Can you cook whitebait in an air fryer?

Can You Cook Whitebait in an Air Fryer?

Whitebait is a popular small fish that’s often enjoyed fried as a snack or appetizer. Air fryers, on the other hand, have become increasingly popular because they offer a healthier alternative to deep frying. But can you cook whitebait in an air fryer? In this article, we will explore the steps to cook whitebait in your air fryer, advantages and disadvantages of using an air fryer, and other methods of cooking whitebait.

Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

The quick answer is yes, you can absolutely cook whitebait in an air fryer. Air frying provides a healthier option to deep frying since it uses little to no oil. It also produces that crispy exterior without saturating your food with oil.

Advantages of Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

  1. Healthier alternative: As mentioned, air frying produces similar results to deep frying with less oil and fat. This means fewer calories for you and your guests.
  2. Saves time: With air-frying, there’s no need for preheating like traditional ovens or watching over the whitebait as they cook; you can set it and forget it.
  3. Easy clean-up: Since you’re not submerging the fish in hot oil, there’s no need for massive amounts of paper towels or scrubbing down your kitchen counters after you’re done cooking.
  4. Uniform cooking: The convection heating of the air fryer ensures that each piece comes out evenly cooked to perfection.

Disadvantages of Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

  1. Limited capacity: Most models of air fryers are compact with low capacity baskets hence making it tough to cook large quantities at one go which may result in uneven cooking.
  2. May dry out whitebait: Similar to oven-roasting, air-frying raises the temperature in your food meaning it may leave the inside of the fish dry out.
  3. Requires new recipes: If you are used to deep-frying whitebait, you may require experimenting with new recipes and find seasonings that work perfectly for air frying.

How to Cook Whitebait in an Air Fryer

Now that we’ve gone through the benefits and downsides of cooking whitebait in an air fryer let’s jump into making crispy whitebait. Use this as a guide and adjust timings or temperatures according to your preferred texture and taste.


  • 300g Whitebait
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  1. Start by preheating your air fryer at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about three minutes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine half a teaspoon of kosher salt, quarter teaspoon garlic powder, one-eighth teaspoons of ground black pepper, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the spice mixture and stir until well distributed.
  4. Rinse the whitebait fishes under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Place half of the fish on the basket or tray of your air fryer and sprinkle some seasoning on them. Repeat by layering on top of each other until you finish placing all the fish in a single-layer if possible.
  6. Place it back into the unit’s compartments then cook it for six minutes at 400°F (200°C); pause halfway through times to shuffle them around using tongs for even cooking.
  7. After that, serve immediately hot while sprinkling freshly squeezed lemon juice over it.

Tips for Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

To get the best out of air frying whitebait, we recommend the following tips:

  • Use a leaner species of fish.
  • Avoid overcrowding as that leads to uneven cooking: If many Whitebaits are to be cooked, make sure you do them in batches
  • Flip or shake the basket halfway through the cooking time
  • Experiment with different seasoning combinations and herbs such as parsley garlic, paprika or lemon zest among other.
  • Don’t overcook! Fish cooks quickly and may dry out if left in for too long.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

Some common mistakes that many people make when preparing whitebait include:

  • Using too high heat: Use medium-high heat. To avoid burning the delicate outer layer of your whitebait and resulting in a dry stringy texture.
  • Overcrowding: This often leads to uneven cooking; hence it’s advisable to cook in small batches that fit comfortably inside your fryer basket or tray.
  • Stacking fish on top of each other: Again like above, stacking fish results in uneven cooking as some won’t get sufficient hot air circulation around them leading to poor results and overall dissatisfaction.

Other Ways to Cook Whitebait

Apart from air-frying, there are several ways that you can cook whitebait, including deep-frying, grilling, baking and pan-frying as outlined below:

Deep Frying

Deep-frying whitebait is the most traditional method. Usually done by immersing the fish entirely into hot-oil until they reach golden brown crispy perfection. However unhealthy-laden oil might lead you down a slippery slope at times. It takes 1 -2 minutes of frying per batch before removing it using tongs to drain excess oil.


Grilling involves placing your seasoned whitebait fish onto a preheated grill or outdoor barbecue. You can then brush them with olive oil to prevent sticking before grilling for around 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through.


Baking makes use of an oven, making it the perfect option if you’re cooking in large batches. Usually seasoned and coated with breadcrumbs, the Whitebait is placed on a baking tray and baked for around 15 -20 minutes at 375℉ (191℃) or until they turn golden brown.

Pan Frying

Finally, you can also make pan-fried whitebait in a skillet or frying pan by heating some oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, place your whitebait into it and adjust the heat to medium-low. Cook each side for roughly 2 to 3 minutes or until a crispy texture forms before serving.

Comparison of Cooking Methods

Here’s how air frying, deep-frying, grilling, baking, and pan-frying compare when cooking whitebait:

Method Pros Cons
Air-frying Healthier alternative, saves time, easy cleanup, uniform cooking Limited capacity, may dry out whitebait’s texture , lacks tradition flavour
Deep-frying Quick cooking time, traditional fried taste that evokes memories of summer fairs Unhealthy laden fat , requires ample clean up
Grilling Healthy preparation method that retains original flavour and texture of fish while infusing it with smokiness from charred grill marks. Requires outdoor grill machine which not everyone owns
Baking Great for when preparing large quantities of fish; keeps fish moist due to being wrapped whilst eliminates excess that comes from actual frying process. Since the oven is enclosed hence there’s limited visibility which poses a risk for burning plus process takes longer than most other cooking methods
Pan-frying Faster compared to deep-frying , economical cooking method yet replicates the crispy exterior that comes with deep frying. Prone to overcrowding, uneven cooking due to limited space hence requires a skilled chef

Recipes for Cooking Whitebait in an Air Fryer

  1. Crispy Air Fryer Whitebait


  • 300g whitebait
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1.Combine the Panko breadcrumbs with flour, pepper and salt. 2.Preheat your air fryers at 400 degrees F (200C) for around five minutes before dipping whitebait in water so that they moisten. 3.Dredge each fish through the breadcrumb mix and continue shaking off any excess then place them once more into your air fryer tray while spacing them out properly.

  1. Cook them for four to six mins until crispy and golden brown. 5.Remove from the air fryer basket, then transfer onto a plate lined with paper towels for excess fat absorption.
  2. Lemon and Herb Air Fryer Whitebait


  • 300g raw whitebait
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt as per taste
  • One tablespoon dried parsley


  1. Preheat your air fryer at 400°F (200°C).
  2. Wash whitebait under running water then pat dry using a kitchen towel. 3.Place the fish in a bowl, add olive oil, salt, parsley before mixing thoroughly.
  3. Align all the seasoned fish into your air fryer basket/tray and start cooking at a temperature of around 400°F (200°C) for approximately seven minutes until it’s crispy on edges but still soft inside.
  4. Drizzle with lemon juice just before serving.