Air fryer whole fish is a healthy meal that is high protein, keto friendly and delicious. Cheaper than fillets but with the same great flavors. Flaky moist air fryer fish no breading is a family friendly meal that is done in just 10 minutes with crispy skin!
Whole fish in air fryer has been a fun new discovery we have enjoyed often this month. Experimenting with different small fish like this dorado and different seasonings makes dinner fun and tasty too. Just one of many easy air fryer recipes we have shared on our site recently. (affiliate links present)
Ninja Foodi Whole Fish
Ok so you are new to seeing “someone” looking back at you on the dinner table. Don’t be scared they won’t judge. 😉 You may have only eaten fillets of air fryer mahi mahi before and that is great too. Why is whole fish better? There are reasons, let me break it down a bit for y’all.
- Cooking a whole fish is a great way to ensure that your pieces are super fresh. When you buy it whole, you can easily inspect it for freshness by looking at the eyes, gills, and flesh.
- Whole fish helps to lock in the flavors. The bones and skin of the fish add flavor to the meat, and they also help to keep the fish moist.
- This is a great way to get all of the nutrients that the fish has to offer. The bones and skin are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals.
- Typically buying meat products whole are way more affordable . Bought whole vs. than fillets or steaks means less prep work for the butcher which means more money in your pocket.
Once you have cleaned and scaled it, you can simply season it and cook it which is way easier to prepare than if you were to slice it into fillets.
FIRST – You should sign up for my free newsletter so you get new posts emailed to you twice a week and never miss out on anything! If you love air fryer recipes too, here are some resources to start with:
- My Favorite Air Fryer is a Cosori or for a dual machine, the Foodi.
- You can find more easy air fryer recipes here, we have Ninja Foodi recipes as well; bookmark them both!
Whole Fish in Air Fryer No Breading
Last week we shared how to fry a whole fish on the stove, or deep fryer. That was pretty delicious but we wondered if skipping the oil would make it just as tasty and it was. This new countertop appliance has been such a treat for us. You can get the same crispy texture you want on the outside of your foods but with far less calories and fat.
Air Fryer Frozen Whole Fish
You actually can cook frozen fish to tender without defrosting! In the oven 450 F works best but typical machines only go up to 400 degrees F so set it to that.
- Remove frozen fish from the freezer, the bag or packaging around it.
- Under cool water rinse and remove ice crystals.
- Preheat air fryer to 400 for 5 minutes.
- Brush with olive oil on all sides.
- Lay frozen fish in air fryer (that fits into basket)
- Air fry for 5 minutes
- Flip over and continue cooking for about 10-12 more minutes until insides reach 145 F in thickest part.
Air Fryer Sea Bream
What whole fish are small enough to fit in an air fryer basket? There are three that I have found that work well for this. Look at your local grocery store to see what they have. If there isn’t much ask the butcher as they can typically order whatever you’d like.
- 1 small white fish, the size should fit into basket
- sea bream, small red snapper or tilapia fish usually work well
- 1/2 tsp dill
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- Olive oil
- 1/2 lemon sliced
- 2 sprigs dill
As far as seasonings go use what you normally would when making individual pieces of air fryer tilapia really. If you remove the scales and season well it is really delicious to enjoy the outsides in bite size pieces like chips!
Air Fryer Crispy Fish Skin
There are two options as far as this goes. You can make it as directed below without breading at all on the outside. If you love crispy fish skin then this is the one for you. Just filet open, enjoy the insides and if you want it crunchier you could dice it up and throw back in at 400 degrees, spray with oil for a few minutes tossing along the way until they almost become chip-like!
Another would be to dredge whole in whisked egg and then press into Panko breadcrumbs. This will give you more of a coating like on our air fryer catfish.
You can cook any type of fish in an air fryer, but some of the most popular choices include salmon, tilapia, cod, and trout. If cut into fillets there isn’t any type of seafood that you can’t air fry.
When cooking a whole fish in the air fryer though it needs to fit, tilapia or sea bream work well in this case.
The cooking time for a whole fish air fryer style will vary depending on the size and thickness. However, a general rule of thumb is to cook the fish for 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Slicing down the middle and stuffing with lemon and herbs will help to get the flesh cooked evenly.
Yes, it is important to preheat your air fryer before cooking a whole fish or any meat for that matter. This will help to ensure that the fish cooks evenly and at a steady rate.
Best way to know when a whole fish is cooked through is to use a meat thermometer.
The internal temperature should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Cook Fish in Air Fryer
Air frying fish will give you the same texture you love if you were deep frying it. Takes a little bit longer, depending on how thick it is. If you wanted to make this like a fish and chips meal you could then cook fries in the machine and keep this warm or I would do the opposite. The fries will stay warm longer than this will and cold fish is kinda’ ek.
- Preheat air fryer to 375 for 5 minutes.
- Rinse fish, leave on head, use a knife to remove scales, tim fins, and slice open the belly to slide in slices of fresh lemon, fresh dill sprigs and any seasonings you’d like to sprinkle inside as well.
- Salt and pepper if nothing else is great.
- Pat outside of fish dry with paper towels and brush olive oil on both sides.
- Sprinkle seasonings on both sides.
- Lay on a piece of parchment paper and into air fryer basket (can add halved cherry tomatoes around it if you like)
- Cook for about 15 minutes or until inside flesh is white, no longer translucent, the skin is as golden browned, and internal temperature is 145 degrees F.
- Allow fried fish to cool slightly, slice down center to fillet open and flat and enjoy flaky tender fish inside.
Once you fall in love with this one we have a bunch of other air fryer fish recipes you should try too.
Want to see a few of my favorite things that I am totally obsessed with?? Take a peek and see how many you might already have…twinsies!
Air Fryer Whole Fish
- Preheat air fryer to 375 for 5 minutes.
- Rinse fish, leave on head, use a knife to remove scales, tim fins, and slice open the belly to slide in slices of fresh lemon, fresh dill sprigs and any seasonings you'd like to sprinkle inside as well. Salt and pepper if nothing else is great.
- Pat outside of fish dry with paper towels and brush olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle seasonings on both sides.
- Lay on a piece of parchment paper and into basket (can add halved cherry tomatoes around it if you like).
- Cook for about 15 minutes (about 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness) or until inside flesh is white, no longer translucent, the skin is as golden browned, and internal temperature is 145 degrees F.
- Allow to cool slightly, slice down center to fillet open and flat and enjoy flaky tender fish inside.