Easy Homemade Crispy Air Fryer Catfish Nuggets

Whether it’s Mardis Gras, Lent, or just a normal night around here, we love some fried catfish. If you’re not looking for a whole filet, though, these easy air fryer catfish nuggets are the perfect choice. They only require 3 ingredients, and cook in under 15 minutes!

homemade crispy air fryer catfish nuggets dinners done quick

Why We Love This Recipe

Around here, catfish is plentiful, meaning it’s a relatively inexpensive fish. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious!

These catfish nuggets are perfect on their own, dunked in your favorite seafood sauces. However, they’re equally great stacked on a roll for a classic fried po-boy sandwich.

opening a flaky air fryer catfish nugget

I’m keeping the prep time to a minimum by using a pre-blended Louisiana style fish fry seasoning, which is cornmeal based. However, you can adjust it to taste, make your own, or swap things up with panko breading. They’re all delicious!

Shopping List: Ingredients to Grab

ingredients to make homemade catfish nuggets in the air fryer
  • 1 pound catfish nuggets or filets, skin removed (defrosted if frozen)
  • 10 oz seasoned fish fry breading (such as Louisiana Fish Fry Products or Zatarain’s)
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s) – optional
  • Nonstick spray
  • Dipping sauce or sandwich fixings as desired (optional)

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Catfish. I find that filets are easiest to locate, but sometimes your local grocer or fish market will have nugget sized trimmings already. If you don’t like catfish, this recipe works with other white fish as well – try substituting tilapia, cod, haddock or bass.
  • Breading. Use a cornmeal based breading mix. If you can find an air fryer specific one, feel free to use that and omit the additional oil (it comes with it in the mix). This amount breads between 2-3 pounds so if you want to make more you can
  • If you prefer to make your own breading mix, use ½ cup each flour and cornmeal. Add ½ Tablespoon each of garlic powder and Cajun or blackening seasoning
  • You can also add some additional seasoning to the pre-made mix if desired. I sometimes add a little Cajun, Creole or Old Bay seasoning to my mix for some extra flavor!

How to Cook Catfish Nuggets in Air Fryer

  1. Cut your catfish into 1” chunks, and pat dry with a paper towel
cut fresh catfish into even chunks
  1. Pour cornmeal breading mix into a mixing bowl or Ziploc style bag. Add any other desired seasonings at this time and stir in well (optional)
combine breading mix with seasoning in a bowl
  1. Add the catfish nuggets to the bowl or bag and toss to coat evenly in the breading
add catfish nuggets to breading bowl and evenly coat
  1. Preheat your air fryer to 400℉
  2. Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray
spritz air fryer basket with nonstick spray
  1. Shake off any loose or excess breading, and add the catfish nuggets to the air fryer basket in a single layer
  2. Spritz the nuggets with a little bit of nonstick spray or other oil mist (optional, only if not using air fryer specific seasoning)
add breaded catfish to air fryer basket
  1. Cook nuggets on air fry setting for 5 minutes at 400℉, then flip and reapply oil
  2. Continue cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until breading browns and catfish reaches an internal temperature of 145℉
  3. Serve with lemon wedges, your favorite sauces, or on a sandwich!
overhead view of crispy air fryer catfish nuggets on square plates on a blue checkerboard tablecloth

What Goes With Catfish Nuggets?

  • Coleslaw
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber salad
  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Mac and cheese
  • Hush puppies
  • Cornbread
  • Creamed corn
  • Fried okra
  • Potato salad
  • French fries
  • Onion rings
  • Grits
  • Tartar sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Remoulade
  • Lemon wedges
  • Peach cobbler

Try these air fryer catfish nuggets with our Air Fryer Frozen Hush Puppies, crispy Frozen Onion Rings in the Air Fryer, easy Microwave Grits, or this creamy Air Fryer Corn Casserole for the perfect side!

closeup of air fryer catfish nuggets on a white square plate

Recipe FAQs

How Long Does Catfish Go in the Air Fryer?

Catfish typically goes for about 20 minutes in the air fryer as a whole filet. The smaller nuggets only need to cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness.

Cook catfish to an internal temperature of 145℉ for food safety.

At What Temp Do You Cook Catfish in an Air Fryer?

Catfish should be cooked at a temp of 400℉ in an air fryer.

This temperature ensures that the fish gets cooked through without drying out.

Can You Fry Catfish Nuggets Without Breading?

Yes, you can fry catfish nuggets without breading.  Coat them in a small amount of olive oil and seasonings for flavor. Start with 8 minutes of cook time at 400℉.

This is a great option if you’re on a gluten free or Keto diet.

Do You Rinse Catfish Before Cooking?

It is good practice to rinse catfish before cooking, to remove any outside contaminants. Pat dry before breading to ensure that it adheres well.

Additionally, you may soak your catfish in milk or buttermilk to help eliminate any fishy odors.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • You may soak your catfish nuggets in milk ahead of time to eliminate any fishy smells. Just make sure to still pat them dry before breading
  • My nuggets were perfectly cooked after 12 minutes in a Ninja Foodi Dual Zone air fryer. Other air fryers, thickness of nuggets, and how densely you place them into the basket will cause this to vary slightly
  • If you don’t pat your fish dry well, you’ll end up with less crispy breading. They’ll still taste good, but you won’t get the crunch

More Air Fryer Fish Recipes to Try

Final Thoughts

These crispy air fryer catfish nuggets are so easy to make. Whether you’re making them for Mardis Gras, Lent, or just loading up your favorite po-boy on a weeknight, they’re a quick but satisfying option.

Plus, with only 3 ingredients and under 15 minutes of cooking time, you really can’t go wrong with this easy meal!

I love to serve them with coleslaw and hush puppies, but they’re really great any way you enjoy your fried fish!

homemade crispy air fryer catfish nuggets dinners done quick featured image

Easy Air Fryer Catfish Nuggets (Cornmeal Breading)

Catfish nuggets with an easy cornmeal breading as ready in 15 minutes or less in your air fryer. The breading will get crispy, while the fish stays juicy and flaky!
3.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Seafood
Servings 4
Calories 520 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Pound catfish nuggets or filets, skin removed (defrosted if frozen)
  • 10 Ounce package seasoned fish fry breading  (such as Louisiana Fish Fry Products or Zatarain’s)
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning (optional) such as Tony Chachere’s
  • Nonstick spray
  • Dipping sauce or sandwich fixings as desired (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Cut your catfish into 1” chunks, and pat dry with a paper towel
    1 Pound catfish nuggets or filets, skin removed
  • Pour cornmeal breading mix into a mixing bowl or Ziploc style bag. Add any other desired seasonings at this time and stir in well (optional)
    10 Ounce package seasoned fish fry breading, 1 Tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning (optional)
  • Add the catfish nuggets to the bowl or bag and toss to coat evenly in the breading
  • Preheat your air fryer to 400℉
  • Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick spray
    Nonstick spray
  • Shake off any loose or excess breading, and add the catfish nuggets to the air fryer basket in a single layer
  • Spritz the nuggets with a little bit of nonstick spray or other oil mist (optional, only if not using air fryer specific seasoning)
  • Cook nuggets on air fry setting for 5 minutes at 400℉, then flip and reapply oil
  • Continue cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until breading browns and catfish reaches an internal temperature of 145℉
  • Serve with lemon wedges, your favorite sauces, or on a sandwich!
    Dipping sauce or sandwich fixings as desired

Notes

  • Catfish filets are usually easiest to find, but sometimes your local grocer or fish market will have nugget sized trimmings already. If you don’t like catfish, this recipe works with other white fish as well – try substituting tilapia, cod, haddock or bass.
  • This recipe uses a cornmeal based breading mix. If you can find an air fryer specific one, feel free to use that and omit the additional oil (it comes with it in the mix). This amount breads between 2-3 pounds so if you want to make more you can
  • If you prefer to make your own breading mix, use ½ cup each flour and cornmeal. Add ½ Tablespoon each of garlic powder and Cajun or blackening seasoning
  • You can also add some additional seasoning to the pre-made mix if desired (like I have here). Cajun, Creole or Old Bay seasoning are great options for extra flavor or spice
  • You may soak your catfish nuggets in milk ahead of time to eliminate any fishy smells. Just make sure to still pat them dry before breading
  • My nuggets were perfectly cooked after 12 minutes in a Ninja Foodi Dual Zone air fryer. Other air fryers, thickness of nuggets, and how densely you place them into the basket will cause this to vary slightly
  • If you don’t pat your fish dry well, you’ll end up with less crispy breading. They’ll still taste good, but you won’t get the exterior crunch
  • Nutrition assumes use of the entire container of breading (which won’t truly be the case) so adjust expectations accordingly. In addition, values will vary based on brand, additional seasonings, any sauces added, and total amount consumed, so consider this a guideline only

Nutrition

Serving: 517gCalories: 520kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 60gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 200mgSodium: 3994mgCalcium: 80mgIron: 2mg
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homemade crispy air fryer catfish nuggets dinners done quick pinterest
Katie Vine