Sure, feeding a family is no joke, but have you tried cooking for yourself lately? It can be just as challenging (and daunting) to cook up a fast, easy and, most important, delicious dinner for one or two.
Cue the air fryer.
Think of it as a more space-efficient convection oven that slashes the cooking time for comforting dishes like pork chops, roasted vegetables and even cheesecake. Fans already understand its appeal, as illustrated by the legions of Facebook groups dedicated to exchanging tips, tricks and recipes. (Over 25 million air fryers were sold between the start of 2020 and end of 2021, according to the NPD Group, a global market analysis company.)
Below are 10 recipes — some of which I had the pleasure of developing — that require very little prep time and result in a tasty meal for one or two. And, not only are they perfect for air fryer newbies and power users alike, they will, perhaps, convert even the biggest skeptics.
1. Air-Fryer Pork Chops
Though they’re cooked in an air fryer, which runs at very high heat, these boneless pork loin chops don’t dry out, staying moist through and through. Even better? The crackly crust from a brown sugar, salt and spice blend that seasons the pork chops ahead of time. Air fryers work wonders with dry spices, so feel free to experiment beyond the cumin and coriander here. A pinch of crushed fennel or red-pepper flakes would be a welcome addition.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Pork Chops
2. Air-Fryer Brussels Sprouts With Garlic, Balsamic and Soy
Nearly 2,000 five-star ratings don’t lie: Readers love this Melissa Clark dish, in which balsamic vinegar reduces and combines with soy sauce and lime juice for a gorgeous, glossy sauce that drapes over air-fryer-crisp brussels sprouts. The next time you want an impressive side dish of roasted vegetables, give this recipe a whirl.
Recipe: Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts With Garlic, Balsamic and Soy
3. Air-Fryer Chicken Breast
Could this be the easiest chicken breast recipe on our site? It’s possible! It borrows from Eric Kim’s near-scholarly knowledge on the topic of chicken breasts, and uses brown sugar and salt to draw out moisture. Cook off any of the vegetable recipes on this list while the breast rests, and you’ll have a complete meal in under 30 minutes.
Recipe:Air-Fryer Chicken Breast
4. Air-Fryer Cheesecake
Did the words “air-fryer cheesecake” just give you a brain freeze? It may not immediately make sense, but it is possible to bake a gorgeous cake in the air fryer, using a smaller springform pan or cake insert that fits into the device’s basket. This recipe, from Rebecca Abbott and Jennifer West (and adapted by Christina Morales), gained a lot of attention this year, and it was the most shared recipes on the New York Times Cooking Instagram account.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Cheesecake
5. Air-Fryer Chicken Thighs
Smothered in sour cream and rice vinegar before they cook, these chicken thighs still manage to brown beautifully and crisp up in record time. You could, of course, make a single thigh for a quick, easy dinner. Or, you could cook off as many thighs as can fit in the basket: They make excellent leftovers.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Chicken Thighs
6. Air-Fryer French Fries
French fries have been attributed with catapulting the air fryer’s popularity: The machine uses significantly less oil and reduces the cooking time (and mess) compared with traditional frying, making it especially ideal to cook fries. This Melissa Clark recipe is flexible enough that it can be easily doubled, but, depending on the size of your air fryer, you may have to cook the fries in batches.
Recipe: Air-Fryer French Fries
7. Air-Fryer Chicken Wings
Homemade chicken wings have the potential to please a crowd, but they come with their fair share of hurdles (a large fry setup, a long time in the oven). But Melissa Clark has you covered with these air-fryer spicy chicken wings, which get a jolt from a chile-based sauce. The recipe borrows a tip from Ben Mims’s cookbook “Air Fry Every Day”: tossing the wings in baking powder before transferring them to the air fryer means that they come out perfectly puffed, crunchy and browned.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Chicken Wings
8. Air-Fryer Green Beans
For some recipes, the only rules are that there are no rules. Take the notes left on this endlessly flexible one, for example: One reader added a dollop of Dijon, while another tossed the green beans with honey and dried thyme. And guess what? Both worked. As with most air fryer recipes, the timing may vary depending on the size of your air fryer basket but regardless, cook this recipe to your taste or with whatever reflects your mood.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Green Beans
9. Air-Fryer Potatoes
These crispy potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to any main dish and can easily be executed in the time it takes to rest, say, your air fryer pork chop or chicken breast (see above). Even without any parboiling, the centers turn wonderfully creamy. And, if you don’t have dried or fresh parsley on hand, any chopped fresh herb or spicy seasoning like cayenne could work deliciously here.
Recipe: Air-Fryer Potatoes
10. Air-Fryer Broccoli
Here’s another choose-your-own-adventure recipe. Broccoli is tossed with olive oil and soy sauce, but you can go in any direction from there: Add a whisper of fish sauce for some umami, or some chile crisp for heat and flavor. Or make a double batch of this recipe for those times when your body craves greens. (You know those times.)
Recipe: Air-Fryer Broccoli
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