It's no secret that deep-fried foods are super delicious, but it's also nothing new that they aren't the best for you, either. Good news: With a few simple air fryer recipes, you can make all the crispy, battered and crunchy foods you love sans the added oil and fat.
In short, an air fryer is basically a convection oven, but it's the airflow that makes your favorite dishes crispy just like they would be if you dropped them in a vat of oil. You can truly make anything in this convenient tool — including fried chicken, perfectly cooked fish, crispy tofu and pulses and so much more.
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To help you craft meals with the least amount of effort, we rounded up 10 high-protein air fryer recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.
1. Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
If you're cooking up some yummies for a picky eater, or you want a quick nutrient-dense meal for the whole family that's enjoyable to eat, this familiar favorite is a top choice.
This recipe not only offers 29 grams of protein per serving, but unlike traditional deep-fried chicken tenders, it has just 5 grams of fat.
Savory chicken tenderloins are coated in a combo of panko and Italian-seasoned bread crumbs for crunchiness, and they have an additional kick of flavor from garlic powder, paprika and cayenne.
They go great with any dipping sauce or dressing you like, and you can serve them on top of a salad or alongside air-fried veggie fries for a complete meal.
Get the Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe and nutrition info at Eating Bird Food.
2. Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
This tropical-flavored seafood dish is a popular pick at just about any menu it appears on, but you can count on this rendition serving up less fat than the restaurant stuff.
"Shrimp is naturally high in protein and a low-fat protein option," says May Zhu, RD, LDN of Nutrition Happens. We love how low-calorie it is and easy to whip up on evenings when you're running short on time.
To make this a complete meal, Zhu recommends adding a variety of vegetables like roasted broccoli or a green salad to provide fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Get the Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp recipe and nutrition info at Feel Good Foodie.
3. Air Fryer Lemon Garlic Salmon
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. "Eating salmon regularly is linked to a lower risk for heart conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure and high triglycerides," Zhu says.
Cooking your salmon in the air fryer not only helps avoid overcooking, but it makes the buttery fish crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.
Because salmon is a good source of both protein and healthy fats, try pairing it with a fiber-rich carbohydrate or whole grain like quinoa or brown rice.
Get the Air Fryer Lemon Garlic Salmon recipe and nutrition info at Sweet C's Designs.
4. Air Fryer Crispy Tofu
If you're wondering how to make tofu crispy, one of the best ways to do it is by using your air fryer. Tofu cooks really well in an air fryer because the convection heating crisps up the outside of your tofu while allowing it to stay moist and soft on the inside.
This recipe also uses a secret ingredient to help you achieve the perfect crispy tofu: arrowroot starch. Coating the tofu in some olive oil, arrowroot, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper creates a texture and flavor you'll love.
These crispy tofu cubes make the perfect protein-rich addition to a savory breakfast, grain bowl or bed of greens. No matter what you pair it with, you're already getting 20 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
Get the Air Fryer Crispy Tofu recipe and nutrition info at Eating Bird Food.
5. Air Fryer Buffalo Wings
Traditionally, buffalo wings are deep-fried in oil and then tossed in your sauce of choice. This air fryer recipe produces the same crispy, saucy wings we all know and love using only a fraction of the oil.
Chicken wings are high in protein, with about 20 grams per 3 ounces, but Zhu warns that they're less nutritious than other cuts of chicken, like boneless, skinless breast. That said, there's nothing wrong with enjoying this Air Fryer Chicken Wing recipe in moderation on the occasions you most enjoy them.
Zhu's choice of side dish for these buffalo wings is carrots and celery with a side salad.
Get the Air Fryer Chicken Wings recipe and nutrition info at JZ Eats.
6. Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan
Chicken parmesan is a dish that many people love, and thanks to this air fryer recipe, you can have a restaurant-quality meal that's nutritious and tasty with just a little bit of effort.
The whole recipe requires just six ingredients, and you can use your favorite store-bought pasta sauce to achieve the most comforting, mouthwatering result.
This recipe offers 51 grams of protein per serving from the chicken and gooey mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. You can use almond flour in place of white flour to lower the carbs.
Get the Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan recipe and nutrition info at Feel Good Foodie.
7. Air Fryer Fish and Chips
When you need a meal ready in less than 20 minutes, reach for this Air Fryer Fish and Chips recipe. This dish will please even the pickiest eaters, plus it's loaded with nutrition.
You'll use cod fish for this recipe, which boasts protein, B vitamins and some important minerals. Because you're not deep frying the fish in oil like in the traditional version, this recipe is low in fat and only gives you a total of 2 grams per serving.
Panko breadcrumbs are used to give the fish its crunchy texture, and it's delicious topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and a side of tarter sauce. Serve it with french fries (homemade or frozen, tossed in the air fryer), and you've got yourself a plate of nutritious comfort food.
Get the Air Fryer Fish and Chips recipe and nutrition info at Feel Good Foodie.
8. Air Fryer Orange Tofu
The best part about this air fryer tofu is it pretty much takes on whatever flavor you want. In this case, it's tossed in the classic sweet and tangy Asian-inspired sauce.
"This recipe provides 23 grams of soy-based protein and all nine essential amino acids," Zhu says. A 4-ounce serving provides 60 percent of the daily recommended calcium, which supports heart health, nerve function and helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, Zhu says.
Just like Orange Chicken you'd get at your favorite restaurant, you can serve this tofu over brown rice or quinoa for a source of fiber-rich carbs.
Get the Air Fryer Orange Tofu recipe and nutrition info at Veggie Society.
9. Air Fryer Turkey Breast
Sadly, we often keep turkey in a "Thanksgiving only" box, but the truth is, it's a great source of protein and a delicious one, too. In just 4 ounces of this air-fried turkey breast, you'll get a whopping 32 grams of protein.
"Poultry such as turkey contains fewer calories per serving in comparison to many red meats," Zhu says. It provides mineral selenium, which functions as an antioxidant in the body to protect it from free radicals and to reduce oxidative stress, she adds.
To make this a balanced meal, try pairing with starchy vegetables, whole-grains or legumes for a carbohydrate and a green leafy vegetable.
Get the Air Fryer Turkey Breast recipe and nutrition info at Skinnytaste.
10. Ultra Crispy Air Fryer Chickpeas
Whether you're fully vegan or you're looking to eat more plant protein, chickpeas are a great way to get more of the nutrient, plus others like fiber and minerals.
Zhu suggests adding the air-fried chickpeas to a veggie-packed salad for a balanced meal.
This plant-based protein also makes for a great snack when you're craving something salty or crunchy — and it's a much more nutritious option than a bag of chips!
Get the Crispy Air Fryer Chickpea recipe and nutrition info at Sweet Peas and Saffron.