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Is an air fryer really worth the hype? (Plus easy vegan oil-free air fryer recipes you need!)

Written by Ali Donahue
Is an air fryer really worth the hype? (Plus easy vegan oil-free air fryer recipes you need!)

Quick Take

Air fryers are trending, especially in the plant-based community. But is this countertop appliance worth the hype? We cover the basics, discuss if it's actually healthier than frying your food, weight the pros and cons, and offer up our favorite vegan oil-free air fryer recipes.

Before we begin: our #1 favorite meal to air fry...MamaSezz Mama's Burger!

Since all MamaSezz meals are already cooked, you just need to heat them up and the air fryer is a quick and easy way to do just that. To heat up MamaSezz Mama's Burger in the air fryer just put your vegan burger patty in the air fryer basket and set it to 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes. Serve with your favorite whole grain bun and a generous dollop of MamaSezz Mama's Mac Sauce. A healthy plant-based lunch, just like that. 

Get your MamaSezz Mama's Burger here

On this page

What is an air fryer and how does it work?

Do you need oil to use an air fryer?

What plant-based foods can I cook in an air fryer?

5 easy vegan oil-free air fryer recipes

So is an air fryer worth the hype?

How to pick the best air fryer for you

a href="#Takeaways-here">Key takeaways

What is an air fryer and how does it work?

air fryer

Air fryers are all the rage right now, but what exactly is an air fryer and what do you do with it? An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that uses circulating hot air to cook your food, similar to a convection oven. You place your food in what looks like a fryer basket and the rapid circulation of the hot air cooks your food evenly and makes it nice and crispy, like fried food. 

So why don't you just use an oven? It's more compact size means your food cooks faster and makes for evenly cooked, crispier veggies. Another bonus is that your air fryer preheats way faster than an oven, too! 

One of the reasons the air fryer is so popular is that it's thought to make fried foods healthier since you don't need to use as much oil.

We'll do you one further and say you don't actually need to use any oil at all with your air fryer vegan recipes, so you can use an air fryer and still stick with your WFPB lifestyle.

Do you need oil to use an air fryer?

No! You do not need oil to use an air fryer.

(Louder for the people in the back!)

To use your air fryer without oil, simply season your food, put it in the air fryer basket, and set the desired temperature and time. Pretty easy, right?

While most air fryers will beep so you can shake the basket halfway through, when you're air frying without oil you may want to shake the basket a few extra times to prevent sticking.

Another oil-free air frying hack? Line the basket with parchment paper to prevent your vegan air fryer recipes from sticking (and for easy cleanup!).

What plant-based foods can I cook in an air fryer?

1. Typical fried foods

It's called an air fryer after all. Anything you might normally fry will turn out great in the air fryer. Some of our favorite plant-based foods for vegetarian air fryer recipes include:

2. Roasted vegetables 

Any vegetable you would normally want to roast is also a candidate for the air fryer. Some of our favorite plant-based foods to roast in the air fryer:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Chickpeas 
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale chips

3. Baked goods

Yep, you can even bake in your air fryer! While the basket size does limit how much you can bake, you can insert smaller pans or line the basket with parchment paper to bake vegan air fryer recipes like:

  • Bread
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Baked potatoes 
  • Vegan muffins
  • Vegan brownies
  • Vegan cookies (keep scrolling for an air fryer vegan cookie recipe!)

Note: if you're using a vegan baked goods recipe that you would normally bake in the oven, you'll want to use the same temperature but shorten the bake time significantly. Cookies, for example, may take 11-12 minutes in a traditional oven but would only need to be placed in the air fryer for 5.

3. Frozen foods

No microwave, no problem. Air fryers are also great for heating up plant-based frozen foods, like:

  • Frozen veggie burgers
  • Frozen slices of bread (in lieu of using a toaster)
  • Frozen vegan pizza (we love to make and freeze this gluten-free pizza crust)

4. MamaSezz plant-based meals

Don't want to go through all the work of following complex vegan air fryer recipes you find online? Make things easy on yourself! You can use your air fryer to heat up many of the (ready-made!) plant-based meals from MamaSezz. Some of our favorite MamaSezz dishes to heat up in the air fryer, include:

Since all MamaSezz meals are already cooked, you just need to heat them up! To heat up MamaSezz plant-based meals in the air fryer just set the air fryer to 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes and take your MamaSezz out of its packaging and directly into the air fryer basket then check on it about halfway. (Seriously, MamaSezz Mama's Burgers are SO good in the air fryer - nice and crisp on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside. Try it!)

5 easy vegan oil-free air fryer recipes

1. Air fryer sweet potato wedges


One of our favorite air fryer vegetarian recipes, that's sure to please omnivores, too!


2 medium sized sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into wedges

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp paprika 

1/4 tsp chili powder


1.Set air fryer to 375 for 15 minutes

2. Toss the sweet potato wedges in a bowl with seasonings until covered while air fryer pre-heats.

2. Add wedges to basket once it reaches 375.

4. Shake every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking

5. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce (we love sweet potato wedges with MamaSezz Ranch Dressing)

2. Air fryer baked potato

air fryer baked potato

Baked potatoes are deliciously crispy when cooked up in the air fryer! And yes, they'll be just as crispy when placed in the air fryer without oil :)


1 russet potato, scrubbed

A pinch of salt and pepper 


1. Set air fryer to 400 for 40-50 minutes.

2. Use your fork to poke a few holes in the potato.

3. Once air fryer reaches temperature, put the potato in the air fryer basket.

4. Turn potato every 15-20 minutes to prevent sticking. It is done when inside it tender and skin is slightly crispy.

5. Add your favorite plant based baked potato toppings

3. Air fryer crispy Brussels sprouts


We can't have a list of vegan air fryer recipes and not include Brussels! Bring the restaurant experience to the comfort of home with this easy oil-free rendition.


2 cup of Brussels sprouts, chopped and cleaned

1 Tablespoon of maple syrup

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

(Optional) sprinkle of sea salt


1Set the air fryer to 400 degrees for 8 minutes.

2. While it's preheating, toss the Brussels sprouts with liquids and salt (if using) in a bowl until covered.

3. Once air fryer is ready, put the Brussels sprouts in the basket and check about half way, then continue cooking until crispy and browned (about 8 minutes total, sometimes 10)

4. Air fryer whole food plant based oatmeal raisin cookies 

oatmeal raisin cookies

Cookies in the air fryer? You betcha!


Follow this recipe for whole food plant-based oatmeal raisin cookies with the following modifications...


1. Use an air fryer instead of your oven and set to 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

2. Line underneath the air fryer basket with foil to make cleanup easier.

4. Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

4. Once air fryer is preheated, scoop about 2 Tablespoons of dough onto the parchment paper lined basket rack and smoosh down with your finger. Bake until golden brown on the top, about 5 minutes. 

5. Air fryer vegan french toast sticks

french toast sticks

One of the most kid-friendly vegetarian air fryer recipes out there!


Follow this recipe for vegan blueberry lemon french toast with these following modifications...


  • Use an air fryer instead of a stovetop and set it to 350 for 8 minutes.
  • Slice your bread into sticks before dipping in the french toast batter.
  • Place your sliced and dipped bread into the air fryer basket and cook for about 8 minutes, or until crispy.

So is an air fryer worth the hype?

Pros of an air fryer

  • It's fast! The cooking time is faster and it preheats within a minute or two.

  • It's easy and user-friendly.

  • It's energy efficient, thank to its small size, and is ideal when cooking in the summer as it won't make your kitchen unbearably hot.

  • It's healthier than frying your food and is a great tool for anyone trying to wean off cooking oils.

  • It's small and portable so it'd be a great kitchen appliance for anyone with an RV or a camp site with electricity.

  • It's versatile! You can "fry," roast, bake, even toast items.

Cons of an air fryer

  • They can be pricey! Air fryers cost usually anywhere from $75 to $400. 
  • It is small (yes, we also listed that as a pro!) - but its modest size means you can't air fry a lot of food at once so it's not the best choice for bigger families as you'd need to cook in batches.
  • Food can burn fast, especially without oil, if you don't pay attention.  

Conclusion: yes, an air fryer is wroth the hype if you If you roast lots of veggies for your plant-based meals and you're cooking for 1-2 or a small family.

Is it necessary? No! A regular oven and a sheet pan will do just fine, but an air fryer is a simple, energy efficient, and quick way to get evenly cooked and crispy oil-free vegetables, baked goods, and more.

How to pick the right air fryer for you

There are so many options on the market, but ConsumerReports lists the top 7 rated air fryers of 2021 so you don't have to figure it all out on your own!

 Key takeaways

  • An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that uses circulating hot air to cook your food, similar to a convection oven.
  • You don't need to use oil to air "fry" your food. Simply season!
  • Air frying leads to quicker cooking than an oven and very fast preheating.
  • Air fryer baskets are on the smaller side so air frying is ideal for smaller households as it can't hold a ton of volume.
  • You can toss so many things in your air fryer, from vegetables to frozen pizza to MamaSezz Mama's Burger to cookies!

 Updated 6/18/21


By Ali Brown

Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

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