Air fryers: They’re all about chicken wings and fries, right? Or maybe the occasional baked potato or reheated slice of pizza?
Wrong! Don't limit your air fryer to simple cooking and reheating chores. The fryer is an incredibly versatile baking tool, one you can use to make cake, cheesecake, cookies, and pizza, as well as brown nuts (and make toasted sugar).
You can also use your air fryer to make dinner rolls. And you should, because it saves you from heating your large oven and also allows you to bake a hot batch of fresh rolls in record time — under 10 minutes.
Where to start? First, choose the right recipe: Any soft-sided dinner roll recipe, one that calls for a cake pan instead of a baking sheet, should be fine. Since baking in an air fryer really isn’t conducive to baking huge quantities of rolls, choose a smaller recipe: one that calls for two 8"or 9" round pans or a 9" x 13" pan. My favorite easy dinner roll recipe, Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns, is a good choice size-wise.
Still, though it's possible to bake dinner rolls in your air fryer — why would you want to?
Cut your baking time in half
We all love saving both time and electricity, right? I’ve found that my Gourmia air fryer reliably bakes rolls to a beautiful golden brown in well under 10 minutes. (Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the products that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)
Bake hot rolls on demand
Because the fryer is so fast, you can easily put rolls in to bake just prior to serving your meal. Start asking people to take a seat at the table, push “start” on your fryer, and by the time everyone has been seated and poured themselves a drink you’ll be serving hot rolls.
Save oven space
Certain celebratory occasions (Thanksgiving!) can hog all of your available oven space. If this is the case, turn to your fryer: During the final half hour before mealtime, while your big oven is busy with the stuffing and casseroles, use your fryer to quickly bake multiple pans of risen dinner rolls.
Bake a small batch
If you’re baking rolls for just two to four people, use your air fryer instead of heating up your big oven. A typical dinner roll recipe yielding about 16 medium rolls can easily be cut in half to bake in the air fryer. And if you bake that half recipe in two smaller (6") pans, you can enjoy hot rolls with your meal, and send your guests home with their own bag of fresh slider rolls for tomorrow’s sandwiches!
Ready to give air fryer rolls a try? Keep these tips in mind:
Like any oven, air fryers bake the outer crust of a baked good first, then its center — and this trait is magnified in the fryer by the addition of a convection fan. Thus, smaller dinner rolls will bake more evenly than larger ones, with a better chance that their tops won’t over-brown before their centers are baked through. My preferred size for air fryer rolls is 25g (about 1 ounce) of dough each shaped into 1 1/4" balls, with a baked diameter of about 2".
While an 8" or 9" pan may fit your air fryer, it may not be the best choice. Air fryers bake quickly and, as noted above, from the outside in. Thus, any rolls in the center of an 8" or 9" pan will bake noticeably more slowly than those around the outside edge.
Remedy this by using a smaller-diameter pan, e.g., a 6" round: With less distance for the heat to travel, it’s more likely your rolls will be evenly baked. A 6" round pan will produce four standard-size (3") rolls or eight smaller (2") rolls.
If you opt for a 6" pan, you’ll need to bake rolls in batches. Our Japanese Milk Bread Rolls recipe is perfect for two 6" pans of rolls. Do you only have one 6" pan in your cupboard? It’s easy to supplement your supply with 6" round foil pans.
Since the rolls bake so quickly you won’t really need to worry about one pan of rolls over-rising while the other is baking; still, it wouldn’t hurt to stash the second (or any subsequent) batches in a cool spot until it’s their turn for the fryer.
Even baking smaller rolls, you’ll almost certainly need to slow down how quickly they brown by covering them partway through the bake; you’ll want to start checking your rolls’ color after about 5 minutes. To cover, I opt for an aluminum heat tamer /burner plate. It sits nicely atop a 6" pan and doesn’t flap and fly around in the air fryer’s breezy interior like aluminum foil does.
Because of their short baking time, rolls may go from just right to too dark in a matter of only a minute — so you need to experiment a bit to find exactly the right time and temperature for optimum results. Once you’ve dialed that in, though, you’re good to go forever.
Note, too, that because the heat in an air fryer comes from the top, rolls simply won’t be in the fryer long enough for their bottoms to brown. Serve them hot from the oven and right side up and honestly, everyone will be so happy enjoying warm buttered rolls they’ll never notice those pale undersides!
Feeling a little uncertain about your air fryer skills? Check this out: Everything you ever wanted to know about baking in an air fryer.
Cover photo and food styling (Sourdough Dinner Rolls) by Liz Neily.