Air Fryer Eggplant is so irresistible! With crunchy bits and a silky middle, I’d take a bowl of crispy air-fried eggplant over a bowl of potato chips any day. This pairing of crispy and creamy textures is the perfect way to put eggplant to delicious use.
If you’re an air frying newbie, be sure to read Air Fryer 101: How to Choose and Use an Air Fryer to find out everything you need to know to get started!
Gather Your Ingredients: What You Need For Crispy Air Fryer Eggplant
Eggplant: The eggplant can be dark purple globe eggplant as pictured, baby eggplants, or long, skinny, lighter-colored eggplants.
Oil: With the high temperatures of the air fryer, be sure to choose a high smoke point oil. I love the health profile of avocado oil, but you can use your favorite go-to cooking oil. The eggplant will look dry with the quantity of oil listed, but it’s enough. Once it cooks, the eggplant shrinks. Too much oil and it would be greasy. (I tested both ways!)
Salt: I find veggies perfectly seasoned when I use 3/4 – 1 teaspoon of coarse salt per pound. I use Kosher salt but you can swap in whatever salt you stock (google the conversion – you’ll need less if using table salt or fine sea salt).
I kept the ingredient lineup really simple so that you could use this guide as a jumping-off point, but you can add your favorite seasonings if you like. I’ve given suggestions in the recipe notes.
How to Cook Eggplant in the Air Fryer
Prep the eggplant: Use the method outlined below to chop it. No need to salt the eggplant first to draw out moisture as with some recipes. The high-airflow, intense heat cooking of the air fryer produces really perfectly-roasted results without this extra step.
Cook it in the air fryer: I find cooking it at a super-high heat setting gives better results than a lower heat (I tested both!). You can expect crispy outsides with silky, meltingly-tender insides. Perfect little bites. Totally irresistible. Lower heat makes a softer eggplant that borders on mushy (I personally like it both ways).
Adjust seasoning to taste: I think you’ll find the salt is perfect, but I love a little pop of green at the end. Fresh thyme is so delicious with eggplant.
How do you cut and prepare eggplant?
To safely cut a wobbly, round eggplant, I like to take a thin slice off of one side, and place this flat side on the cutting board to stabilize it before cutting the rest.
I like to cut it into lengthwise slabs, then stack these slabs before cutting them into long strips and then crosswise into cubes (see video in the recipe card below).
Expert Tips & Tricks
- Just chill: This is one instance when you want the food to be cold from the fridge before you cook it. It really helps get that crispy outside crust before the eggplant shrinks and gets super soft. I tested both ways. Starting with room-temperature eggplant, it will probably be fall-apart-soft before it gets crispy. It is still delicious, it just may not be as visually appealing.
- Remove excess moisture so it will brown and crisp, and not just be mushy. Salting it in advance draws out excess water if oven-roasting. If you use an air fryer (as in this recipe), the hot air will dry out the surface sufficiently to crisp it up beautifully.
- Using enough oil and salt to make it tasty. If you follow this recipe, you’ll have the tastiest perfectly-seasoned results.
- Continue cooking a few minutes beyond when you think it’s done. Then you’ll get all of the irresistible crispy bits, silky middle, and skin that tastes like a potato chip.
How to Serve Air Fryer Eggplant
These crispy bites of succulent air fryer eggplant are delicious as a simple side dish to Indian recipes like chicken korma, simple fish dinners like panko crusted cod, or even a mixed dish like crockpot lazy lasagna.
My favorite way to serve it as an appetizer is with a little Greek yogurt seasoned with salt and drizzled with olive oil.
And I can’t tell you how much I also love sprinkling it with a little fresh thyme at the end for an herbal note to cut the natural richness of this silky vegetable.
Air Fryer Eggplant FAQs
You cook an eggplant in an air fryer for about 15 minutes at 400ºF – that is the short answer. This will vary depending on the size of the eggplant pieces and the temperature setting you use. Follow this recipe for perfect results.
Yes, it is safe to eat the skin of an eggplant (unless of course you have an allergy). Always wash the eggplant (and any vegetables) before cooking, especially when you are eating the skin.
It is not typically recommended to cook eggplant without salting it first, as pre-salting it and letting it stand draws out the excess moisture. Air frying eggplant is an exception to this. The high heat and intense airflow keep the surface dry, making for perfect crispy eggplant bites with luscious soft centers.
Yes, you can air fry eggplant slices if you prefer them over diced eggplant, but I prefer the additional surface area of smaller bites. This maximizes the crispy bits, which are the best part in my opinion.
No, you should not attempt to air fry eggplant without oil. Air fryer is a bit of a misnomer. The air itself does not replace oil for frying, it just dries out the surface to give similar crispy results to deep frying (but only when a little oil is used). Oil is also important for flavor and to carry the fat-soluble vitamins in vegetables.
Other delicious sides you don’t want to miss
Crispy Air Fryer Eggplant Recipe
- 1 lb eggplant cut in ½” pieces
- 4 tbsp avocado oil or preferred high-heat cooking oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp red chili flakes
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- In a large bowl, toss eggplant cubes with oil, salt (as well as black pepper and red chili flakes, if using).
- Air fry at 400ºF for 8 minutes, toss, and cook about 7 minutes more, until eggplant is crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.
Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD