15 unexpected air fryer recipes you have to try

From steak to cake, this appliance does way more than fries.

Jen Wheeler
Jen Wheeler Editor / Chowhound
After 10+ years in customer service, Jen is now an editor at Chowhound and still can't believe she's basically living her childhood dream (of writing for Gourmet magazine). Naturally, she loves to eat, cook, read, and write. Baltimore-born and raised, Pacific NW-matured, she still prefers blue crabs to Dungeness.
6 min read
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You expect the almighty air fryer to turn out crisp fried chicken, crunchy french fries and other goodies with that key f-word in their names. But the air fryer is a lot more versatile than you might think. From hard boiled eggs to molten lava cakes and even homemade bagels, there are scores of intriguing air fryer recipes to try. 

Read more: The hunt for the best air fryer | 7 tips for using an air fryer

What are the benefits of an air fryer?

Like the near-universally adored Instant Pot, the air fryer promises faster cooking and a high degree of versatility (so it seems only natural that the Instant Pot people have finally come out with their own air fryer, which one-ups some of its competitors by adding a rotisserie function). 

The thing that makes any air fryer so good at both crisping foods and cooking them quickly is its hot air circulation -- basically, it's a form of countertop convection oven. While it obviously handles traditionally deep-fried foods with aplomb (and makes them healthier, since far less oil is required), its design makes it great for lots of other things too, from certain baked goods to roasted garlic.

What can you make in an air fryer?

The better question might be: What can't you make in an air fryer? These are just 15 of the most surprising air fryer recipes we found. So if you've been waffling over whether you should get yet another kitchen gadget, these easy recipes might be just the thing that finally pushes you over the edge.

Air fryer mac and cheese

Pasta is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an air fryer, but you can use the gadget to make ravishing toasted ravioli with a crisp breadcrumb crust. (Air fryer pasta chips are also a thing.) And, veering from crunchy to creamy, it can make a comforting one-pot mac and cheese too! 

 Get the Air Fryer Mac and Cheese recipe.

Air fryer hard boiled eggs

By now, everyone knows you can make perfect hard-cooked eggs in the Instant Pot, but the air fryer can give it a run for its money on that front -- and some air fryer models can fit even more eggs at once, which makes it a real boon to meal preppers and any party hosts who plan on serving deviled eggs

Get the Air Fryer Hard Boiled Eggs recipe.  

Air fryer lobster tails

The air fryer can cook all kinds of seafood too, from coconut shrimp to simple salmon -- but if you're feeling flush, go for lobster tails. They only take about six minutes, and there's no waiting for a pot to boil. 

Get the Air Fryer Lobster Tails recipe.

Air fryer steak

If you want surf and turf, air fryer steak also happens to be delicious, according to several sources on the internet. While it might not be quite the same as grilled -- or seared in a white-hot cast iron skillet -- it's a great alternative option when you need one. 

Get the Air Fryer Steak recipe.

Air fryer corn on the cob

It feels like it's time for a veggie interlude, and there are many air fryer vegetable recipes out there, from oil-free air fryer potato chips and air fryer baked potatoes to crisp air fryer brussels sprouts and beyond. But since it is still summer, it's worth noting you can make air fryer corn on the cob -- perfect for when you don't want to fire up the grill for a couple ears but boiled corn just won't cut it. 

Get the Air Fryer Corn on the Cob recipe.

Air fryer bagels

We're talking freshly made, from-scratch, incredibly easy bagels... made in the air fryer. Boiled bagel purists may not be satisfied, but for the rest of us, this is what they call a game changer. As bagels go, they're pretty healthy, too! Better stock up on that Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning

Get the Air Fryer Bagels recipe.

Air fryer grilled cheese

Grilled cheese, while easy, can burn and stick to the pan and soak up a lot of butter -- not necessarily a bad thing, taste-wise. But you can make it in an air fryer for a faster, healthier, foolproof option with the perfect ratio of super crunchy outside to gooey melted cheese innards. It works great with gluten-free bread too, so everyone can get in on the action. (And try it with vegan cheese if you don't eat dairy.) 

Get the Air Fryer Grilled Cheese recipe.

Air fryer strawberry hand pies

Homemade Pop Tarts (or hand pies, if you prefer) are dangerously easy in the air fryer. All it takes is refrigerated pie crust plus your favorite jam or jelly (or Nutella), and a simple glaze to top it off. A similar shortcut involves using pre-made bread dough for easy air fryer cinnamon rolls, but I can't resist the pull of '90s nostalgia -- or sprinkles, for that matter. 

Get the Air Fryer Strawberry Pop Tarts recipe.

Air fryer s'mores

Sometimes your s'mores craving strikes when there's no campfire around. Most times, that means quick microwave s'mores, but the air fryer is just as easy and it actually toasts the outside of your marshmallow. Nuking's got nothing on that. 

Get the Air Fryer S'mores recipe.

Air fryer crispy tofu

Love the crispy tofu you get from takeout joints but hate all the grease (and/or just not up for deep-frying at home)? Same. The air fryer will give you ultra crisp tofu cubes in no time at all, with hardly any oil to speak of. Meatless Monday just got a lot easier -- and more delicious. 

Get the Crispy Air Fryer Tofu recipe.

Air fryer roasted garlic

Roasted garlic is one of those quietly magical ingredients that improves almost anything it touches. It's easy to make in the oven, but if you'd rather not turn it on, the air fryer's got you covered. It takes far less time, too, which means you're never more than 30 minutes away from mellow umami goodness to spread on bread, mash into potatoes or mix into mayonnaise. 

Get the Air Fryer Roasted Garlic recipe.

Air fryer bacon onion rings

Whether you're on a gluten-free or keto diet or just love finding new ways to eat bacon, these bacon-wrapped onion rings are just what your burger (and your life) has been missing. They only take nine minutes to make, so they also make a perfect last-minute party appetizer... or midnight snack. 

Get the Air Fryer Bacon Onion Rings recipe.

Air fryer lasagna

Thought we were done with pasta? Never. This air fryer lasagna is ready in well under an hour and is made in a mini loaf pan, so it's the perfect serving for one (but larger air fryers can fit two at a time). It's vegan, but you can adapt it to use whatever ingredients you like. It also freezes well, so it's another fantastic meal prep option. 

Get the Air Fryer Lasagna recipe.

Air fryer pumpkin seeds

If you like to keep relatively healthy homemade snacks on hand, the air fryer can turn out plenty, from crunchy air fryer chickpeas to shattering-crisp air fryer kale chips. But come fall, these easy pumpkin seeds are roasted in just 15 minutes. They're perfect with any seasoning you like, savory or sweet. 

Get the Air Fryer Pumpkin Seeds recipe.

Air fryer molten chocolate lava cakes

By now, you're probably thinking an air fryer sounds pretty sweet. But if you need one final nudge, here it is: You can bake molten chocolate cakes in it. (You can also make them gluten-free!) Really, what more do you need to know? 

Get the Air Fryer Molten Chocolate Lava Cake recipe.

This story was originally posted on Chowhound.