The 18 Best Air Fryer Groceries for Anyone Who’s Missing Bar Snacks These Days
One thing people seem to be missing mightily these days is spending an evening at a bar with friends. For those of us who want to recreate some of the fun parts of a bar (without the risk), the only option we have is to get creative at home.
I recently took a deep dive into my supermarket’s freezer section on the hunt for snacks that, when prepared with my trusty air fryer, would mimic the experience of grabbing pub snacks with my pals. And while eating these snacks in the yard with the air fryer connected to an extension cord wasn’t quite the same as going out, it was still fun to pretend we were at a bar ordering some of the best items on the menu.
How I Prepared the Bar Snacks
I cooked all of the food directly from its frozen state. Different air fryers have different settings, so you will have to get to know your appliance to determine how long to cook these items (and at what setting). Most of the items I tested were cooked from frozen at 375°F to 400°F for 12 to 20 minutes until achieving optimal crispiness. I recommend opening your air fryer at any point during cooking to check for doneness (especially for smaller items). Now, onto the winners!
1. TGI Fridays Buffalo Style Chicken Wings
Chicken wings are one of the most quintessential bar snacks of all time. And TGI Fridays’ frozen version didn’t disappoint. The wings came out perfectly crisp and tender after 20 minutes, and were then tossed with a piquant-but-not-too spicy Buffalo sauce.
Buy: TGI Fridays Buffalo Style Chicken Wings, $4 at Walmart
2. Ore-Ida Zesty Curly Fries
Curly fries are another food I only ever come across when I’m out and about. This 28-ounce bag took two batches of cooking in the air fryer — you don’t want to crowd things in the basket. After about 12 to 15 minutes in the air fryer, we ended up with a lovely mix of some sort of loosely curled, some tightly curled, and some generously crunchy fries.
Buy: Ore-Ida Zesty Curly Fries, $4.50 at Instacart
3. Culinary Tours Tuscan Style Flatbread Pizza
These flatbreads are imported from Italy, with hand-stretched crusts cooked in a wood-burning oven. The little oval pie just barely fit in my air fryer basket, but goodness I’m glad it did! After about 10 minutes, we had a flatbread that was chewy and crunchy at the base, with a sophisticated smattering of toppings.
Buy: Culinary Tours Tuscan Style Flatbread Pizza, $4.50 at Instacart
4. Farm Rich Buffalo Style Boneless Chicken Bites
Farm Rich’s boneless chicken bites are full of white meat and highly satisfying. The best part is the nice level of tangy heat from the sauce. Since we tried them, my 17-year-old has been hassling me to buy these again. (I will.)
Buy: Farm Rich Buffalo Style Boneless Chicken Bites, $5 at Target
5. TGI Fridays Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce
TGI Fridays’ mozzarella “sticks” are kind of flat and rectangular instead of long and cylindrical. The slightly garlicky panko coating was nicely crunchy and the cheese was melted and stretchy after about 12 minutes. The box comes with a dipping sauce, which defrosts quickly in a bowl of hot water.
Buy: TGI Fridays Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce, $4 at Walmart
6. Ore-Ida Golden Waffle Fries
Waffle fries are typically one of the rarer fry cuts when out in my neck of the woods, so I was thrilled to find them in the grocery store. Even if you’re Team Shoestring Fries, you’ll still appreciate a bag or two of these once in a while. You might want to have some liquid cheese on hand to turn these into a pile of cheese fries.
Buy: Ore-Ida Golden Waffle Fries, $3.50 at Target
7. Alexia Sweet Potato Fries with Sea Salt
While sweet potato fries never crisp up quite as much as regular fries, the air fryer definitely helps give them some lovely crunch. The potatoes have sweetness to them, and the sea salt is a perfect contrast.
Buy: Alexia Sweet Potato Fries with Sea Salt, $3 at Walmart
8. TGI Fridays Loaded Potato Skins
Potato skins are one of those foods that I think I probably have only eaten at a bar. (If I’ve ever made them at home, I can’t remember when.) These were pretty dang good, with a generous amount of cheddar and applewood smoked bacon. The potato boats were firm and actually tasted of potato.
Buy: TGI Fridays Loaded Potato Skins, $4 at Walmart
9. TGI Fridays Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños
TGI Fridays, we meet again. And again. The restaurant chain has clearly found its niche! The filling became almost molten (watch your tongue!), the jalapeños were firm, and the breading was crispy. This particular bar food calls for a beer.
Buy: TGI Fridays Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños, $5.50 at Instacart
10. TGI Fridays Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Dip
One more time with the TGI Fridays! Chopped spinach and artichokes are enrobed in a mix of cheeses (Parmesan, mozzarella, and neufchâtel) to recreate this hot dip that is just the kind of thing one might order “for the table.” I cooked it in the air fryer for about eight minutes, gave it a stir to blend the hot parts of the dip with the cooler parts, and turned the machine on for a few more minutes until it was hot throughout.
Buy: TGI Fridays Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Dip, $4 at Walmart
11. Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders
A plate of tenders may seem like kid food to some, but for us experienced appetizer-sharers it is total bar comfort food. These are excellent, made from whole breast meat. Give them about 18 minutes in the air fryer, and pass them my way.
Buy: Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders, $7 at Fresh Direct
12. Bell & Evans Parmesan Breaded Chicken Meatballs with Mozzarella
These cheese-infused juicy dark meat chicken meatballs are generously seasoned with Italian herbs — I suggest warming up a little marinara or other tomato sauce for dipping. And interestingly, these have air fryer instructions right on the packaging, which wouldn’t have been the case a year ago.
Buy: Bell & Evans Parmesan Breaded Chicken Meatballs with Mozzarella, $9 at Instacart
13. Yankee Trader Lobster Cakes
Lobster cakes are just the kind of food you want to order while sitting at a bar overlooking the water. The air fryer does these justice. Cook these up when you’re feeling fancy!
Buy: Yankee Trader Lobster Cakes, $3.50 at Instacart
14. Mrs. Paul’s Beer Battered Fish Fillets
Wild-caught, and with a light tempura-like beer batter, these are akin to the kind of fish you get when you order fish and chips at a British-style pub. Pair these up with some air-fried fries to do it right.
Buy: Mrs. Paul’s Beer Battered Fish Fillets, $5 at Walmart
15. Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese Bites
These little morsels of macaroni and cheese with a crispy coating seem made for the air fryer. Tip: Give the basket a good shake midway through the cooking time (it really helps get even crispness around all of the bites).
Buy: Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese Bites, $5 at Instacart
16. Birds Eye Cauliflower Tots
Cauliflower remains the “it” vegetable of the moment — at least in terms of the sheer numbers of ways it is prepared and sold in supermarkets — and I was excited to find them in a “tot” version. The air fryer crisps them up perfectly.
Buy: Birds Eye Cauliflower Tots, $4 at Instacart
17. The Alpha Nugget
I served these air-fried vegetarian “chicken” nuggets to my husband and sons without telling them that they were plant-based, and within a few minutes the plate was cleaned.
Buy: The Alpha Nugget, $6 at Instacart
18. Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
Tender “chick’n” is breaded with grains including oats, quinoa, and millet to create a crunchy coating. These were another moment where I didn’t immediately disclose the vegetarian (actually, vegan) nature of these strips. I simply mentioned it after the platter was polished clean and no one was the wiser.
Buy: Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, $5 at Fresh Direct
What are your favorite snacks to bake up in the air fryer these days?