6 surprising foods you can cook in an air fryer (that you'll want to try right now)

Instant Vortex Plus Dual cooking potato and veggies
(Image credit: Future)

With countless recipes, videos, and hacks being posted online every day, air fryers continue to prove how popular and versatile they are. 

Having spent years reviewing the best air fryers, I've tried hundreds of these recipes and dishes. Some, such as rice and battered fish, are foods you should never cook in an air fryer, some are classics that most people have tried, but others are more unusual; recipes that I'd never even considered cooking in my air fryer and which have pleasantly surprised me by how good they turned out. 

This guide reveals some of my favorite air fryer hidden gems, whether you've exhausted the basics and are looking for inspiration or you're wondering whether air fryers are worth the hype. 

If you do fall into the latter camp and this article has convinced you, we've previously explained how to choose an air fryer to help you get the most out of your purchase. 

1. Air fryer baked potato

Chances are if you own an air fryer, you've used it to make fries and potato wedges. Both are popular starter dishes because they're quick and simple; almost all air fryers have a dedicated fries setting, for instance. Fries and wedges also perfectly complement the air fryer's cooking style because they taste best with soft centers and crispy coatings. 

Yet they're not the only potato-based dishes that work well. Baked potatoes in the air fryer are a game-changer in terms of speed (compared to a traditional oven) as well as taste and texture. 

To prepare, wash and dry the potatoes, then prick them with a fork. Rub the skins with oil and season with salt for extra crispiness. Air fry at a moderate temperature until the potatoes are tender inside. The exact temperature and time will depend on the size and number of potatoes.

The result is a baked potato that rivals any oven-baked version, perfect as a side dish, lunch option, or for loaded baked potatoes covered with your favorite toppings. All in half the time.

Meatloaf

(Image credit: Alamy)

2. Air fryer meatloaf

My family has never been huge fans of meatloaf until I started cooking it in the air fryer. This is because the classic comfort food takes on a new life inside the fryer basket. 

The hot air evenly circulating the dish leaves the air fryer meatloaf succulently moist on the inside and beautifully browned on the outer crust. It's a time-saver, too, cooking faster than in my traditional oven. 

To achieve the best results, make your favorite meatloaf recipe – I add paprika to mine to add a little kick – and shape it to fit your air fryer basket, making sure there's enough space for the air to circulate around each edge.

Due to the fact it cooks faster than in a traditional oven, you do need to keep an eye on it throughout to avoid it becoming overcooked and dry. Once cooked, serve with mash or even the air fryer baked potato above. 

3. Air fryer Brussels sprouts

Few vegetables divided opinion as much as Brussels sprouts. I love them and will choose them over any other vegetable, but every other member of my family hates them vehemently. Part of the problem is that most people default to boiling them, and this can leave them soggy and bland. 

In a desperate attempt to convert my family to my way of thinking, I tried cooking them in the air fryer, and they came out even better than I had hoped. The high heat and even air circulation work together to crisp the outer leaves while keeping the insides soft and tender. 

For the best results, halve or quarter the Brussels sprouts, toss them with a bit of oil, and season. I add salt, garlic powder, and cumin. Air fry them until they are golden brown and crispy, shaking the basket occasionally for even cooking. If you want to elevate them even further, air fry them with finely chopped bacon slices. 

This not only gives the sprouts a more interesting and rounded flavor but also retains their nutritional benefits, making them a healthy and tasty option for any meal.

Ninja Foodi DualZone FlexBasket cooking burgers and fries

(Image credit: Future)

4. Air fryer burgers

Burgers in an air fryer are a recently new revelation for me. So much so that I don't think I'll ever go back to cooking them in my regular oven or grill again.

Make your burgers as you would normally do, and put them into a pre-heated air fryer. The pre-heating step is important because you want the outside of each patty to sear slightly as it touches the basket. To make sure they cook evenly, try not to overcrowd the basket and flip the burgers halfway through the cooking process. 

After 15-20 minutes, your burgers should have a lovely color on the outside but still be juicy and soft in the center. If you want to add a little flair to your dish, you can place a slice of cheese on top of each patty for the last few minutes of the cooking time. Alternatively, add thin strips of bacon on top once you've flipped the patties at the halfway point.

In addition to being quick and delicious, this method also makes minimal mess. 

5. Air fryer boiled eggs

If I almost lost you with my suggestion of air fryer Brussels sprouts, then air fryer boiled eggs might push you over the edge - but hear me out.

"Boiling" eggs in an air fryer is a hassle-free way to get perfectly cooked eggs with minimal washing up. The key is to place the eggs in the air fryer basket and cook at a low temperature for longer. It can take a bit of trial and error to know which temperature and time setting works best, but it's more than worth it. Not only for the fact you can bulk boil large numbers of eggs in one go but also because the eggs themselves come out with firm whites and creamy yolks. 

The best results I've managed are with my air fryer set to 300 F / 148 C for at least 11 minutes for soft-boiled eggs and up to 15 minutes for hard-boiled. After cooking, plunge them straight into a bowl of cold, ideally iced, water to stop the cooking process. 

This method is excellent for meal prepping or high-protein snacking.

6. Air fryer chickpeas

After a recent visit to a Turkish restaurant where the houmous was served with crispy chickpeas on the top, I thought I'd have a go at making them at home in my air fryer. They did not disappoint. 

I toss them with a bit of oil and mild curry powder before air frying them until they are crispy. I've added them to houmous, used them as a salad topper, and even eaten handfuls of them as a snack throughout the day. 

If you buy chickpeas in water or oil, make sure to rinse and dry them before putting them in the air fryer. Any leftover moisture can create steam, preventing them from becoming as crispy as you may like. 

Ninja 12-in-1 Smart Double Oven Air Fryer cooking casserole

(Image credit: Future)

Final thoughts

Even after all these years, it's great to discover air fryer foods, dishes, and recipes that surprise and delight me and my family.

Technically, anything you can make in a traditional oven can be made in an air fryer; you just need to experiment with temperatures and cooking times. But that's all part of the fun!  

If you're still on the fence about which type of cooker to use, check out our air fryer vs oven guide. 

Victoria Woollaston
TTR Contributing Editor

Victoria Woollaston is a freelance lifestyle and technology journalist with almost two decades of experience reviewing gadgets, beauty tech and household appliances for the likes of WIRED, TechRadar, Expert Reviews, Alphr and more.