Wondering if it’s time to join the air fryer craze? These food ideas will convince you the answer is “yes.”
For lovers of French fries and buffalo wings, the air fryer changed the cooking game. Suddenly, you didn’t need to deal with a messy cauldron of spattering oil when you wanted your fried food fix.
The new “it” appliance “fries” all kinds of foods to a shattering crunch with nothing more than fast-moving hot air. Not surprisingly, that also make air-frying healthier than traditional frying: You can turn out those crispy, crunchy snacks with a bare minimum of oil—teaspoons instead of the cups you need for conventionally fried foods.
Maybe you’ve ever hesitated to add an air fryer to your collection because you think it’s a one-trick pony. Well, think again, says Emily Paster, author of Epic Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Inspired Recipes That Take Air-Frying in Deliciously Exciting New Directions. There are many surprising ways to use it for meals that are healthier, tastier, and faster than you could make without one.
1. Air Fryer Breakfast
Yes, you read that right. You can get a hearty breakfast together in a few fuss-free minutes with your air fryer.
“The air fryer turns out excellent French toast,” Paster says. “And it’s hands off — you don’t need to stand over the stove flipping toast.” Plus, you don’t have to use tons of butter, as you normally would.
Try this: Dip your favorite bread (sliced thick) in your usual French toast batter (eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon). Air fry for 3 minutes, each side, at 320 degrees F.
Another breakfast item Paster likes to cook in the air fryer is baked oatmeal. “It’s done in about 15 minutes,” she says. “The oven takes at least twice as long.”
Try this: You’ll need a baking dish for your air fryer — a 6-inch dish is about the right size to cook 1 cup of rolled oats. Set the air fryer at 300 degrees F. Combine 1 cup rolled oats with 1 cup each milk and water, add a pinch of salt. Pour in to a greased baking dish. Air fry for 15 minutes. Sweeten to taste.
2. Air Fryer Hard “Boiled” Eggs
Eggs are an unexpected way to get more mileage out of the air fryer, says Paster. In fact, once you try this method for hard-cooked eggs, you may never boil them again. In a few minutes, you’ll have easy-to-peel eggs ready to add to a salad, sandwich, or enjoy on their own as a protein-rich snack.
Try this: Arrange six eggs on a wire rack or trivet to keep them off the surface of the basket. Air fry at 270 degrees F for 16 minutes. (Air fryers are calibrated differently, so you may need to tweak the time to get your perfect eggs. Start with one or two eggs to get a feel for how long this will take in your machine.) Immediately place in ice water. Wait 10 minutes before peeling.
3. Air Fryer Roasted Tomatoes
Roasted vegetables, with their flavorful caramelization and crispy bits at the edges, are a crowd pleaser. You can get the same or better results in the air fryer with substantially less oil, according to Paster. Brussels sprouts are a particular favorite of hers. She’s also a fan of air fryer cherry tomatoes.
Try this: Combine one pint of cherry tomatoes with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper (optional). Air fry at 250 degrees F for 30 minutes.
“Cook them low and slow,” she says. “They become sweet and jam-like, perfect for serving over toast, bruschetta style, or with mozzarella.”
4. Air Fryer Crispy Tofu
Most people have no idea what to do with a block of tofu, though it’s increasingly mentioned as a good source of plant-based protein. The air fryer makes cooking tofu a cinch. In fact, many tofu recipes increasingly call for air frying the tofu before adding it to the rest of the dish, says Paster.
Try this: Cut “super-firm” tofu into cubes, coat with cornstarch, and spritz with olive oil using a mister. (If you don’t have a mister, you can lightly brush the cubes with oil.) Place the cubes in the air fryer, leaving plenty of room between cubes to maximize the crispiness. Air fry at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.
“You get perfectly crunchy tofu out of the air fryer, and you can add it to almost any stir fry or rice bowl,” she says.
5. Air Fryer Roasted Fish
Air frying makes cooking fish like halibut, salmon, and tuna practically foolproof, says Paster. “I like to cook salmon and broccoli at the same time,” Paster says. “It’s basically the sheet pan dinner of the air fryer,” she says.
Try this: Pat a 6-ounce salmon filet dry with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and season to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika (or other favorite seasoning). Toss 1 cup broccoli florets with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in the air fryer skin side down and arrange the broccoli around it. Air fry at 390 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, until fish flakes with a fork and is cooked through. Stir broccoli once halfway through cook time.
6. Air Fryer Snack Chips
With an air fryer, it’s fast and easy to make your own potato, tortilla, and pita chips. You’ll save both on your grocery bill and on your consumption of unhealthy fats, since you simply brush your chips with a tiny bit of olive or canola oil before air frying. You can also dial the salt back to reduce the sodium you typically get from chips, Paster says.
Try this: Cut whole-grain pitas into triangles using a pizza cutter. Lightly brush with olive oil and season to taste with salt, pepper, or your favorite herbs. Air fry for 3 minutes at 350 degrees F.
7. Air Fryer Leftovers
Reheating leftovers is one of Paster’s favorite uses for her air fryer, she says. “Slices of pizza regain their crunch and French fries can be brought back to restaurant-level quality in just a minute or two,” she says.
Knowing you can enjoy these kinds of restaurant treats just as much the next day thanks to your air fryer just might help you avoid overeating them when they’re served in those notorious large restaurant portions, she adds.
Try this: Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees F. Place leftovers evenly in the basket. Air fry for 2 to 3 minutes
8. Air Fryer Desserts
We saved the best for last: The air fryer is a surprisingly great way to make desserts and baked goods.
“I love to brush pineapple rings with butter, air fry them for 15 minutes, and then garnish with fresh mint,” Paster says.
If you’re really into experimenting with desserts made in the air fryer (and there are tons of recipes online to inspire you, “you may need to invest in a special smaller cake pan that fits inside,” says Paster.
But there are plenty of things you can make without any special equipment. Another of her favorites: baked apples stuffed with granola.
Try this: Slice an apple in half and remove the core. Scoop out some additional flesh and dice it. Combine the apple flesh with ¼ cup granola and ½ tablespoon melted butter. Spoon the granola mixture into the apples and place in the air fryer basket. Pour ½ cup water into the air fryer basket. Air fry at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.
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