Air fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years as a healthy way to cook foods like french fries, chicken wings, and more using little to no oil. For those following a gluten free diet, air fryers can also be a useful appliance to have in your kitchen.
What is an air fryer and how does it work?
An air fryer is a small countertop convection oven that uses hot air to cook foods. It works by circulating extremely hot air around the food at high speed, creating a crispy outer layer via the Maillard reaction. This reaction browns foods and seals in moisture. The rapid air circulation allows heat to quickly reach all surfaces of the food.
Air fryers cook foods by employing convection, the transfer of heat through the circulation of fluids (in this case air). A heating element and fan are used to blow the air around and past food placed in the air fryer’s basket. The constantly moving hot air drives moisture off the outer surface of the food, resulting in a crispy, crunchy exterior similar to deep frying with oil.
Benefits of using an air fryer for gluten free cooking
There are several advantages that make an air fryer a useful appliance for someone following a gluten free diet:
- No oil needed – Food is cooked by exposure to rapidly circulating hot air rather than being submerged in oil. This eliminates the cross-contamination risks that can come with oil.
- Eliminates stovetop cleanup – With an air fryer, there are no pots, pans or oil to clean up after cooking. The food cooks in the self-contained basket.
- Versatility – An air fryer allows you to make crispy “fried” versions of foods like french fries, chicken fingers, fish sticks, and more.
- Healthier than deep frying – Using just a small amount of oil, if any, results in a healthier, lower-fat version of traditionally fried foods.
- Gluten-free cooking space – Dedicate your air fryer solely to gluten-free cooking to avoid cross-contamination.
- Speed and convenience – Air fryers cook food rapidly by blasting it with circulated hot air.
- Makes leftovers crispy – You can use an air fryer to reheat leftovers and make them crispy on the outside.
Tips for using an air fryer for gluten free cooking
Here are some tips to follow when using an air fryer for gluten free cooking:
- Check that your air fryer is marketed as gluten free or does not have any gluten-containing coatings.
- Thoroughly clean the air fryer basket and any accessories to prevent cross-contamination.
- Use cooking spray or oil to grease the air fryer basket before cooking instead of coating foods directly in wheat-based flour.
- Try gluten free bread crumbs, cornmeal or rice flour for breading foods. You can also use egg wash.
- When cooking breaded foods, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the basket to prevent any breading that falls off from sticking.
- Avoid air fryer recipes that call for coating foods in wheat-based flour, bread crumbs or batter.
- Use ingredients labeled gluten free and be aware of cross-contamination from ingredients like seasonings.
- Don’t let non-gluten free foods come in contact with the air fryer basket.
- Consider getting a dedicated air fryer just for gluten free use if you cook gluten-containing foods for others.
Gluten free flours for air frying
You can use a variety of gluten free flours for breading and air frying gluten free foods:
|Gluten free flour
|Light in texture, neutral flavor. Great substitute for wheat flour.
|Pure starch powder that creates a crispy coating.
|Adds sweet, grainy corn flavor. May need xanthan gum.
|Pure resistant starch that absorbs less oil than corn or rice starch.
|From cassava roots. Light texture good for breading.
|Nutty, earthy flavor good for savory breadings.
|High fiber and absorbs liquid. Best mixed with other flours.
|Nutty flavor good for breading chicken or fish.
Experiment with mixing different gluten free flours to get the right texture and flavor for air frying. Adding xanthan or guar gum can help mimic the binding properties of gluten.
Best foods to make in an air fryer
Here are some of the top gluten free foods that turn out great when cooked in an air fryer:
- French fries – Simply slice potatoes, coat in oil and desired seasonings and air fry until crispy.
- Chicken fingers/cutlets – Bread chicken pieces in gluten free flour blend and air fry until cooked through.
- Chicken wings – Crisp up breaded or naked wings in the air fryer.
- Fish sticks – Find gluten free fish sticks or make your own breaded fish sticks.
- Shrimp – Butterfly shrimp and air fry with a light coating until cooked.
- Veggie burgers – Get crispy edges on gluten free veggie patties.
- Egg rolls – Air fry egg rolls using rice paper wrappers.
- Pizza – Make personal sized pizzas on gluten free crusts.
- Meatballs – Crisp up the outside of gluten free meatballs.
- Potato chips – Slice potatoes thin, toss in oil and air fry.
The options are virtually endless for gluten free foods you can make in the air fryer. The circulating hot air cooks foods quickly while making the outsides crispy.
Air fryer recipe ideas
Here are some recipe ideas for delicious gluten free meals you can make in your air fryer:
Lemon Pepper Fish Fry
- 1 lb firm white fish such as cod, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- 2 tbsp gluten free lemon pepper seasoning
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Pat fish strips dry with a paper towel. Place potato starch in a shallow dish. Dredge fish strips in potato starch to coat.
- Place coated fish strips in air fryer basket in a single layer, not touching. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over the top.
- Air fry at 400F for 4-6 minutes until fish is cooked through and coating is crispy. Serve with lemon wedges.
Southwest Chicken Fingers
- 1 lb chicken tenderloins
- 1/2 cup corn flour
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Cut chicken tenderloins in half lengthwise. In a shallow dish, mix together corn flour, tapioca starch, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt.
- Coat chicken pieces in flour mixture, pressing to adhere. Shake off any excess.
- Place chicken in air fryer basket in a single layer. Air fry at 390F for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
Veggie Egg Rolls
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1/2 cup shredded carrot
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 6 rice paper wrappers
- In a skillet over medium heat, saute cabbage, carrot, green onion and garlic in sesame oil 2-3 minutes.
- Dip rice paper wrappers briefly in warm water to soften. Place 2 tbsp veggie mixture in center of wrapper. Fold sides over filling and roll up.
- Place egg rolls seam side down in air fryer basket. Air fry at 380F for 5-7 minutes until crispy.
There are infinite possibilities for easy gluten free meals you can make in the air fryer. Let your creativity run wild!
Common questions about air fryers and gluten free cooking
Can you put raw chicken in an air fryer?
Yes, you can cook raw chicken in an air fryer. The circulating hot air will heat the chicken safely to the required internal temperature of 165F to kill any harmful bacteria. Air fry chicken pieces like breasts, thighs or wings from raw using cooking times in recipes based on the thickness of the chicken.
Is air fried food healthy?
Air frying is healthier than deep frying since little to no oil is used. However, air fried foods should still be eaten in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, since they are still fairly high in fat and calories. But you can feel better about enjoying air fried treats rather than their deep fried counterparts.
What oil should I use to air fry?
You only need to use a very small amount of oil for air frying, about 1-2 tsp of a high heat oil such as avocado, peanut or grapeseed oil. Spray the air fryer basket with oil before cooking or lightly brush oil onto foods. Oil helps promote browning and prevent sticking.
Can you put foil in an air fryer?
It’s best not to cover the entire air fryer basket in foil or restrict airflow, as this prevents the hot air from circulating properly. But you can loosely tent foods with foil to prevent over-browning. You can also place foil under foods to catch any drippings.
How do you clean an air fryer after cooking something messy?
It’s best to fully disassemble all the parts of your air fryer and wash them by hand after cooking something messy that may leave residue. Use hot soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or brush. Avoid abrasive cleaners that can ruin the coating. Some air fryer baskets are dishwasher safe as well.
Pros and cons of air frying for gluten free cooking
- Allows you to make gluten free versions of traditionally fried foods
- Circulation of hot air cooks food evenly and crisps exterior
- Rapid cooking and ease of use
- Oil-free cooking avoids cross-contamination
- Compact size saves space
- Dishwasher safe parts make cleanup easy
- Small capacity limits how much you can cook at once
- Cooking times are sometimes longer than conventional frying
- Can get hot oil splatter on some foods
- Noise of fan blowing air
- Must flip or shake some foods midway for even cooking
Should you get an air fryer for gluten free cooking?
An air fryer can be a smart appliance for those following a gluten free diet who want an easy way to make crispy fried foods safely. The benefits of oil-free cooking, fast cook times and small size make it useful for gluten free cooking. Just be sure to get a model that has surfaces safe for your dietary needs and dedicate it solely to gluten free foods.
While not entirely essential, an air fryer can expand your gluten free culinary horizons. If you love fried foods and want to enjoy gluten free versions of fries, wings, egg rolls and more, then an air fryer is likely worth the investment for your kitchen.