There are so many ways to make crispy and delicious broccoli in the air fryer with or without oil. Perfect as a healthy side dish or as a component of the main course, this air fryer broccoli is sure to become a staple in your home.
Broccoli has always been my favorite vegetable and my favorite preparation has long been oven-roasted. So you can bet as soon as I got an air fryer I started experimenting with different ways to roast broccoli in the air fryer.
Unfortunately, my first attempt was a complete fail! I tried to make air fryer broccoli without any oil or cooking liquid and it just turned out burned and bitter. Thankfully, many preparations later, I've learned quite a few tricks.
What I've found is that you can not only make fresh broccoli in the air fryer both with and without oil, but you can also transform frozen broccoli (see separate post) into a crispy and appetizing side dish. So be sure to check out my notes for all the different ways to make Air Fried Broccoli and then get ready to give it a try!
You'll love making broccoli in the air fryer because it's:
- Quicker than traditional oven-roasting
- Easy to clean-up
- Vegan / Vegetarian
- Great for WFPB diets
- Full of Vitamins & Minerals
- High in Fiber
- Delicious as a healthy side or part of the main dish
- 1 pound fresh broccoli
- 1 to 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp cooking liquid (olive oil, lemon juice, aquafaba, veggie broth, or whatever you choose)
- 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp dried oregano (or any seasoning of your choice)
- sea salt
- fresh cracked pepper
Air Fryer Broccoli with oil
Roasting broccoli in the air fryer requires less oil than oven roasting (and a fraction of the amount of oil you'd need to use for frying). This in itself is a huge advantage. Plus you'll save a ton of time. Whereas oven-roasted broccoli takes 20 to 30 minutes, you can air fry broccoli in less than 8 minutes.
The only disadvantage is that broccoli will go from crispy to burnt more quickly in the air fryer, so you need to keep an eye on it at the end, especially the first time you make it. (I give you a time estimate, but because all air fryers are so different, you may need to adjust for your own).
Air Fryer Broccoli without oil
One of the biggest advantages of an air fryer is that you can "fry" food without oil. This works great with some applications (like these Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets). However, if you simply add fresh broccoli to an air fryer without any liquid, you'll end up with broccoli that's bitter and burned.
Thankfully I have a few tricks you can use to make delicious air fryer broccoli without oil. First, you need to toss the broccoli with another liquid (and seasonings). Water or veggie broth both work fine, but my favorite was actually lemon juice. I really enjoyed the subtle citrus undertones. Second, you need to add a little water to the pan--that is, below the basket, but not on the heating element. This will help the broccoli to stay moist rather than just drying out.
- Whether you are cooking with or without oil, the method is very similar.
- Preheat the Air Fryer to 375F or 190C.
- Wash and cut the broccoli into medium-sized florets (you can make them smaller if you prefer, but you should decrease the cooking time slightly).
- Place the broccoli florets in a small mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon of cooking liquid (lemon juice or oil) and seasonings. Mix to combine.
- Add one tablespoon of water under the basket (not on the heating element). If you are using the no-oil method, don't skip this step. If you are using oil, this is optional but it can help the broccoli to cook more evenly.
- Transfer the broccoli to the air fryer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stopping halfway to shake the basket.
- Serve and enjoy right away!
Air Fryer Frozen Broccoli
For the most part, I've reserved frozen broccoli for things like soups and curries. When it came to roasting, I always preferred fresh broccoli. I found that putting frozen broccoli in the oven just resulted in mushy broccoli.
But with the air fryer, it's a completely different story! Believe it or not, cooking frozen broccoli in the air fryer actually results in delicious, crispy broccoli that's just as good as fresh. In some ways, I even liked it better because it cooks more evenly.
As a bonus, you don't need to add any oil or other liquid. You can if you want to, and adding a liquid will help the seasonings stick to the broccoli a little more. But it's not absolutely necessary as it is with fresh broccoli.
I recently decided to update and make air fryer frozen broccoli its own separate post, so you'll find the full instructions here.
Air Fryer Tips
- Try to cut the florets in a somewhat uniform size for more even cooking.
- About halfway through cooking, open the air fryer and use a potholder to shake the basket --or-- use a wooden spoon to move the broccoli around.
- The food on the outside perimeter of the basket will cook faster/get crispier than the food in the middle. Sometimes I simply take a pair of tongs and quickly move the broccoli in the middle out and the broccoli on the outside in.
- Every air fryer is a little different. So the first time you make broccoli in the air fryer, be sure to check on it a few times it near the end. I've found that the broccoli goes from crispy to burnt much faster in an air fryer than it does in an oven.
What Kind of Air Fryer do you recommend?
There are so many different air fryers on the market, so I think you need to find the one that best fits your own needs. Some things to consider are price, size, and functionality (many air fryers do other fun things like grill and dehydrate).
I personally love my Ninja Foodie Grill, which is the perfect size for my family of four. For more ideas, check out this review of the best Air Fryers of 2021.
How to serve
I love serving Air Fryer Broccoli as an easy and delicious side dish to any meal. I love pairing it with these Chick-fil-A style Tofu Nuggets.
You can also add it to pasta or Vegan Broccoli Soup.
It would make a perfect addition to Sticky Orange Tofu or a side to Vegan Baked Feta Pasta.
Can I make it ahead?
Because Air Fryer Broccoli cooks up so quickly, I don't recommend making it ahead. That said, if you need to save some time, you can easily cut and wash the broccoli ahead of time--or just use frozen broccoli, which doesn't require any prep at all!
How to store
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To reheat, you can use a microwave or skillet. You can also throw the broccoli back into the air fryer for a minute or two. Just keep a close eye to make sure it doesn't burn.
- Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets
- Air Fryer Asparagus
- Air Fryer Summer Squash
- Instant Pot Pinto Beans
- Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad with Roasted Veggies
Air Fryer Broccoli
- 1 pound fresh or frozen broccoli
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon cooking liquid olive oil, lemon juice, aquafaba, veggie broth, or whatever you choose
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
Fresh Broccoli Instructions
- Preheat the Air Fryer to 375F or 190C.
- Wash and cut the broccoli into small to medium sized florets.
- Place the broccoli to a small bowl along with 1 tablespoon of your cooking liquid of choice and seasonings. Stir to combine.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the pan below the basket. (Not on the cooking element).
- Add the broccoli to the air fryer basket and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, stopping the cooking about halfway to shake the basket.
- Serve and Enjoy!
- Cooking times are approximate. The exact time will largely depend on your brand of air fryer and the size of your florets. The first time you make broccoli in the air fryer be sure to check the broccoli so that it doesn't burn.
- Instructions for frozen broccoli can now be found here.
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