Air fryers are wonderfully versatile, incredibly efficient, and perhaps best of all, they’re great for baking. For the past year, we’ve written a great deal on how to successfully bake in your air fryer, ranging from cakes to cookies to cheesecake and more. If you've just received an air fryer and just want to know the basics of baking in it, here's a quick-start guide: 

An introductory guide to baking in an air fryer 

For an overview of advice, tips, recipes, and more, start with Justine Lee’s post: Everything you ever wanted to know about baking in an air fryer. While it’s worth reading in its entirety, there are a few key takeaways:  

Understanding how an air fryer works: As Justine covers in her blog, the air fryer is not actually a fryer, but a mini convection oven with a few adjustments. Whereas an oven’s convection fans are in the back, the air fryer’s high-powered fan sits on top and rapidly circulates hot air throughout its compact chamber. This allows the air fryer to cook (and bake!) in a fraction of the time needed to achieve the same outcome in an oven. 

What the air fryer is good at baking:  

  • Anything that should be crisp and crunchy (including granola!)  

  • Baked goods that require a water bath, like cheesecake 

  • Anything in which you want to have a contrast between the baked exterior and a plush, soft interior, such as dinner rolls or cinnamon buns. (Think about how the “frying” feature cooks the outside of something more than the inside.) 

  • Small batch bakes. Want a few cookies, but don’t want to heat up your whole oven? Enter the air fryer. 

Tips for air fryer success:  

  • Start with the recipes that come with your air fryer booklet. Once you see how the manufacturer’s recipes come out, start branching out with similar recipes, pan sizes, and techniques of your own. 

  • Lower the temperature by 25°F and bake for 20 to 25 percent less time than the temperature and time called for in a regular baking recipe.  

  • Preheat the air fryer for any baked goods that rely heavily on a chemical or yeast leavener (baking soda, baking powder, yeast, etc.) so they get an initial burst of heat to help with rising.  

The best recipes to make in an air fryer 

Now that you’ve got a handle on how the air fryer works for baking, get started with some of our go-to air fryer bakes.  

Hands holding chocolate chip cookie cut in half to show interior Meredith Truax
Air fryer cookies are crispy on the outside and deliciously gooey on the inside. 

How to make chocolate chip cookies in an air fryer

Pastry chef Zoe Kanan made a life-changing discovery: Chocolate chip cookies are even better when baked in an air fryer. As she writes: “Air fryer cookies bake into a wonder-to-behold crispy cookie shell that looks deceivingly baked, but once bitten yields a molten, gooey, magic middle. This is achieved because the close proximity of air circulation and intense dryness of an air fryer’s heat cooks and crisps the entire exterior of the cookie. A standard oven can’t achieve this same effect because the chamber is larger and the heating elements farther away, meaning just the cookie’s edges will crisp while the tops and middles stay soft.”

Start with this recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to make Basque cheesecake in an air fryer

Basque cheesecake is so good in an air fryer that blog contributor PJ Hamel declared this one recipe proof of how great air fryer baking can be. In this piece, she explains: “With the air fryer’s use of convection (forced hot air), baked goods tend to brown quickly on the outside and bake much more slowly within — making this the perfect ‘oven’ for this particular cheesecake.” 

Start with this recipe: Basque-Style Cheesecake (Tarta de Queso) 

Sourdough Dinner Rolls Photography and food styling by Liz Neily
The air fryer can make baking rolls more efficient. 

How to make rolls in an air fryer 

An air fryer can bake rolls in under 10 minutes, meaning you can have freshly baked bread in a flash. This method is particularly helpful if you’re preparing rolls for a large dinner and your oven is otherwise occupied.  

Start with this recipe: Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns 

Pizza, sliced Photography by Rick Holbrook, food styling by Kaitlin Wayne
The air fryer’s smaller shape makes it well suited to personal pizzas.  

How to make pizza in an air fryer 

The air fryer yields crispy, cheesy pizza with golden brown, evenly baked crust. Our testing found the air fryer works well for nearly any pizza style, from thin crust to pan pizzas. There are a few tweaks we suggest for success — like topping the pizza halfway through baking — that will help you make the very best air fryer pizza.   

Start with this recipe: Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza 

Wedge of coconut-topped Lazy Daisy Cake on a plate, other cake wedges in the background. PJ Hamel
Adding a topping to air fryer cakes helps prevent them from becoming overly brown while baking. 

How to make cake in an air fryer  

The air fryer can be a great way to bake cake, but you need to know what you’re doing. The air fryer’s circulation of hot air means that cakes can sometimes end up overly brown on the outside and underbaked on the inside. Not to worry: We have five tips for successfully baking air fryer cake, from pan choice to baking temperature and time.  

Start with this recipe: King Arthur’s Original Cake Pan Cake 

toasted walnuts in an air fryer basket PJ Hamel
The air fryer might just be the simplest way to toast nuts

How to toast nuts in an air fryer 

Toasting nuts is simple, and yet so difficult. They can go from golden brown to burnt black in a flash. The solution for perfect toasted nuts? Use your air fryer! It’s quick, reliable, and hands off — without paying any attention at all, you can toast a cupful of nuts in around five minutes.

Fried doughnuts compared to air fried doughnuts PJ Hamel
Fried doughnuts on top; air fried doughnuts below. 

How (not) to fry doughnuts in an air fryer

So how good is the air fryer at making actual fried foods? When it comes to doughnuts … not that great. Contributor PJ Hamel tested both Yeast-Raised Doughnuts and Mashed Potato Doughnuts in the air fryer and compared them to traditional fried versions. While the air-fryer versions were tasty on their own, they failed to replicate the crunchy exterior that makes fried doughnuts so enticing. While you technically can make doughnuts in an air fryer, it’s probably best suited for other baked recipes instead (like all those listed above!).

Do you bake in your air fryer? We'd love to hear about your successes (and even misses!) in the comments, below. 

Cover photo by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
4.6 out of 5 stars 490 Reviews
36 mins
36 cookies
Filed Under: Tips and Techniques
Rossi crimping pie crust
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About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She didn’t have any bakers in her household (with the exception of her grandmother’s perfect koulourakia), so she learned at a young age that the best way to satisfy her sweet tooth was to make dess...
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