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12 Air Fryer Recipes That Make Holiday Cooking Easier and Healthier

By Jess Novak and Summer Rylander
December 13, 2021
Image credit: Jennifer Banz

Space is a hot commodity when it comes to cooking for a holiday celebration. Ovens and stovetops can only hold so much, and counter space becomes incredibly precious. This means you typically need to do some very careful planning to ensure that every dish is ready to go when the clock strikes dinnertime.

If you have an air fryer, however, you can easily prepare appetizers, side dishes, desserts… even the main course. We’re fans of these recipes for their ease of preparation, adaptability to suit your tastes and ingredient access, and — most importantly — their promise of a delicious outcome.

1. Roast Beef with Herb Crust

Air Fryer Roast Beef with Herb Crust

Image credit: Grumpy’s Honeybunch

The important thing to remember about an “air fryer” is that it’s really just a convection oven — which means that you don’t have to feel bad about throwing even really nice cuts of meat into it. This roast beef recipe is great for the air fryer because the herb crust gets nice and crispy while the meat remains juicy and tender. We’d serve with steamed asparagus and mashed cauliflower with plenty of garlic.  

2. Potato Roses

Air Fryer Potato Roses

Image credit: Cookin Canuck

How. Pretty. Are. These?! They’re the kind of slightly elevated potato dish that looks fun and has a surprising mouthfeel, but is still, ultimately, just potatoes and parmesan. (So your dad will eat it without complaint at a holiday dinner.) Having a Misto or another refillable oil-spraying device is going to make these a lot easier — and frankly, is a great way to modulate oil usage in your cooking in general. While a combo of potato and cheese isn’t something we’d normally sell you as “super healthy” for regular weeknight consumption, it’s a far better-for-you holiday dish than a traditional potato gratin. 

3. Air Fried Pears with Miso-Maple Tahini

Plant-Based Air Fried Pears with Miso-Maple Tahini

Image credit: Nikki Vegan

We love a dessert that tastes fantastic and involves exactly zero refined sugar, and this fits both bills. The miso-maple tahini sauce is super simple but has a really complex, grounded flavor that provides a lot of balance to the natural sweetness of baked pears. This is a light, flavorful dessert that’s ideal after a big, heavy, holiday meal. 

4. Pork Tenderloin

Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin

Image credit: Jennifer Banz

Another juicy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside dish — and when it comes to large hunks of meat, that’s pretty much exactly what you want to be going for. The recipe author recommends pairing this pork tenderloin with air fryer avocado fries, which we fully agree with. But we’d also recommend a vinegar-y side salad to cut through some of the richness in both of those options. 

5. Garlic Mushrooms

Air Fryer Garlic Mushrooms

These garlic mushrooms would work as either a side or an appetizer for a holiday meal, and they’re just so simple and fast that they make a perfect last-minute addition to the table. As the recipe author notes, garlic is the way to turn mushroom haters into mushroom lovers. Typically, when folks say they hate mushrooms, their exposure has been limited to underdone, weirdly woody, chitin-forward bites, or even sliced raw mushrooms on salad, which… even if you like raw mushrooms, you have to admit their mouthfeel is strange and they taste overly earthy. In this recipe, spritz them with olive oil and toss them in garlic and let them air fry for a while and you’ve got what we’d call an “ambassador mushroom.” Let it charm the mushroom haters to the other side. 

6. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pomegranate

Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts With Bacon And Pomegranate

Image credit: Allianna’s Kitchen

This dish is rich-tasting, quick, easy to make, and colorful — that’s a holiday table winner right there. A great option for anyone at your holiday table who’s on the keto diet, these Brussels sprouts are also easy to make totally vegan by leaving out the bacon and tossing in some toasted pecans for a similar crunch and umami, fatty richness. For families with mixed dietary preferences and needs, having a delicious recipe that can be just slightly altered to accommodate multiple people is always a good idea. 

7. Herb-Roasted Nuts

Air Fryer Herb Roasted Nuts

Image credit: Small Farm Big Life

We love having a little tray of roasted nuts around during the holidays. They’re perfect to have out for guests, and it’s nice to have something to munch on when dinner is taking way longer than anticipated. These herb-roasted nuts are a tasty, healthy snack that’s both paleo- and vegan-friendly. The spice mix is a great blend (although feel free to double the thyme and cumin), and we love the addition of B-vitamin-packed nutritional yeast.

8. Miso-Glazed Roasted Vegetables

Miso-Glazed Roasted Vegetables

Image credit: The Woks of Life

Holiday traditions may vary, but the intrinsic need for vegetables does not. We love miso for its versatile, umami-rich flavor profile, and this salty-sweet glaze is sure to please even the pickiest eaters at your table. If you don’t like beets, swap them out for more carrots, parsnips, kohlrabi, celeriac, or even broccoli stems or potatoes — any robust vegetable will do here. To modify this recipe for the air fryer, you may need to work in batches depending on the size of your appliance, but 25 minutes at 400°F is a good place to start. 

9. Cheesy Keto Rolls

Air Fryer Keto Rolls

Image Credit: Sweet C’s Designs

So often, gluten-free baking is a mealy letdown. Not so with these “rolls” that are basically just cheese puffs held together with some almond flour and eggs — and we don’t mean that in a bad way. Fluffy, buttery, and ready in 20 minutes, this is a side dish that will absolutely wow your loved ones at the holiday table, and is sure to be beloved by both folks on a keto diet and those who are not. 

10. Air Fryer Turkey Breast

Air Fryer Turkey Breast

Image credit: The Cookie Rookie

If you’re cooking for six or fewer people this holiday season, you may want to opt for making a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. It only takes an hour to make (instead of a classic turkey’s 3+ hours) and it won’t leave you with an entire turkey carcass to manage afterwards. Rubbing it with herbed olive oil and tossing it in the air fryer renders this turkey especially juicy, too — which makes this a great redemption story if the Thanksgiving turkey turned out a little dry (as it so often does).  

11. Air Fried Sweet Potatoes

air fryer sweet potatoes

Image credit: The Chunky Chef

Instead of fussing with boiling water or giving up precious oven time to tenderize your sweet potatoes, why not prep them in the air fryer? Cut your sweet potatoes in half first, brush them with olive oil, hit them with salt and pepper, and in just 30 minutes, you’ll have wonderfully tender, flavorfully charred potatoes. We like to top ours with chili oil and a fried egg for a casual Tuesday evening meal, but the flesh becomes so soft and scoopable in the air fryer — and the skin so crisp and flavorful! — that this is definitely a great way to start out mashed sweet potatoes, too.

12. Gluten-Free Calamari

Air Fryer Calamari

Image credit: Summeryule

If you’re doing a Feast of the Seven Fishes this year, you’ll want a calamari recipe — and this low-carb version, which uses coconut flour in place of traditional AP flour, is such an easy, tasty addition to the menu. (Plus, it tastes so traditional that your Nonna won’t be upset.) Serve with a traditional marinara, a garlic aioli, or just a spritz of lemon juice. 

Read next: Editor’s Picks: The Top 10 Gifts for People Who Absolutely Love to Cook

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