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Can you put water in an air fryer to cook vegetables?

Whether water can be added to an air fryer to cook vegetables is a common question for those new to air frying. The simple answer is yes, a small amount of water can be used in an air fryer to help steam vegetables and add moisture during the cooking process. However, there are some important factors to consider when cooking with water in an air fryer.

Quick Answer

Yes, you can put a small amount of water in an air fryer to cook vegetables. The water creates steam which helps the vegetables cook faster and more evenly. 1-3 tablespoons of water is usually enough for a standard 3-5 qt air fryer basket. Be sure not to add too much water or the vegetables may become soggy.

How Does Water Help Cook Vegetables in an Air Fryer?

Adding a bit of water to vegetables in an air fryer serves a few purposes:

  • Creates steam – As the water heats up, it converts to steam. This steam surrounds the vegetables, helping them cook faster and more evenly.
  • Prevents drying out – The steam helps prevent vegetables from drying out in the dry heat of the air fryer.
  • Aids in browning – The added moisture can help promote caramelization and browning through hydrolysis and the Maillard reaction.
  • Enhances flavor – Steaming the vegetables brings out their natural flavors.
  • Softens texture – The steam slightly softens the texture of vegetables.

How Much Water Should You Use?

When cooking vegetables in an air fryer with water, use only a small amount. As a general guideline:

  • 1-2 tbsp water for a 2 qt air fryer basket
  • 2-3 tbsp water for a 3 qt air fryer basket
  • 3-4 tbsp water for a 5 qt air fryer basket

You want enough water to create some steam but not so much that the vegetables become soggy or waterlogged. Start with less water and increase the amount as needed. Misting vegetables with a spray bottle is another option.

How to Add Water When Air Frying Vegetables

Here are a few simple methods for adding water when cooking veggies in an air fryer:

  • Spray bottle: Mist the vegetables lightly with water from a spray bottle. This allows you to control the amount of water.
  • Drizzle: Drizzle the measured amount of water directly over the vegetables in the air fryer basket.
  • Pot or cup: Pour a small amount of water into a heat-safe ramekin or small cup. Place this in the air fryer next to the vegetables.
  • Steaming tray: If your air fryer came with a steaming tray accessory, fill it with water and place under the vegetable basket.

Regardless of method, be careful not to overfill and leak water into the bottom of the air fryer. This could damage the heating element.

Best Vegetables to Cook with Water in an Air Fryer

These vegetables benefit well from the addition of a little water when cooked in an air fryer:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets

Starchy root vegetables and squash in particular can be prone to drying out in the air fryer, so adding some moisture helps improve the end result.

Tips for Cooking Vegetables with Water in an Air Fryer

Follow these tips when adding water to vegetables in an air fryer:

  • Cut vegetables into similar sized pieces for even cooking.
  • Toss vegetables lightly in oil before air frying for optimal browning.
  • Mist vegetables with water halfway through cooking if needed.
  • For root vegetables, parboil first before air frying.
  • Check halfway and stir vegetables or shake basket.
  • Add any seasonings after air frying, not before.

Air Fryer Vegetable Cooking Water Amount Guidelines

Use these general guidelines for how much water to use when cooking different vegetables:

Vegetable Water Amount (per 1 lb)
Asparagus 1-2 tbsp
Broccoli 1-2 tbsp
Brussels Sprouts 1-2 tbsp
Cauliflower 2-3 tbsp
Green Beans 1-2 tbsp
Kale 1-2 tbsp
Zucchini 1-2 tbsp
Bell Peppers 1-2 tbsp
Eggplant 2-3 tbsp
Carrots 1-2 tbsp
Parsnips 2-3 tbsp
Beets 2-3 tbsp

Keep in mind that the needed amount of water can vary depending on the moisture content of the vegetables, size of pieces, and desired texture. Start with less water and increase as needed. Too much water will make vegetables soggy.

Mistakes to Avoid When Using Water in an Air Fryer

While water can help cook veggies in an air fryer, there are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t add too much water – Only use 1-4 tbsp for most air fryer batches. Excess water leads to steaming instead of frying.
  • Don’t let water leak into bottom of air fryer – This can damage the heating element. Use a ramekin or steaming tray.
  • Don’t spray water directly on heating coils – Mist vegetables away from exposed heating coils to prevent damage.
  • Don’t use water with breading or coating – The water will ruin the crispy texture of any breading.
  • Don’t let veggies sit in water – Drain off any excess liquid after misting or cooking to prevent sogginess.

As long as you follow the proper techniques and amounts, adding a bit of water when air frying vegetables can take them to the next level.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put vegetables in water in an air fryer?

Yes, you can put a small amount of water in with vegetables when cooking them in an air fryer. 1-3 tablespoons of water is usually sufficient. The water creates steam which helps the veggies cook faster and more evenly. Avoid submerging the vegetables completely in water, as this will steam them rather than air fry them.

Should you spray vegetables with water before air frying?

Lightly misting vegetables with water from a spray bottle before air frying is an easy way to provide moisture. The water will evaporate into steam during cooking. Just be careful not to over-spray near the heating element. Avoid spraying vegetables with any breading or coating, as this will make them soggy.

What vegetables get soggy in air fryer?

Some vegetables that are prone to getting soggy in the air fryer include potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and other tender produce with high moisture content. Adding a bit of water can help them cook properly without drying out. But too much water will make the sogginess worse. Keep water under 2-3 tbsp.

Can you put a cup of water in the air fryer?

It’s not recommended to put a full cup of water into an air fryer. That excessive amount of water can damage the appliance by leaking into the bottom and getting on the heating element. However, placing a small heat-proof ramekin with 1-2 tbsp of water in the air fryer is safe. The water will gradually evaporate into steam.

What happens if you put too much water in air fryer?

Using too much water in an air fryer can lead to several issues. It may cause leaking, leading to damage of the fryer. The food will likely end up soggy and waterlogged instead of crispy. Too much steam can also prevent the air fryer from reaching optimal cooking temperatures. Aim for just 1-4 tbsp water at most for a standard size air fryer basket.


Adding a small amount of water when cooking vegetables in an air fryer can help them turn out juicy, tender, and flavorful. The water creates steam which speeds up cooking, prevents drying out, and enhances the vegetable’s natural flavors. Use a spray bottle, drizzle, or ramekin to add 1-3 tablespoons of water to the air fryer. Avoid drowning the vegetables or letting water leak into the bottom of the appliance. With the proper technique, water and an air fryer can take vegetables from dry to perfectly steamed.