Can I just say how much I LOVE my air fryer?! It has truly been a game-changer in my household. One of our favorite ways to use this fantastic appliance is by roasting zucchini and yellow summer squash.
As a busy dietitian, I’m always looking for ways to eat healthfully without a huge time commitment. Who doesn’t want to save time, am I right?
This easy recipe offers step-by-step instructions on how to roast zucchini and squash in the air fryer. You’ll get perfect results every time.
Why Air-Fried Zucchini and Squash Are So Delicious
The rapid hot air circulation in the air fryer ensures that the zucchini and squash are cooked evenly from every angle. This technique caramelizes the natural sugars within these vegetables, enhancing their inherent sweetness.
This caramelization process gives air-fried foods their distinctive golden brown and crispy exterior, contrasting beautifully with the tender insides.
Moreover, only a little oil is needed with an air fryer.
Unlike deep frying, which can mask the natural flavors of vegetables with an overpowering taste of oil, air frying allows the authentic, earthy flavors of zucchini and squash to shine through.
The light drizzle of olive oil combined with the seasonings, especially when using garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning, binds to the surfaces of the zucchini and squash slices, creating a savory crust.
The air fryer also preserves the moisture inside the vegetables. So, while the outside gets crispy, the inside remains juicy and succulent.
When you bite into an air-fried zucchini or squash slice, the contrast between the crunchy exterior and the soft interior creates a texture that dances on the palate. I just can’t get enough of this delightful combination of flavors and texture!
Furthermore, adding a touch of parmesan cheese, which turns slightly crispy and golden in the air fryer, elevates the flavor profile. The umami from the cheese, combined with the natural sweetness of the zucchini and squash, is both rich and comforting.
Wondering if zucchini and yellow squash are the same? I’ve got you covered!
Are Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash the Same?
Zucchini and squash are like close cousins in the vegetable world. They both hail from the gourd family and are native to the Americas.
Harvested while young and tender, their textures and high water content make them versatile in recipes. Both have a low-carb profile and are perfect for those following a keto diet or watching their carbohydrate intake.
But, they’re not quite twins. Zucchini, usually green and cylindrical, has a slightly milder taste and tender skin. On the other hand, the often yellow and bulbous squash has slightly tougher skin.
While they’re both stars in their own right, it’s always good to know the subtle differences, especially when planning a meal!
Now, you might be thinking, should I add more zucchini and squash to my diet? You betcha! And here’s why…
Is Zucchini Good for You?
Zucchini is a nutrient-dense vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s low in calories but high in fiber, making it an excellent choice for digestion and promoting feelings of fullness.
Moreover, the presence of antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin in zucchini benefits eye health and may reduce the risk of certain age-related diseases such as heart disease and macular degeneration.
Is Yellow Squash Good for You?
Yes, yellow squash offers a wealth of nutrients, just like its zucchini cousin. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, which supports immune function and skin health.
It is also a good source of dietary fiber, promoting healthy digestion and aiding in weight management. The beta-carotene in yellow squash supports vision and may help in preventing age-related macular degeneration.
Now that you understand the health benefits of these delicious gourd veggies, you might be wondering why you should choose an air fryer over roasting in the oven.
The Practical Benefits of Air Frying
Beyond the taste and health advantages, air frying offers some practical perks that are particularly notable, especially when compared to traditional roasting.
Keeping Your Kitchen Cool. One of the significant challenges of roasting or baking during the warmer months is that ovens can significantly heat up a kitchen, making cooking a less-than-pleasant experience.
Air fryers, on the other hand, contain their heat remarkably well. This means that while they’re working their magic on your zucchini and squash, they won’t be turning your kitchen into a sauna.
Speedy Cooking Times. Air fryers typically heat up faster and cook food significantly quicker than roasting in an oven.
So, if you’re looking for a quick snack or an easy side dish, air-frying zucchini and squash will have them ready in a fraction of the time it would take to roast them. Fancy some crispy zucchini slices? They can be ready to munch in under 20 minutes.
Energy Efficiency. As an added bonus, the shorter cooking times and the contained heating system of air fryers mean they generally use less energy than traditional ovens.
But what about the safety of air fryers?
Potential Health Risks of Air Fryers
Air fryers have gained immense popularity for their ability to mimic the crispy texture of fried foods without excessive oil use. However, there are rising concerns and discussions surrounding the potential link between air frying and cancer risk.
Cooking certain foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and breaded items at temperatures above 248°F (120°C) may produce acrylamide, a substance considered by the EPA to be a probable carcinogen.
Additionally, some air fryers can release harmful chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, and PFOA when used at high temperatures. These chemicals have been linked to several health issues, including various types of cancer and hormonal disruptions.
Cooking fatty foods at high temperatures can generate carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, while meats cooked similarly can form Heterocyclic Amines, both of which have been associated with an increased risk of cancers.
Want more details on whether air fryers cause cancer? I actually wrote a full article on this topic. Check it out here.
Want to try an air fryer but you’re concerned about health risks? Consider these tips for safer use.
Recommendations for Safer Air Frying
Hopefully, you’re now sold on using an air fryer to roast zucchini and squash, and you know how to use it safely. So let’s get to the “how.”
How to Roast Zucchini and Squash in the Air Fryer
Fresh Zucchini and Yellow Squash. When selecting zucchini and squash at the grocery store, opt for firm, smooth-skinned ones free from blemishes or soft spots. Ensure they are vibrant in color, indicating freshness and peak ripeness.
Oil. Light olive oil or avocado oil are best thanks to their health-promoting properties and high smoke point.
Pinch of Salt.
Black Pepper. Freshly ground is my preference.
Seasoning. Try garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, parmesan cheese, or lemon juice. Mix it up! Zucchini and squash have a mild flavor so they take on whatever flavors you add to them. My fave is garlic powder, and lots of it!
Preparation. Begin by thoroughly washing the zucchini and yellow squash. Dry with a paper towel. Slice them into thin, uniform slices to ensure even cooking.
Seasoning. In a large bowl, mix the sliced zucchini, a splash of oil, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Mix in your seasoning of choice. Want an extra layer of umami flavor? Add some parmesan cheese! A little goes a long way.
Preheat. Preheat to 375-400 degrees F for 5 minutes. The exact temperature will depend on the model of the air fryer, so you may have to experiment a bit.
Place in the Air Fryer. Lay the zucchini and squash slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket. This ensures they cook uniformly. A little overlap is OK though! Just make sure no slices are completely covered.
Cooking Time. Air fry for 15-20 minutes, checking occasionally. They should be golden brown and crispy when done. Each air fryer is a little bit different, so you’ll have to experiment here. Once you find the ideal time, stick with it!
Serving. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some lemon juice and fresh herbs if you’d like.
Storage Tips. If you have leftover air fryer zucchini and squash, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for 3-4 days.
You can download the recipe card by clicking here.
Air-frying zucchini and squash is a great side dish for any main course. With this simple, customizable recipe, you’re bound to achieve the best results. Enjoy!
Pam is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s of Public Health and a Certificate in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Passionate about the science of health and nutrition, she loves to share her knowledge to help others live healthy, vibrant lives. When not working, Pam can be found hiking, traveling, and enjoying great-tasting, nutritious food.