Power Hour Meal Prep

Power Hour: A Week of Easy Air Fryer Dinners

updated Sep 22, 2022
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power hour ingredients on cutting board and surface
Credit: Photo: Dane Tashima; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

The first few meals I made in my air fryer were all variations on a theme: chicken nuggets and french-fried potatoes. While undoubtedly delicious, I have come to rely on my air fryer for a much greater variety of groceries. This mini-convection oven saved me from turning on the oven in the summer and I’m still relying on it as the seasons turn. That’s why this week’s Power Hour meal prep plan is all about dinners from the air fryer. I’ll walk you through the planning, shopping, prep, and cooking for a week’s worth of easy air fryer dinners from chicken Parm to falafel with tahini sauce.

Credit: Photo: Dane Tashima; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Meal Prep Goals

  • Dinner: Flavor-packed dinners that are easy to make in the air fryer.
  • Nutritional Goals: Dinners this week aren’t focused on any specific nutritional goals, rather they are balanced meals with ingredients from all food groups.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: 4 people
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 70% of dinners (no weekend dinners)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Yes, but most ingredients are prepped and ready for the air fryer.

Meal Plan

Dinners

This shopping list contains everything you will need to prepare five easy air fryer dinners (plus a few side dishes!). It assumes cooking basics like olive oil, salt, and pepper are already on hand, so check your stocks before heading to the store. Additionally, compare this list to the contents of your pantry, fridge, and freezer to avoid buying ingredients that you already have on hand. In addition to the ingredients for recipes in the plan, pick up a few bagged salads or steam-in-bag frozen vegetables to round out the meals.

  • Bakery: 4 hot dog buns, 4 pita breads
  • Dry Goods: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon (optional) cayenne pepper, 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1 1/4 cups panko breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 cup marinara sauce, mustard (for serving), 8 ounces dried chickpeas, 1/2 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Dairy: 4 large eggs, 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, 4 ounces (4 slices) part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • Produce: Bagged salad mix, fresh basil leaves for topping (optional), 1 large yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic, 3 lemons, 1 small shallot, 1 pound medium to thick asparagus, 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, 1 English cucumber, 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 small red onion
  • Meat/Seafood: 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 uncooked bratwurst sausages, 4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets (frozen is OK)
  • Frozen: Frozen vegetable sides

Power Hour: How to Get the Prep Done

  1. Soak dried chickpeas. If you have the time, soak the dried chickpeas in cool water at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours, otherwise quick-soak the chickpeas. To quick-soak: Sort and rinse the chickpeas. Place the beans in a saucepan, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove the pot from the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour. 
  2. Slice peppers and onions. Cut 1 yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 yellow bell pepper into 1/4-inch slices. Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate.
  3. Trim asparagus. Rinse and trim the woody ends from 1 pound asparagus. Fill a glass jar with an inch or two of water, then stand the asparagus up in the jar. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate.
  4. Prep falafel toppings. Place each in a separate container and refrigerate: Slice 1 English cucumber, cut 1 lemon into wedges, thinly slice red onion, pick 1/4 cup leaves from fresh parsley bunch.
  5. Make seasoning and breading mixtures. Air Fryer Chicken Parm: Combine the seasoning mixture (1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder) in a small jar, label, and store at room temperature. Combine the breading mixture (1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese) in a small container, label, and refrigerate. Air Fryer Tilapia: Combine the seasoning mixture (1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper) in a small jar, label, and store at room temperature. Combine the breading mixture (3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese) in a small container, label, and refrigerate. Air Fryer Chicken Breasts: Combine the seasoning mixture (1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon paprika) in a small container, label, and store at room temperature.
  6. Make tahini sauce. Whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt together in a small bowl. Adjust consistency with warm water, if desired. Transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate.
  7. Prep falafel mixture. Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Chop 1 small shallot and 2 garlic cloves then add to a food processor fit with a blade attachment. Add soaked chickpeas, 1 cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Pulse for 10 seconds, then scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. Repeat this process 2 to 3 more times until the mixture comes together and the chickpeas retain texture but are broken down. Add all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the mixture doesn’t come together. Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate.
Credit: Kitchn
Easy Air Fryer Dinners
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

Dinners

  • Monday, Air Fryer Chicken Parm: Slice 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half horizontally (also known as butterflying), then season with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Follow the breading procedure listed in the recipe. Arrange 2 of the pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket with no overlap. Air fry at 400°F for 5 to 6 minutes. Top each piece of chicken with a slice of mozzarella cheese, and secure each piece of cheese with 2 toothpicks (this will keep the cheese in place and prevent the air fryer’s fan from dislodging it). Air fry until the chicken is cooked through (165°F on an instant-read thermometer) and the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and repeat cooking with the remaining chicken and cheese. Meanwhile, warm 1 cup marinara sauce on the stovetop or in the microwave. Spoon marinara onto each plate and top with the crispy chicken, and garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired. Serve with bagged salad mix.
  • Tuesday, Air Fryer Brats: Pierce the bratwurst casings, then air fry at 350° to 360°F for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add the prepared peppers and onions and sauté over medium-high heat until tender and browned in spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve the bratwurst in hot dog buns with sautéed onions and peppers and mustard.  If using frozen tilapia on Wednesday, transfer the fillets to a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate overnight to thaw.
  • Wednesday, Air Fryer Tilapia: Season tilapia fillets with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then follow the breading procedure listed in the recipe. Spray the top of the fillets with cooking spray and arrange 2 at a time in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air fry at 400°F for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and cover loosely with foil while you prepare the remaining tilapia. Serve with a prepared frozen vegetable side dish and lemon wedges. 
  • Thursday, Air Fryer Chicken Breasts with Air Fryer Asparagus: Heat air fryer to 400°F or 425°F. Coat 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with olive oil, then sprinkle with the prepared seasoning mixture. Transfer the chicken to the air fryer and arrange in a single layer. Air fry for 28 to 30 minutes at 400°F or 20 to 22 minutes at 425°F, flipping halfway through. The chicken is done when it registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board, cover with foil, and rest while you prepare the asparagus. Toss the asparagus with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Add the asparagus to the air fryer and spread into a single layer (slight overlap is OK). Air fry for 8 to 10 minutes at 400°F or 425°F, shaking the basket (or rotating the pans) halfway through. Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle with black pepper. Slice the chicken breasts, add to the plates, and serve.
  • Friday, Air Fryer Falafel with 3-Ingredient Lemon Tahini Sauce: Heat the air fryer to 350°F. Scoop the falafel mixture into tablespoon-sized portions and roll into balls. Place the falafel in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Air fry for 10 minutes, flip and continue to air fry for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm pita bread and chop tomatoes. Serve with 3-Ingredient Lemon Tahini Sauce, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, lemon, parsley, the tomatoes, and warmed pita.  

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Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.