Enjoy a serving of succulent Air Fryer Tilapia, coated in homemade Basil Cashew Pesto with a crunchy exterior - it’s everything you want in a piece of fried fish without the unhealthy aspects of traditional deep-frying!
This air fryer Tilapia recipe is super quick and easy - ideal for someone that needs a nutritious and tasty meal for themselves while also simple enough to double or even triple in quantity when serving to the family or a larger crowd.
Serve your flavorful and crispy air fryer Tilapia with a serving of rice, side salad, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
There are so many of you, different readers, here at the Yummy Bowl - some of you like to get straight to the recipe ingredients and instructions, and some of you love reading the full information with tips and tricks that I provide for the recipe.
There is a skip to recipe button in the top left corner along with a clickable table of contents list (just below) that will quickly take you to the part you are more interested in. Enjoy!
Why It's Yummy
- This is a quick and easy recipe, calling for only 3 main ingredients and giving you the flexibility to add whatever side dish you enjoy the most with your delicate fish.
- Low Carb and Healthy meal. Air frying food is a healthy alternative to traditional frying, allowing you to enjoy the same crispy texture without any negative health risks. I’ve also added my homemade pesto recipe for you to enjoy with this nutritious meal!
- Delicious dinner. Air Fryer Tilapia serves well with almost any side dish and is simple enough to add to an easy midweek family meal, saving you time and energy while ensuring that your loved ones are getting a balanced diet that also tastes great!
My few comments on the ingredients + don't forget to read the Tips section!
The full recipe and ingredients can be found in the recipe card below this post.
- Tilapia fillets - I’ve used 2 fresh fish filets (about 3 oz each) for this recipe but you could easily increase this when serving more people. You may need to do it in batches depending on the size of your air fryer basket. I've used my Cosori 5.8 quart air fryer. This is pretty big and perfectl fits 3 tilapia fillets in one single layer.
- You can air fry these fish fillets from fresh or frozen. Most flaky fish will be a great option here, such as cod, Dorada, and seabass. Tilapia is quite thin and any thicker fillets air frying time will need to be adjusted.
- Homemade pesto - for the best homemade pesto to pair with this air fryer Tilapia, make sure to check out my Cashew Basil Pesto recipe. Once you’ve tried homemade pesto, there’s no going back to store-bought!
- Parmesan - grating your cheese from a block instead of using pre-shredded cheese will also yield a better taste and texture for garnishing your filets.
- Simple seasoning. You really don't need more ingredients here but if you want to try something new, a little extra garlic powder (you already have some garlic in the pesto), chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cajun seasoning go along the way. We love spicy food here!
- Cherry tomatoes - either fresh or lightly baked in the oven with some salt, black pepper, and olive oil. But it is totally optional and makes a great presentation.
Preheat Air Fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine takes 5 minutes. Place a basket cover or a piece of parchment paper into the basket.
Season the fish with about 2-3 tablespoons of cashew pesto sauce on both sides.
Spray the air fryer basket with some cooking oil (you only need a little). Add the tilapia fillets into the air fryer basket in one single layer.
Air fry for 8 minutes turning the fish halfway through.
The exterior of the fish should be slightly crunchy if it isn’t air fry for longer. It is my personal preference and I love to add plenty of pesto because of this.
However, fish will be cooked through even without a crunchy exterior.
Serve immediately with grated parmesan, cherry tomatoes, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, fresh salad, a portion of rice, or fish tacos.
- Space the Tilapia filets out in the air fryer basket so that they are not overcrowded. This will ensure an even cook on all sides. I also recommend turning the filets over mid-cook.
- To make your air fryer serve you longer, use special parchment paper basket liners.
- You can easily double or triple this recipe if serving to a larger crowd. You will likely then need to fry the filets in batches.
- I’ve used thinner Tilapia filets in this recipe. If you opt for thicker or larger filets, be sure to adjust the cooking time.
- You can use fresh or frozen Tilapia filets for this recipe. Thaw frozen filets overnight in the refrigerator first.
- You can tell that fish is cooked adequately when the flesh turns white and flakes easily using a fork. If you aren’t sure, use a food thermometer by inserting it into the thickest section of the fish. The internal temperature should register 145 degrees Fahrenheit or more for the fish to be done.
- This Air fryer tilapia has a soft, tender and flaky texture with a balanced fish and pesto flavor. None of these flavors are overpowering and the whole family can eat. Want to hide the fish flavor more for kids? Add more pesto when serving and top with extra grated parmesan cheese.
- I used thinner Tilapia filets. If using bigger and thicker the time of frying should be adjusted.
- Don’t overcook the fish. Fish is ready when it turns white and flakes easily with a fork. To be sure, insert the thermometer into the thickest part, and if the temperature reaches 145 Fahrenheit or above, the fish is ready.
Freezing And Storing Instructions
It is best to cook for consumption right away but any leftover tilapia in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge and frozen for 1-2 months.
If you used thawed tilapia fillets they should be consumed right away after cooking. To avoid food-borne illnesses thawed food should not be frozen again.
Absolutely! It’s never a bad idea to add fish to the diet since it’s a great source of healthy protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Added to this is the fact that the Tilapia filets are cooked in the air fryer instead of traditional frying methods which allows you to enjoy the tasty benefits of fried food without the unhealthy deep frying.
Fresh basil turns a blackish color when exposed to heat which is why you may notice that the vibrant green color of your homemade basil pesto turns a much darker color by the time the filets are cooked.
Don’t worry - that’s a normal reaction and it won’t impact negatively on the taste of the filets, especially since I’ve only added 3 tablespoons of pesto on each side of the Tilapia. You can also serve the air fried Tilapia with additional fresh basil pesto too!
While you can use fresh or frozen Tilapia for this recipe, I recommend that you first allow any frozen filets to thaw in the refrigerator before adding them to the preheated air fryer.
If you go ahead and cook the filets from frozen, you run the risk of the fish not being cooked through completely. While you could add extra cooking time, you could end up drying out certain parts of the filets while the center remains undercooked.
Easy Air Fryer Recipes
Air Fryer recipe index HERE.
I hope you'll enjoy this Air Fryer Tilapia recipe, please leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo of your food and tag me on Instagram @theyummy_bowl. I love seeing your creations!
Thank you for reading,
Air Fryer Tilapia With Pesto
- 2 tilapia filets about 90 gram each, fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoons Cashew Pesto or other green pesto
- Parmesan for garnish
- Preheat Air Fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine takes 5 minutes. Place a basket cover or a piece of parchment paper into the basket.
- Season the fish with about 2-3 tablespoons of cashew pesto sauce on both sides.
- Spray air fryer basket with some cooking oil (you only need a little). Add the tilapia fillets into the air fryer basket in one single layer. Air fry for 8 minutes turning the fish halfway through. The exterior of the fish should be slightly crunchy, if it isn’t air fry for longer. It is my personal preference and I love to add plenty of pesto because of this. However fish will be cooked through even without crunchy exterior.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, fresh salad, portion of rice or in fish tacos.