The Ultimate Air-Fryer Guide to Vegan Cooking [and why we're certifiably obsessed]
It’s a term that you may not be familiar with, but you will be by the end of this article: BAF. BAF stands for ‘Before Air Fryer’, as in: your life, understanding, and ideas around what cooking food was comprised of, before this tool came into your life.
Before you roll your eyes, and utter statements under your breath like “here we go again, another one”, let me offer a disclaimer: before I got an air fryer, I legitimately thought that every human who had one was either prone to over-exaggeration, or getting an underground endorsement deal every time they said “air fryer” on social media. Then, I received one as a birthday gift from a very
generous and dear friend, and promptly understood within a few minutes of my first cooking session, what the excitement was all about.
The hype, my friends, is real.
If you are a doubter [as I was], this is a statement that I can back up with facts, logic, and personal experience. Two years into air fryer life, these are the reasons why it has become [and remains] one of my favourite kitchen tools:
They’re a time saving tool. Due to my schedule and commitments, I’m not a person who often has time to dive into two-hour, twenty-seven ingredient recipes. I can throw an entire meal into the air fryer, set it, and multi-task while everything cooks.
They conserve energy. Air fryers, as compared to the majority of conventional ovens and stoves, use less power overall to operate. If you’re not always cooking items with marinade or oil, the air fryer also doesn’t require to be washed after every use, thus water preservation is being factored into the mix as well.
They’re a dream for prep, and protein prep in general. Air fryers give you the ability to prep a larger volume of food at once, and use minimal pieces of equipment while doing so. Alongside that, they’re a dream for prepping vegan protein sources like tofu, tempeh, or your favourite plant-based meat alternative. For folks who are prioritizing protein in their diets, an air fryer lets you prep a large volume at one time, setting you up with several protein options which can easily be added to dishes and recipes during the week.
…..but what do I make in an air fryer? [The answer: everything.
As is the case with any device or tool we’re using in the kitchen, there will be several different approaches and strategies to use, based on what ingredients you have on hand, and what you’re
cooking. These tips are the tried-and-true methods that I’ve utilized in my air fryer life, thus far.
Vegetables: [Note: Air fryers give you the ability to control two main inputs: cooking time, and temperature. The majority of the time, I cook almost everything between 350 and 375 degrees, with varying cook times based on the ingredients and basket size. A lot of this will come down to personal preference. Best practice usually indicates that at roughly halfway through your projected cooking time, you remove the basket, give everything a gentle shake, and then return it to the air
fryer for the second half of cooking time.]
When it comes to starchier vegetables [sweet potatoes, yams, baby potatoes], I prefer thin slices to to the larger ones, or halves/cubes if I am working with something like nugget potatoes.
When it comes to cruciferous vegetables [Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli], I will halve the sprouts and break down the others into small to medium-sized florets. Remember: you want
all of the pieces to be relatively the same size, so you don’t end up with a bunch of pieces that are super toasted, while the others still require prep time [this means unnecessary additional time to
separate stuff out!] I don’t usually season my vegetables before they go into the air fryer,
or use oil [since I find they get good and crispy without it!] That said, you can add some olive oil for extra crisp, which is especially delicious when it comes to crunchier vegetables like Brussels
You can use frozen veggies in your air fryer, as well! These have more moisture in them, so they’ll require a shorter prep time.
Plant proteins: As mentioned in the intro, this is where it gets really fun. This is where your air fryer is poised to potentially change your relationship with tofu, forever. [Bold statement? Yes. True
statement? Yes.] Choose from this list, and know by no means is it exhaustive:
Extra firm [or firm] tofu: since your air fryer is cooking at a higher temperature in a smaller area, you don’t need to completely press all the moisture out of your firm/extra firm tofu. Sometimes, I’ll press mine right before cooking, and it’s more than enough moisture. Go with small to mid-size cubes, to ensure even heat distribution.
Medium firm tofu: truthfully, I feel bad for medium and soft tofu. Most of the time they get a bad rap because they’re simply prepared incorrectly. That stops here. This recipe uses nothing
but medium firm tofu, and lands you with a basket full of crispy, satisfying, multi-texture tofu puffs. [There is a reason why the video has over 11,000 views.]
Tempeh: tempeh, a fermented soybean product, is another plant protein powerhouse. Similar to tofu, it’s versatile, and a plain version can be flavoured with almost anything. Since tempeh inherently has less moisture than something like tofu, your cook times will be shorter. Stick with medium- sized pieces to avoid super crunchy slices [unless you’re into that]. After your first half of cooking and your “shake” moment, double-check texture by way of a taste test.It’s plausible that the second half of your cook time can be reduced.
Plant-based meats: this is where it really gets fun. If you don’t necessarily want to turn on the oven to make one batch of chik’n strips, your air fryer will step in to do the job. Be it items from the fridge or the freezer, you can make almost all of them in your air fryer, in record time, and achieve the perfect texture.
[Some] of my favourites:
Mindful Füd: this local, woman-owned-and-led business makes Chik’n cutlets, and the real star of the show: Popcorn Chik’n! Fun fact: their products were formulated with air fryers in mind, and it
shows when you experience both the flavours and textures.
Big Mountain Foods: [also local and women-owned], Big Mountain makes an array of tofu items and meat alternatives. My favourite for the air fryer are the Breakfast Bites: a savoury combo of sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and more.
Gardein: they’re one of the classics for meat alternatives, and they’re one of the classics for a reason. Try their burgers, their strips, or any of these products to find some of the most realistic meat alternatives out there [if that is what you’re seeking].
[some other rockstar favourites come from Tofurkey, Very Good Butchers, Plantbase Food and Kula.]
Get thee to your air fryer, and remember: you heard it here first!
Get not one--but two--vegan fitness and nutrition coaches!
Only a few spots available! If you're ready to level-up your fitness and vegan nutrition, our award-winning coaching programs are for you.
Coach K and Coach Zoe will build a customized workout routine around your busy life so you don’t have to reorganize your entire schedule.
We’ll create a nutrition action plan that lets you eat your favourite foods, while supporting both your fitness and your physique goals. Most importantly, we'll provide an in-depth support and coaching system to keep you accountable and moving toward your goals.