This easy, no-fuss frozen broccoli in the air fryer makes your weeknight sides a breeze!
If you like oven-roasted broccoli, you’ll love this recipe!
Generally, I have chosen to use an air fryer for small, 1-2 person servings of food, and the oven for large batches of food.
However, with how quickly this air-fried frozen broccoli cooks, if you decide you want seconds after all, it’s easy to make a second batch!
Why you should add this recipe to your rotation
This recipe is naturally:
- Low Carb
- Easy, &
It requires almost no prep work and is crispy and delicious!
One of the healthiest ways to cook frozen broccoli
While picky eaters can often be encouraged to eat cooked fresh broccoli, frozen broccoli can turn out a bit mushy after steaming.
This can lead people to drown it in butter or cheese sauce to make it more palatable.
A better solution?
Air fry it!
With only 1 tablespoon of oil, this frozen broccoli cooked in the air fryer crisps up beautifully without a hint of mushiness.
Try adding a few extra minutes to the cook time for picky eaters, and then just tell them you made broccoli fries!
What should I serve with this air-fried frozen broccoli?
Anything you would typically serve with broccoli would go very well with this dish. (And in my opinion, broccoli goes with just about everything!)
I think the roasted flavor of this broccoli goes especially well in dishes like grain bowls, buddha bowls, and hearty salads.
Some more classic broccoli pairings include:
- Mashed potatoes
- Mac and cheese (you can try my gouda mac and cheese recipe for a fancy twist)
- Tofu “steaks”
- Grilled cheese
- Corn on the cob
- Pasta dishes (like my lemon pepper pasta or pomodorini penne)
Pin it for later!
How do I make this frozen broccoli extra crispy in the air fryer?
You can increase the cook time by a few minutes for crispier results. Just keep an eye on your food to make sure it doesn’t burn, and you might want to flip it one more time so it cooks evenly.
As written, I found that the small pieces were perfectly browned and had an excellent roasted flavor. The larger pieces tasted steamed on the inside but browned on the edges.
For truly crispy air fryer broccoli, try starting with fresh broccoli rather than frozen (instructions and photos below under variations).
If you are trying to eat less chips for example, you will likely really enjoy the crunch and chewiness of the fresh broccoli.
However, I preferred the frozen. The fresh has less liquid, so the edges got pretty dark before the insides were fully tender, so it was quite tough and chewy. If you eat a lot, your jaw might get a little tired (a good thing if you’re going for portion control I suppose).
Next time I would try an even lower temperature for fresh broccoli.
Can I cook this broccoli straight from frozen in the air fryer without defrosting?
Yes, and that is the best way!
The liquid thawing and cooking off helps steam the broccoli and prevent it from burning.
Do I really need to preheat the air fryer to make this frozen broccoli?
Honestly, probably not. Air fryers heat up much more quickly than ovens, so you can just start cooking from cold and maybe add a minute or two to the cooking time.
Frozen Broccoli Air Fryer Tips
- Don’t overcrowd the broccoli in the basket
Aim for a single, even layer with as little overlap as possible. This will create the crispy, brown edges. Otherwise, you might just end up with steamed broccoli – still good, but not quite the same.
- Turn the broccoli halfway through
This should naturally happen after you stir in the seasonings and replace the broccoli in the basket, but if you see only browned sides, be sure to flip them with a spatula before continuing cooking.
If you have a tall basket, you can just shake it instead of using a spatula.
While not strictly necessary with the fresh broccoli variation, this is important for the main frozen broccoli recipe for the same reason – delicious, crisped and browned edges.
- Keep an eye on your food while cooking
Air fryers (and therefore cooking times) can vary slightly, so don’t go too far while your broccoli is air frying.
- Don’t let the broccoli thaw or defrost ahead of time
This can lead to mushier broccoli with less browned edges.
- Don’t forget the oil
The oil helps encourage browning. While of course if you are following a no oil added diet you can skip it, just note this will taste more like steamed broccoli with only a few browned pieces.
- For easier cleanup
If desired, you can line the basket with aluminum foil or parchment paper, although this is not necessary.
More Pro Tips
- Play with seasonings
Since an air fryer batch is typically much smaller than an oven batch, you can try multiple seasoning blends without having to eat an enormous amount of food.
I made my first batch of air fried broccoli as written, with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
For my next batch, I tried the broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
They were both delicious, but I really loved the first, spicy batch!
- Choose broccoli florets rather than cuts for quicker cook times
Broccoli florets tend to cook more quickly than the thicker-skinned stems.
(As a bonus, the Vitamin A is concentrated more in the florets than in the stems of broccoli, although both provide plenty of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, as well as some folate, B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.)
How many servings are in a 16-ounce bag of frozen broccoli?
One pound of broccoli provides four servings.
(I won’t judge if you eat more than one serving though, especially once you try it with the crushed red pepper flakes . . .)
Air frying vs. roasting frozen broccoli
While fresh broccoli turns out beautifully roasted in the oven, frozen broccoli is another story.
You have to defrost it, drain it, and then try roasting it, only to get mediocre results after a lot of time.
With an air fryer, you get crispier results much faster.
Air fried frozen vegetables (like broccoli) really do turn into little French fry-like treats that you can dip in aioli and feel pretty good about eating.
So if you’ve run out of fresh veggies and can’t make it to the store, this technique can really improve the appeal of frozen vegetables and make them much more appetizing.
Do I really need to use oil for air frying frozen broccoli?
There is enough liquid in frozen broccoli that you could probably get away with skipping it or replacing it with lemon juice, vegetable oil, or water.
However, the oil helps the broccoli brown on the edges and really get that roasted flavor, rather than simply tasting steamed.
To reduce the amount of oil, you could just use an olive oil cooking spray when you first place them in the air fryer, and maybe one more spritz after you turn them halfway through.
Can you steam frozen broccoli in the air fryer?
By skipping the oil in this recipe, the result will taste pretty similar to steamed broccoli. In the photo above, the frozen broccoli (with no seasonings) has been cooked for 5 minutes.
There is a small amount of browning but not much. To continue steaming, I would take it out at this point, toss with seasonings of your choice, and cook it for no more than 5 more minutes.
Can you stack the veggies?
Again, it depends on the texture you are going for. If you want more of a steamed texture, then yes.
If you want crispy, roasted broccoli with browned edges, then no, you should avoid stacking the florets.
For the best air fryer frozen broccoli, what temperature do you cook at?
When air frying frozen broccoli, 425°F is the ideal temperature to help it crisp up and allow the liquid to cook off.
(Note: if you follow the fresh broccoli in the air fryer variation, you will want to reduce the temperature to 375°F or 400°F at the most. With less liquid, the florets will get dark before the stems get tender.)
How long do you air fry frozen broccoli? Cooking time
Different air fryers can vary a bit, so definitely keep an eye on your food as it cooks, but generally speaking, frozen broccoli will take between 10-15 minutes. (At 10 it will be more steamed, and at 15 it will be very crispy, like French fries or chips.)
Flavor Variations and substitutions for this recipe
While in the frozen aisle, consider blends that add other vegetables, or even replace the broccoli entirely. For example, try:
- Air Fryer Broccoli and Carrots
- Air Fryer Broccoli and Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots
- Air Fryer Broccolini
- Air Fryer Frozen Brussel Sprouts
Try garnishing with lemon juice, parmesan cheese, slivered almonds, or any other toppings you think would go well.
You could also top these with cheese sauce, garlic chili sauce, balsamic vinegar glaze or dressing, or tahini (or dip them if preferred).
Seasoned crispy air fryer frozen broccoli
Feel free to change up the seasonings. You may also like:
- Lemon pepper
- Italian seasoning
- Spicy rub
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cajun seasoning
- Chili powder
- Smoked paprika
- Curry, garam masala, or other Indian style seasoning
- Parmesan and garlic
- Nutritional yeast
- Everything but the bagel seasoning
- Herbs de Provence
- Plain salt and pepper
Frozen breaded broccoli in the air fryer
Add panko breadcrumbs to the olive oil and seasoning blend before tossing the broccoli, or sprinkle them on top of the basket of broccoli for a bit more crunch.
Frozen broccoli in the air fryer with no oil
For a no oil added recipe, you can replace the oil with lemon juice, vegetable oil, or water. Just note that the broccoli won’t get quite as browned and will taste more steamed.
Variation: How to cook fresh broccoli in the air fryer
- Cut the broccoli into small to medium pieces. The smaller the pieces, the more quickly they will cook, and the crispier they will get.
2. Add 2 Tbsp of water to the pan under the basket (NOT the heating element). Preheat the air fryer for a couple minutes, but only to 375°F or 400°F for this variation. (I tried 400°F but the stems were still a little tough.)
3. Toss 1 lb of fresh broccoli with double the moisture (i.e. 2 Tbsp of olive oil or 1 T oil and 1 T lemon juice, vegetable broth, or water) and the same amount of seasonings.
4. Cook for 6 minutes and enjoy! You can turn them halfway through if desired, but this is probably not necessary. Keep a closer eye on fresh broccoli – it can burn more quickly than frozen since there is less liquid.
How long does air fried broccoli last? Storage and making it ahead of time
This dish is best served immediately. (Personally, my husband and I did not have a problem eating a whole pound of broccoli in one sitting.)
You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days and reheat it if you have leftovers, but they tend to lose their crispiness.
Try reheating in the air fryer to crisp the broccoli back up.
How to reheat leftover broccoli in the air fryer
- Place your leftover broccoli in the air fryer basket.
- Cook at 400°F for 5 minutes or so until hot and crispy.
Is frozen broccoli healthy?
Yes, frozen broccoli contains the same nutrients as fresh broccoli: fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, folate, B vitamins, and more.
The cooking process is more likely to diminish nutrients than the freezing process, so if frozen is more practical and economical for your lifestyle, go for it!
Should I defrost or thaw my frozen vegetables before air frying them?
No, that is not recommended. They tend to come out a bit mushier.
For best results, start cooking straight from frozen so the thawing liquid can steam the broccoli and prevent it from burning.
Can I cook frozen broccoli in a ninja air fryer instead?
Yes, any air fryer will work fine.
In fact, with a design like a Ninja, you can just shake the basket halfway through instead of flipping the broccoli over with a spatula.
Just note that air fryers can vary a bit in temperature, so be sure to keep an eye on your food when you have just a few minutes left.
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Simple Ingredients for making frozen broccoli in the air fryer
Before you begin, you will need:
- 1 lb frozen broccoli florets
You can also use broccoli cuts and save a little money. They will still taste great, but they might not be quiet as photogenic.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
Of course, you can use whatever cooking oil you prefer, but the flavor of olive oil is nice in this recipe. Avocado oil is also nice due to its high smoke point.
- 1/2 tsp salt (you could probably get away with 1/4 tsp if you are watching your sodium intake – mine was restaurant style and full of flavor)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional – if you’d prefer no heat, swap for garlic powder or lemon pepper, etc.)
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
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Large spoon or spatula
How to make frozen broccoli in the air fryer – Directions
- First, preheat your air fryer to 425°F for 1-2 minutes.
- Then, arrange your frozen broccoli florets in as flat of a layer as possible on the air fryer basket. Cook for 5 minutes.
- While the broccoli is cooking, combine your olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes in the large mixing bowl.
- Once the 5 minutes are up, take the broccoli out and pour it into the bowl with the seasoning. Toss with the large spoon until evenly coated.
- After that, place the broccoli back in the air fryer basket, again in an even layer, and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and see if you want it crispier, and if so, cook for a couple more minutes, being careful not to let it burn.
- Finally, serve hot and enjoy!
- 1 lb frozen broccoli florets
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional or swap for garlic powder)
1. First, preheat your air fryer to 425°F for 1-2 minutes.
2. Then, arrange your frozen broccoli florets in as flat of a layer as possible on the air fryer basket. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. While the broccoli is cooking, combine your olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes in the large mixing bowl.
4. Once the 5 minutes are up, take the broccoli out and pour it into the bowl with the seasoning. Toss with the large spoon until evenly coated.
5. After that, place the broccoli back in the air fryer basket, again in an even layer, and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and see if you want it crispier, and if so, cook for a couple more minutes, being careful not to let it burn.
6. Finally, serve hot and enjoy!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 70Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 337mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g