How to Get Crispy Ikan Bilis in an Air Fryer

The air fryer is really a friend. I use it on numerous occasions and it’s an extra good friend when I’m making nasi lemak. I not only air fry the peanuts but also the ikan bilis and trust me when I say it’s CRISPY!

There are some must-do’s if you want them crispy tho:

They must be dried well after rinsing.

They must NOT be overcrowded in the air fryer.

Coat them nicely in oil.

Pre-heat AF.

After rinsing, I usually spread them out in a tea towel, pat dry pat dry, pat dry and leave them to dry off for a while. I find using a tea towel more effective and absorbent than using kitchen paper towels. 

I almost always preheat my Air Fryer for just about 5 mins just to get some heat in there once I pop in the ikan bilis.

After they’ve dried off, I put them in a bowl and add 1-2 tbsp oil and use my fingers to nicely coat each one. This will definitely help with the crispiness.

I then layer them and not overcrowd them on the tray. Otherwise the air circulating will not be able to ‘fry’ each one well. This is essential for the crispiness. I usually do two batches in my airfryer. (Mine is an old model of maybe 7 years!).


It’s important to store the ikan bilis well in an air tight container. Best enjoyed with a plate of nasi lemak!

Did you try this recipe?

Please do let me know if you've tried it, by leaving a comment or tagging me on IG @thesuddencook.

Crispy Air Fried Ikan Bilis

Find out the little tricks to get golden, crunchy ikan bilis in the Air Fryer!


  • Ikan bilis Rinsed and dried well (see notes)
  • 1-2 tbsp oil Depending on how much ikan bilis you have


  • Pre-heat Air Fryer at 180C for 5 mins.
  • Rinse ikan bilis and dry well. Place in bowl and add oil. Use your fingers to coat the ikan bilis well in the oil.
  • Air Fry ikan bilis in two batches so as to not overcrowd the tray/basket. Lay them in one layer. Set timer for 4-5 mins. Shake the basket in between.
  • Remove and let to cool completely. It will continue to crisp up once cooling.


My tips for getting golden, crunchy ikan bilis:
  • Pre-heat the Air Fryer.
  • You have to dry the ikan bilis well. Use a tea towel to pat dry after rinsing and leave them for a bit more to dry off after.
  • Coat the ikan bilis well in oil.
  • It's important to lay them in one layer so the air can circulate around and crisp them up. Don't pile the ikan bilis on top of each other in the tray/basket.
  • Let them cool completely (they will continue to crisp up) and store in an air tight container.
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2 years ago

Oh! Recently I have been playing a lot with my air fryer too! Love that your recent blog posts have all these air fryer ideas!! The ikan bilis looked crisp and yummy.

2 years ago
Reply to  Noob Cook

Yes the air fryer really does come in handy for me. I have more recipes but yet to share them!

2 years ago

So good with the air-fryer! I don’t have one 🙁 That is why the ikan bilis are sitting in the freezer forever cos I don’t like to deep-fry them. Tried oven method before but did not turn out as expected.

2 years ago
Reply to  tigerfish

Same for me too! Also, I find them crispier and faster fried in the AF.

2 years ago

Hello! Thanks for posting this. I’m excited to make some mee hoon kueh, do you need to remove the head of anchovies before you air fry them? Can you us air fried anchovies in stock or better to use before air frying?


2 years ago

May I know how much ikan bilis per batch?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jasmine