The Best Air Fryer Indian Meals – Easy Healthy Cuisine

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What if you could enjoy Indian flavours more healthily? Well, you can and that’s where the air fryer comes in.

In this article, I’ll explore the most popular air fryer Indian meals, making it easy and healthy to enjoy your favourite dishes.

All recipes can be cooked in any air fryer including the Ninja Dual and Flexdrawer instructions included below.

Essential Ingredients for Air Fryer Indian Recipes

Spices and Herbs

Indian cooking is renowned for its spices. Stock your store cupboard with essentials like cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and chilli powder.

Fresh herbs like coriander and mint are also key to authentic flavours.

Vegetables

Vegetables play a significant role in Indian cooking.

Popular choices include potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, and okra.

These veggies can be easily cooked in an air fryer, retaining their nutrients and flavour.

Protein Sources

For protein, consider chicken or any meat, paneer, and lentils.

These ingredients are staples in many Indian dishes and work amazingly in an air fryer, as a source of healthy protein.

Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken Thighs

Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken Thighs

What Is Tandoori Chicken?

Tandoori chicken is an Indian dish known for its unique flavour and vibrant colour.

Key Ingredients

Chicken: Tandoori chicken traditionally uses a whole chicken or specific parts such as drumsticks, breasts or thighs, which are skinless.

Marinade: The chicken is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and various spices. Common spices include garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, red chilli powder, and sometimes red food colouring to enhance the dish’s characteristic vibrant red hue. The yoghurt works to tenderise the meat while the spices infuse it with deep flavours.

Ingredients

Chicken Your preferred amount of boneless or bone-in chicken thighs, breasts or drumsticks 500g of chicken will serve 4 people

Marinade

  • 240ml Greek yoghurt
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh crushed ginger
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek (optional)
  • 2 tsp chickpea flour (optional)
  • 1 tsp oil

How To Cook Tandoori Chicken In The Air Fryer

Wash and pat dry the chicken.

Take a sharp knife and make deep incisions in the chicken. This will allow the marinade to infuse the chicken effectively.

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl to form a thick paste.

Place the chicken in the bowl. Thoroughly coat the chicken with the marinade and get the mixture into the incisions.

Cover the bowl with cling film and marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours in the fridge for best results. 

Preheat the air fryer to 200C/400F for 5 minutes.

Spray the air fryer basket lightly with cooking oil.

Arrange the marinated chicken in a single layer in the air fryer basket without overlapping.

How Long To Cook Tandoori Chicken In The Air Fryer?

Air fry at 200C/400F for 18-25 minutes. Turn the chicken halfway through cooking time for even cooking. 

The chicken is done when checked with a meat thermometer the internal temperature has reached 165°F (74°C) and the juices run clear.

Enjoy your healthier tandoori dish!

Pro Tips

  • Make a thick marinade for better adhesion to the chicken.
  • Greek yoghurt in the marinade keeps the chicken tender and moist inside.
  • Preheating the air fryer is crucial for even cooking and achieving a good char on the chicken.

How To Air Fry Chicken Tandoori Pieces

Air Fryer Tandoori Chicken Pieces

Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces.

Carefully make cuts in the chicken with a sharp knife.

Using the same marinade ingredients, marinate the chicken pieces for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours in the fridge for best results. 

Preheat your air fryer to 200C/400F for 5 minutes.

Lightly grease the air fryer basket with cooking oil or non-stick spray.

Place the marinated chicken pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket leaving room between each piece.

Air fry the chicken at 200C/400F for 18-25 minutes and turn the chicken pieces halfway through the cooking time.

(Optional)Brush or spray the chicken with oil halfway through for extra moisture and crispiness.

Cooking display with herbs

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Air Fryer Paneer

What is Paneer?

  • Paneer is a fresh cheese popular in Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cooking.
  • It is made by curdling hot milk with an acidic substance like lemon juice, vinegar, or yoghurt. This causes the milk solids to separate from the whey.
  • The curds are pressed into a solid block, producing soft, fresh cheese.
paneer indian cheese

Characteristics of Paneer

  • Paneer has a mild, slightly tangy flavour and a firm, dense texture that does not melt when heated.
  • It has a crumbly, cottage cheese-like consistency, but holds its shape well during cooking.
  • The paneer is naturally white without a rind or outer coating.

Uses of Paneer

  • Paneer is commonly used in many Indian dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
  • It’s a key ingredient in curries and kebabs.
  • It provides a creamy, rich texture and protein to vegetarian dishes.

Benefits of Paneer

  • Paneer is a good protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients source.
  • It is lactose-free, making it suitable for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Paneer has a longer shelf life compared to other fresh cheeses.

Air Fryer Paneer Tikka Skewers

air fryer paneer tikka

Ingredients

Serves 4

Paneer and Vegetables

500g paneer, cut into 2-2.5 cm cubes

1 large red onion, cut into similar-sized pieces

2 bell peppers (one red and one yellow), cut into similar-sized pieces

Marinade

180g Greek yoghurt

2 tbsp chickpea flour

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste or 1-2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric

1.5 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground black pepper

3 tsp dried fenugreek leaves

3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

juice of half a lemon

4 tbsp sunflower oil

How To Make Air Fryer Paneer

Cut the paneer into 2-2.5 cm cubes. Soak the cubes in hot water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain before marinating.

Dice the onion and bell peppers in similar-sized pieces.

In a large mixing bowl, add the Greek yoghurt, chickpea flour, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, Kashmiri chilli powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, ground black pepper, fenugreek and salt.

Heat the sunflower oil until hot and add it to the yoghurt marinade mixture. Stir until smooth.

Add the paneer cubes, onion pieces, and bell pepper chunks to the marinade. Mix well, so all pieces are well-coated.

Cover with cling film and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight for better absorption.

Thread the marinated paneer, onion, and bell pepper pieces alternately onto wooden or metal skewers. If using wooden skewers soak in cold water for 30 minutes before assembling the skewers, this prevents them from burning in the air fryer.

Air Fryer Temperature For Paneer Tikka

Preheat the air fryer to 180C /360F for about 5 minutes. This is the perfect temperature to air fry paneer without it drying out.

Air Frying the Paneer Tikka

Lightly grease the air fryer basket with a little oil or non-stick spray.

Place the threaded paneer tikka skewers in the air fryer basket in a single layer, ensuring they do not overlap.

How Long To Cook Paneer In The Air Fryer?

Air fry at 180C /360F for 8-10 minutes, turning the skewers halfway through the cooking time. The paneer should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Pro Tips

  • Soak Wooden Skewers: If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading to prevent burning in the air fryer.
  • Consistent Size: Cutting paneer and vegetables into similar sizes ensures they cook evenly.
  • Marination Time: The longer the marination, the better the flavours will seep into the paneer and vegetables.

Chicken Biryani Made In The Air Fryer

What is Biryani?

Biryani is an aromatic mixed rice dish, renowned for its blend of spices, rice, and meat or vegetables.

Popular in South Asia, including India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Air Fryer Chicken Biryani

Key Ingredients

Rice: The dish contains long-grained basmati rice that is cooked fluffy and aromatic.

Meat or Protein: Commonly used meats include chicken, lamb, beef, or fish. Vegetarian versions substitute meat with vegetables, paneer, or even eggs.

Spices and Seasonings: A typical biryani is seasoned with cumin, saffron, and other fragrant seasonings.

Marinades & Sauce: The meat is marinated with yoghurt and spices. The sauce is made with tomatoes, onions, and spices then layered into the dish.

Ingredients

Serves 4

Marinade

Rice

  • 300g basmati rice
  • 600ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp salt

Biryani

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
  • 2 green chillies, slit
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 50ml milk infused with a pinch of saffron
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Making Chicken Biryani In The Air Fryer

Mix the Greek yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, and salt in a large bowl.

Add the chicken pieces to the bowl, ensuring they are well-coated with the marinade.

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Rinse the basmati rice under cold water until the water runs clear.

Bring 600ml of water to a boil, adding the bay leaf, cloves, green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and salt in a large saucepan.

Add the rinsed rice, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is 70% cooked.

Drain the rice and set aside.

Preheat the air fryer to 180C /360F for 5 minutes.

Arrange the marinated chicken pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer.

Cook for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken is cooked and slightly charred. Set aside.

Cooking the Vegetables

In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions and fry until they are golden brown and crispy. This may take around 10 minutes.

Remove half of the fried onions and set aside for garnishing.

In the same pan with the remaining onions, add the cumin seeds, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper (if using), and green chillies. Cook until the tomatoes soften.

Add the air-fried chicken pieces and mix well. Cook for 5 more minutes to blend the flavours.

Preheat your air fryer to 160C /320F.

Layer the saucepan mixture in the air fryer basket, starting with half of the cooked rice, spread the chicken mixture over it, and then top with the remaining rice.

Air fry for 5-6 minutes until the rice is cooked and the chicken mixture is heated thoroughly.

Air Fryer Chicken Biryani In The Ninja Dual or Flexdrawer

Follow the above instructions until the section: Cooking the Vegetables.

Then in the empty drawer:

Add the oil and chopped onions. Air fry at 200C/400F for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.

Remove half of the onions and set aside for garnishing.

Add the cumin seeds, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper (if using), and green chillies. Cook until the tomatoes soften.

Add the cooked chicken pieces to the vegetables and stir well.

Lower the air fryer temperature to 160°C (320°F).

Using the basket you previously cooked the chicken in start layering with half of the cooked rice, spread the chicken mixture over it, and then top with the remaining rice.

Air fry at 160°C (320°F) for 5-6 minutes until the rice is cooked and the chicken mixture is heated thoroughly.

Butter Chicken Made In The Air Fryer

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, known as Murgh Makhani, is a popular Indian dish containing marinated chicken with a rich, creamy, mildly spiced tomato-based sauce.

air fryer butter chicken in a white bowl

Key Ingredients

Chicken: Typically, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are used. The chicken is marinated and then cooked.

Marinade: The chicken is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and various spices such as garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chilli powder. Marinating tenderises the chicken and infuses it with flavour.

Sauce: The sauce is made from tomatoes, butter, cream, and spices, giving it a silky and rich texture. Spices include garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chilli powder 

Ingredients

Serves 4

Marinade
  • 500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs: cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 125g plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic: minced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
Sauce
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 125ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion: finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic: minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • salt: to taste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • fresh coriander leaves: for garnish

How To Cook Butter Chicken In An Air Fryer

In a medium bowl, mix the plain yoghurt, grated ginger, minced garlic, garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric powder, chilli powder, and salt until well combined.

Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.

Preheat your air fryer to 200C / 400F for 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange the pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Spray them lightly with oil.

Air fry for 15 minutes, turning the chicken pieces halfway through the cooking time for even cooking.

Preparing the Sauce

While the chicken is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat.

Add the chopped onion and sauté until golden brown.

Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Stir in the garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric powder, and chilli powder.

Cook for 30 seconds to allow the spices to release their flavour.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the double cream and season with salt and sugar to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes on low heat.

Once the chicken is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well to coat the chicken pieces with the sauce. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with naan bread or basmati rice.

Air Fryer Butter Chicken in The Ninja Dual or Flexdrawer

This recipe can be cooked entirely in a Ninja Dual or Flexdrawer.

Follow the instructions above until the section: Preparing the Sauce.

Then using your second basket:

Place 2 tablespoons of butter and the chopped onions in the empty drawer.

Air fry the chopped onion at 200C/400F for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.

Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, and air fry for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Stir in the garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric powder, and chilli powder.

Air fry for 1 or 2 minutes or until the spices become aromatic.

Add the chopped tomatoes and air fry for 6-8 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the double cream and season with salt and sugar to taste.

Lower the temperature to 180C/360F and air fry for about 3-4 minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well to coat the chicken pieces with the sauce.

Air fry for 3 minutes at 180C/360F for the flavours to meld. Then serve.

More Indian Air Fryer Recipes

FAQs

What are the advantages of using an air fryer for Indian starters?

Minimises the use of oil, making traditional Indian deep-fried snacks healthier.

Reduces cooking time compared to traditional deep frying.

Can you cook frozen Indian starters in an air fryer?

Frozen items such as samosas, pakoras, and tikkis can be directly cooked in the air fryer without defrosting.

Are air fryer Indian recipes suitable for vegetarians?

Absolutely! Many air fryer Indian recipes are vegetarian, eg: ingredients like paneer, vegetables, and lentils.

Why Settle For Mediocre Meals When You Can Achieve Excellence Effortlessly?

The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet is your secret weapon for mastering air frying,ensuring correct timings and temperatures from the very start.

Take the guesswork out of air frying!

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