My friend recently bought me an air fryer as a surprise gift and at first, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted it. I know, I know, what was I thinking? I had heard the hype and it sounded great in theory, but I was hesitant about welcoming a new appliance into my already small condo-sized kitchen. I mean, it had taken me years to finally get an Instant Pot after deliberating back and forth. But the temptation of delicious air-fried tofu was too strong to resist so I got busy and cleared off space on my counter. Many air fryers are actually quite compact and since mine can double as a toaster oven I swapped out the old for the new.

For the first week, it was all about the tofu. I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was to get crispy tofu without much oil. Air fryers are convenient and versatile because you can create delicious food often in less than half the time as other methods. But for me, it was more about the health aspect since I don’t cook with a lot of oil and I have never deep-fried anything.

Air fryers work by circulating hot air around food quickly with minimal oil that is traditionally used for fried foods, yet still allows you to achieve crispiness in your creation. So not only can you avoid a messy stovetop with hot splattered oil, air fryers are fast and you don’t have to wait for them to heat up like a traditional oven.

I am now hooked and love discovering new healthy foods to air fry. Since air fryer models vary slightly you may need to adjust the times to suit your appliance. Here are some of my favorites to get you started.

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1. Seasoned-to-Perfection Tofu Cubes

This versatile bean curd made from ground pressed soybeans is a healthy source of protein, contains nine essential amino acids, and is packed with vitamins and minerals. I buy extra firm organic non-GMO tofu and while I read online that a tofu press is needed to make air fried tofu this is not necessarily needed since I don’t have a press and my air fried tofu turned out incredible.

If you want, you can press your tofu with a heavy pan to get the water out but I have never done this. I used a casserole bowl with a lid so my tofu could marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Tofu goes great with so many meals and I added mine to a bowl of brown rice with steamed broccoli and green beans on the side. Tofu is a wonderful meat replacement in virtually any dish so get creative!

Crispy Tofu Cubes

Ingredients

  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut tofu into bite-sized squares
  2. Add to bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil (I used avocado oil but you can sub sesame oil or olive oil)
  3. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  4. Salt and pepper to taste (I use ½ teaspoon)
  5. Optional: I added a generous sprinkling of onion and garlic powder but depending on your preference you can add turmeric, cayenne, or paprika
  6. Set the air fryer to 375 degrees F and add tofu to the basket in a single layer. One block of tofu fits perfectly in mine (454 g package). Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on how crispy you want your tofu.
  7. Halfway through cooking open the fryer and lightly turn the tofu with tongs to ensure even cooking
  8. Tip: some recipes tell you to shake or toss the tofu around in the basket, this does not work with my type of air fryer and resulted in spices flying all over my kitchen - be warned!
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2. Crispy Brussel Sprouts

I despised these strange green mini cabbages growing up but with the right seasoning, I have grown to like them. This low-calorie cruciferous veggie is high in many nutrients including vitamin K that is good for bone health and vitamin C that helps you absorb iron and contributes to immune defense. They are also high in fiber and make a nutritious side dish to pasta, rice noodles, tempeh, quinoa, or veggie burgers. My son loved them which is a bonus as they are so healthy.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1 stalk of Brussel sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. After rinsing them well and cutting off the stems, slice them in half and add to a medium-sized bowl (Approximately 1 pound of Brussel sprouts)
  2. Mix with 1 tablespoon oil of choice and either 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  3. Salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) and pepper to taste, ¼  to ½ a teaspoon
  4. Finely chopped garlic or garlic powder (optional)
  5. Set air fryer to 400 degrees F and add the sprouts in a single layer to the fryer basket
  6. Cook for 8-10 minutes, flip gently with tongs (don’t toss!) halfway through, and cook until golden brown
  7. Tip: Peel off any wilted outer leaves, the first I didn’t do this and ended up with slightly burnt Brussel sprout chips!
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3. Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Creating crispy chickpeas was exciting since my son loves them and I actually had no idea these could be made so easily at home. They are a type of legume in the same family as kidney beans and peanuts often referred to as garbanzo beans. Chickpeas are high in protein, great for energy, low calorie, can help lower cholesterol, and contain nutrients for strong bones. They are great as a healthy snack on their own, sprinkled as a topper on your favorite salad, grain bowl, pasta entree, and especially added to traditional plant-based Mediterranean dishes.

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1 19 oz. can of drained and rinsed chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, optional

Instructions

  1. Add chickpeas to a bowl and toss with avocado or olive oil
  2. Season with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika, ¼ teaspoon each and whisk until chickpeas are evenly coated
  3. Cook at 390 F for 10 minutes, checking the last few minutes so they don’t burn
  4. Tip: When roasting chickpeas in the oven it’s important to dry them and I read conflicting information about drying them first before air frying – I did not dry mine and they turned out crunchy and delicious
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4. Sweet Potato Fries

Needless to say one of my favorite indulgences just got a whole lot healthier when my air fryer moved in. I never met a French fry I didn’t like and sweet potato fries are no exception. This root vegetable is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Sweet potatoes are also good for gut health and contain antioxidants. They make the perfect side dish to so many meals including veggie burgers, grilled paninis, wraps, or a big hearty salad.

Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Instructions

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into ½ inch wide fries.
  2. Add to a bowl and drizzle oil over cut potatoes.
  3. Season with pink Himalayan salt (or salt of choice) and toss with a generous sprinkling of dried rosemary, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  4. Spread the fries in an even layer in the fry basket
  5. Cook between 375 F and 400 F for 12 - 15 minutes checking halfway through to rotate the fries with tongs, they are golden brown when done.
  6. Serve with your favorite dips such as vegan garlic mayo, ketchup, or chipotle lime.
  7. Tip: I cut the skin off mine before air frying but I heard from friends that have left the skin on with successful results

You can also substitute sweet potatoes for russet potatoes; soak them in water for 15 minutes to remove excess starches, dry with a paper towel, then season to suit your taste and cook as per above turning halfway through; season with salt when done and serve with a delicious dip.