It's no secret that deep-fried foods are super delicious, but it's also nothing new that they aren't healthy for you, either.
Good news: The handy air fryer makes all the crispy, battered and crunchy recipes we 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.
But before you shrug off investing in another kitchen gadget, hear us out: You can truly make anything in this convenient tool — from fried chicken to perfectly cooked fish, the air fryer deserves a space on your kitchen counter.
Are You Getting Enough Protein?
To help persuade you even more, we rounded up high-protein air fryer dinner recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.
1. 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 option in terms of protein choices," May Zhu, RD, LDN of Nutrition Happens, says. 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.
2. Air Fryer Lemon Garlic Salmon
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. "Regular consumption of salmon is linked to a reduced risk for heart-related diseases 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. Since 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.
3. Air Fryer Buffalo Wings
The biggest culprit for this not-so-healthy American favorite is how it's prepared. Traditionally, they 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 contain protein, about 20 grams per 3 ounces, but Zhu warns that they're not the best choice amongst other cuts of chicken like boneless, skinless breast. But the key to this dinner choice is enjoying it in moderation. 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.
4. Air Fryer Orange Tofu
Love it or hate it, tofu is versatile and good for you. "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.
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 cult-favorite sweet and tangy sauce. 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.
5. 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.
6. Ultra Crispy Air Fryer Chickpeas
Whether you're fully vegan or you're looking to limit your meat intake, chickpeas are a great way to increase protein in a dish without reaching for any animal products.
If you're eating this as your main protein source for dinner, Zhu suggests adding the air-fried chickpeas to a veggie-packed salad. This plant-based protein also makes for a great snack when you're craving something salty or crunchy — it's a much healthier option than a bag of chips.
Get the Ultra Crispy Air Fryer Chickpea recipe and nutrition info at Sweet Peas and Saffron.