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Chefs share 16 of the best foods to make in an air fryer

Chefs share 16 of the best foods to make in an air fryer
    • Insider asked chefs to share their favorite things to make in an air fryer.
    • Some of their favorite dishes to make in this appliance include kale chips, gnocchi, and crunchy chickpeas.
    • It's also possible to make flavorful steak, bacon, and chicken nuggets in an air fryer.

Air fryers use hot air to cook and crisp food while using a fraction of the oil needed for a deep fryer.

Though they're often touted as a way of shaving calories and fat from classic comfort foods, air fryers can actually be used to cook a wide range of dishes.

And so, Insider asked chefs to share their favorite snacks and meals to prepare in this appliance.

Here are some of the best things to make in an air fryer, according to the pros.

Cooking bacon in an air fryer is pretty easy.

Cooking bacon in an air fryer is pretty easy.
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 Insider that bacon is one of her favorite 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 Insider. "It's so much less messy and requires less supervision than other cooking methods."

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For a quick dessert, try cooking up some bananas.

For a quick dessert, try cooking up some bananas.
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 deliciously caramelized 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."

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You can cook a flavorful steak in an air fryer.

You can cook a flavorful steak in an air fryer.
Be sure to flip your steak halfway through cooking. iStock

Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox, told Insider that it's possible to cook a delicious steak in an air fryer.

"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 flavor."

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

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Fry up chickpeas for a crispy, savory treat.

Fry up chickpeas for a crispy, savory treat.
You can season chickpeas before you pop them in the air fryer, too. Hilary Brueck / Insider

Whether you're looking for the perfect salad topping or just want something healthy to snack on, air-fried chickpeas may be the answer.

"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."

Za'atar, curry powder, or chili powder are perfect seasonings to experiment with if you want to add an extra kick of flavor to air-fried chickpeas.

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Air-fried doughnuts are often light and fluffy.

Air-fried doughnuts are often light and fluffy.
You may want to top your doughnuts with powdered sugar. Getty Images / RF / fotoedu

If you're looking for a way to make homemade doughnuts a bit less calorie-dense, try using an air fryer instead of a deep fryer.

Yankel told Insider that the secret to delectable 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.

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This appliance can help you make crunchy, homemade chicken nuggets.

This appliance can help you make crunchy, homemade chicken nuggets.
For an extra crispy nugget, double-dip your chicken in your breading. Shutterstock

Skip the store-bought chicken nuggets and whip up 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."

It's also important not to go overboard with breading — adding too much can lead to the coating being blown off by the airflow of the air fryer.

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You don't need breading to prepare juicy chicken breasts.

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."

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Some types of fish will become moist and flaky when you air fry them.

Some types of fish will become moist and flaky when 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. It can also help you to 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.

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Personal pizzas are just the right size for cooking in this appliance.

Personal pizzas are just the right size for cooking in this appliance.
Personal pizzas are easy to customize. 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 Insider.

Dang added that combining naan bread, tomato sauce, and mozzarella makes for a quick and tasty personal pizza that's perfect for cooking in an air fryer.

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Air fryers can take gnocchi from gummy to golden.

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 Insider that she thinks 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."

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You can make sweet and savory baby carrots in an air fryer.

You can make sweet and savory 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 Insider that baby carrots are one of his favorite 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.

For perfectly caramelized carrots, Cummings said, coat them in extra-virgin olive oil, toasted fennel seeds, fresh thyme, sea salt, and pepper. Cook them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes and shake the basket halfway through.

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Use the appliance to make your own kale chips.

Use the appliance to make your own kale chips.
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 actually great 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.

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Stuffed peppers are an easy and versatile air-fryer dish.

Stuffed peppers are an easy and versatile air-fryer dish.
You can get creative with the fillings, too. belchonock/ iStock

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

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

For a savory, air-fryer party snack, you can also try stuffing smaller peppers with cubes of mozzarella and serving them with a marinara dipping sauce.

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

Air-fried zucchini makes for a crispy snack or side dish.
Zucchini chips pair well with a sandwich. Joey Hadden/Insider

Coating fresh zucchini coins or slices in bread crumbs and popping them in an air fryer makes for a crunchy, plant-based snack.

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

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You can make your own potato chips with an air fryer.

You can 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 one reason 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, it's a wise idea to coat your potato slices with a touch of olive or vegetable oil before placing them in the air fryer.

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It's possible to cook crunchy chicken wings in an air fryer.

It's possible to 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 are sometimes battered and cooked in oil, which can make them high-calorie and greasy. If you're looking for 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 Insider. "Air-frying means that you still get crispy wings without the added calories of deep-frying."

Read More:

7 things you should cook in an air fryer and 7 things you shouldn't

9 mistakes you're making when using your air fryer

10 things you didn't know you could make in an air fryer

10 of the best air fryer recipes you should know

10 of the best air fryer tips and tricks to follow, according to chefs

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