If you haven’t tried cooking salmon in your air fryer yet, this tutorial is for you. Air Fryer Salmon turns out perfectly flaky, and cooks in less than 10 minutes for a fast, protein-packed meal!
Benefits of Salmon
Salmon is one of my favorite varieties of fish, because it’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a very forgiving fish to cook!
Here’s why you’ll love it:
- The fatty acids found in salmon (EPA and DHA) may help to lower blood pressure levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Taking a fish oil supplement may help to improve arterial function, and other studies suggests you can get similar benefits from eating fish, or taking a fish oil supplement.
- Salmon is a great source of protein, and paired with the omega-3 fatty acids, it may help to promote wound healing.
- It contains an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which may help to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Eating salmon may help to lower inflammation and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The fact that you can cook this fish in 10 minutes or less is also a huge benefit, if you ask me. No need to wait for your large oven to preheat!
Why Cook it in an Air Fryer?
I love cooking salmon in the air fryer because you don’t have to wait for your large oven to preheat. It’s an energy saver!
And, just like cooking air fryer chicken breasts, the salmon seems to stay more tender on the inside with this fast cooking method. I love how I can just pop the fish into my air fryer and prepare the rest of our meal while it cooks to perfection.
The air fryer automatically turns off when the cooking time is complete, so you won’t over-cook the fish if you get distracted.
What’s the Cooking Time?
How long do you cook salmon in the air fryer? The cooking time will vary based on how thick your fish, and the size of the fillet. A 6-ounce salmon fillet that is roughly 1 1/2 inches thick will cook in about 7 minutes at 400ºF.
If your fish filet is only 1-inch thick, you’ll want to check on it after 5 minutes, just to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Unlike cooking Instant Pot Salmon, the nice thing about the air fryer is that it’s very easy to open the basket and check on the progress of your salmon as it cooks.
If your salmon isn’t done yet, you can always just close the basket and add another minute or two. I always err on the lower side of the timing, so I can check on it, without overcooking.
What Should the Internal Temperature Be?
Just like cooking meat, I like to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the cooked salmon.
According to the FDA, cooked fish should reach an internal temperature of 145ºF in the thickest part of the fish, or the flesh should look opaque and easily flake with a fork.
Similar to cooking meat, you can pull the salmon out a few degrees below that (I usually aim for 140ºF-ish) and let it rest briefly before serving. The salmon should continue cooking while it’s resting, getting up to that safe temperature, and then you won’t risk overcooking it and having it dry out.
How to Cook it Frozen
Have frozen salmon on hand that you didn’t thaw? You can cook it straight in the air fryer, too!
It just takes a little longer, and doesn’t cook as evenly as fresh fish. (For more fool-proof results, thaw your frozen fish overnight in the fridge so you can use the fresh directions, instead.)
To cook frozen salmon in the air fryer, you’ll start by cooking the salmon without any extra seasoning. This is basically the “thawing” step. I cook my frozen salmon at 360ºF for 7 minutes. (This is for a filet that is 1 1/2-inches thick; start with only 5 minutes for a thinner piece.)
After the timer goes off, you can season the salmon just like you would the fresh version. Then return it to the air fryer and cook another 5 to 8 minutes at 360ºF, until the fish looks opaque and flaky.
I like to check on it after 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t over cook, especially if your fish is only 1-inch thick. You can always add more cooking time, as needed.
Frozen salmon tends to cook unevenly, with the outside coming to temperature faster than the frozen middle. So, always be sure to check the temperature of the very center of the salmon, or at the very thickest part of the salmon, before serving, to make sure it’s not still cold in the center.
Just like cooking fresh salmon, the internal temperature should reach 145ºF, and the cooking time will vary based on how thick your frozen salmon is. It’s okay if you pull the salmon out a few degrees lower than that, as it should reach the proper temperature as it rests.
Air Fryer Salmon (Fresh or Frozen)
- 2 (6-ounce) wild-caught salmon fillets , about 1 1/2-inches thick
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (12 grams)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (12 grams)
- 1 garlic clove , minced (5 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
How to Cook Fresh Salmon
- Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF. While it's preheating, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture over the fish.
- Sprinkle each fillet generously with salt and pepper. I use roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt on top of each filet, and then a heavy sprinkle of black pepper. Spray the bottom of the air fryer basket with oil to prevent sticking, if desired. Arrange the two fillets in the air fryer basket and cook at 400ºF for 7 minutes. If your fish is thinner than 1 1/2 inches in the thickest part, lower the time by 2 minutes, just to make sure you don't over-cook it.
- When the cooking cycle is complete, check the internal temperature of the salmon. It should reach at least 140ºF in the thickest part, and when you take it out to rest it should reach 145ºF. (The recommended safe temperature by the FDA.) The fish should look opaque and flake easily with a fork. If it's not done yet, return it to the air fryer for 1 more minute at a time, until it's done.
- Serve the salmon warm, with your favorite side dishes. You can store cooked salmon in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
How to Cook Frozen Salmon
- Preheat your air fryer to 360ºF. Once it's hot, place the frozen salmon on the air fryer basket and cook at 360ºF for 7 minutes. (This is for 1 1/2-inch thick fillets that are roughly 6 oz. each, if yours are thinner, start with just 5 minutes.) This is the "thawing" step.
- While the salmon is thawing, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. When the salmon is done, spoon the mixture over the top and season generously with salt and pepper on top. Return the salmon to the air fryer to cook for another 7 minutes at 360ºF.
- When the cooking cycle is done, check the internal temperature of the salmon in the middle, to make sure it reaches 140-145ºF. The outer edges are usually done before the center is when you're cooking totally frozen fish, so you may need to cook the fish for an additional 1 to 3 minutes, until the center is hot. (This results in slightly uneven cooking; since the outer edges will be more done– this is the nature of cooking fish from frozen.)
- When the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, serve warm with your favorite sides. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
More Salmon Recipes
If you have leftover salmon to use up, try one of these recipes!
- Smoked Salmon Salad with Dill Dressing (This dressing is amazing on cooked salmon, too!)
- Easy Salmon Curry
If you try this Air Fryer Salmon recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too! We can all benefit from your experience.