If you have been looking for an easy gluten free air fryer catfish recipe, you are going to love this recipe. You can make this Southern catfish recipe two ways: in the air fryer or pan-fried. I walk you through both ways so you can learn how to cook catfish.

An air fried catfish filet on a plate with french fries.

Have you tried catfish? Fried catfish is a popular dish in many parts of the world, especially in the southern United States. It is a delicious and flavorful dish that is enjoyed by many people around the world. It is perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside!

Making this recipe in your air fryer gives you all of the crispy flavors without all of the fat from frying in oil. You can check out all of my delicious gluten free air fryer recipes on the blog for more air fryer recipe ideas!

Why I love this recipe:

  1. This air-fried catfish recipe is one of our new favorites because it is not fishy, and it is breaded in a crispy coating.
  2. Cooking it in the air fryer gives you all of the crispiness with less fat and less cleanup!
  3. Catfish has a mild flavor and is a good fish to introduce to kids, as long as you soak it to remove the fishiness.
  4. Catfish is a popular Southern dish that many serve at their Mardi Gras celebrations. If you love Mardi Gras, try some of these Gluten Free Mardi Gras Recipes.

Another great fish to introduce to kids is cod. Try this easy gluten free Cod Alfredo recipe. My kids love it.

Photos of the air fryer catfish ingredients.

Ingredient Notes:

  • Catfish – Use either filets or catfish nuggets to make this recipe. Always give the fish a quick check and remove any bones you find!
  • Cornmeal – Although cornmeal is naturally gluten-free, I advise buying Bob’s Red Mill or another brand that is labeled gluten-free. This way, you avoid cross-contamination issues.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use regular milk. I typically make my buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the soaking milk. This also gives a nice lemon flavor to the fish.
  • Gluten Free Flour Blend – Any blend should work well. It does not need to contain Xanthan Gum. You can also use my gum-free DIY Gluten Free Flour Blend.
  • Creole Seasoning – I like to use Zaitarain’s brand. This brand is gluten free.
  • Paprika – I used Hungarian paprika, not smoked.

If you love fried fish as much as we do, you will also want to try my Gluten Free Fish Sticks recipe. It can be made in the air fryer or baked in the oven. Serve with this yummy Vinegar Coleslaw recipe.

If you are trying to decide on what air fryer to get, I have a great list of the best air fryers for gluten free. I include a great pros and cons list for each model.

Step-By-Step Photos and Directions:

Photos of the catfish prep in steps 1 and 2.

Step 1: Add the buttermilk to a large bowl and gently place the catfish fillets (or nuggets) into the milk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can easily make your own by adding lemon juice to milk. See Recipe Notes above for directions.

Why do you soak the catfish?

Many ask me why catfish need to be soaked or if it is even necessary. The reason is that it takes away the fishy flavor. (If you have picky kids, this is even more important!) You will want to soak your catfish for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Mix up the cornmeal seasoning mix in a large bag. Place the cornmeal fish breading and seasoning ingredients into a large bag and shake it up to mix it up. When the catfish is done soaking in buttermilk, hold the catfish over the bowl to allow the extra milk to run off.

Place the catfish or nuggets in the bag, one fillet at a time. Shake gently so the raw catfish fillet is coated in the catfish breading mixture.

I love using my 8 qt Ninja Air Fryer because it has two separate compartments, making cooking a whole meal at once easy. If you don’t need a big air fryer, this little 3.4 qt Corsori Air Fryer will do the job as well. Make sure whichever air fryer you buy is dishwasher safe so you have easy cleanup!

Photos of cooking the catfish in the air fryer.

Preheat your air fryer to 375º F.

Step 3: Spray the bottom grill of the air fryer with a high heat oil like avocado or canola. Place a breaded catfish fillet in the air fryer.

Do not use olive oil or another low-smoke point oil; your fish will turn out rancid. See the Recipe FAQ for a list of high smoke point oils for the air fryer.

Step 4: Spray the top of the gluten free breaded catfish with more oil. This will help the crust get nice and crispy!

Step 5: Cook your catfish in the air fryer for 12-15 minutes. The actual cook time will vary depending on the size of your catfish fillets and whether you use catfish nuggets or fillets. You will know the catfish is done cooking when it is crispy and the cornmeal breading is golden.

If you are making air fryer catfish nuggets, they will need to cook less in the air fryer. Cook for 6 minutes and then check on them to see if they need more time. This will vary depending on the size of your catfish nuggets.

*Note: many will recommend flipping your catfish over partway through the cooking cycle. I find this difficult without the catfish falling apart in the air fryer. It is up to you if you want to try this. I did not flip it, and my catfish was still crispy and delicious on both sides.

Serve Catfish With:

Fried catfish is often served with sides, including coleslaw, gluten free hush puppies, gluten free macaroni salad, and tartar sauce. It is a delicious and flavorful dish that many people worldwide enjoy!

Squeezing lemon juice over a piece of fried catfish.

Drizzle the cooked catfish with lemon juice. Serve with my fluffy Gluten Free Air Fryer Dinner Rolls and some French fries!

Frying Catfish Stovetop:

  1. To fry your catfish in oil on your stovetop, follow steps 1 and 2 above. In a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet, heat your oil. I recommend using either avocado or canola oil. It is very important to use an oil that can tolerate high heat.
  2. Heat the oil to 350-375º F. Gently add a piece of breaded catfish. If you are using catfish fillets, fry one filet at a time. If you are frying catfish nuggets, you can fry several together as long as they don’t touch.
  3. Cook in the hot oil for 3 minutes and flip it gently with tongs. Be careful of the hot oil splashing. Cook for 3 minutes on the other side.
  4. Use a long metal slotted spoon to move the fried catfish from the hot oil to a paper towel-lined plate. The paper towel will help absorb extra oil from frying. * If your catfish is thick, it may need to cook longer on each side.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do you need to soak the catfish before frying?

I know I talked about this above, but it is essential. I highly recommend soaking the raw catfish in buttermilk or milk to remove that fishy flavor.

What is the best oil to use for frying fish?

You need to use an oil that can handle high heat. My favorites are canola, avocado, and grapeseed.

Are air fryers good for cooking fish?

Yes! You can cook moist and delicious fish recipes in the air fryer.

Can you cook frozen catfish in the air fryer?

Frozen fish cooked in the air fryer does not turn out well because of the moisture from being frozen. It is best to thaw the fish and pat it dry before seasoning and cooking.

How do you store cooked catfish?

Store the fried catfish in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The catfish will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator, but it will lose its crispiness. To re-crisp, reheat in the oven at 325º for 15 minutes or the air fryer for 7 minutes at 350º F.

A piece of gluten free air fried catfish on a white plate.

More Air Fryer Recipes:

Love This Recipe?

If you made and enjoyed this recipe, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a comment below. Please include which flour blend you used. This will help others know this recipe is delicious. Thank you!

An air fried catfish filet on a plate with french fries.

Gluten Free Air Fryer Catfish

Sandi Gaertner
Everyone will love this crispy delicious gluten free air fryer catfish. I also include stovetop frying directions for those who do not own an air fryer.
4.80 from 5 votes
an egg free allergen icon
gluten free allergy icon
nut free allergen icon
soy free allergy icon
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Soaking 30 minutes
Total Time 53 minutes
Course Gluten Free Dinner Recipes, Meal Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 250 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ pounds catfish fillets Usually 3-4 fillets
  • ¾ cup cornmeal * see note
  • ¼ cup gluten free flour * see note
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon creole seasoning * see note
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk * see note
  • 1 tablespoon light oil for spraying

Instructions
 

  • Add buttermilk to a bowl and gently place the catfish fillets (or nuggets) into the milk. If you don't have buttermilk, it is easy to make by adding lemon juice to milk. Soak the fish for 30 minutes. This step is important to remove the fishy flavor from the catfish.
  • Mix up the cornmeal seasoning mix in a large bag. Place the cornmeal fish breading and seasoning ingredients into a large bag and shake to mix it up. When the catfish is done soaking in buttermilk, hold the catfish over the bowl to allow the extra milk to run off.
  • Place the catfish in the bag, one fillet at a time. Shake gently so the raw catfish fillet is coated in the catfish breading mixture. Preheat your air fryer to 375º F. 
  • Spray the bottom grill of the air fryer with a high heat oil like avocado or canola. (Do not use olive oil or another heat intolerant oil or your fish will turn out rancid.) Place a breaded catfish fillet in the air fryer. Make sure the fish isn't touching so the air can circulate around each piece of fish.
  • Spray the top of the gluten free breaded catfish with more oil. This will help the crust get nice and crispy!
  • Cook your catfish in the air fryer for 12-15 minutes. The actual cook time will vary depending on the size of your catfish fillets, and whether you use catfish nuggets or fillets. You will know the catfish is done cooking when it is crispy and the cornmeal breading is a golden color.
  • Note, many will recommend flipping your catfish over partway through the cooking cycle. I find this difficult without the catfish falling apart in the air fryer. It is up to you if you want to try this. I did not flip it and my catfish was still crispy and delicious on both sides.
  • Drizzle fresh lemon juice over the fish and enjoy!

Notes

  1. Make sure the bag of cornmeal you buy says gluten free. Bob’s Red Mill and a few other brands label their cornmeal.
  2. To make your own buttermilk, add 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. It also adds some nice lemon flavor to the fish.
  3. Gluten free flour blend – you do not need to add Xanthan gum. You can also use brown rice flour.
  4. I like to use Zaitarains cajun seasoning because it is gluten free. Always read the labels on the spices you use.
  5. This fried catfish will keep up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

Frying Catfish Stovetop:

To fry your catfish in oil on your stovetop, follow steps 1 and 2 above. In a dutch oven or cast-iron skillet, heat your oil. I recommend using either avocado or canola oil. It is very important to use an oil that can tolerate high heat.
Heat the oil to 350-375º F. Gently add a piece of breaded catfish. If you are using catfish filets, fry one filet at a time. If you are frying catfish nuggets, you can fry several together as long as they don’t touch.
Cook in the hot oil for 3 minutes and flip it gently with tongs. Be careful of the hot oil splashing. Cook 3 minutes on the other side and move to a paper towel-lined plate. The paper towel will help absorb extra oil from frying. * If your catfish is thick, it may need to cook a little longer on each side.

SPECIAL NOTE

Please know that every gluten free flour blend has a different starch to grain ratio. If you use a blend I didn’t test, you may need to adjust your moisture levels in your baked goods.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 250kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 23gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 577mgPotassium: 547mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 426IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 69mgIron: 1mg
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Nutrition Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the actual nutritional information with the products and brands you are using with your preferred nutritional calculator.

This post was updated from an older June 2021 post with more cooking details.

4.80 from 5 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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10 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I did buttermilk/hot sauce soak and dredged in cornmeal/all purpose flour seasoned with Slap ya’ Mama and Lemon Pepper. When trying to flip the bottom breading immediately fell off with not much resistance. Next time I will add egg to the buttermilk for a better binding. Otherwise 15 minutes at 400F was perfect for the filets. Very tender and flakey!

  2. 5 stars
    Oh yum! This looks so good. I love the spices you used here and the coating looks amazing. I can’t wait to make this for my family. We love fish & chips on Fridays!