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Air-Fryer Broccoli Recipe

Why It Works

  • Starting the broccoli in the air fryer at 400ºF (205ºC) and then reducing the temperature to 340ºF (170ºC) results in vegetables that are both tender inside with wonderfully crispy florets. 
  • Shaking the basket to toss the broccoli florets helps them cook more evenly and prevents scorching.

I am a creature of habit: When I find something I love, I stick with it and I put it on repeat. That means rewatching Gilmore Girls, reading the same Joshua Rothman New Yorker essay every time I have an existential crisis, and making air-fryer broccoli three (okay, maybe five) times a week. What can I say? Air-fryer broccoli ticks all the boxes: It’s easy, delicious, nutritious, and quick, taking just three minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. Gone are the days when I had to wait for my oven to preheat for at least 20 minutes before roasting broccoli for another 20 minutes, for an interminable total of 40 minutes before I could get it on the table. 

Now, I just press a few buttons, wait a minute or two, and my air fryer is ready to go. There’s a reason why the appliance is such a powerhouse: It’s basically a tiny convection oven that circulates air extremely efficiently, which is why it’s so great at quickly and perfectly roasting broccoli. Though preparing the vegetable in your air fryer isn’t complicated, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you make flavorful broccoli that’s both crisp and tender. Here’s what you need to know.

Tips for Making Excellent Air-Fryer Broccoli

Cut the broccoli into evenly sized florets. Keeping all the florets 1 1/2 to 2 inches in size creates more surface area for crisping, while also allowing for more uniform cooking.

Keep moisture to a minimum. Excess water leftover from washing your broccoli can cause it to steam instead of roast, resulting in soggy vegetables, so be sure to dry your broccoli well before putting it in the air fryer. (I rinse my broccoli florets under cold running water, then dry them on a baking sheet lined with a clean dish towel or paper towels.) Similarly, overcrowding the florets can trap moisture and make it difficult for air to circulate, preventing the broccoli from crisping up, so cook the broccoli in small batches to let the air flow freely.

Start at a high temperature. As Kenji wrote in his easy roasted broccoli recipe, cooking the vegetable at a high temperature triggers the Maillard reaction—a series of chemical reactions that takes place when heat transforms proteins and sugars into complex (and delicious) flavors, aromas, and colors. A high temperature also helps the vegetable caramelize, which produces sweet, nutty flavors as well as a crispness on the outside that contrasts beautifully with the tender interiors of the florets. Starting the broccoli at 400ºF (205ºC) and then reducing the temperature to 340ºF (170ºC) after it’s had a chance to crisp produces florets with just the right amount of char, while ensuring the insides are just soft enough.

Serve the broccoli simply or dress it up. While crispy air-fryer broccoli is fantastic with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and the olive oil it’s cooked in, there are many great ways to gussy it up, such as tossing the raw florets in a fragrant mixture of soy sauce and ginger before cooking or spooning chili crisp over the cooked broccoli. See the Variations section below the recipe for more ideas on dressing up your air-fryer broccoli. You can also incorporate the cooked broccoli into a quiche or omelet or top your pizza with it.

Personally? I like to pour it all into the bowl and shower it with a generous handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh lemon zest, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. But I love air fryer broccoli so much that I’d eat it every day—even on its own.

Serious Eats / Morgan Hunt Glaze

Editor’s Note

This recipe was developed by Marianne Williams; the headnote was written by Genevieve Yam.

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