The Absolute Best Uses For Your Air Fryer

If you don't have an air fryer, you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Why do people get so excited about this bulky kitchen appliance when they have an oven and can deep fry food on the stove whenever they want? If you do use an air fryer on a regular basis, you get it: The device makes cooking your favorite meals much easier and requires way less clean-up — especially if you are deep frying on the regular. Even better is the fact that you don't have to completely douse your food in grease to get it as crispy as you want. USA Today reports that air fryers require much less oil to get cooking.

If you're not yet intimately acquainted with your deep fryer, you may be surprised to learn that it can be used for so much more than just french fries and chicken nuggets (though we think it's indisputably good at that too). In fact, it can transform some pretty surprising foods into the crispy, crunchy, fried snacks and meals of your dreams.

Therefore, we've made a list of some of the best foods to put in your air fryer. While not everything comes out perfectly cooked in the air fryer, you may be surprised at what you can make in yours. Just remember: Don't be afraid to experiment and try new ingredients.

Reheating leftovers

Leftovers are basically a food group unto themselves. You get a delicious meal from a restaurant, and then you take it home, put it in the fridge for a few hours, and it suddenly becomes a cold, unrecognizable lump of regrets that you'd wish you had finished the night before. Microwaving your leftovers may heat them, but it often turns them into a soggy mess — especially fried leftovers.

This is where your air fryer comes in handy. It too will heat up your leftovers, according to Taste of Home, but it will also crisp them at the same time, ensuring that you actually still recognize the food that comes out at the end. Of course, the air fryer won't solve all your leftover woes (that sad, soggy slice of tomato can't really be revived), but it'll make sure that the fried food you spend good money on is still viable to eat the next day. Plus, it's not going to take your leftovers forever to cook in an air fryer like it might if you were to put them in the oven. Depending on what you're heating, Taste of Home reports that the air fryer will only take a few minutes to develop that crisp you're looking for: Just the kind of convenience you want when you're just throwing together some leftovers.

Crisping chickpeas

Chickpeas are an amazing food. According to Healthline, they can aid with digestion and weight management, and they may even help you stave off the risk of chronic diseases. They're also a fantastic replacement for meat if you're trying to cut back on animal products. Healthline reports that they have plenty of protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Even better, they're generally affordable, especially if you buy them dry instead of in a can (per Bean Institute).

We also happen to love that chickpeas are incredibly versatile. Perhaps our favorite way to eat chickpeas is as a snack when they're crispy, crunchy, and perfectly seasoned. While you can always crisp your chickpeas in the oven or on the stove, you're going to need quite a bit of oil and plenty of dishes. When you crisp your chickpeas in an air fryer, though, they'll be done in no time, with almost no effort. Live Eat Learn writes that they take around 15 minutes.

Dump your canned or cooked chickpeas in your air fryer and add salt and your other favorite seasonings, wait a few minutes while they crisp up, and get to snacking. It might just become one of your favorite snacks too.

Making super easy bacon

If you're wondering if it's possible to put bacon — raw, uncooked bacon — in your air fryer, turn the dial, and just let it cook, we have good news for you: It's a totally doable, easy way to get your breakfast going in the morning. We all know that cooking a big breakfast relies on a lot of work from your oven and stove, so getting one more thing out of the way can help you save time and space. Plus, when you decide to cook your bacon in an air fryer, it will come out crispy and ready to go in no time. Remember to check on your bacon to ensure it doesn't end up crispier than you want.

One thing to keep in mind, though: No matter how you're cooking your bacon, it's going to produce a lot of grease. As we've previously reported in our tips for air fryer cooking, most of the time, this won't be an issue as long as you clean your air fryer regularly. However, one complication that you could run into is your air fryer beginning to smoke. A good method to avoid this is adding a touch of water to the drawer (per AllRecipes). As always, keep a close eye on your machine if this is your first time using it for cooking bacon.

Cooking steak

Steak? In an air fryer? It may seem like a sinful proposition, especially if you're a steak purist. Believe us when we say that it truly does work. For those who don't have access to a grill or those who haven't yet perfected their sear when cooking steak with a cast iron skillet, an air fryer might be your best bet for preparing a restaurant-quality steak in the comfort of your own home.

According to Taste of Home, the amount of time you'll cook your steak depends on several factors. First of all, how powerful is your air fryer? If it tends to cook foods efficiently, you may want to keep a closer eye on your steak to ensure it's not getting overcooked. On the other hand, if your air fryer doesn't get as hot, you can be more patient. Of course, we also recommend considering the thickness of your steak too, as that will affect cooking time. Finally, decide how you like your steak to be prepared. Are you more of a medium-well person, or do you never take a step past rare? All that said, Taste of Home says you're probably looking at around 9 to 14 minutes to cook your steak in an air fryer.

Preparing frozen pre-made foods

We all have those days (weeks, months?) when cooking anything from scratch feels entirely out of the equation. During those times, you're probably making regular trips to scour all of Trader Joe's most popular items. There, you likely come upon the frozen masterpieces that will sustain you until the energy to spark up the stove returns.

Let's be honest: Some frozen foods are not great, particularly those with breading — especially when they're microwaved. But, if you want to take your favorite ready-made foods to the next level, you should know that using an air fryer will turn your frozen food game around, according to The Kitchn. As The Kitchn has it, anything frozen that's meant to be fried — chicken nuggets, tater tots, french fries, cauliflower wings — are going to crisp up and brown in the air fryer in a matter of minutes. Will this information keep you from cooking anything from scratch ever again? We hope not. But when you need an easy meal in a pinch, you can't beat the magic of an air fryer and some simple frozen foods.

Crisping Brussels sprouts

If there's one food that's gained cult-like fame in recent years, it has to be Brussels sprouts, a veggie that's been under careful cultivation to become better tasting (per NPR). A quick Google search is all it takes to discover the internet's love for Brussels sprout's air-fried form. While many people dislike the intense, bitter taste and soft, mushy texture of Brussels sprouts steamed or microwaved, just as many are blown away by the flavors a beautifully flakey and crisped bite of this vegetable brings to the table. This was a food item made to be air-fried, writes The New York Times Cooking. Brussels sprouts become super textured when fried, browning at each individual layer, and a combo of sweet and bitter flavors is possible (depending on the seasonings of your choice).

While you can definitely leave your Brussels sprouts whole if that's how you prefer them, we think they taste better when they've been halved. You can also use shaved Brussels sprouts, but if you do, make sure you keep a close eye on them — they'll cook very quickly, and they can burn easily.

If you've been looking for a delicious way to get more green veggies into your diet, air-fried Brussels sprouts are the answer you've been looking for.

Getting crispy skin on chicken wings

As chef Chelsea Knight told Insider, some foods work better in an air fryer than others. Chicken wings are one. It's pretty much the easiest recipe you could ever prepare. You can marinate your chicken wings to your preferences or throw them in the air fryer without even a bit of oil. According to Food52, chicken wings have enough oil to get crisp without dousing. Within a matter of minutes, you'll have perfectly cooked chicken wings that would be fit for any sports event (though you shouldn't have to wait for a game to indulge in a good batch of wings). The best part of cooking wings in an air fryer is that the machine can make chicken skin ultra-crispy and crackly, especially when you use a little bit of baking powder, as recommended by Serious Eats.

Another secret to making your wings taste as good as possible is ensuring that you allow them to marinate for long enough before starting to cook them. According to BBC Good Food, even just a short time in a savory sauce will up the flavor factor significantly. Still, several hours to overnight (if your marinade doesn't contain acid) is best if you want those wings to soak up the maximum amount of flavor.

Making kale chips

We know, we know. These days there are loads of known superfoods besides kale (per The Healthy). But that doesn't mean that you have to entirely throw out the green and start building a new relationship with the next trendy veggie. Kale has its place in salads, sandwiches, and your protein shake, but it also tastes great when served nice and crispy in kale chip form. As Oh She Glows writes, this snack can be difficult to cook in an oven; Too much moisture and the kale becomes soggy, too high of a temperature and the delicate leaves can burn quite easily. So, you may be surprised at how simple the task is when you use an air fryer.

The trick here is making sure you put enough oil on your kale to protect it from the air fryer's intense heat. While you can certainly use less oil in an air fryer than you would if you were cooking on the stove, you'll still want to add some fat to the recipe to ensure that the kale crisps instead of burns, per Live Eat Learn. Then, add plenty of seasonings to the greens before you cook them. In just about 10 minutes, you'll have a healthy snack to crunch on.

Deep-fried ravioli dupe

One simple recipe that will take your appliance by storm is air-fried ravioli. Yes, it's just as good as it sounds, and it may just be the easiest snack you've ever made. (It's also completely reasonable as a meal — no such thing as too much pasta). According to AllRecipes, the process is simple. First, you start with pre-made ravioli. You can find these in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Next, the cooking site says you're going to dip your ravioli in an egg and water mixture, then in breadcrumbs. Make sure they have a good coating of breadcrumbs and place them into the air fryer with a spray of oil.

As Taste of Home tells it, cooking times for most dishes vary depending on your specific brand of air fryer. However, per AllRecipes, whatever brand you own, your fried ravioli will be ready and prepped to perfection in just a matter of minutes. These so closely resemble deep-fried ravioli that you'll never want to do it the hard way again. Don't forget to serve your air-fried ravioli with some marinara dipping sauce on the side.

Getting the crispiest french fries

This one may sound obvious, but it bears repeating: If you haven't already tried making fries in your air fryer, now's the time to do it. Whether you're preparing homemade fries or you're just pouring them straight from the bag into the machine, your air fryer is going to make them super crispy, per Taste of Home. And let's be honest: It's a lot easier and much, much less messy than actually trying to deep fry in your kitchen.

However, you don't have to stop at french fries. We believe that pretty much any kind of fried potato product works well in an air fryer. Make homemade chips, or revitalize those tater tots that have been sitting in the back of the freezer for months. You can even make breakfast a breeze by popping some hash browns in the air fryer while you're cooking your eggs. There are no limits when it comes to the dynamic duo that is potatoes and air fryers.

Caramelizing banana slices

Does putting bananas in your air fryer sound eccentric to you? When you see those bananas getting too ripe in your fruit basket, it may not be your first instinct to drop them in the fryer basket. Believe us when we say that bananas and air fryers are the kind of perfect combo that you didn't know you needed. While raw bananas are sweet enough, Taste of Home writes that when they're cooked, they caramelize and develop much richer, more complex flavors. We think they taste significantly more decadent than any fresh banana eaten in a rush out the door. And while it's possible to cook your bananas in a variety of ways, Girls Who Eat recommend the air fryer as a method that is too easy not to utilize.

One thing to keep in mind: Sugar burns quite easily (per The Spruce Eats). Because bananas have a lot of sugar, they're liable to burn much quicker than more savory foods you may cook in your air fryer. Therefore, you want to make sure that you check on them regularly. Girls Who Eat say that you can start by cooking them for around 4 minutes, but the exact time may vary depending on what kind of air fryer you're using.

While you can totally eat these bananas on their own, they're even better when you prepare them with other ingredients. For example, they would make a great topping to pancakes or ice cream. A dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey, agave, or syrup can elevate them even more.

Making 'deep-fried' Oreos

Okay, are the Oreos technically deep-fried if you cooked them in an air fryer? No. But are they close enough that nobody will know the difference (except you)? Absolutely. This sweet, ultra-indulgent treat is a classic at fairs and festivals, but now, it's easier than ever to make at home. You can always make your own batter, but a viral TikTok recipe calls for simple pre-made pancake batter. Once you add water to it, coat the Oreos in the batter and place them in your air fryer. It's never been easier to make such a legendary dessert.

One thing to keep in mind, though: Air frying foods that are coated in batter can get kind of messy, especially if the batter is thin. You may want to consider making the batter on the thicker side, and be sure you check the basket a few times during the cooking process to see if it is still sticking to the Oreos and not to the sides of the basket.

If you have Oreos and pancake batter in your pantry right now, you have to give it a try.

Making hard-boiled eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are the platonic breakfast ideal for anyone who wants a healthy, easy morning meal. But if you can't be bothered to heat some water up, throw the eggs in, and set a timer, you're in luck because you can actually make hard-boiled eggs in your air fryer — and you won't believe how easy it is. According to Recipe Diaries, this process will only take around 15 minutes, and you don't even have to wait for the water to boil.

If you have a wire rack in your air fryer, you'll want to use it for this recipe, as it makes it easier to pull the eggs out once they're done cooking. Beyond that, all you have to do is place the eggs inside the air fryer and set the timer. Once the timer goes off, make sure to put your eggs in an ice bath so they don't continue cooking (which is a step you'd take if you were making them on the stove as well).

Of course, not all air fryers are the same, so even if you follow a recipe exactly, there's a chance that your eggs will be slightly over- or under-cooked. The trick is to figure out what works for your own air fryer through some trial and error. After a few tries, you'll be making the easiest hard-boiled eggs you've ever eaten.

Toasting bread

These days, there are countless appliances you can keep in your kitchen. If you have plenty of counter space, then you may want to deck it out with all the best gadgets money can buy. But for those of us on a budget or who have limited kitchen real estate, it doesn't always make sense having both an air fryer and a toaster. If you only have the former and you want to make toast, don't assume you have to turn on your oven and heat up your whole house. It's actually super easy to toast bread in your air fryer. And the best part? It's done in a flash.

Air Frying Foodie estimates that you'll only need five minutes to toast your bread to perfection in your air fryer. Place your bed in a single layer in the basket of the air fryer. If you stack pieces of bread on top of each other, they're not going to develop that brown crispness you're looking for. Turn the air fryer on to 400 F, and make sure to flip the bread halfway through so both sides get brown. And that's it! No need to go out and get a toaster when your air fryer can get the job done with no problems.

Making a blooming onion

Who says you have to go out to a chain restaurant just to eat a blooming onion? While it's always been possible to make this fun novelty dish at home, deep frying an onion can make a huge mess, and that may not be ideal when you're in a rush and you're trying to keep your kitchen clean. If you want an easier, less messy, and healthier version of a blooming onion, just try making it in your air fryer. 

According to Take Two Tapas, it should take around 20 minutes to prepare and cook. First, you'll just prepare it like you would if you were going to deep fry it. Then, you put it in your air fryer and cook it on 300 F. Just remember to spray your blooming onion with cooking spray so you get that lovely deep-fried flavor you're going for. We love that you don't have to use too much oil in this recipe.

Roasting eggplant

Eggplant is notoriously difficult to cook well. All too often, it ends up coming out soggy and flabby, which leaves a lot to be desired. But if you want beautiful, crispy eggplant that makes your mouth water before you even take a bite, you may want to try roasting your eggplant. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation, and it pretty much guarantees that you're going to get the crispy end result you're undoubtedly looking for, and the is process as easy as can be.

First, per Melanie Cooks, you're going to want to make sure you season your eggplant well — don't forget to add plenty of salt! Then, drizzle your eggplant with olive oil. You don't have to go overboard and use a ton of oil here, but a little bit of fat is essential if you want the eggplant to crisp up nicely. Then, just set your air fryer to 375 F for about 20 minutes, and you'll have a side dish ready to serve up with your dinner. Eat it immediately, or chill it and use it up the next day.

Toasting nuts

If you've ever toasted nuts in the oven or on the stovetop, then you probably already know that it's really, really easy to burn them. It seems like it happens in an instant. You check once, and they're doing fine and look like they're not even close to being done. The next minute, you smell something burning. It can be frustrating, especially if you don't have a lot of time in your day to cook. If you're looking for an easier way to toast nuts, all you have to do is turn on your air fryer, according to the Food Network. The process only takes about five minutes, so you won't even have to wait around for very long.

We love toasting pecans, walnuts, and especially almonds, but you can toast whatever nuts you have in your pantry. Enjoy them on their own as a quick and healthy snack, or you can use them to sprinkle over salads or other dishes for a crunchy, nutty addition to your meal. Toasted nuts may just become a staple in your house now.

Making donuts without deep-frying

There are some foods that most people just don't make at home on a regular basis. While cookies and brownies may be easy to whip up on a whim, the same is unfortunately not true for donuts. As one of the few desserts that's acceptable to eat first thing in the morning, this lack of access to freshly made donuts is truly a tragedy. Of course, you can always visit your favorite local donut shop, but sometimes, you just don't want to leave the house. That's where your air fryer comes in handy. While deep-frying donuts is undoubtedly going to get messy and time-consuming, you won't have the same problems when you decide to air fry them instead.

Taste of Home recommends setting your air fryer to 375 F. The classic rings take five minutes (make sure to turn them over once), while three to four minutes are suggested for donut holes. The end result is super fluffy, just like you'd expect from a professionally made donut. This easy hack will hopefully save you money as well as time — and get you your morning sweets fix in the meantime.

Roasting a whole chicken

When it comes to a process as seemingly intricate and time-consuming as roasting a whole chicken, you probably wouldn't expect that an air fryer could get the job done. But that's far from the truth. Actually, if you have an air fryer that's big enough (and not all are), it actually is possible to roast an entire chicken in your air fryer. The Food Network notes that this process will take a little over an hour, which may sound time-consuming, but we think it's worth it if you get a whole roast chicken out of it.

The best part? It's beyond easy. Simply pre-heat the air fryer to 375 F while you season your chicken (don't forget the cavity), then let it cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Even if you've never roasted a bird before, we're confident you can get it right with the help of your air fryer. In the end, the skin of the chicken comes out super crispy, and the flesh will be exceptionally juicy. Forget about buying that rotisserie chicken — when making one yourself is this easy, why wouldn't you give it a try?

Making crispy baked potatoes

We already know that it's super easy to make fries and tater tots in an air fryer, but what about baked potatoes? Of course, you can always make baked potatoes in the microwave if you're feeling lazy, but most of the time, they come out kind of soggy if you opt for this method. If you're looking for a way to get your spuds nice and crispy on the outside, then you need to give air frying them a try. Per AllRecipes, pretty much all you have to do is throw them in the air fryer and let them cook for about 50 minutes. And while yes, this process does take longer than microwaving them, we think the extra time is totally worth it.

When they're done cooking, you can top your potatoes with whatever toppings you love the best. But the best part is cutting into the potato and feeling that crispy skin break under the pressure of the knife. And our advice? Don't pick around the skin. When it gets super crispy, it's totally worth eating along with the rest of the potato.

Making your own tortilla chips

You know that feeling when it's late at night and you're dying for a snack but you can't imagine actually leaving your house and going to the store to get one? Yeah, we've all been there. While you can usually MacGyver something together, if what you're looking for is chips, there really isn't any suitable replacement. However, if you happen to have some tortillas and an air fryer on hand, you can make your own chips with very little effort ... and without even turning on your oven.  

We definitely prefer using corn tortillas for this hack from Yellow Bliss Road, but you can also use flour tortillas if that's all you have on hand. Make sure you spray your tortillas with some cooking spray to ensure that they crisp up nicely, and give them a sprinkle of salt. Then, cook them in your air fryer for about two to three minutes. (A word to the wise: Make sure you keep checking on them, as they can burn easily.)

And in barely anytime at all, you'll have perfectly cooked tortilla chips to pair with salsa, guacamole, queso, or even on their own. Never make a late-night munchies run again.

Cooking crispy tofu

Some people assume that they just don't like tofu, but that's likely because they've never had it when it's been cooked to crunchy perfection. Well-cooked, it is a joy to behold, so you should be excited to learn that using an air fryer can give your tofu that perfect crispy exterior.

You'll need little more than some type of oil and seasoning of your choice, and in a mere 10 minutes at 400 F you'll be ready to eat. Jessica in the Kitchen is partial towards liquid aminos (which are similar to soy sauce) and some sesame oil, but you can alter the ingredients to fit your taste. Consider a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, as it just might be the ingredient that will change your crispy tofu forever. Once you've made it one time, you won't even need a recipe to throw it together because it's just that easy. If you're looking for a stress-free, healthy protein option for dinner, get your air fryer prepped for tofu.