Heart-Healthier Indulgences: 20 Air Fryer Dinner Ideas
Dec, 2 2021
Updated: May, 27 2022
14 min read

Heart-Healthier Indulgences: 20 Air Fryer Dinner Ideas

Fried foods without the oil? Yes, please! An air fryer can create fabulous flavor with less strain to your body. Start with these air fryer dinner ideas.

You’ve probably already made French fries in the air fryer, but did you know that there are tons of other ways to use it? It can cook many of your favorite dishes nearly twice as fast as a regular oven and gives food an irresistible deep-fried texture using no more than a tablespoon of oil. Make the most of your air fryer with these 20 simple air fryer dinner ideas. They’re healthy, delicious, and perfect for when you’re short on time. 

Air Fryer Chicken

  1. Air Fryer Chicken Breast
Source: instagram
Air fryer chicken breast via @skinnytaste

If you’ve ever cooked chicken breasts before, you’ll know that they have a tendency to get dry. This recipe shares a brilliant hack for cooking juicy, tender chicken in the air fryer in just 10 minutes. 

The secret is to first pound the chicken breasts to make sure their thickness is the same throughout. Next, brine the chicken breasts by placing them in salt water for up to 6 hours. This will help the chicken absorb more liquid and result in juicer meat once it’s cooked. Finally, pat the chicken dry, rub it with your favorite seasonings, and cook in the air fryer for 5 minutes on each side. 

  1. Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
chicken tenders
Source: instagram
Air fryer chicken tenders via @simplyhomecooked

Chicken tenders are a delicious finger food, but they’re usually deep-fried in loads of oil. For a healthier alternative that’s just as crispy and flavorful, try making them in an air fryer. 

To start, cut chicken thighs or breasts into strips and marinate them in a mixture of mayo, mustard, and garlic for a few hours or overnight. Next, cover each strip with a mix of breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings. Lightly spray them with oil and cook in the air fryer for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve with a dipping sauce and fries for a fun game-night snack that both adults and kids will love. 

  1. Air Fryer Buffalo Wings
buffalo wings
Source: instagram
Air fryer buffalo wings via @platingsandpairings

Chicken wings cooked in the air fryer come out perfectly crispy, without all the extra grease. Drenched in a homemade buffalo sauce, these wings are arguably better than the ones served at pubs and restaurants. 

To make them, use the drumettes, wingettes, or both. Simply spray the air fryer with a bit of cooking oil, and cook the chicken wings for 30-40 minutes, shaking the basket every 5 minutes or so. When they’re done, coat them in a mixture of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, butter, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. You can play around with the ratios to achieve your desired level of spiciness. Serve with a ranch dressing, carrots, and celery sticks. 

  1. Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
bbq chicken
Source: instagram
Air fryer BBQ chicken via @myforkinglife

Think you need a grill to make BBQ chicken? Using an air fryer works just as well! It’s perfect for those colder months when grilling is out of question. 

You can use any type of chicken meat, but this particular recipe calls for drumsticks. Simply rub the drumsticks with a homemade BBQ seasoning, cook for 25 minutes in the air fryer, brush them with a BBQ sauce, and cook for 5 more minutes. Crispy, juicy, and flavorful, these are perfect as an appetizer or a main dish.

  1. Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas
chicken fajitas
Source: instagram
Air fryer chicken fajitas via @cookthestory

These chicken fajitas are a breeze to make and will get dinner on the table in no time at all. Simply slice up some chicken, red peppers, and onions, and toss them in a bit of oil and seasoning. Cook everything together in the air fryer for just 18 minutes, giving the basket a shake halfway through. Once the time is up, you can wrap the filling in a tortilla along with your favorite toppings or simply serve it over rice or a salad. 

Air Fryer Pork

  1. Air Fryer Pork Chops
pork chops
Source: instagram
Air fryer pork chops via @natashaskitchen

Pork chops are a classic dinner option. They’re already pretty quick to make, but making them in the air fryer speeds up the process even further. 

Start by coating the pork chops in a bit of oil and rubbing them with your favorite seasoning mix. Cook in the air fryer for just 10-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through. They’ll come out deliciously crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables for a quick and easy dinner.

  1. Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin
pork tenderloin
Source: instagram
Air fryer pork tenderloin via @recipe_teacher

Pork tenderloin, often called pork fillet, is the most delicate cut of pork you can buy, since it comes from the muscles that run along the spine and aren’t used much for movement. It’s extra lean and cooks quite quickly. Unlike pork chops, you’ll want to place the entire tenderloin in the air fryer and slice it after it’s been cooked. 

Follow this recipe to create the most incredible seasoning rub made with brown sugar, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and ground mustard. The brown sugar will caramelize in the heat, creating an irresistible coating for the juicy meat inside. 

  1. Air Fryer Ham
Source: instagram
Air fryer ham via @theairfryerworld

When we buy ham, it’s typically pre-cooked through curing or smoking. However, baking it in the oven or an air fryer not only reheats it but also enhances its texture and flavor. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to finish the ham with a delicious glaze. 

This recipe includes instructions for a beautiful glaze made with brown sugar, honey, orange juice, mustard, cinnamon, and cloves. Score the ham, brush the glaze over it, wrap it in foil, and air fry for about 45 minutes. The glaze will seep through the scored slices and infuse the ham with a caramel-like sweetness.

Air Fryer Fish

  1. Air Fryer Salmon
Source: instagram
Air fryer salmon via @feelgoodfoodie

Cooking salmon fillets in the air fryer is a simple and quick way to make restaurant-quality fish at home. Start with fresh salmon fillets, drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, and season with garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook in the air fryer for just 7-9 minutes to achieve deliciously tender and succulent salmon. You’ll know it’s ready when the fish is flaky and light in color. 

  1. Air Fryer Tilapia
Source: instagram
Air fryer tilapia via @alicensetogrill

While salmon is typically enjoyed on its own, tilapia truly shines when it’s breaded or dipped in batter, then deep-fried. As delicious as that sounds, all that oil can’t be good for the heart. Enter air-fried tilapia! It’s the best way to prepare fish and chips at home and enjoy it completely guilt-free. 

Start with thawed pieces of tilapia and pat them dry with a paper towel. Coat each piece with flour, dip it in an egg wash, and finish by coating it in a mixture of grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and seasoning. Cook for 4-5 minutes—there’s no need to flip the fillets if they’re quite thin. 

  1. Air Fryer Cod
Source: instagram
Air fryer cod via @alyssa_therecipecritic

This recipe is similar to the one above, but it uses cod instead of tilapia, and the crust is made with Panko breadcrumbs for an extra crispy finish. Cod fillets tend to be thicker than tilapia, so cook them for 10 minutes on one side, flip, and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes on the other. Squeeze a lemon wedge over the fish and serve with rice, roasted greens, or potatoes.

Air Fryer Beef

  1. Air Fryer Burgers
Source: instagram
Air fryer burgers via @spendpennies

You’ve likely made burgers on the grill or in a skillet, but did you know you can make them just as easily in an air fryer? Use frozen store-bought patties or make your own from scratch. For best results, use meat with a little bit of fat—this helps the burgers stay nice and juicy. 

To make air fryer hamburgers, start by brushing the beef patties with a bit of barbeque sauce—this will give them a nice caramelized coating. Cook for 6 minutes on one side and 3-5 on the other. Make them into cheeseburgers by adding a slice of cheese and cooking for one more minute. 

  1. Air Fryer Meatloaf
Source: instagram
Air fryer meatloaf via @foodlovinfamily

Get ready for a mouthwatering meatloaf that’s ready in nearly half the time that it would take in the oven. To start, mix together ground beef, Panko bread crumbs, milk, eggs, diced onion, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and seasonings. Place a piece of parchment paper into a loaf pan, press the ground beef mixture into the pan, and lift it out with the parchment paper—that’s how we get the meatloaf to maintain its shape without actually using a loaf pan. Place the meatloaf into the air fryer for 30 minutes, brush it with a mixture of ketchup, brown sugar, and dry mustard, and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes. The coating will caramelize while the inside will remain perfectly juicy.

  1. Air Fryer Chicken Fried Steak
fried chicken
Source: instagram
Air fryer chicken fried steak via @everydayfamilycooking

Despite its name, chicken fried steak isn’t actually made with chicken—it’s made with cube steak, which is any cut of steak that’s been tenderized with a mallet. The term “chicken fried” refers to the fact that it’s breaded and fried with the same technique used to fry chicken. 

To make chicken fried steak in an air fryer, start with pre-tenderized cube steaks or tenderize your own by pounding them with a mallet. Coat the steaks with a mixture of flour and seasonings, dip them in an egg wash, and coat them with the flour mixture once again. Cook them in a lightly oiled air fryer for 12-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Enjoy with a homemade creamy peppered white gravy and mashed potatoes. 

Air Fryer Vegetables

  1. Air Fryer Tofu
Source: instagram
Air fryer tofu via @holycowvegan

If you’re looking for air fryer vegetarian meals, you’ve got to try air frying tofu. It comes out crispy and fluffy, just like deep-fried tofu, but without all the extra oil. For best results, be sure to use extra firm tofu and squeeze as much water out of it as possible. Then, cut the tofu into cubes, toss them with a marinade, and let them rest for about 30 minutes. Place the marinated cubes into a preheated air fryer and let them cook for about 12 minutes, giving the basket a good shake halfway through. 

  1. Air Fryer Pizza
Source: instagram
Air fryer pizza via @liveeatlearn

Is there anything more convenient than popping a frozen pizza in the oven? Actually, there is—making a personal pizza in an air fryer! It’s as easy as rolling out the pizza dough, placing it in the air fryer basket, spreading it with pizza sauce, and adding your favorite toppings. The best part? In just seven minutes, you can have a perfectly crispy mini-pizza that you don’t have to share with anyone! 

  1. Air Fryer Stuffed Peppers
stuffed peppers
Source: instagram
Air fryer stuffed peppers via @alyssa_therecipecritic

Making stuffed peppers in the air fryer is so much faster than in the oven. It also gives them a slightly crunchier texture and prevents them from getting soggy at the bottom. Simply prepare your filling, stuff the peppers, and place them in the air fryer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. 

Air Fryer Kabobs

  1. Air Fryer Chicken Kabobs
Source: instagram
Air fryer dinner ideas: try chicken kabobs via @sweetcaramelsunday

This is the perfect dish to satisfy your craving for grilled chicken in the colder months. Simply marinade diced chicken and assemble it onto wooden skewers along with your favorite veggies. You can use metal skewers, but it can be hard to find ones that will fit inside your air fryer. Wooden skewers, on the other hand, can be easily cut to your desired length. Be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes before you assemble your kebabs to prevent them from burning. Cook the chicken kebabs for 10 minutes on each side and serve with a fresh salad, rice, or potatoes. 

  1. Air Fryer Beef Kabobs
beef kabob
Source: instagram
Air fryer dinner ideas: try beef kabobs via @gimmedelicious

With this recipe, you can make mouthwatering bite-sized steaks without setting up the grill. Start by dicing sirloin steaks, peppers, and onions. Marinade them for up to 24 hours in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Assemble the skewers and cook them in the air fryer for just 8-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Feel free to play around with the veggies, too—mushrooms, zucchini, or even pineapple would work perfectly! 

  1. Air Fryer Vegetable Kabobs
veg kebob
Source: twitter
Air fryer dinner ideas: try vegetable kabobs via @recipespantry

Skip the meat and make air fryer veggies on skewers instead. They can be enjoyed on their own or as a delicious side dish. This recipe calls for red bell peppers, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes, but feel free to play around with the veggies you include. Simply assemble your skewers and cook in the air fryer for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. 

Develop Your Own Air Fryer Recipes

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Written by:

Sayana Lam

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