best air fryer for vegans


You know that feeling when you discover something new that you absolutely love, and then later wonder how you ever lived without it? That’s exactly how I feel about my air fryer—and what I’m hoping will happen for you as you enter the world of air-fried vegan recipes and get the best air fryer for vegans. I’ve made it my mission to offer you the most delicious, nutritious recipes possible, with easy-to-follow directions that anyone can master. Even if you’re new to this fabulous appliance, you’ll truly feel like a pro after cooking. And if you’re already comfortable with this appliance, that’s great too—you’ll have fun expanding your horizons to create crowd-pleasing masterpieces in your air fryer!

Because of my dedication to healthy living, I prioritize fresh, whole food ingredients. Even though I enjoy the occasional vegan cheese or plant-based meat (there’s no need for perfection—balance is the key), my philosophy is that plant-based whole foods are ideal for optimal nutrition. And if this sounds at all limiting, you’re about to be pleasantly surprised. Healthy vegan eating is truly about abundance—not deprivation. If you’re new to vegan food, you’re about to discover the versatility of plant-based eating.

In fact, back in 1991—in the first few months of being vegan—I was struggling, partly due to focusing on all the foods I “couldn’t” have anymore. Then, I had an epiphany: I realized that when I focused on the new world of food I was discovering, there was actually more variety than ever before! Decades later, this is even more true. The “restriction” of eating a plant-based diet is purely mental. When you embrace vegan eating, a previously unknown world of flavorful, satisfying food reveals itself to you. Over the years, I’ve discovered Thai, Ethiopian, Indian, and other delicious cuisines that I’d never given the time of day before going vegan.

I share many of these cuisines, with the added bonus of being able to prepare them all in an air fryer. It’s only been a few years since I started cooking with that little dynamo, but we’ve been inseparable ever since. It quickly became my most-used kitchen appliance because of its versatility, ease of use, convenience, and consistently great results.

When you combine solid vegan recipes and your new best friend, the air fryer, the variety and possibilities are endless. I hope you’ll have as much fun air-frying up these recipes as I do, and I can’t wait to see what you cook up!

Air Fryer Basics: Things you should now before getting the best air fryer for vegans

1.An air fryer (you saw that one coming, right?) and some basic accessories and pantry staples. I’ll outline all of that for you before we get to the recipes.

2.An appetite—preferably for delicious vegan food.

3.A can-do attitude. Even if you haven’t had luck in the kitchen before, it’s a new day, and I believe in you! Like they say in the movie Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook!” Follow these recipes, and you’ll be well on your way to surprising yourself—and impressing your friends and family.


So, you’re obviously intrigued by the idea of air-frying. But you may also be wondering what all the fuss is about: Are air fryers really all that special? Should you give in and become one of those air fryer people? Absolutely! Come to the dark side with us. We have air-fried onion rings and lemon bars here.

In all seriousness, air-frying is a delicious way to shortcut traditional cooking and put a healthy spin on it. Here are some of the reasons I use the air fryer more than anything else in my kitchen:

It’s healthy. There’s just no comparison between deep-frying and air-frying. When you air-fry your food, you reduce the fat content by up to 80 percent, making it heart-healthy and conducive to a healthy weight and better cholesterol profile.

It’s oh-so-easy. There’s something great about being able to dump a bunch of food in a basket, walk away, and come back to delicious, crispy, cooked food.

It’s faster than cooking in the oven. I’ve found my air fryer cooks food almost twice as quickly as my oven. Saving time in the kitchen means more time, you know, eating.

Air-fried food is delicious! It can give you the taste and texture of fried food, with loads of flavor—but without loads of fat. It’s such a wonderful way to satisfy fried-food cravings in a healthier way.

The air fryer is ideal for vegan cuisine. You can roast all manner of vegetables, make tofu a million different ways, bake potatoes, create delicious vegan snacks, and even whip up superb vegan desserts.

You’ll spend less time cleaning up. Oh, how I love this part! I remember life before my air fryer, when I’d have to scrub cookie sheets after I baked French fries or zucchini sticks. It’s so much quicker to clean up an air fryer basket, and if you’re used to frying your food in a pan or deep fryer, you’ll also love not having to clean up oil spatters.

How It Works

People always ask, “How do air fryers work?” Sometimes I even get asked if it’s just as unhealthy as frying in oil! Clearly, there’s some confusion on the topic, so I’m here to simplify things. An air fryer is a small kitchen appliance that cooks your food by circulating hot air around it using the convection mechanism. Basically, it’s a miniature super powered convection oven that crisps food with air instead of oil, letting you enjoy healthier versions of your favorite treats.

Although the air fryer cooks with, yes, air, you can still use oil in your device (and honestly, the food will taste better if you do). However, you’ll definitely be using far less fat than you would if you were frying your food in the traditional manner. And even though you’re using considerably less oil, your dishes will end up tasting fried and delicious. I mean, seriously—how great is that? In terms of cooking for your health, air-frying is essentially the same as baking and gives you a wide range of options—you can bake, fry, roast, and even make desserts in your air fryer.


The air fryer market is expanding so quickly. All kinds of brands are jumping on the air fryer bandwagon, offering their version of this appliance. In order to determine which air fryer model will make you the happiest, you’ll want to weigh your options.

Factors to Consider —

Air fryers vary in size, features, and the accessories they include. If you have a big family, you’ll probably want to purchase a larger model to reduce the number of batches you’ll have to make. On the other hand, if you’re short on counter space, consider a standard 2- to 3-quart size. The air fryers that are 4 quarts (or larger) will require more space—about the same footprint as a toaster oven.

Some other things to consider are the temperature range and maximum allotted time for the preset timer. For example, the timer on some models may only go up to 30 minutes, which can be annoying if you’re preparing a 40-minute recipe. Even worse, some air fryers don’t have an adjustable temperature gauge, which means a lot of guesswork when making recipes that call for higher or lower temps. An air fryer with adjustable temperature settings is worth the extra price because it’ll save you hassles in the end.

Some brands include accessories, which can seem like an enticing option. However, I personally don’t use air fryer accessories—in fact, I purchased a round pan that doesn’t typically go with air fryers because it has much higher sides than standard air fryer pans, which makes life so much easier. I recommend you opt for the best air fryer for you (without worrying about the accessories they include), and then purchase a good 6-inch pan (that’s at least 2 inches deep)

I personally use the GoWISE 3.7 quart air fryer, for several reasons. First of all, it’s what I bought many years ago when I was on a tight budget (it’s less than half the price of many other brands). Even with daily use over the years, it still works as well as it did when I first purchased it, and it’s the perfect size for my small family. I like the simplicity of it too—it has no spinning parts that automatically stir (and sometimes break) food, and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.

Fryers to Consider

PHILIPS XL 2.65 pounds Yes None 180 to 390°F 60 minutes
GoWISE 3.7 or 5.8 quarts Yes None 175 to 400°F 30 minutes
NUWAVE 3 or 6 quarts Yes Grill pan Baking pot Cupcake liners Carrying case 100 to 390°F 2 hours
POWER AIR FRYER 3.4 or 5.3 quarts Yes Baking insert Pizza pan Cooking tongs 180 to 400°F 60 minutes
T-FAL ACTIFRY 2.2 pounds No None 338°F (only one setting) 99 minutes


By now, I hope you’re getting excited about creating delicious masterpieces in your air fryer! To ensure success with the recipes I’ve created for you, please be sure to read through the tips that follow.

Step-by-Step Start

Are you an air fryer newbie? That’s great! You’ve come to the right place. I’m here to simplify the process for you, and get you cooking like a pro in no time. Here are some basics to remember as you begin:

Read through the instruction manual, as all air fryers are different. Also, wash the air fryer basket before your first use.

When removing food from your air fryer, remember that it’s fine to remove the basket and turn it over to release your food, but never turn over the air fryer itself.

Cut your food into consistent-size pieces, so they’ll cook for a similar length of time. For example, when making French fries, you don’t want some pieces to be ¼-inch thick, and others to be ¾-inch thick, or the smaller pieces will be done before the larger ones.

Try not to layer food inside the basket. You want the hot air to circulate freely around your food, so it can brown evenly. Keep your food in a single layer whenever possible, and cook the rest in subsequent batches.

Be sure to keep a neutral-flavored cooking oil spray on hand, and use it liberally when you want to create that delicious “fried” taste (see here for more on oil). You can purchase cooking oil spray from health food stores or supermarkets (I personally like the coconut oil spray from Trader Joe’s).

I don’t call for too many accessories, but you’ll definitely want a 6-inch round baking pan (with sides that come up at least 2 inches). Also grab a heat-proof rubber or silicone spatula.

Always set the timer on your air fryer, so you don’t accidentally burn your food! For the first few recipes you try, I recommend setting your timer for 1 to 2 minutes less than my recipes call for. That way, if your air fryer cooks more quickly than mine, you won’t overcook your food.

Top Tips

Okay friends, here’s where I get real with you. My top three tips for the air fryer involve a lot of practicality, with a good pinch of laziness. Because who doesn’t want some shortcuts in the kitchen?

Tip One: You don’t have to thoroughly clean your air fryer every single time you use it, especially if it’s being used solely for vegan food. Since I use my air fryer multiple times a day, this one is a lifesaver. (I actually remember a squeal of delight from a cooking student when I mentioned this in class once, so I know I’m not the only lazy cook.) Most of the time, all you need to do is wipe your air fryer basket down with a clean cloth or paper towel, and then you can get on with your life. However, if you’ve made something very sticky in the basket, or just whipped up a batch of garlic potatoes (and you’re about to make cinnamon crisps), you’ll need to do a proper wash.

Tip Two: Oil spray wants to become your new best friend, and I strongly encourage you to accept that request. I suggest you keep a neutral-flavored oil spray (such as refined coconut, sunflower, or safflower) on hand at all times. And please don’t be afraid to use enough of the spray to actually make your foods taste deliciously fried (and not dry). Remember, you’re making a much better choice by air-frying (vs. deep-frying) your food, so a few sprays of oil will still result in a healthy, low-fat dish.

Tip Three: Know thy appliance. Being a perfectionist, and wanting to give you absolutely tried-and-true recipes, along with a wonderful group of recipe testers making the dishes in their own air fryers. We found that certain air fryers, like ovens, required slightly altered cooking times. Air fryers also vary in their temperature setting options, so if you don’t have the exact temperature the recipe calls for, simply round down to the nearest one. And remember that other factors (such as variations in tofu moisture, thickness of sliced vegetables, etc.) can affect cooking times. So, be sure to err on the side of checking your recipes for doneness before the full cook times have elapsed, just in case. You can always put food back in your air fryer to cook longer, but if it’s overdone, you’ve just witnessed your own little tragedy.


What do I do if my air fryer is smoking? Turn off the machine and check for oil residue. Your air fryer may need to be cleaned more thoroughly.
Why isn’t my food getting crispy? This may be due to an overcrowded basket. Ensure there’s room to flip and stir the food regularly for even distribution of hot air.

Also make sure you’ve used enough oil spray and have cooked everything long enough.

What do I do when chips fly up and stick to the heating element? This can occasionally happen with lightweight items such as kale chips or tortilla chips. Carefully remove the burned or smoking item and resume cooking.
My food isn’t cooking evenly. Help! Make sure to flip and rotate the foods according to the instructions. Remove finished pieces as you go, leaving the rest to cook further. Check the basket often.
My food isn’t browning properly. Make sure to cook long enough, and use oil or oil spray to coat the outside of your food for proper browning.
My recipe doesn’t taste amazing. What gives? Double-check: Have you followed the ingredients list and directions exactly as written?

Are you measuring properly? If you overfill your flour and under-fill your salt, the result could be bland and doughy.

Are you adjusting cook times, in case your fryer cooks at a different rate? A slightly undercooked dish won’t taste quite right.

Your cooking temperatures are so specific. I don’t have a setting for 392°F! Every air fryer is different—I have created these recipes at the settings my air fryer allows. However, many of my testers made these recipes at different temps (they’d round down to the nearest temperature setting—in this case, it was usually 390°F) and were able to keep the same cooking times. Check your food often for doneness.


The first year I had my air fryer, I pretty much just made French fries and spring rolls in it—and I was perfectly content to do so. Why? Perhaps for the same reason my daughter finds my music tastes so annoying—I tend to find something I like and then play (or eat) it over and over! In fact, I’m still not sick of those French fries or spring rolls. It also may have something to do with the fact that those recipes were “safe.” I knew how to make them in the air fryer, and wasn’t in danger of messing them up. However, it’s been pretty fun (and delicious) to discover a whole world of additional foods for which the air fryer is perfect!

For starters, you can use your air fryer as you would an oven—anything you can bake, you can air-fry. This goes for baked potatoes, vegetables, casseroles, and even desserts. Who knew you could make lemon bars (Gooey Lemon Bars) or chocolate cake (“How Is This Vegan?” Chocolate Cake) in an air fryer?

Another thing many people are often delighted to discover is the ability of the air fryer to roast foods perfectly. The air fryer delivers delicious roasted broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.—all with that gorgeous browned, caramelized appearance we all love. I was amazed the first time I used my air fryer to roast vegetables, because it really does give you that slow-roasted result in less time (try a batch of the Sweet Miso-Glazed Brussels Sprouts and you’ll see what I mean).

And last, but most certainly not least, I adore the air fryer for creating the taste and texture of fried foods. You can make French fries, potato chips, zucchini sticks, and so much more, with your new bestie, the air fryer. This, incidentally, is perfect if you have self-proclaimed veggie haters in your midst. Make them a batch of Alethea’s Kale Chips or Eggplant Parmigiana and they’ll be singing a different tune. Likewise, if you’ve got someone who’s resisting vegan food altogether, you can woo them with some air-fried treats. I’ve never met an omnivore who didn’t love the Red Curry Noodles with Sesame Crunch Tofu or Apple Puffs with Vanilla Caramel Sauce.

You can even use the air fryer to heat up foods, melt margarine, or crisp up your veggie burger or vegan chicken nuggets. We even make toast (and garlic bread) in ours sometimes. So, have fun and get ready to surprise yourself with all the diverse deliciousness you’re about to create!

The Good and the Bad

The air fryer is ideal for reasonable-size batches of anything you’d typically fry, such as Classic French Fries, Crunchy Onion Rings, and Sesame Crunch Tofu. It’s also great for desserts that are small enough to make in one go (Gooey Lemon Bars for example), or items that you can easily make two batches with, saving one to be air-fried later (such as Luscious Lazy Lasagna). I even love the air fryer for reheating and re-crisping foods. There’s not too much that little powerhouse can’t do!

But although the air fryer may (rightly) become your go-to appliance for almost everything, there are some items that aren’t ideal. For example, if you’re feeding a large crowd, and your air fryer is small, you may want to bake in the oven to avoid too many small batches. You’ll also want to avoid the air fryer if you’re cooking something that has a very wet consistency, especially if it doesn’t fit into your 6-inch pan.


If you want to make healthy cooking as easy—and enjoyable—as possible, I highly recommend taking some time to stock your kitchen with healthy basics, and make meal planning part of your weekly routine. You go to your kitchen, and voilà! You have everything you need in your pantry to make it happen. And here’s the good news—you absolutely can do this. Yes, you! Having staples on hand make it as easy as possible.

Pantry Staples

Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour: This bean-based flour is hearty and versatile. I use it in breaded items, and you can find it in any health food store, as well as most grocery stores.

Plant-based milk: I recommend the unsweetened, plain version for maximum versatility. I personally like flaxseed, almond, and oat milks.

Whole-wheat pastry flour: This whole-grain flour replaces white flour in any recipe. As I prefer to keep my recipes as whole as possible, I usually call for either this or chickpea flour, depending on the recipe. However, you may use substitutions (or gluten-free, all-purpose flour) as desired.

Arrowroot: This thickens sauces and helps bind breading to your food. It’s a more healthful alternative to cornstarch, but they work interchangeably.

Ground flaxseed (aka flaxmeal): This is a wonderfully healthy way to replace eggs in many recipes. By combining 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons water, you’ve just replaced one egg!

Nutritional yeast: This stuff is vegan manna. Affectionately referred to as “nooch,” nutritional yeast is a yellow powder (or flakes) that’s high in iron and B-vitamins. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor, and is wonderful on popcorn, in nondairy cheeses, and sprinkled on tofu.

Rolled oats: For this classic kitchen staple, I prefer regular rolled oats to instant, as they’re less processed.

Tamari or shoyu: Either of these work well as a healthier replacement for soy sauce. If you’re not intolerant to gluten, shoyu is a less expensive option and tastes just about the same as tamari. Please note that I use regular tamari or shoyu in my recipes—if you’re using the low-sodium variety, you may need to add additional salt.

Cooking oil spray: This is a must for an air fryer kitchen! I usually keep a few bottles in my pantry and personally use the Trader Joe’s refined coconut oil spray. However, any neutral-flavored variety will work just fine.

Cooking oil: As with the cooking oil spray, it’s best to keep a neutral-flavored oil on hand. That way, your blueberry cobbler won’t taste like olives, and you won’t ruin your eggplant parmigiana with the strong taste of coconut. I prefer organic sunflower oil, but you could also opt for refined coconut oil, avocado oil, or safflower oil.

Spice Rack Staples

Spice it up! I recommend keeping these fabulous flavor agents on hand. Keeping them accessible and visible will help you stay organized. I start with nice glass jars and refill them from the bulk section of my local health food store.

Basil: Dried basil is great for flavoring all sorts of dishes, especially Italian ones.

Black pepper: I recommend a medium-grind version, because it’s versatile and gives a nice flavor.

Coriander: Coriander is actually dried, powdered cilantro seed, although you wouldn’t know that by tasting it.

Cumin: This works well in several cuisines, including Indian and Mexican. Be sure to purchase ground cumin (vs. seeds) for these recipes.

Dill: Although fresh dill is unparalleled in flavor, the dried version is still tasty and great to have on hand for a variety of tofu and potato dishes.

Garlic granules: Also known as granulated garlic, this is a more pleasant-tasting version of (and sometimes mislabeled as) garlic powder. Look for the version that has a granulated (vs. powdery) appearance.

Nutmeg: This spice pairs well with cinnamon for a variety of sweet dishes.

Onion granules: Please see “garlic granules” and apply everything to the onion version here!

Oregano: A classic Italian seasoning that pairs nicely with basil and garlic.

Crushed red pepper flakes: I love using this to add a spicy kick to Asian dishes and sauces.

Sea salt: Use a little salt to maximize flavor. Even if you’re trying to lower your sodium intake, you may find you’ll do well if you eat plenty of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed foods and restaurant fare.

Turmeric: The ground, powdered root of the turmeric plant is very high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Shopping and Meal Prep

If you plan ahead, you can make sure it’s always easy to eat well at home. People often think they don’t have time to shop deliberately and plan out meals, but really, it isn’t so difficult. No matter how busy you are, isn’t it worthwhile to make healthy eating a priority? You’ll eat (and feel) so much better if you’re prepared to make good food at home and if you knock out some of the work in advance. Plus, you’ll save money because you won’t be eating out—or wasting food by forgetting about it in the fridge.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

Keep your kitchen well-stocked with healthy options. This takes some effort at first, but will soon make life so much easier.

Make a weekly plan. Here’s what I suggest: On Friday, write down what you’d like to make for the coming week and create your shopping list. On Saturday, get your groceries. On Sunday, do your food prep for the week by making sauces, cutting vegetables, etc.

Check your mind-set. Too many people fall into a rut of thinking it’s hard to do food prep, and end up eating out all the time instead. That may be easier in the short term, but isn’t good health worth a little effort? Plus, most restaurants don’t have food as nourishing (or delicious) as what you could make at home. Keep yourself motivated by remembering the numerous benefits of healthy home cooking.

If a recipe can be doubled for future use, go for it! For example, you can make an extra Luscious Lazy Lasagna and pop it in the oven after a long day. Or, make a big batch of the Cheesy Sauce so you’ll have it on hand whenever the need arises. Look for ways to give your future self a reason to thank you—that’s really what it’s all about.

On Oil

Oil—what a controversial topic! Some eating programs prohibit all oils, while others (such as the Mediterranean diet) extol the virtues of olive oil. All of this contradictory information can be confusing, so hopefully what I’m about to tell you will shed some light.

For most of my twenties, I was an obese vegan. I was trying (unsuccessfully) to follow a zero-oil eating plan, which I found impossible to stick with (I like delicious food too much, turns out). I’d be “good” for a few days, avoiding all oils and sprinkling my salads with lemon juice—and then feel so deprived I’d go on a fried food and sugar bender. It took me many years to discover that I was caught in this binge-restrict cycle because I was consistently unsatisfied with my food. I finally learned that I could eat oil in moderation and maintain a healthy weight, and that balance was the key.

I’ve worked with countless women over the years who’ve had similar experiences. Some people can stick with the no-oil approach in a healthy way, but they seem to be the minority. I had a client tell me once that my recipes made her feel so satisfied that it was easy to eat less. Another client told me she’d been out with her son and decided she’d allow herself some avocado and olive oil dressing on her salad. Afterward, she was amazed that when they went out for ice cream (her favorite), she felt so satisfied from the salad that she didn’t even want dessert.

Still, I don’t recommend using oil excessively. My philosophy is to use just enough oil to create a satisfying flavor. I always measure out my fats (if I poured oil into a pan without measuring, I might end up with an extra 300 calories!). Usually one teaspoon is all that’s needed to make the flavors pop.

So, in a nutshell? Listen to your body and notice how it responds to the different foods you eat. Eat a mainly low-fat, high-nutrient diet and focus on fresh, organic, whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat some fats, but be conscious about them. When it comes to oils, I recommend organic, high-quality ones. In my home, I keep extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil on hand, as well as a neutral-flavored cooking oil spray.


You’re about to dive into a world of delicious, healthy recipes—everything from Thai curries to Indian appetizers to classic French fries. Please be sure to read each recipe from start to finish before beginning to cook, as it will increase your chances of doing the happy dance upon completion. I also recommend purchasing a deep pan that fits in your air fryer (I use the aforementioned 6-inch ovenproof pan with sides that are 2 inches high).

There’s no shame in the game if you decide to eat an entire recipe yourself, even if it was supposed to serve four (I’m personally quite familiar with this scenario). There are so many factors, including what else is being served at mealtime, individual nutritional needs, and varying hunger levels from day to day. So, as always, listen to your body, be happy, and enjoy!

Recipes will include nutritional information, as well as the following labels:

FRY / BAKE / ROAST This indicates which technique you’ll be using in your air fryer.

FAST These recipes take 30 minutes or less, start to finish.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY Recipes that the whole family (even kids and vegan skeptics) will love. Please note that some recipes will need to be multiplied to increase serving sizes as desired.

GLUTEN-FREE These recipes are already gluten-free or include a gluten-free option.

COLOR CODES You may be wondering why the recipes have a blue, green, or purple label next to them. For those who want additional help in constructing a balanced diet, I’ve devised a color-coded system, taking into account elements like nutrient density, fiber, and fat content:

GREEN recipes are relatively low in fat and natural sugars—and high in nutrients. Most people can eat “Green” foods freely with great results.

BLUE recipes are a little richer, but still healthy enough to include on a daily basis in moderation (for example, most people looking to maintain their current weight can aim to comprise their daily diet of about 30 percent “Blue” recipes and 70 percent “Green” recipes).

PURPLE recipes are fairly high in fats and/or sugars and are ideally suited for minimal consumption—for most people, two to three servings per week (or special occasions) are fine.

Note that these color codes are only rough guidelines. Everyone is different, and ultimately you’ll find your healthiest approach is to listen to your body. However, these codes can be extremely helpful for those wanting to eat a light, healthy diet without having to count calories, points, carbs, etc.

At the end of many recipes, you’ll also find tips. These include:

Substitution Tip: Ideas on how to make substitutions to recipes, for different flavors or in case of allergies.

Cooking Tip: Helpful info that may make your life in the kitchen easier in the areas of cooking, prepping, or cleanup.

Ingredient Tip: More info on a particular ingredient—usually one I especially love—that’s included in that recipe.

Variation Tip: Do you like mixing things up a bit? These tips will provide ideas on how to do so!

Air Fryer Tip: How best to use your air fryer for that particular recipe.

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