15 Canned Foods You Should Be Cooking In The Air Fryer

Let's hear it for the small but mighty air fryer, the kitchen appliance that didn't exist in most homes a few years ago, but today it's hard to imagine life without. There are plenty of air fryer recipes out there, and given the appliance's ease of use and availability, there's no reason you shouldn't try them. From finding ingenious ways to air fry snacks and sides to potentially creating a whole meal from scratch, the air fryer has had our backs and then some. Yet, as many things as we have air fried, there are always more to try.

Indeed, when it comes to foods that work great in an air fryer, canned items might not be at the top of your list. We're here to ask, why not? Canned foods are healthier and more versatile than they're usually given credit for, and considering the engineering magic that takes place to get them to our cupboard, we think they deserve a little more credit. If it takes a new partnership between that can of chickpeas in the pantry and the air fryer on the counter to make that happen, so be it. Canned foods are great, air fryers are great, and that sounds like a match made in heaven from where we're standing.

1. Chickpeas

Speaking of chickpeas, they're first up on the list of great canned foods to try cooking in the air fryer. Naturally, you may keep chickpeas on hand for any number of uses, such as making your own hummus or perhaps whipping up some falafel burgers at home. Those are wonderful pursuits, but they're both a little labor intensive compared to simply putting the contents of a can of chickpeas in the air fryer and waiting for the snack food of your dreams to come back out a few minutes later. Roast chickpeas are a delightful treat that works both as a side or a snack to enjoy during movie night, and the air fryer cuts out a lot of the time and mess that making them once entailed.

We recommend cooking at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and giving the basket a few shakes along the way to make sure it's all cooking evenly, but otherwise, this is one of the most straightforward and easy-to-make snack foods you could hope for. Season them with some olive oil and salt, then add a little garlic and paprika after you pull them from the basket for great results that taste like you spent a lot more time on them than you did. You can easily eat these right out of the bowl like popcorn, but if you're feeling adventurous, try adding them to a salad in place of croutons or to a soup in place of crackers.

2. Tamales

Speaking of canned foods that don't get the credit they deserve, we have the canned tamale. While you can't beat fresh tamales from the market, the canned version of these treats makes for a more than suitable alternative for anyone in serious need of a tamale fix. Tamales aren't the easiest thing to make from scratch, which might be part of the reason that the canned and frozen takes on them have remained so popular over the years. If you've been wondering what to do with that single can of tamales in your pantry, have we got a suggestion for you.

Not only can you air fry canned tamales, you very much owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you've had canned tamales before, you'll know that it's difficult to give the masa dough the texture of fresh tamales without frying them in oil, which isn't the healthiest option. The flow of the air fryer will allow for a little bit of crunch to the outer shell while keeping the interior soft and appetizing, which makes for a more well-rounded food.

3. Potatoes

When it comes to foods that are likely to pop up on just about any food list, potatoes lead the pack. This tasty perennial belonging to the nightshade family of veggies might be native to the Americas, but it's garnered many admirers all across the globe. If there's anything potatoes are known for, it's their incredible versatility, making for a great side in baked, fried, roasted, peeled, mashed, and boiled forms, just to name a few. Since you've likely eaten potatoes in just about every other incarnation at some point, why not try canned potatoes in an air fryer?

Don't skip the oil, as tossing them with a bit of olive oil before they go into the fryer can help canned potatoes not to stick as well as allowing for a crunchier surface than they would otherwise have. Naturally, adding a bit of salt and pepper after you pull them will go a long way, but the great thing about potatoes is that you can season them just about any way to great effect. If you're not a fan of potato skins and you're tired of the peeling process, this could be your new favorite method for cooking potatoes.

4. Artichokes

We're not knocking fresh artichokes, but cracking open a can might potentially be a lot easier than wrestling with untapped artichokes straight from the plant. If you're into the timesaving wonder of canned artichokes, you're already aware that there are plenty of ways to cook and prepare them. Well, buckle up, because we've got one more for you. That's right; we think you should try cooking canned artichokes in the air fryer.

Artichokes are versatile as a topping, but air-fried artichokes allow them to step up and shine as appetizers or sides. Leaving them in for long enough that the outer edges crisp just a bit is our recommendation. As for seasoning, olive oil is great, and consider additionally serving this snack with a few dipping sauces on the side to allow for a variety of flavors. If you've got your eye on the clock and you're looking for something fast, air-fried artichokes could be your next go-to.

5. Peaches

While this might not have been the first thing to dawn on you when you unpacked your new air fryer, we're here to tell you that there are a lot of canned fruits you should consider air frying. Up at the top of that list? The great canned peach, which is so good you can easily eat it right out of the can, but versatile enough that you can pop them alongside just about any meal. If nothing else, the air fryer works wonders when it comes to jazzing up canned foods that you have grown complacent toward.

If you've enjoyed grilled peaches during the summer, that doesn't have to end completely just because the seasons change. Air frying will give a nice crunch to the peaches that you might not have experienced outside of a family BBQ. Much like with grilled peaches, canned peaches in the air fryer taste great with just a little seasoning — for instance, a bit of brown sugar sprinkled over the top. If you've been eating canned peaches the exact same way since childhood, this is a great way to get back in touch with what you love about them.

6. Corn

Much the same as peaches and potatoes, canned corn is a workhorse that it's easy to take for granted. Appearing in recipes from veggie burgers to salads to burritos and beyond, this flexible food is known for adding a little sweetness to spicy or fried foods. The counterbalancing properties of canned corn are huge, but, of course, you can serve them just as they are with a little butter and salt, as well. Pretty much no matter what way you slice it, canned corn is great and it adds a lot to every dish it appears in.

Pretty much any way you can dream of eating corn, preparing them in the air fryer is going to simplify the process. Preparing them as a crispy snack all on their own is one thing you could try, but this is an especially good method to use if you're adding them as a topping to salads. Getting rid of the excess moisture without a lengthier roasting process makes your air fryer worth its weight in gold, and the added crisp will make southwestern-style salads even better.

7. Pineapple

Today, the vast majority of pineapples are grown in Costa Rica, which for a lot of us is a pretty far distance to travel to pick the fruit ourselves. Fortunately, canned pineapple is available at just about any grocery store, making it a treat that can easily be enjoyed all across the world. Perhaps best known as a contentious pizza topping, that is nowhere near the end of ways you can use pineapple in your day-to-day cooking routines. In fact, you can use pineapple for everything from unique salsas to simply tossing the pineapple on the grill and eating them on their own.

While not exactly as versatile as peaches, they add a special flavor that can really take a meal to the next level, and there are endless ways to prepare them. Okay, hear us out, maybe you should consider cooking them in the air fryer. Much like with peaches, the air fryer can't replicate the effect of a grill, but it can add a crispy edge to the outside of the pineapple that makes the soft insides even tastier. Even if you're using pineapple as a topping for another dish, giving them a spin in the air fryer can give them a more well-rounded taste, and that makes it well worth the small amount of time and effort it requires to pull it off.

8. Green beans

Even if you feel like you've already gotten the number of green beans, chances are, this is a vegetable that can still surprise you. Canned green beans usually require just a bit of seasoning before they get to a place where they can be appreciated for their unique flavor profile, but once you've got them figured out, they make for an unbeatable side dish that especially compliments heartier entrees like meatloaf or BBQ.

For instance, fried green beans have risen in popularity over the years as a healthier alternative to fries. Deep frying them means you lose out on some of the nutritional benefits, which is where the air fryer comes in. If you love fried green beans but could do without the excess oil, this is the hack you've been dreaming of. Season them with a little salt or lemon juice and you'll be well on your way to green bean perfection.

9. Salmon

There are a whole lot of ways to use canned salmon, and even if you think you've gone through them all, there are surely still new tricks and methods to learn. From salmon cakes to burgers to pasta and soup, this is a canned food that is a lot more versatile than it's usually given credit for. You can easily use salmon in place of tuna in a lot of dishes in a pinch, for instance trading a tuna casserole out for a salmon casserole. If you want to get a little fancier, you can try it in a sushi bake or even a pate, and you'll be glad you did.

Most of the methods of preparing canned salmon can be easily transferred to the air fryer, and it will cut down on not just the mess of the oil but the time it takes to prepare these foods as well. Even a casserole can be prepared in the air fryer, which is a particularly beneficial approach for anyone craving the gooey goodness of a bake but cooking just for one. Even if you're planning to use salmon in a wrap or a salad, air frying it first will cut down on the excess moisture and add some flavor to the outer edges, making it well worth your time to try.

10. Peas

For kids, canned peas can be a real make-or-break vegetable, drawing some volatile reactions for anyone that doesn't appreciate the "mushiness" that they can have. Hopefully age brings a greater enjoyment of this canned treat, but if you're a texture eater that hasn't come around yet, air frying peas might be the thing that turns you around on them. Allowing you to take pleasure in the taste of peas while making them a little crispier than they would have been otherwise, roasted peas are another healthier alternative to snacks like fries and potato chips.

When it comes to cooking canned peas in the air fryer, there are a lot of directions you can go. For our money, prepping them much the same as you would roasted chickpeas is a winning approach, as peas benefit greatly from drying out a bit and adding a crunchy outer layer through the heating process. This will make for a crispy snack that you can season just about any way you like, with a standard salt and pepper shake over working wonders for the side. Of course, garlic and paprika are also great, but this is one recipe where experimentation is very much encouraged.

11. Tuna

We've already covered canned tuna's cousin, canned salmon, and the fact is that pretty much everything we said there applies here. Canned tuna is extremely flexible and can be included in a whole lot of dishes, including the beloved tuna salad sandwich, as well as more off-the-beaten-path options like tuna burgers, pasta salads, and baked potatoes. Much like with salmon, many of your tried and true tuna recipes can be cooked in the air fryer, so we're asking you to take a chance and give it a whirl.

If you're looking to make tuna burgers or cakes, the air fryer could easily be the best thing that ever happened to you. The well-known benefits of the air fryer include less oil without compromising on taste, and that can be a pretty huge draw for anyone that has fried tuna cakes in a pan. Not only will it be a bit healthier, you won't lose out on the flavor, so it's a good approach to try if you love the taste of tuna burgers but could do without the mess of cooking them on the stove.

12. Mushrooms

Though they are often lumped in with vegetables, there are plenty of things that put mushrooms in their own individual category. Not only do they not have roots or leaves, they are not a plant or an animal, so it's okay if we acknowledge them as their own special thing. Additionally, there are about 14,000 known varieties of mushrooms with we assume plenty more still undiscovered, so they're definitely a lot more interesting than they're usually recognized for being.

Even canned mushrooms bring a good amount of variety to the table, with the different kinds used ranging from white button, cremini, portobello, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms. As many different mushrooms as there are, there seem to be just as many ways to prepare them, so chances are you won't run out of things to try anytime soon. However, we suggest bumping the air frying method up to the top of your list, as it makes for a quick and easy preparation process and will give you more time to marvel at how cool these weird little fungi are.

13. Jackfruit

Like the air fryer, jackfruit is a relatively recent addition to many kitchens, but it has taken the world by storm in a short period of time. Appealing especially to vegans due to its many uses as a meat substitute, canned jackfruit is the kind of food item that you should always have on hand just in case the need to experiment arises. Due to its unique texture and its tofu-like ability to absorb flavors, this can be a serious gateway offering to anyone who balks at the idea of eating vegan foods.

It may go without saying that jackfruit works in a number of recipes, including BBQ jackfruit sandwiches, tacos, and curry, as well as working great as vegan "ribs" or "duck." You can prepare jackfruit in just about any way you can think of, from baking it in the oven to frying it in a pan to, ah yes, cooking it to perfection in the air fryer. There are endless advantages to keeping jackfruit in your cupboard, and the air fryer is just one method of helping it live up to its full potential. However you season jackfruit, think about giving it a spin in the air fryer first.

14. Cannellini beans

Beans are great in general, but cannellini beans may very well qualify as one of the more underrated members of the bean family. Sporting a slightly nutty, more mild flavor than many of their cousins, they can be wonderful additions to things like soups and chilis without overpowering the dish. As with any bean, the possibilities are just about endless. If you've come to know cannellini as your go-to for stew, think about cooking them mashed the same way you would potatoes — it's surprisingly great and can work in place of potatoes in a pinch.

The best way to roast them for our money is going to be to put them in the air fryer, where the flow of oxygen will help them cook evenly, covering every part of the exterior with a crispy outer layer. However you tend to season your snacks will work great for air-fried cannellini beans, including basic salt and pepper to more inventive ideas like squirting them with a bit of fresh lemon juice. Whatever way you choose, this addition will enliven your list of go-to snacks.

15. Sardines

Perhaps more than any other item on this list, canned sardines can be a contentious food, even more hotly debated as a potential pizza topping than pineapple. While there's a lot of truth to the suggestion that sardines are very much an acquired taste, maybe that just means it's time to start acquiring it today. Known for their mild, fishy, and salty aspects, they are best enjoyed with an appreciation for their individuality. If you've already tried them right out of the can and found it not to your liking, we're here to suggest you give the air fryer a try.

Not only could you easily add them to the top of a pizza or salad like you normally would, but they also work well as a side or appetizer all their own. Squirt them with some lemon or lime juice and serve them with a dipping sauce and you're on your way to sardine magic. Seasoning with things like Old Bay or breadcrumbs can also work wonders, but however you go, air fried is a great method to try.