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Air Fryer Whole Fish

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You are in for a real treat with this easy but impressive recipe. This air fryer whole fish is so full of flavor with the most perfect crispy skin, and it’s so effortless to make! Seasoned with garlic and lemon, it’s ready to serve in less than 30 minutes.

Whole fish served on a plate with thyme and fresh lemons.

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If preparing and cooking a whole fish seems daunting to you, and you only ever enjoy it when dining out, then I’m about to blow your mind!

Throw that entire fish in the air fryer and thank me later. Cooking a whole fish in the air fryer guarantees the most perfectly flakey fish with the most delicate flavors every single time.

Seasoned with garlic, lemon and thyme, this is one delicious meal that you’ll turn to time and time again!

Be sure to check out my Air Fryer Crab Legs and Crispy Air Fryer Fish too!

How to make air fryer whole fish

  • Gather your ingredients. You need a smaller fish, about 1 lb and an air fryer that is at least 5 qts.
Ingredients needed to make the recipe.
  • Using a pair of kitchen scissors, remove the fins and descale the fish.
  • You can choose to score the fish by cutting slits in the side but I usually skip this part for thinner fish.
  • Rub oil over fish and season with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder on the outside and inside. Place garlic cloves, thyme leaves, and lemon slices inside of the fish.
Stiffing the fish with lemon slices.
  • Place fish in the air fryer basket. The parchment paper pictured is not mandatory but I like to use it to make lifting the fish out of the basket a little easier.
The whole fish in the air fryer basket before being cooked.
  • Cook on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 14-16 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches at least 145F and the inside of the fish is flaky.
The cooked whole fish in the air fryer basket.

What’s the best fish to use?

This recipe is great to make with a white flesh fish like red snapper, sea bass, or tilapia, one that weighs around 1 pound is perfect for this method. Choose a fish that eyes are bright and clear with clean gills. A fresh fish should be firm to the touch and smell fresh and not overly fishy.

Why cook fish in the air fryer?

I love to cook whole fish, and hands down, this delivers the most delicious results! The skin gets perfectly crispy (just the way I like it!) and the flesh is perfectly flakey and flavorful. Because it is cooked in the air fryer, we don’t need to add lots of additional oil to achieve those perfect results.

Current guidelines recommend that we should eat two portions of fish a week, and this is one delicious way to do it. Fish is high in healthy Omega-3s, as well as being low fat and high in protein. You can definitely feel great about this recipe!

What do you serve it with?

This air fryer whole fish is great to serve with all of your favorite veggie, potato and salad sides, and it’s great enjoyed with some rice. Try it with:

A fork flaking away the skin of the fish to reveal the flesh.

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • Pat the fish dry before seasoning it. This helps remove excess moisture that can cause the fish to steam and become mushy.
  • You can “score” the fish if you prefer, by cutting diagonal lines in the skin before you season it. I tend to skip this step on thinner fish. 
  • Have fun with the seasonings and herbs. Rosemary and dill are great additions, or add some red chili flakes for a bit of a kick.
  • Use a high heat oil like canola or vegetable.
  • For crispier skin, cook the fish longer, for around 16 minutes.
  • The parchment paper pictured is not mandatory but I like to use it to make lifting the fish out of the basket a little easier.
Air fryer whole fish served on a white plate.

More Fish Recipes

Air Fryer Whole Fish

You are in for a real treat with this easy but impressive recipe. This air fryer whole fish is so full of flavor with the most perfect crispy skin, and it's so effortless to make!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword air fried whole fish, how to cook a whole fish, seasoned whole fish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 300kcal
Author Tanya

Ingredients

  • 1 whole fish about 1 lb, scaled and gutted (red snapper, sea bass, tilapia)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp kosher salt or to taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper or to taste
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder or to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 3 thyme leaves
  • ½ lemon sliced

Instructions

  • Rub oil over fish and season with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder on the outside and inside.
  • Place garlic cloves, thyme leaves, and lemon slices inside of fish
  • Place fish in the air fryer basket and cook on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 14-16 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches at least 145F and the inside of the fish is flaky.

Notes

  • Pat the fish dry before seasoning it. This helps remove excess moisture that can cause the fish to steam and become mushy.
  • You can “score” the fish if you prefer, by cutting diagonal lines in the skin before you season it. I tend to skip this step on thinner fish. 
  • Have fun with the seasonings and herbs. Rosemary and dill are great additions, or add some red chili flakes for a bit of a kick.
  • Use a high heat oil like canola or vegetable.
  • For crispier skin, cook the fish longer, for around 16 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 701mg | Potassium: 763mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 79IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg
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Although myforkinglife.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Under no circumstances will myforkinglife.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information.

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Recipe Rating




Veronica

Monday 2nd of August 2021

That snapper looks delicious… can you crisp it up a little more and make it escovitch? Also have you ever tried making bammy or plantains in the air fryer? Sorry but I’ve been debating on buying an air fryer because I need it to do these things.

Veronica

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

@Tanya, Thank you again… I’m going to shop around and find a big enough air fryer for my family! This is going to make my life much easier… can’t wait! My mouth is watering just thinking about yummy escovitch fish!

Tanya

Monday 2nd of August 2021

Hi Veronica, you sure can! We actually did this recently for my mom's wedding. We fried all the fish in the air fryer and made the escovitch fish sauce on the stovetop and then poured it on. We had to do it in batches since we used the air fryer but it came out so good. We also chopped the fish in half. I've never made bammy in the air fryer. Plantains I have done and they work out well, but I like my plantains plump and juicy. I now buy them frozen from the grocery store and then air fry them from frozen. Those taste just like fried.

chong

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Thank you, for sharing this recipe. I plan to make the dish this weekend. It looks so yummy and crispy. Wish me luck, it'll be the first time I've used an air fryer.

Tanya

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Thanks, I hope you like it as much as we do :)