Healthy Ways to Cook Vegetables in an Air Fryer
With the wonders of hot air and only a little oil, crispy deliciousness awaits. Get our top tips and 16 best air fryer recipes.
The first vegetable I ever cooked in the air fryer was tater tots. In a few minutes, these frozen potato puffs transformed into golden crispy nuggets with not a soggy or burnt bit in sight. What magic was this? I was smitten! And I was a little bit late to the party. Over the last couple of years, the air fryer has soared in popularity. Now, I count myself amongst its fans — especially when cooking vegetables is concerned.
Just like with those tater tots, the air fryer, which we can think of as a countertop convection oven, can transform vegetables into a crispier, crunchier, more interesting version of themselves without relying on long cook times and loads of fat. All together that means the air fryer can be your partner in not only eating more vegetables but preparing them in a way that supports your health.
Before we hop into favorite air fryer vegetable recipes, let's talk about a few details that ensure your experience cooking veggies in the air fryer is the best it can be.
1. Check-in with what "healthy" means for you
There's no perfect journey to discovering what healthy means to you, but it's an important question to consider because it will help you decide which recipes and ingredients are right for you and which aren't. In this instance, I'm inviting you to consider healthy through the lens of what you can have more of, not what you should take away. Lucky us, vegetables from green beans to cabbage to carrot sticks are so nutritionally rich, eating more of them is a healthy addition to all our diets.
Still, it's pretty easy to make veggies in the air fryer and then shower them in cheese and creamy sauce. That might negate some of what you're trying to achieve when making a healthy air fryer vegetable recipe, and I totally get that. It's why I like to stick to easy recipes that aren't overly fussy, that showcase vegetables in their whole state. Now, that's not to say there won't be any exceptions on this list, but you'll find with air fryer veggies that texture makes the dish sing all on its own, and you don't need much to achieve it.
2. Manage your expectations
I'll be the first to admit that cooking food in the air fryer has a way of exceeding my expectations, especially when it comes to texture. The hot circulating air creates an impressive level of crispiness, but it's not going to be a direct mimic of deep-frying. So if you're used to battered deep-fried pickles and sweet potato french fries hot out the fry basket, this is going to be a little different, and that's OK! I promise, air-fried vegetables are uniquely and equally delicious.
3. Be open!
The vegetable kingdom is wide and varied and air frying is a wonderful way to begin exploring it. Perhaps cauliflower was never your thing. Well my friends, wait until you try Buffalo-style air-fried cauliflower. The clouds will part and you might be naming this cruciferous vegetable your new favorite food. The same goes for Brussels sprouts, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, and eggplant. The recipes below will show you some of the most enticing and satisfying ways to prepare these veggies in the air fryer.
It's my hope that you'll find a few recipes that delight you and a few that are simple enough to become a part of your regular routine. Remember, more veggies is a good thing!
Jump ahead to:
Air fryer vegetable basics
Figuring out how to cook vegetables in the air fryer comes with a slight learning curve, but try one or two of these recipes and you'll be ready to start remixing and doing your own thing. If you're new to air frying vegetables, start here. The recipes demonstrate the best of what the air fryer can do while teaching you a few fundamental cooking tips. They're great recipes to use if you're looking for simplicity — especially if you're meal prepping or looking to turn these veggies into meals during the week.
A few basic tenets to keep in mind when cooking vegetables in the air fryer:
Olive oil is your friend. You don't need much, but tossing veggies with olive oil is the key to creating the crispy texture we're after.
Follow the temperature and cook time in the recipe. Resist the temptation to go with a guess when you're just becoming familiar with cooking veggies in the air fryer. Often it’s the last few minutes that make all the difference in creating the finished product you're after.
Shake, shake, shake. While the cooking is mostly hands-off, some shaking and tossing is required to ensure even cooking. A good recipe will tell you when to do that. If you're left guessing, halfway through the cooking time is a good idea.
Size matters. There's only so much space in your air fryer basket so the size of your veggies matter. Stick to the directions when you can and if you're freestyling a bit, stick to bite-sized pieces no bigger than 2 inches for chopped veggies, and florets for broccoli and cauliflower.
If you're looking for sweet potato fries made in the air fryer, this recipe is an excellent place to start because it includes tips such as: Be sure to cut them the same size, don’t overcrowd the basket, and give them a shake halfway through cooking.
Nothing fancy here, just the best, simple sweet potato chunks the air fryer can make. You'll end up with a crispy exterior that makes cooked sweet potatoes irresistible. Curious what to do with them? Try tossing them in your scrambled eggs, or eat them as a topper for salads or grain bowls.
With four ingredients — cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and pepper — this air fryer vegetable recipe is a straightforward and tasty introduction to air fryer cauliflower.
Dice up some zucchini, toss or spray with olive oil, and you've got the simplest expression of air fryer zucchini. Add a dash of salt when it's still hot out of the machine.
I love Brussels sprouts cooked in bacon fat as much as the next person, but we forget that Brussels sprouts on their own have an earthy sweetness that's enhanced through high heat cooking. It's why roasted Brussels sprouts are so delicious. This air fryer version is no different. This recipe gives you the basics and then some easy options for adding more flavor.
Crispy, juicy, and surprisingly sweet, air fried green beans are a whole new way to enjoy a vegetable we're very familiar with. While this recipe simply calls for olive oil, be sure to season to taste with salt or even a little Parmesan cheese while the green beans are still hot.
Air fryer veggie all-stars
These are the healthy veggie recipes that show off all that an air fryer can do. Once you've nailed the basics, these recipes will show you just how exciting and healthy air fryer veggies can be.
Ready to take the flavors of the basic cauliflower to the next level? This recipe ups the spices and brings some heat into the mix.
This appetizer recipe is a game-changer when it comes to cauliflower. Between the crispy coating (made with almond flour rather than breadcrumbs to up the protein and keep this gluten-free) to the not-too-buttery hot sauce (use ghee if you like, too) you end up with a platter of cauliflower that satisfies your every craving for chicken wings. Try a yogurt-based blue cheese dipping sauce or yogurt ranch dressing on the side and get a dose of probiotics with your dipping.
Basic zucchini is just that. It's unadorned and really great for meal prep or as a very straightforward vegetable side. Air fryer zucchini fries, on the other hand, are for when you want to turn eating zucchini into a dinner event! The zucchini are cut into planks and coated in panko and Parmesan. Don't just assume the panko or cheese makes this recipe unhealthy. Check back in with what healthy looks like for you. If healthy means finding clever and appealing ways to make vegetables a regular part of your diet, certainly don't overlook these zucchini fries! They still have plenty to offer in terms of nutrition including 11g of protein per serving and 2g of fiber.
With a dash of chives and smoked paprika, these sweet potato chips are so tasty you'll be tempted to fire up a weekly batch. Pay close attention to the directions here. Soaking the sweet potatoes prior to cooking, plus keeping a close eye on the cook time, are the keys to creating the crunchiest chips.
Very light breading — just a little egg and panko breadcrumbs — and no deep frying mean these avocado fries come out far healthier than the traditional version. And of course the recipe means easy clean-up, too, because you don’t have a pot of oil to deal with; you can just pop the air fryer basket and tray into the dishwasher.
Quick, easy weeknight sides from the air fryer
We've covered the basics, and you're familiar with some of the most popular veggie recipes for the air fryer. Now it's time to take a look at some practical, weeknight-friendly healthy side dish recipes for air fryer vegetables. These recipes are big on flavor and keep your time, budget, and health in mind.
Ready for your new weeknight side? It's as simple as tossing mushrooms with soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic powder and cooking them in the air fryer for 12 minutes to create a savory vegetable side almost anyone can get behind.
There's so much to love about cabbage. From its affordability to its nutrition, this veggie deserves to be a mainstay in your diet. If you're looking for a simple side, turn to the air fryer and try out these hearty cabbage steaks. Simply seasoned with onion powder and Old Bay, after a few minutes in the air fryer they become crispy, tender, and even a little sweet. Try them as a side next time fish is on the menu.
Love roasted broccoli but don't want to turn on the oven? Air fryer broccoli to the rescue! As the recipe instructs, use small, same-sized florets so they cook evenly, and garlic powder instead of fresh to prevent scorching. And don't skip the pro tip of adding a tablespoon of water to the bottom of the air fryer. That creates just enough steam to prevent the broccoli from drying out.
At the core, this is a simple technique for making crispy, snappy asparagus as well as mushrooms in the air fryer. But the recipe takes things a little further with the flavor, bringing in chili, mint, and almonds for a veggie side dish that's both vibrant and nutritious.
We don't really think about eggplant Parm as a side dish, especially given the amount of oil the eggplant absorbs in traditional recipes during the frying process — and that's before we even begin to talk about the richness added in from all the cheese. When you make eggplant Parm in the air fryer, though, you're tempering some of that decadence by limiting the oil and lightly breading the eggplant rounds. As a result, eggplant Parm is suddenly looking like a good idea for a weeknight vegetable side dish.
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If you're looking for more cooking tools to make life easier in the kitchen, check out these articles on the Instant Pot, slow-cooker, and Yummly smart thermometer.