These Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches are served up on sweet Hawaiian rolls, drizzled with a spicy vinaigrette and topped with a creamy yogurt slaw. The sweet heat paired with the cooling slaw is a match made in sandwich heaven.
Have you seen the Eater’s Guide to the World on Hulu? It’s pretty great, especially since it’s narrated by comedy goddess, Maya Rudolph! Anyway, Episode 5: Eating on the Hood of Your Car in L.A., features a pop-up restaurant called Hawaiian Hot Chicken. Their signature dish is Nashville hot chicken tenders (with five levels of spice) served on Hawaiian rolls that look like the most-awesomest, guilty sandwich. Word on the street is they’re opening a storefront, so you can get their eats six days a week, rain or shine!
I won’t be in L.A. anytime soon, so I thought I’d try making my own version — with a little spin, and on the healthier-ish side: crispy, breaded air-fried fish fillets drizzled with a spicy vinaigrette (instead of being dunked in a bath of hot + spicy oil).
Ingredients for Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches
Firm white fish — Select a fish that can stand up to being marinated, dredged and man-handled through the cooking process. I used haddock, but cod, pollack, halibut or grouper also make great candidates. Use boneless, skinless fillets that you can easily cut into smaller pieces.
Spicy vinaigrette — Most Nashville hot chicken recipes call for mixing spices with reserved frying oil to brush over the chicken after frying. In an effort to lighten this up a little, I scaled way back on the oil and added seasoned rice vinegar for a hint of tartness. The assortment of spices and brown sugar are typical, except that I also scaled back on the cayenne. I like a slow lingering heat over a punch you in the gut heat. But feel free to kick up the cayenne if you’re so inclined!
Creamy yogurt slaw — Non-fat Greek yogurt replaces most of the mayonnaise in the dressing, along with a little dijon mustard and seasoned rice vinegar. A bag of pre-shredded tri-color slaw mix is the final ingredient in this easy to assemble slaw.
Hawaiian rolls — I chose the iconic King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Rolls. They also produce slider buns, mini sub rolls and more — any of these would be great choices. In the absence of Hawaiian bread, go with potato rolls or sweet brioche.
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How to Make Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches
I’ve broken this recipe down into individual parts to help you stay organized and make assembly a breeze.
Marinate the Fish
(Do this step a couple hours in advance.) Combine hot sauce and buttermilk in a shallow dish and add the fish. Turn the pieces to coat them on all sides. Cover and refrigerate the fish for a couple hours.
Make the Vinaigrette
Meanwhile, whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl or jar and set it aside for later. It can be left on the counter until you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches.
Make the Slaw
Set up the Dredging Station
- Pick up one piece of fish and allow the marinade to drip off. Some of it should stay on. Place it in the flour and using a fork or your fingers, roll the fish to coat it on all sides.
- Move the fish to the buttermilk bowl and roll it to coat.
- Transfer the fish to the bowl of Panko breadcrumbs and coat it on all sides. Place it on the sheet pan. Repeat until you’ve breaded all the fish pieces.
- Finally, spritz the breaded fish with cooking spray on both sides.
Air-Fry the Fish
Preheat the air fryer at 400F degrees for 3 minutes. Spray the bottom of the basket with a little cooking spray. Place fish in a single layer in the air fryer basket, working in batches if necessary. Cook for 10 minutes, flipping the fish over halfway through.
[I don’t have a separate air fryer, but instead use Instant Pot’s Air Fryer Lid for their 6 quart pressure cooker. It works beautifully! The entire set up is on the small side, but is sufficient for our 3-person household. However, I won’t be using it to air fry large quantities of anything.]
Assemble Your Sandwiches
Divide the fish across the buns and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the spicy vinaigrette. Top with a scoop of slaw. Grab a napkin and take a big ole bite!
Variations for Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches
Don’t have an air fryer? No worries!
Oven-Fry — Once you’ve breaded and sprayed the fish with cooking spray, transfer them to a rack (coated lightly with cooking spray) and place the rack back on the sheet pan. Bake at 400F degrees for 12-15 minutes. Cooking them on a rack prevents you from having to flip the fish.
Pan-Fry — Once you’ve breaded the fish, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add a little olive oil to the pan and cook the fish for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown.
Try it with shrimp or chicken — You can always sub out the fish for another protein. Keep in mind, cooking times will vary. Consult the guide that came with your air fryer or do a quick Google search for recommend cooking times for all kinds of food.
If you’re not into spicy food, simply eliminate the hot sauce and cayenne from your preparations — you’ll still end up with a delicious, crispy fish sandwich! With Lent approaching, you might be interested in these other seafood dishes:
- Pan-Seared Scallop Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette
- The Ultimate Lobster Mac + Cheese
- Poplar Hill Seafood Stew with Ciabatta Toasts
- Crab + Goat Cheese Palmiers
- Sautéed White Fish + Broccolini Over Creamy Mascarpone Polenta
- Crab Stuffed Flounder with Lemon Caper Sauce
Air Fryer Spicy Fish Sandwiches with Creamy Yogurt Slaw
- 1 lb firm white fish* boneless, skinless; cut into piece about 2"x4"
- 1½ cups low-fat buttermilk divided
- 2 tbsp hot sauce more or less, to taste
- 2 tbsp lite seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cayenne
Creamy Yogurt Slaw
- 3 tsp lite seasoned rice vinegar
- 6 tbsp non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 cups tri-color slaw mix pre-packaged
- ½ cup flour all-purpose or white, whole wheat
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
- cooking spray
- 8 Hawaiian rolls separated into pairs + sliced like a sandwich bun
- Marinate the fish: Combine 1 cup buttermilk and hot sauce in a shallow dish. Add the fish and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
- Make the spicy vinaigrette: Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl or jar and set aside.
- Make the slaw: In a medium bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, greek yogurt, mayo and mustard together. Add the slaw mix and toss to combine evenly. Season with salt + pepper to taste.
- Set up the dredging station in three shallow dishes: Measure out flour into one dish and season with salt + pepper. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk into the second dish. In the third dish, measure out the Panko. Finally, line a sheet pan with parchment or foil to receive the breaded fish.
- Remove a piece of fish from the buttermilk marinade and let the excess marinade drip off. Place it in the flour and turn to coat. Next, dip the fish in the bowl of buttermilk and turn to coat. Finally, dip the fish in the Panko and turn to coat. Remove it to the sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining fish.
- Spray the fish with cooking spray on both sides.
- Preheat the air fryer at 400 degrees for 3 minutes. Spray the bottom of your air fryer basket with a little cooking spray. Place fish in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air fry at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the fish between the rolls. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette. Top with creamy slaw.
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only. I earn a commission from Instacart from qualifying ingredient purchases.