Eight Air Fryer Sides to Help Any Meal Shine
Round out your next big meal with America’s hottest kitchen gadget.
Whether you’re cooking for the family or hosting a get-together for friends, throwing some meat on the grill or in the smoker is almost a foregone conclusion. But a complete menu only begins with a tasty cut of beef. An interesting variety of side dishes are critical to helping your guests enjoy themselves to the fullest, whether you’re dining on cookout favorites or comfort classics like pot roast or beef stew.
And when it comes to what we eat alongside hearty meals, everyone likes a golden-fried bite of … well, pretty much anything. But deep frying can be time-consuming, messy and even dangerous with guests around. That’s why we’ve put together a list of quick, easy and delicious air-fried side dishes and appetizers to round out your next big meal. From top to bottom, they’re all easier and healthier than their deep-fried counterparts, but just as tasty!
Sound good? Of course it does. So without further ado, let’s get cookin’, shall we?
1. Fries of all kinds
Whether you’re cooking up BBQ brisket or burgers and dogs, nothing says “classic American meal” like good ol’ meat and potatoes. And there’s no doubt that an air fryer can make the quintessential American side really sing. Whether you’re looking for a traditional french fry, hearty potato wedges or even the popular sweet potato variety, prepping fries for the air fryer is as easy as slicing, tossing in simple seasonings and hitting that preheat button.
Honestly, salt is the only seasoning needed for those wanting a simple, straightforward fry flavor. But many choose to jazz up their recipes with black pepper, garlic salt, paprika or a sprinkle of your favorite BBQ rub. But no matter what you choose, this is one addictive side that always pleases a crowd.
2. Onion Rings
Yes, onion rings are usually more likely to show up at a greasy-spoon diner than a backyard cookout. But the fact is that air-fried rings fit right into a typical cookout menu. Plus, they can be as simple to cook as you please. Any number of store-bought frozen rings reheat to crispy, golden perfection in the air fryer. And if you want to take it up a notch, you can even go for a steakhouse-style blooming onion, complete with dipping sauce!
And just a little tip – if you’re making brisket, try a sandwich with sliced beef, an onion ring, cheese and your favorite BBQ sauce. You will NOT be disappointed.
3. Lots o’ Tots
The third member of the trio of classic American sides that are perfect for air frying. Frozen tater tots crisp up wonderfully when cooked according to package instructions.
Or, if you want a healthier variation on the classic, these homemade Parmesan cauliflower tots are just as good as the potato-based original and come with a spicy Sriracha ketchup for dipping.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Listen – nobody’s pretending that backyard cookouts and weekend get-togethers are supposed to be centered around ultra-healthy foods. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little greenery in your diet at your next gathering. And having healthy options on hand only makes you a better host in the eyes of guests who may have dietary concerns – or are still holding onto the last shred of their New Year’s resolutions.
Luckily, there is a wide variety of Brussels sprouts recipes out there that cater to a range of different tastes. This straightforward version leans on simple seasoning to produce a well-seasoned, if somewhat expected, flavor that can be finished with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of balsamic vinegar. But no matter how you serve them, these crispy sprouts make a great side at any backyard BBQ, and can even step in for traditional boiled cabbage as a complement to Corned Beef Cabbage.
5. Zucchini Chips
Potato chips are a cookout staple to be sure. But the air fryer makes a healthier alternative almost as easy. These crispy, salty zucchini chips require no messy breading and don’t even use too much oil. Just slice, dry, toss in salt and a little olive oil, then lay them out in the air fryer. In just a few minutes, you’ll have crispy, dippable chips that any family member or partygoer would love.
6. Fried Pickles
Not everyone is familiar with this southern-fried favorite. But if you’re from the South, you know that sour dill pickles and salty batter pair perfectly alongside a wide variety of comfort food dishes.
This recipe for panko-breaded air-fried pickles brings all the flavor and crunch of the deep-fried original, without all the calories and fat. And the accompanying spicy buttermilk dip rounds out the flavor profile perfectly. Each tangy, acidic bite is perfect for balancing out rich, smoky BBQ dishes like our classic Salt & Pepper Seasoned Beef Brisket or Texas Recipe BBQ Beef Brisket.
7. Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob is a long-standing member of the backyard cookout canon. And it’s hard to overstate just how easy it can be when prepped in your air fryer. This classic recipe features that buttery flavor you crave and requires only four ingredients that you almost certainly have in your kitchen right now.
And if you’re looking to put a south-of-the-border twist on the dish, this air fryer elotes (aka Mexican street corn) recipe brings fresh lime, cilantro, chili pepper, sour cream and cotija cheese to create a fresh, creamy and salty flavor profile that’s oh-so addicting.
8. Bacon-wrapped Stuffed Jalapeños
Sure, many stuffed jalapeño recipes can be made on the smoker or in the oven. But those spaces have a tendency to fill up quickly when you’re prepping for a big meal, and this air fryer stuffed jalapeño recipe is a total cinch. Plus, the air fryer gets bacon niiiice and crispy, which is a nice balance for the decadent cheese inside.
TIP: If you’re feeding kids, or folks who don’t like spicy foods, just replace the jalapeños with mini sweet peppers. They’re about the same size, but with none of the heat, and you can find them in the produce section of many grocery stores.
And that’s it, folks! Our top eight easy air-fryer dishes to please a crowd at your next meal, cookout or shindig. Save your favorites and enjoy them next time you get the chance! And of course, if you’re looking for main courses to go with these sides, Morton’s of Omaha is always happy to help in that regard, too. Simply pick up your favorites, or head on over to our store finder to see where you can find our products in your area. Happy air frying, everybody!