Like many others who grew up eating a lot of canned veggies in the 80’s and 90’s (and fresh during garden season, of course), I wasn’t properly introduced to roasted vegetables until adulthood.
And BOY OH BOY was it love at first bite!
I’m a lifelong veggie lover already (me and canned green beans were in a long-term committed relationship for years) but the flavor dynamics of roasted veg? A whole new level of obsession, for real. They’re just so perfectly crispy, salty, greasy, with the sweetness of the veg (especially those root veggies, oh man) coming out in an amazing new way when you roast them.
Unfortunately for my tastebuds, roasting a nutritious vegetable to perfection in the oven takes three trillion years while steaming up some frozen bagged veg takes 3 seconds. (Rough estimate.)
*Cue dramatic music* So… we got an air fryer! YOU GUYS. We are now fully obsessed with our air fryer, and have been using it like a total workhorse for four years now. At first we questioned if we’d “use it enough” to justify the counter space, but we apparently had little to fret about because we use it just about every dang day… and now it’s an absolute non-negotiable in the quest to serve my family quick healthy meals from scratch 99% of the time.
We love our air fryer for plenty of healthy dinners and meals (and I plan to share more air fryer new recipes down the road) but I had to start off with my absolute favorite use for it: perfectly roasted vegetables! Today I’m sharing how to cook broccoli in the air fryer (my favorite way!), and I’m already hungry again just writing this. It’s a great way to roast broccoli fast for a healthy side dish.
Perfectly Roasted Broccoli in an Air Fryer
Easy air fryer broccoli is the height of crispy, golden, just-shy-of-burnt-but-actually-perfect, deliciousness to the max. It’s everything your oven-roasted-broccoli-lovin’ heart could ever ask for, and then some… because it takes like way less (like 75% less!!) time! (I feel like that statement deserves more exclamation marks but I’m trying to be chill.)
Now, the only reason I’d ever want to roast crispy broccoli in the oven again is if I need to do more than what my air fryer can hold for feeding the whole family! (Or… I could just get another air fryer… ?? Hmmm… lol.)
Air Fryer Broccoli Tips & Tricks for Perfect Results
Cooking broccoli and other vegetables in an air fryer is a super easy recipe and fairly straightforward process but there are a couple of little things you should know to get the very best air fryer broccoli results.
The preparation for how to make broccoli in the air fryer is the same as oven-roasting: wash, chop, and drizzle your oil, salt & pepper, and any other seasoning you want. Stir to combine, and dump that gloriously simple mixture onto your pan or tray. Cook it up in a fraction of the time you would have needed for oven-roasting (specifics below in the recipe card) and enjoy!
Can I Use Frozen Broccoli in an Air Fryer?
Heck yes, you can! Frozen vegetables save my booty on a VERY regular basis and I doubt that’ll end anytime soon. I love using fresh broccoli in my air fryer (and in general) but when I’m low on fresh stuff in the fridge I always have frozen on hand to back me up.
I gave some specific tips in the recipe notes below for great results using frozen broccoli instead of fresh. Basically – you cook air fryer frozen broccoli just a bit lower and slower so the excess water can steam away and the broccoli can cook properly. See below for deets!
How Long to Cook Broccoli in an Air Fryer?
It generally takes about ten minutes with averagely-cut broccoli florets, but timing can vary depending on your type of air fryer, and the temperature you cook it at.
Can You Put Water in an Air Fryer? Steam Things in an Air Fryer?
You can, I guess, but you don’t really need to. If you want to straight-up steam your broccoli without any of that perfect crispy golden roastiness, I’d probably just go ahead and use a pot and lid on the stovetop. Makes more sense.
Some people have advocated for adding a little water to your air fryer tray when cooking frozen things for the hot air and steam to theoretically help it defrost easier, but I haven’t found that to be necessary as long as you cook it a bit longer and at a slightly lower temp.
Can I Freeze Air Fryer Roasted Broccoli?
Nah man, don’t do it. That’s weird and it will be mush. Cook it up fresh and get it in your belly pronto! Raw broccoli can be frozen, though, so that’s an option if you have some you can’t use up before it goes bad. (I’d blanch it first.)
It does store fine in an airtight container in the fridge if you have leftovers. I recommend eating the leftovers within 2-3 days.
Fun Variations to Try for Roasted Broccoli
I love roasted broccoli just as it is 99% of the time with olive oil, salt & pepper. It’s amazing what kind of magic you can make with a handful of ingredients and a little know-how. However – if you want to add little extra oomph, these suggestions for different ways to flavor it would be super delicious:
- drizzle of lemon with the oil
- sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top
- balsamic vinegar (mix with the olive oil before tossing broccoli in it before cooking)
- nutritional yeast (sprinkle on after roasting, before serving)
- everything bagel seasoning – sprinkle on before cooking
- a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top after cooking
- garlic – whichever way you want: dried or fresh, added before cooking
And/or, serve with a homemade cheesy sauce. (I don’t have my own recipe for this yet, but there are a few good ones online. My mom used to make a wickedly awesome cheese sauce when we had broccoli in my childhood, which totally makes up for never introducing me to roasted veggies.)
Recommended Tools & Equipment
This is the Cusinart Air Fryer that we’ve owned and loved since 2016. (Pictured above.) I love that it serves multiple functions: air fry, convection bake, convection broil, bake, broil, warm, and toast. We got rid of our toaster… and we still have a microwave that we use occasionally, but the air fryer is better for reheating leftovers that don’t turn out mushy.
We use this thing just about on a daily basis. I think we use it more often than the oven, actually! The only downside to this model is that the tray has gotten pretty roughed up and a bit warped from frequent use and having to scrub it with steel wool (it’s usually a baked on greasy mess).
We put it in the dishwasher, too, which may not have been recommended. Bottom line – apparently the tray needs to be babied a bit, which is so not happening in our household with tweens doing dishes. 😉 We’re probably going to cave and just buy a replacement. Thankfully, the air fryer basket is still going strong.
Another downside to the tray is that I’m pretty it’s coated in a synthetic non-stick, which I typically avoid. I prefer to get my non-stickability from things like naturally seasoned cast iron and stoneware.
Overall though – I still highly recommend this air fryer. I think most brands and models will have a non-stick coating on their trays, unfortunately. The pros of air frying totally outweigh this one con, in my opinion!
Okay now. Less talk, more chop! Get cooking! (I mean roasting. Er, I mean air frying!) Perfectly roasted air fryer broccoli with that irresistible and wonderful crispy texture awaits!
A few others you might also love
- Perfect Homemade French Fries (Oven, Stove-Top, or Air Fryer)
- Harvest Roasted Fall Vegetables
- Frozen Whole Chicken in the Instant Pot (air fryer broccoli goes beautifully with a nice roast chicken – one of my favorite main dishes!)
Air Fryer Broccoli
- 2 heads broccoli
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Wash and cut broccoli into spears, and add to mixing bowl.
- Drizzle oil, salt, and pepper over broccoli, and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Add to air fryer tray or basket in a single layer, and cook on "air fry" at 400F until crispy and edges are dark brown, but not burnt. (It takes 10 minutes in my air fryer, but results may vary depending on the brand and model you have.)
- Optional: stir and flip the broccoli halfway through cooking for a more even roast. (It'll still be tasty if you don't, though!)
- See note below if cooking from frozen.