When it comes to the magic of air fryers, we’ve already spilled the biggest secret of all: There’s nothing all that magical about them. Air fryers are actually just compact, high-powered convection ovens, capable of rapidly circulating super-dry, super-hot air around all sides of your food to achieve a crispy, extra-tantalizing exterior without the aid of frying oil. As a result, foods cook faster, without splatter, and achieve maximum crunch. (This makes them an excellent counterpoint to your microwave, which heats things just as quickly and easily but can leave certain foods rubbery or soggy.) But the best argument for an air fryer just might be a Super Bowl Sunday party, when a never-ending stream of crispy, bite-sized appetizers is called for above all else.
If you’re entertaining on game day, there’s a good chance that at least one of your guests doesn’t eat meat. Why should they miss out on the day’s best flavors? Try making Lemon Pepper Tofu “Wings,” which use a combination of the microwave and the air fryer to achieve a satisfying, McNugget-like bite. The recipe only requires a handful of what we promise are basic pantry staples; I just checked my own kitchen, and I have everything on hand to make these except the block of tofu (I only have firm tofu, not extra-firm!). Adjust the spices however you see fit, and/or serve with extra hot sauce on the side.
A bag of frozen supermarket mozzarella sticks is the perfect example of a food that doesn’t reach its full potential when cooked in the microwave. The contrast between its crispy breaded exterior and its gooey innards is what makes a mozzarella stick irresistible, and microwaving will leave you with very little crunch wrapped around all that melty cheese. The oven is always a better bet, but the air fryer is better: its heat will circulate all around the sticks to create textural perfection in a fraction of the time. Even if you plan on going the homemade route for most of your other Super Bowl appetizers, there’s no denying that your guests will love a frozen mozzarella stick if it’s prepared the right way.
The air fryer is, in general, a great way to turn average finger foods into party food. Here are just a few ways we like to add the crunch that a few minutes of air fryer cook time can provide:
- City Chicken: This “chicken” isn’t chicken at all—it’s pork. Basically, what we’re telling you is that your air fryer is the perfect appliance for making air-fried pork nuggets. Don’t you want to experience those for yourself? Pair with a basic apple dipping sauce for a sweet and salty Super Bowl appetizer. Here’s the recipe.
- Air Fried Pickled Red Onions: This tangy, brighter take on an onion ring is both pickled and fried with a toothpick already speared into it, making it the perfect snack to grab, dip, and bite in a party setting. They pair well with homemade cilantro ranch dressing, and anything that incorporates ranch into your Super Bowl festivities is well worth your time. Here’s the recipe.