Everything You Need to Know About Air Frying for Plant-Based Cooking
Say hello to your new cooking secret weapon: the air fryer. You may have been hearing buzz about this kitchen gadget, but does it suit the needs of your plant-based cooking? The answer is yes. While many tend to think an air fryer is a meat-centric device, it’s actually well suited for cooking up vegan, vegetarian and plant-forward meals and snacks all with fewer calories and less fat. From frozen vegan burgers to veggies, tofu, and more, there are seemingly endless plant-based air frying possibilities.
To celebrate the air fryer as a healthful way to cook, we’ve rounded up air frying basics, plus some core plant-based items you’ll be eager to whip up.
How does an air fryer work?
The name may be misleading because an air fryer doesn't actually fry anything, it simulates frying, so you get all the crisp and crunch without the fat from added oil. And it’s estimated to cut calories of some foods by up to 80% since you don’t need to rely on oil. This electronic countertop device works very similarly to a convection oven. It pushes air around in a rapid circular motion in order to reach all the surfaces of the food. This motion, conducted in a small space, achieves a fast and perfectly even cook often with the crispiness and crunch you would expect from fried foods.
Which air fryer is best for you?
Several factors come into play when selecting an air fryer. First size, both exterior and interior (which is called “capacity,” typically measured in quarts) is important depending on how many you are cooking for, and countertop space. Two quarts is on the very small end, good for one) and 8 quarts on the large end, ideal for a family or groups. You’ll find sizes everywhere in between as well. These devices can take up a decent amount of space on your counter, so make sure to measure before you buy. Another factor is noise—some tend to make quite a ruckus so if a stealthy-sounding device is something you value, make sure to consider that.
There are many air fryers on the market these days; choice paralysis might set in while searching. However, we have a few to put on your radar. For the Tesla of air fryers, try the Philips Digital Twin TurpoStar Airfryer XXL ($395) with a 4-quart capacity. For a more economical option, try the GoWise GW22731 ($70), a Consumer Reports Best Buy, with a capacity of 4.9 quarts and beloved impart for being quiet while in use. For an all-in-one that you can use for not only air frying but also everyday needs like toasting, broiling, dehydrating, and more, try the Chefman Toast-Air Dual Function Air Fryer + Oven ($129). Chefman also makes a host of air fryers all in different sizes, like the more traditional Chefman TurboFry Air Fryer XL with an 8-quart capacity and modern digital touchscreen ($99).
Vegan eats to make in the air fryer
There are plenty of innovative ways to use an air fryer. And, it’s not just for whole foods; you can throw in a host of packaged frozen goodies, for easy and reliable cooking.
Some of our frozen favorites include the following. (Also, Air Fryer Guide is a good online resource for instructions on cooking your favorite frozen and packaged foods—you’ll find lots of plant-based foods from your favorite brands with cooking instructions.)
Beyond Burger: Yes, you can cook your beyond burgers in an air fryer. When doing so, it turns out with a crispy butter edge, replicating how a meat patty tends to cook.
Mings Bings: This superfood-packed gluten-free and vegan wrap-meets-patty frozen food item can be cooked to perfection in the air fryer.
Deep Indian Kitchen’s Potato & Pea Samosas: These delicious, always made-from-scratch pockets of joy are 100% plant-based and dairy-free. Best enjoyed in the air fryer for that extra crisp, fresh-made consistency.
Alpha Foods Chik’n Nuggets: Plant-based 'Chicken' Nuggets turn out elevated by the simple use of an air fryer, bringing that crispy outside to the already juicy inside in just a few minutes.
For whole foods from scratch, give these a whirl and discover a new and often more healthful way to prepare vegan staples:
- Buffalo Cauliflower
- Crispy Tofu
- Guilt-Free Onion Rings
- French Fries / Sweet Potato Wedges
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts
- Crunchy Chickpeas
- Crispy Falafel
- Shishito Peppers
And in case you are—or become—air fryer-obsessed, there are a number of vegan air fryer cookbooks you can find on Amazon and other retailers that provide endless air frying recipe possibilities.