Are air fryers a fad or the way of the future for indulging in your favourite foods?
With so many of us watching our weight and fat intake, an air fryer could be the answer to enjoying the foods we love without the kilojoules. The air fryer can cook and crisp food using a tiny amount of oil compared to the deep frying method. Using an air fryer can reduce calorie intake by 70 - 80 percent on average compared to deep frying food.
Healthy Air Fryer Recipes
Sure you can cook chips in your air fryer, but there are plenty of other healthier, more exciting options to use in your air fryer.
#1 Chicken Schnitzel
For many Australians chicken is a staple midweek meal. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and most of the family enjoy it. And there’s rarely a complaint when chicken schnitty is on the menu. Rather than shallow frying at home, enjoy a healthier option whipped up in your air fryer.
4 chicken breasts
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
With your hand on top of the chicken breast, carefully cut the piece horizontally, so you have two thinner slices. If it’s still a little thick, use a meat mallet to pound until 2cm thick.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Place the flour on a plate, and on a second plate, pour your breadcrumbs. Coat each piece of chicken in flour and dust off the extra. Dip the chicken in the egg, then breadcrumbs to coat. Place the coated chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the air fryer to 200˚C. Spray the chicken with a light coating of olive oil spray. Place the chicken in a single layer in the basket to cook for 16 minutes or until golden. For even cooking, it’s best to turn the chicken at the halfway mark. Serve with a green salad or coleslaw.
#2 Zucchini Chips
If you have some panko breadcrumbs leftover, put them to good use in this healthy chip recipe and reduce your carbs.
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
175g grated parmesan cheese
1 medium zucchini
1 large egg, beaten
Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese on a plate. Dip the zucchini slices in egg, then panko mix and press to coat. Place the slices on the wire rack in a single layer and spray with cooking spray. Cook for ten minutes in an air fryer heated to 175˚C for 10 minutes before flipping with tongs to cook for another two minutes.
#3 Tofu with Taste
Tofu is a great plant-based protein option that needs very little cooking time in the air fryer. Look for the extra firm variety to ensure it holds its shape.
Press the tofu to reduce the liquid content by placing between paper towels and then dinner plates above and below. Stack the top plate with a few tins for added pressure. Press for 30 minutes.
Combine the spices depending on your taste preference. Don’t worry if you mix more than you need for this meal, store the spice mix in an airtight container for up to 12 months.
Toss the tofu in avocado oil then cornflour until coated. Coat the tofu with the seasoning mix before adding to the air fryer basket. Cook in the air fryer pre-heated to 200˚C for 13 minutes or until crispy.
#4 Banana Muffins
Kids love a muffin for morning tea. Using an air fryer you can whip up a batch before school, ready to pop in the lunch box. This recipe is great for using up bananas that are too ripe for eating whole. But if the kids aren’t a fan of bananas in muffins, swap it out for their favourite fruit.
2 ripe bananas
150g self-raising flour
60g brown sugar
60ml olive oil
60 ml buttermilk
In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. In a larger bowl, combine the sugar and flour, then make a well in the centre and pour in the egg, oil and buttermilk. Stir the mixture until it’s combined, then add in the banana and stir. Divide the mixture between 18 muffin cases (paper or silicone) and cook in two batches on the top shelf of your air fryer preheated to 180˚C. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
#5 Cauliflower Bites
Cauliflower bites make a tasty and nutritious side to your favourite dishes.
4 cups cauliflower florets, steamed (approx. 1/2 large cauliflower)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup grated Parmesan
175g panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
Ground black pepper
Use a food processor to rice cauliflower, then place on a paper towel to drain water. Transfer to a large bowl with egg, cheddar, parmesan, breadcrumbs and chives and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon 1 tablespoon mixture and roll it into bite sizes with your hands. Arrange in the air fryer basket in a single layer and cook at 200˚C for 10 minutes until golden. Serve with your favourite sauce.
Don’t forget the fish. A mid-week meal of salmon is quick and easy to cook and prepare!
2 salmon fillets
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
Season salmon with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, sugar, garlic, and thyme. Spread on top of salmon.
Arrange salmon in an air fryer basket set to 200°C and cook for 10 minutes.
#7 Jacket Potatoes
A jacket potato is a budget-friendly snack, side or main meal.
6 large russet potatoes, washed
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar, divided
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, plus some for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Pat potatoes dry with paper towels. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork, then rub with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place potatoes in the air fryer basket and cook at 200° for 40 minutes. Place on a large baking sheet and let cool.
Cut lengthwise and a thin layer off the top of each potato. Scoop out the inside of each potato, leaving a few centimetres as a border. Place the potato filling in a large bowl. Add butter, milk, and sour cream and smash until butter is melted in and potatoes are mostly smooth, but with some chunks remaining. Add 1 cup of cheese and spring onions and stir until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Fill baked potatoes with potato mixture and place back in the basket of an air fryer. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheddar. Cook at 200°C until the cheese is melted and the potato outside is crispy, around five minutes. Top with more spring onions before serving.
#8 Marinated Chicken Breast
Who can resist finger-licking sticky marinated chicken pieces?
4 chicken breast
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
Sesame seeds for garnish
In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, oil, honey, lime juice, garlic, and ginger. Reserve ½ cup of marinade. Add chicken breast to bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Remove two breasts from the marinade and place in the basket of the air fryer. Cook two breasts at a time at 200°C until cooked through, around 15 to 20 minutes. Place on a plate and cover with foil. Repeat with remaining breasts.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring marinade to a boil and simmer until thickened for around 5 minutes. Brush sauce over thighs and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Air Fryer Snack Ideas
Instead of reaching for the processed, packaged snack food for an afternoon pick-me-up, use your air fryer for a healthy alternative.
If you love corn chips, try cutting up some pita bread or flour tortillas into triangles. Air fry until crispy
Drop a few handfuls of drained tinned chickpeas in a bowl with a drizzle of oil and your favourite spices to season before going into the air fryer. Experiment with some international flavours depending on your mood – Indian, Moroccan, Jamaican - all work a treat.
Your favourite nuts can also be coated in spices and cooked in the air fryer then eaten on their own or mixed with the chickpeas.
While the famous Sizzler cheese toast is off the menu, you can try recreating it at home. Mix finely grated pecorino cheese with some margarine and spread evenly over thick slices of white bread before cooking until golden.
Most kids can’t go past a mini pizza for an after-school snack or lunch box treat. Make them by cutting discs out of a sheet of puff pastry, then top them with their favourite toppings before cooking until the pastry is golden and flaky.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the food. The air fryers top section contains a heating mechanism and fan; the food cooks best in a single layer on a tray or basket, at around 175 to 200 degrees. The circulating air in an air fryer can make foods (especially frozen foods) crisper than if cooked in the oven. The result can be more like cooking in a deep fryer but without the high-fat content.
Most foods cook within five to 25 minutes. For the best results, most foods benefit from being turned halfway through the cooking time. All air fryers cook slightly differently, so use the cooking time and temperature in recipes as a rough estimate.
Many air fryer newbies wonder if they can use alfoil. The answer is yes, as long as the foil doesn’t affect the airflow.
Foods Suitable for Air Fryers
The best foods to cook in an air fryer are often not the ones that first come to mind!
Fruit is one. Try cutting a banana lengthways and brush with coconut oil before cooking to make an extra special dessert. But don’t stop at bananas. There are also peaches, pineapples and berries. Choose your favourite spice, such as cinnamon or nutmeg and sprinkle over the fruit before placing it in the air fryer.
An air fryer works like a fan forced oven, so you can use it for your favourite baked goods such as cinnamon scrolls and buns.
Cooking bacon in an air fryer is a much healthier option rather than cooking it in a frypan.
Frozen foods are a popular staple. The crisp is better in the air fryer than the oven.
What Not to Cook in an Air Fryer
It might seem like there’s nothing the air fryer can’t do. But there are a few foods you should probably avoid, particularly if you don’t want to spend ages cleaning your air fryer after a disastrous experiment. Not everything that goes into a deep fryer is ideal for the air fryer.
If you’re keen to enjoy the benefits of a healthy weight and diet, check out our Healthy Lifestyle Cover.
Wet batter foods such as tempura prawns or beer batter fish are best cooked elsewhere to save a mess.
If you fancy a chunk of halloumi or Camembert cooked in the fryer, be cautious. There might be plenty of recipes online for air fried cheese, but yours may be more of a gooey mess than success. Try freezing the cheese before cooking, so it takes longer to reach melting point.
Foods that require water to cook rarely do well in an air fryer. You’ll have to pull out your rice cooker or saucepan for rice. Some vegetables such as broccoli can dry out and have a bitter aftertaste because of the high temperature and fan-forced air.
A whole chicken or roast is best left to the oven. The side of the roast close to the heat source will burn or dry out while the other side is still uncooked.