, flipping halfway through cooking. I love to serve mine with a little tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

These numbered steps match the numbered photos above and are for illustration purposes. For the complete list of ingredients and instructions, please see the recipe below.

A plate of fried catfish with lemon wedges and fresh parsley in front of an air fryer

WHAT TO SERVE WITH AIR FRYER CATFISH

Tartar sauce is the perfect dipping sauce with a fried catfish.

If you want a corn side but are over corn on the cob, try this sweet corn pudding! It’s perfectly allergy friendly and a great side dish for the family fish fry.

There’s no better Southern side dish than creamy grits! You only need 4 ingredients for this dairy-free option.

Keep it simple with a crunchy frozen side everyone loves — onion rings! No one will mind that it’s fried on fried. Trust me.

IS THE AIR FRYER GOOD FOR FRYING FISH?

Since air fryers cook with blowing hot air, it’s a great way to get perfectly cooked fish without overcooking the catfish and drying it out.

Depending on the size of your air fryer basket or air fryer toaster oven, you may need to make the filets in batches.

Since catfish filets are fairly thin, they cook quickly. If you need to cook them in batches, you can put the cooked filets on a baking sheet in a warm oven so they stay hot.

WHAT DO YOU SOAK CATFISH IN BEFORE FRYING?

Catfish is one of the staples of the South, and no one makes it better. It’s known for living on the bottom of rivers, and it can taste just like the mud it hunts in.

To get rid of that potentially muddy taste, I soak mine in buttermilk for at least 20 minutes before breading the filets! Some recipes call to marinate it overnight, but I think half an hour is plenty of time for this Air Fryer Catfish recipe.

You can also use beer or plain milk in a pinch. Or, just make your own buttermilk with a little milk and white vinegar. It’s that easy!

Close-up shot of a pile of fried catfish filets with one filet broken open on top

MORE YUMMY AIR FRYER FISH RECIPES

Did you know you can make salmon in the air fryer? It as flaky as the perfectly oven-roasted fish but ready in 10 minutes flat!

Shrimp are such a pain to sauté, but you’ll have perfectly cooked shrimp every time in the air fryer! Add them to your favorite pasta dish or serve as a surf and turf side.

There’s no more versatile fish dinner than air fryer tilapia! I always keep some filets in the freezer to quickly thaw and dredge in breadcrumbs.

You can even take this air fryer catfish recipe and make it into Fish Tacos.

Overhead shot of a plate of catfish filets garnished with lemon wedges and parsley with overlay text

Pro Tips

Air Fryer Catfish

Make the crispiest fried catfish with a cornmeal crust in the air fryer! Skip the hot oil and make this Southern fish dish with buttermilk, hot sauce, and a little Cajun seasoning.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Marinade Time20 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 454kcal
Ken

Equipment

  • Ziplock bag
  • Small bowl
  • Colander
  • Baking sheet

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds catfish filets
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 5 to 6 drops hot sauce
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Whisk buttermilk and hot sauce together. Cover the catfish filets completely and marinate in gallon ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning, and pepper while the fish marinates.
  • After marinating, let fish drain in colander.
  • Dredge the filets through the cornmeal mixture, coating each side evenly. Let the filets rest on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.
  • Put a single layer of filets in the air fryer basket and spray the tops lightly with oil. Cook in batches as needed.
  • Air fry the catfish filets at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes, then flip, spray again, and cook another 7 to 10 more minutes. Serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.
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Notes

Pro Tip: This recipe can be made in the air fryer unit with a basket or the air fryer oven. If you are using the air fryer oven, use the middle rack and select the “Air Fry” function.
Pro Tip: This was made in a NINJA air fryer. Historically, Ninja air fryers run HOT. If you are NOT using a Ninja to air fry this recipe, you may need to ADD additional cook time to the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 138mg | Sodium: 198mg | Potassium: 1117mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1940IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 3mg
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Air Fryers can vary greatly. Please take the time to learn your specific air fryer. You may need to adjust times and temperatures based upon your air fryer. All though this website attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, the information should only be considered an estimate. Varying factors such as different product types, different brands, etc. can change nutritional information. It is your responsibility as a consumer to read all labels to make sure the ingredients fit your dietary needs as well as calculate your own nutritional information as a double check.
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