16 chef-approved dishes to make in the air fryer

Image: Shutterstock / Putting food in an air fryer can make it crispy.
  • Business Insider asked chefs to share their favourite dishes to make in an air fryer.
  • Some of their favourite dishes to make in this appliance include kale chips, gnocchi, and crunchy chickpeas.
  • It’s also possible to make flavourful steak, bacon, and chicken nuggets in an air fryer.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Air fryers use hot air to cook and crisp food, drastically reducing the amount of oil needed compared to a deep fryer.

They’re often touted as a way of cutting calories and fat from classic comfort foods, but air fryers can be used to cook a wide range of dishes.

With that in mind, Business Insider asked chefs to share their favourite snacks and meals to prepare in an air fryer.

Here are the hot tips, according to the pros.

Picking up a good air fryer

Image: Amazon

If you don’t have an air fryer but are looking to buy one, there are a few good options currently available on the market.

Cooking bacon in an air fryer is easier and healthier

Air-fried bacon may not be as greasy as if you cooked it on the stovetop. Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

Jess Dang, chef and founder of meal-planning service Cook Smarts, told Business Insider that bacon is one of her favourite things to cook in an air fryer.

“Fat drips from the bacon and out of the basket, so the bacon ends up leaner,” she told Business Insider. “It’s so much less messy and requires less supervision than other cooking methods.”

Pop some bananas in an air fryer for a quick dessert

You can pair your air-fried bananas with some ice cream, too. Sandra Mu/Getty Images

Air fryers can turn slices of plain fruit into caramelised treats, Dang said, and she recommends using bananas.

“I slice them in half lengthwise and add them to banana splits,” she explained. “Sometimes I’ll brush them with a little coconut oil first for an extra-special treat.”

You can cook a steak full of flavour in an air fryer

Be sure to flip your steak halfway through cooking. iStock

Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox, told Business Insider that it’s possible to cook a good steak in an air fryer — the key is in the prep.

“Rub the steak with a little olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper before cooking,” he said. “The olive oil helps it get a really good sear and the salt and pepper give a simple, yet satisfying flavour.”

To make sure the steak cooks evenly, Yankel added, flip it over halfway through cooking, so both sides of the meat have contact with the hot surface of the basket.

Transform chickpeas into a crispy, savoury treat

You can season chickpeas before you pop them in the air fryer, too. Hilary Brueck / Insider

Chickpeas fresh out of the air fryer can be used as a salad topping or just a healthy snack.

“Air-fried chickpeas are crispy, portable, and delicious,” said Dang. “You can easily toss in some spices and seasonings along with a small amount of oil to jazz them up a little.”

Try experimenting with seasonings like za’atar, curry powder or chilli powder for an extra kick of flavour.

Air-fried doughnuts are often light and fluffy

You may want to top your doughnuts with powdered sugar. Getty Images / RF / fotoedu

Yes, you can make homemade doughnuts a little less calorie-dense just by using an air fryer instead of a deep fryer.

Yankel told Business Insider that the secret to good air-fried doughnuts is to avoid putting a very wet batter in the air fryer.

“Opt for making your doughnut batter more like bread dough for a cake-like consistency. The key is to use more flour than egg,” said Yankel.

An air fryer can create crunchy, homemade chicken nuggets

For an extra crispy nugget, double-dip your chicken in your breading. Shutterstock

Instead of store-bought chicken nuggets, make your own batch at home with an air fryer.

“The air fryer is terrific for keeping crunchy, coated chicken juicy and tender,” said Polak. “Just make sure to moisten your chicken with a swipe of olive oil or mustard to keep the breading adhered.”

Don’t go overboard with crumbing – adding too much can cause the coating to be blown off by the airflow of the air fryer.

You don’t need breading to prepare juicy chicken breasts

Be sure to season your chicken breasts before you cook them. iStock

“The air fryer yields a much juicier chicken breast than either the oven or stovetop,” said Dang. “Due to the compact design of an air fryer, there’s not as much room for the juices to evaporate like they sometimes do with other methods.”

Certain types of fish can become moist and flaky if you air fry them

You can prepare fish and chips in an air fryer. Yudai/Shutterstock

Using an air fryer can help take some of the guesswork out of preparing seafood, and avoid dry, overcooked fish.

“I recommend using an air fryer for baked or breaded fish. The hot air gets the outside of the fish nice and crispy without overcooking the inside,” said Polak.

Single-serve pizzas are perfect for an air fryer

Personal pizzas are easy to customise. Joe Kohen/Getty

Dang said air fryers are ideal for cooking small frozen or homemade pizzas.

“Because an air fryer has a small cavity that doesn’t require preheating, it gets the cheese bubbly and the bread toasted much faster than an oven would,” she told Business Insider.

Dang said naan bread, tomato sauce, and mozzarella can be turned into a quick and tasty personal pizza in an air fryer.

Air fryers can take gnocchi from gummy to golden

If you’ve got gnocchi in your freezer, try popping it in the air fryer. Francesco Lentini / EyeEm / Getty Images

Dang told Business Insider that using an air fryer is one of the best ways to prepare premade, frozen gnocchi.

“The first time I tried frozen cauliflower gnocchi, I didn’t get the appeal – I just wound up with a gummy mess,” she said. “But when I tried them again in the air fryer, they came out golden and crispy.”

You can make sweet and savoury baby carrots in an air fryer

Baby carrots can cook fairly quickly in an air fryer. iStock / Getty Images Plus / Brycia James

Chef Zach Cummings of Timbers Kauai in Lihue, Hawaii, told Business Insider that baby carrots are one of his favourite foods to prepare in an air fryer.

“The intense, focused heat of the air fryer achieves this beautiful caramelization in a fraction of the time it takes to cook baby carrots that way in a traditional oven,” said Cummings.

He said yo get perfectly caramelised carrots, coat them in extra-virgin olive oil, toasted fennel seeds, fresh thyme, sea salt, and pepper. Cook them at 190 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes and shake the basket halfway through.

Make your own kale chips with an air fryer

Be sure to toss the kale in an oil before putting it in the air fryer. Getty Images

Since air fryers use extremely hot air to both cook and remove surface moisture from foods, they’re perfect for making kale chips.

Cummings said he recommends tossing kale with coconut oil and sea salt before adding the leaves to your air fryer.

“The air fryer brings out the aroma of the coconut while keeping the kale chips light,” he explained.

Stuffed peppers are an easy and versatile dish

You can get creative with the fillings, too. belchonock/ iStock

Chelsea Knight, chef at Fable Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee, told Business Insider that stuffed peppers cook well in an air fryer.

“You can use any kind of filling, from a delicious cream cheese to your favourite meat,” said Knight. “I would also suggest wrapping the peppers in bacon.”

For an air-fried party snack, try stuffing smaller peppers with cubes of mozzarella and serving them with a marinara dipping sauce.

Air-fried zucchini makes for a crispy snack or side dish

Zucchini chips pair well with a sandwich. Joey Hadden/Insider

Coating fresh zucchini slices in bread crumbs and popping them in an air fryer makes for a crunchy, vegan snack.

“Fried zucchini is a healthy side dish that you can dress up with your favourite spices, or keep it simple with just some olive oil, salt, and pepper,” said Knight.

Make your own potato chips with an air fryer

You can also use sweet potatoes. Savanna Swain-Wilson

The ability to turn thin slices of potatoes into crispy chips is a major reason why air fryers are popular. But, as Knight pointed out, you don’t have to stick to plain spuds for your homemade chips.

“You can definitely use regular white potatoes, but you can also substitute sweet potatoes,” said Knight. “These are a fun snack to make for kids.”

For best results, coat the potato slices with olive or vegetable oil before placing them in the air fryer.

You can cook crunchy chicken wings in an air fryer

You can bread chicken wings before popping them in an air fryer. iStock / Getty Images Plus / LauriPatterson

Chicken wings battered and cooked in oil can be high in calories and greasy. If you’re after a lighter alternative, Knight said, try air-frying your wings instead.

“Chicken wings are great to cook in an air fryer as a snack or a whole meal,” Knight told Business Insider. “Air-frying means that you still get crispy wings without the added calories of deep-frying.”

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