Before I move forward with itemizing the qualities that make the air fryer the very best partner a cuisine-enthusiast could ever wish for, I’d like everyone to know that a dietitian totally ships us. “Air fryers are a healthy alternate to frying and function as mini-ovens,” explains Brittany Michels, RD, a dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe. “Generally, they use less oil, lower temperatures, and take less time to achieve a similar texture and taste.” (*Ahem*, did you hear that? She just straight up called our coupling, “healthy.”)
Because such pure affairs of passion exist on the same plane as Noah and Allie of The Notebook, I will now invoke bestselling author Nicholas Sparks and declare, “You are every reason, every hope and every dream I’ve ever had,” dear mini-oven. I adore you, heart, soul, and fryer basket.
Below, please find a non-exhaustive list of the ways to use an air fryer. Each of which, I promise, will make you love the underrated kitchen device as much as I do.
1. Throw your chickpeas in the air fryer for afternoon noshing
After the air fryer is through with a can of chickpeas, they morph into the legumes of your plant-protein loving dreams. They’re salty, crunchy, and satiating enough to get you through the afternoon slump without issue. They’re also an excellent crouton stand-in on your kale salad, FYI.
To crisp up your garbanzos: Toss chickpeas with your choice of salt, pepper, and turmeric. Since these little protein powerhouses are already moist (eek, sorry!) straight out of the can, I skip adding oil. Cook for about 18 minutes, tossing every once in a while, until they’re firm to the touch.
2. Finally make the golden brown cauli-gnocchi you see plastered across your Instagram feed
The Instagram-versus-reality result of cooking up a batch of cruciferous pasta is real. Fear not: The air fryer wants you to live your best life both on and off of social media. I like to task the kitchen device with making two bags of T. Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi on Sunday, then I enjoy it with various veggie mixes all week long as a dinner option.
To make perfect pasta pillows: Grab a bowl and toss two bags of the gnocchi with 2 Tbsp of oil (I like avocado or olive) with salt and pepper. Pour them into the air fryer and take care to separate them now so you don’t end up with a glob of cauliflower. Cook for 20 minutes, tossing and separating every once in a while.
3. Tots! Tots! Tots! Tots!
Out of all the forms a vegetable can shape-shift into, tater tots are the ultimate—am I right, or am I right? I kid you not: I sometimes buy the Whole Foods sweet potato tots in the frozen section and eat them for dessert. They’re like tiny pockets of starchy cake. They’re the wind beneath my wings, and they’ll help you take flight, too.
To make tots: This is an easy one, fam. Just pour the tots straight into the air fryer without oil or spices and allow to cook for about 15 minutes. They’ll be white hot when they get out, so mind your tongue.
4. No boring veggies here, I promise
I’ve thrown just about every type of vegetable in my air fryer, and I’m here to report that almost all of them transformed into their truest, tastiest form within the supportive heat of the kitchen gadget. The rainbow-colored possibilities are nearly endless, TBH, but I’ve had the best results with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chopped sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and asparagus. Each nutrient-rich ingredient comes out with a crispy shell in under 20 minutes.
To jazz up your veggies: Take out a bowl and toss the veg in oil, garlic, and your desired spices. I’m a fan of sprinkling Trader Joe’s “Everything But the Bagel Spice” on, well, *everything* for an extra crunch. If your vegetables of choice are close to the same density, you can mix them.
5. (Most) of your proteins will cook at the same time as your veggies—and can I get an “Amen”?
I’m a vegetarian who relies on veggie burger as a main at least twice a week. And while, normally, that would mean I’d need a separate pan to cook my patty all the way through, I can now use the grilling rack that came with my air fryer to cook it simultaneously with my veggies. If you’re carnivorous, you’d likely want to place your chicken, turkey, steak on the tray below your vegetables to avoid dripping any raw meat on the veggies.
To cook a perf veggie burger: Place your veggies in the lowest tray, then position the grill rack on top. Spray it with cooking oil (I use coconut) and place the patty in the middle. Allow to cook for about 8 minutes. (It will likely be done before your broc, cauliflower, etc.)
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