Desserts surrounding an air fryer

Dessert Recipes Perfect for Your Air Fryer

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No kitchen appliance has gotten quite the same buzz as the air fryer in recent years. The countertop gadget is a staple in many modern kitchens thanks to its ability to effectively cook a variety of fried foods in much less time (and much less oil). Now, you may not realize your air fryer can be used to make numerous desserts, as well. But once you’ve tasted a sweet treat created in your favorite appliance? You’ll rethink how you can use your air fryer forever.

While air fryer dessert options range from cakes to cookies, there are some important precautions you’ll need to take. Sweet recipes typically imply sugar, which can easily burn and stick to the inside of an air fryer. Consequently, you should always use parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

To help you discover new ways to optimize your air fryer and make some pretty delicious desserts, we’ve gathered a list of sweets that can be made in the appliance. If you follow these recipes to a T, you’ll be rewarded with a sugary triumph. Here are 17 desserts you didn’t know you could make in your air fryer.

Cake

Baking cake in air fryer

Making a cake at home takes a lot of effort. Not only do you have to prep your ingredients for the base of the cake, but you also have to whip up a good buttercream frosting (and then decorate it as best you can). For a more hands-off approach to this classic dessert, try baking a cake in the air fryer.

Keep in mind: An air fryer is designed to fry, which could mean disaster for the soft, fragile top of your cake. Therefore, you’ll want to wrap the top of your cake in tin foil during the last half of your baking time to prevent your baked goods from drying out.

Additionally, it’s helpful to remember your air fryer likely has much better circulation than your oven, as well as less space to fill with warm air. As a result, you may need to drop the temperature of your air fryer (and reduce the cooking time) when converting a recipe intended for a conventional oven. 

S’mores

Graham crackers with toppings

Although we love the nostalgic feeling of biting into s’mores — only to have the marshmallow and chocolate squeeze all over our hands and clothes — we’re still not going to build a fire outside in the depths of winter. The good news is you can pop some marshmallows into your air fryer to savor year-round s’mores no matter the temperature outside.

Using your air fryer to make easy s’mores requires graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. Place a graham cracker on the bottom of the air fryer with halved marshmallows on top; we’re not engineers, but we can say that cutting the confection in half makes it a bit more stable while cooking.

Once your marshmallow is cooked to perfection, carefully remove the graham cracker from the basket. Then, place a piece of chocolate on top of the marshmallow before adding the other cracker to create a sweet sandwich. It’s melty, delicious, and relatively easy — all without having to construct a fire. 

Pie

Latticed apple pie in pan

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If you’re anything like us, you’ll never say no to a good slice of pie. But if you’re craving an autumnal apple or springtime blueberry, consider turning to your air fryer instead of a conventional oven. Of course, while it’s possible to bake a pie in the air fryer, you may have to modify the dessert to ensure it cooks without a hitch.

The first (and perhaps most obvious) discrepancy is the size of the pie. Baking a 10-inch pie will be very difficult unless you have a massive air fryer, after all, so mini pie pans — including both ceramic and nonstick — may be ideal for making pies in your air fryer. Now, if you feel like going a bit more unconventional, try making a 20-minute air fryer apple pie made with squares of pre-made pie crust that’s akin to a turnover. All you have to do is carefully tuck your pie filling into the square, seal it, add a little egg wash, and pop it in the air fryer.

Melted chocolate

Melted chocolate as background

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Melted chocolate isn’t necessarily a dessert on its own (though we won’t judge you for grabbing a spoonful occasionally). Still, it’s an important ingredient for items like chocolate-covered strawberries. But rather than worrying about getting the perfect melting temperature on your stovetop, turn to your handy air fryer instead.

For smoothly melted chocolate in the air fryer, start by preheating your appliance (if you have that option available) to a relatively low temperature. Then, grate or chop your chocolate into a heat-proof bowl and nestle it inside the basket. Breaking the bars into smaller pieces dramatically increases the surface area, which helps chocolate melt more easily.

Heat the chocolate for three to five minutes, but be sure to check it regularly after this short interval since it may begin to burn around the edges. For the best result, be sure to dry all of your tools completely; water is the enemy when melting chocolate, after all. You can also use a glass or ceramic bowl (rather than a metal one) to mediate the risk of burning.

Brownies

Stack of brownies on plate

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There’s nothing better than a stack of fudgy brownies for dessert (or a midnight snack). Thankfully, you can make brownies in an air fryer and save yourself space — though you’ll need to express some caution when doing so. Like with cakes, brownies are often baked in a large tray, which may present a problem for the comparatively small air fryer.

Since brownie batter that’s layered too thick in the appliance may come out half-cooked, your air fryer will suffice when you’re craving a single-serve brownie. However, you should stick with your regular oven when baking an entire tray. Additionally, you’ll want to check on brownies throughout the cooking process when using an air fryer. The appliance is more efficient at shuttling heat around, after all, and you’ll risk overcooking your brownies if you leave them in the machine for too long. A toothpick test will determine when it’s time to pull them out.

Cannolis

Cannolis on plate with ricotta

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Cannolis is one dish we can confidently say we’ve never wanted to make at home. But you can make cannolis in your air fryer at home — and it’s easier than you’d think. Considering the kitchen appliance is a master at heating air and getting snack foods perfectly crisp, it’s not entirely surprising that it can do the same to your crispy cannoli shells without the oil. You will need metal cannoli tubes for this hack, though, so be prepared before starting a batch.

After you’ve rolled the dough flat, cut it into circles and carefully wrap it around the tube to make the cannoli shape. A brush of egg whites and turbinado sugar will ensure that the pieces crisp up and give you the familiar crunch you know and love. After the cannoli tubes have cooked and cooled, fill them with your sweetened ricotta filling and enjoy. You can also make your life much easier by swapping out homemade cannoli dough with a store-bought pie crust (sorry, Nonna!).

Cupcakes

Making cupcakes in air fryer

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Given the size difference, cupcakes tend to fare much better in the air fryer than a whole cake. In that sense, you may prefer making air fryer cupcakes instead of using a conventional recipe. Even though air fryer cupcakes can be a success or a mess, there’s no denying the appliance’s fast-circulating air can dramatically reduce the time needed to bake cupcakes — meaning you’ll have your dessert on the table faster than a standard oven-baked batch.

It’s probably not surprising to learn you won’t be able to wedge your metal cupcake tin into your air fryer. Still, you can use silicone molds (ones small enough to fit) to make a micro-batch of your favorite cupcakes. It’s particularly useful if you’re experimenting with a new cupcake recipe or craving a quick dessert that you can eat in just a few bites. To expedite your timeline even more, use a boxed cake mix and canned frosting.

Banana bread

Banana bread on parchment

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Banana bread is one of our favorite homey desserts to make. And although we typically classify it as a dessert, there’s no reason it can’t be eaten for breakfast or as a snack, too.

Making banana bread in your air fryer is simple — in part because loaf pans are more likely to fit in the basket than a cake or cupcake pan. Of course, you’ll want to read your air fryer’s manual to determine what kind of pan is best for baking a loaf of bread; depending on the manufacturer, ceramic, silicon, glass, and metal might all be options.

Keep a keen eye on how fast your banana bread cooks and potentially add a layer of aluminum foil on top if you notice it’s baking too quickly. You’ll also want to use a toothpick to ensure your entire loaf is cooked (not just the top). If you notice the bottom of the toothpick comes out raw, try flipping your loaf out of the tin and baking it bottom-up for a few extra minutes to finish it to perfection.

Rice Krispies treats

Rice Krispies treats with chocolate

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Snack, crackle, and pop your way to a delicious plate of Rice Krispies treats with your air fryer. Some may find the notion of using an air fryer to make Rice Krispies treats eyebrow-raising — and, to be sure, there are some caveats you need to consider when utilizing this air fryer hack at home.

Since Rice Krispies cereal (or whatever fruity or chocolatey substitute you choose to use) is generally lightweight, it has the potential to fly around inside the appliance while your treats cook. This might seem like a minute risk, but the pieces can become lodged in the heating element and cause a fire hazard. You’ll also have to worry about cleaning the basket, which is tough to do with sticky marshmallows everywhere.

For the simplest cooking process, start by adding cereal to the bottom of the basket. Cover the cereal with marshmallows and a few pats of butter before heating. You’ll need to stir the mixture once the marshmallows have melted, then transfer it to a bowl or sheet to cool and harden.

Cheesecake

Strawberry cheesecake slice on plate

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If you’re a bain marie novice, air fryer cheesecake is a stress-free solution that will save you time and effort in the long run. To make this classic dessert in the modern appliance, you’ll want to first ensure your springform pan fits in the basket. Assuming it does, you simply prepare your cheesecake crust, pour the filling in, and bake the concoction in your air fryer for about 20 minutes. Some models may be less efficient, however, and may take upwards of 30 minutes to finish cooking.

The easiest way to know when to pull your cake from the appliance is to do a wobble test: The middle should shake like Jell-O, while the edges should be set. Once your cheesecake comes out of the air fryer, there are numerous ways to make it your own. Try topping it with a sweet serving of macerated strawberries or adding a dollop of whipped cream (among many other options).

Cookies

Cookies in air fryer

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There’s nothing quite like trying to carefully pry fresh-baked cookies off a baking sheet. Yet there’s an easier way to produce a batch of plush cookies — the type that’s perfect for dipping into a cold glass of milk — without having to turn on your oven. To expedite the process of baking cookies when any late-night cravings kick in, you should make cookies in your air fryer. There’s no need to preheat the appliance for what seems like eons — and the machine can have a batch of cookies ready in under ten minutes flat.

You simply need to place balls of cookie dough inside the bottom of the basket — leaving enough space between the cookies to account for spread — before sliding it into your air fryer. Of course, you can also use your air fryer to make cookies that don’t come in balls. Bake shortbread sticks in the air fryer until set, or place your cookie-cutter sugar cookies in the basket and bake until just golden brown.

Fried Oreos

Fried Oreos on plate

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Fried foods have a strong association with the air fryer; after all, the appliance was designed to make fried favorites fast (minus the subsequently greasy eating experience). Unsurprisingly, then, you can harness the power of your air fryer to whip up a batch of deep-fried Oreo cookies.

The key to making this recipe in your air fryer is to adequately line the basket with parchment before cooking. This will ensure your batter doesn’t drip into the bottom of the appliance and keep it contained around the cookies. You can make your own batter with flour, milk, sugar, and leavening agents; or you can take the easy way out with a box of just-add-water pancake mix.

Once your cookies are coated in batter, pop them in the tray and cook them until they’re golden brown and slightly puffy. The best thing about using your air fryer to whip up a small batch of this dessert when a craving hits is the simplicity — especially since deep-fried Oreos don’t keep well.

Fried apple slices

Baked apples cast iron pan

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If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, you’ve never experienced a warm bowl of the chain’s wonderful fried apples. The fruit isn’t actually fried, though. Rather, the apples are simmered in a vat of juices, sugar, and cinnamon until they take on the texture and flavor of apple pie filling. Of course, your air fryer is a great tool for developing the perfect texture of faux-fried apples at home — and you won’t get the same slimy mess you get when cooking the fruit on the stovetop.

Instead, you’ll get a more solid fruit that’s perfect for dipping into ice cream. Add peeled apple slices into your air fryer basket, then cover the pieces with a layer of sugar and cinnamon before placing the lined basket into the appliance. After just a few minutes on each side, your apples will soften and soak in the delicious flavors of your sweet marinade. It’s a simple, flavorful dessert that is made easier with your air fryer. 

Churros

Fried piped churros as background

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A simple churros recipe generally requires a pan full of hot oil, a ton of patience to rotate the twists, and the sense to take them out of the oil at just the right time. But with an air fryer, you can create a less greasy alternative to this fried favorite without having to play babysitter while cooking.

You’ll want to start by making your own churros dough and piping it onto parchment paper. Be sure that you can tuck the parchment right into your air fryer basket since this will save you the time and agony of transferring it over with a spatula. The little dough pieces will increase in size slightly as they cook, too, so avoid overcrowding them in your basket. Once you’ve adequately cooked your dessert, immediately transfer the hot pieces to your cinnamon sugar mixture, as the warmth is critical to helping the coating stick. Furthermore, churros are best served warm with a side of caramel or chocolate sauce. 

Bread pudding

Bread pudding with sauce

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Bread pudding is a tasty and versatile dessert that lets you make the most of your stale bread. Depending on the recipe you use, you can have a bread pudding ready to eat in as little as 15 minutes when using the air fryer — and spend most of your time and energy crafting the perfect whiskey caramel sauce to serve with the dessert.

Perhaps the best thing about making bread pudding in the air fryer is the fact that you don’t have to make an entire tray of it. Instead, you can just use a couple of slices of leftover bread and make a quick custard with sugar, milk, and eggs. Then, you simply pop the mixture into an air-fryer-safe container and cook until the custard has set. If you like the crunchy top on bread pudding, you can also add a sprinkle of granulated sugar over it before baking. Feel free to customize your recipe with nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips, as well.

Apple fritters

Apple fritters on wooden plate

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When people think of food items to make with leftover apples, pies typically come to mind first. But the next time you have a surplus of apples from your orchard, consider making air fryer buttermilk apple fritters instead. It’s as simple as mixing a fritter base with small cubes of peeled and sliced apples, then cooking it in your air fryer.

Since the batter will spread as it cooks, you should only use ¼ cup of batter for each fritter. Additionally, don’t forget to leave a little space (less than an inch) between each fritter to accommodate the expansion.

Your fritters will be hot and ready to coat with a quick glaze after less than ten minutes of cooking. Our recipe uses buttermilk and powdered sugar, which gives the glaze an unexpected tartness and helps balance out the sweet notes of the apples and batter. The fritters make an excellent treat for a cool fall evening, especially when served with warm mulled cider.

Fruit crisp

Apple crisp on plate

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If you have some apples or a handful of frozen blueberries left, you can whip up a delicious homemade fruit crisp in your air fryer in no time. The appliance expedites the process and allows you to make single-serve containers of this fruity treat. First, add your sugar-coated fruit to the bottom of a greased, air-fryer-safe dish, then heat the fruit mixture by itself for up to 20 minutes. Next, sprinkle a sweet mixture of brown sugar, butter, flour, and oatmeal over the top to cover the fruit.

It’s important to remember the butter will cook relatively quickly and has the potential to burn, so it’s best to cover the dish with foil to ensure your topping stays nice and cozy until the final portion of the baking process. After cooking for several additional minutes, you can unleash your crisp — and finish it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a quick and easy dessert.

Static Media owns and operates Look, Mashed, and The Daily Meal.

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