When you’re looking to spice up your party spread, nothing’s better than a fresh batch of jalapeño poppers. Sliced jalapeños stuffed with creamy, cheesy and crunchy goodness make for a delicious bite that calls for seconds (and thirds!). Whether you’re hosting this year’s Super Bowl or planning for a potluck, this tasty finger food is an instant crowd favorite. And here’s a secret: you can speed up the cook time by using an air fryer. What you get is a lighter twist that tastes just as good! Plus, we’re sharing insider tips for making a great batch at home and other fun flavor variations. Here’s everything you need to know to make this air fryer jalapeño poppers recipe a standout.
What are jalapeño poppers?
Jalapeño poppers, or jalapeño bites, are made from sliced and hollowed jalapeño peppers that are then stuffed with a mixture of cheese, spices or ground meat, breaded and fried (click through for more creative jalapeño recipes: jalapeño corn bread and jalapeño cheddar chicken). Some variations opt for baking instead of frying; others prefer wrapping jalapeño poppers in bacon before frying to create the armadillo egg. Jalapeño poppers usually come with various sauces for dipping, including ranch dressing or BBQ sauce.
While their exact origin is unknown, jalapeño poppers are believed to be a Tex-Mex version of chile relleno, a Mexican stuffed-pepper dish. In America, the term “jalapeño popper” was officially trademarked in 1993 by Anchor Food Products, though similar recipes were made as early as the 1970s.
Why air frying is a better option
Most jalapeño poppers recipes come baked or fried. Each cooking style has its own pros and cons. Deep frying or pan frying easily gives poppers a golden finish in minutes. However, using large amounts of oil can add extra calories to your plate. Baking jalapeño poppers in an oven is a healthier alternative, but doesn’t crisp up the exterior nearly as well or fast. Luckily, cooking with an air fryer solves both problems. Instead of oil, an air fryer circulates heat to evenly cook and crisp up the poppers grease-free. It’s also much faster than an oven so you can shave off a few extra minutes of party prep.
Insider tips for making great air fryer jalapeño poppers
For best results in any jalapeño popper batch, you’ll want to start with the right jalapeño peppers. “Look for firm, glossy peppers without any signs of wrinkles or soft spots,” says Gabrielle Yap, senior editor at CarnivoreStyle. She explains that, “Freshness contributes significantly to the overall flavor and texture of the air-fried jalapeños.”
Jalapeño peppers are, you guessed it, spicy. Most of the heat is concentrated in the pith, or ribs of the pepper, and some on the seeds. You can adjust the spice level by removing them with a spoon or leave in if you want a kick. To prevent skin irritation, it’s best to wear gloves when handling jalapeño peppers.
To get ultra-crispy poppers, Yap shares another tip: “Make sure to pat the jalapeño slices dry with a paper towel. Excess moisture can impact the crispiness of the peppers during the cooking process.”
Simple air fryer jalapeño poppers recipe
Making jalapeño poppers at home is a breeze with an air fryer, even if it’s right before your guests arrive. This tasty recipe comes from Shawn at I Wash You Dry and features crispy breaded jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese, cheddar and green onions. And it takes only 18 minutes!
Air Fryer Jalapeño Poppers
- 5 medium jalapeños, fresh
- ½ cup cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 Tbsp. green onions, chopped
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ⅛ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
Yield: 10 poppers
- Using gloves or extra care, slice the jalapeños in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pith of each slice with a spoon until hollow. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, thoroughly combine cream cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Spoon mixture into the peppers, about 1 Tbsp. each.
- In a separate bowl, combine Panko breadcrumbs and melted butter and mix thoroughly. Dip the cream cheese side of the peppers into the crumbs and coat evenly.
- Place peppers in the air fryer in an even layer and cook at 375°F, 5 to 8 minutes.
Note: Cook time varies by air fryer power. Preheating will cook the poppers faster.
Personalize your air fryer jalapeño poppers
The best part about jalapeño poppers? They’re too good to not innovate. Take inspiration with these creative stuffing ideas that will bring your poppers to new heights.
1. Bacon jalapeño poppers
This one goes fast (for obvious reasons). Watch this easy air fryer recipe below!
2. Herbed goat cheese poppers
Go a bit upscale with goat cheese, fresh garlic, lemon juice and minced parsley for the filling.
3. Buffalo + blue cheese poppers
Blue cheese, buffalo sauce and jalapeños is a tangy, spicy match made in heaven! Simply mix together and use as stuffing.
4. Pepperoni pizza poppers
Shredded mozzarella and chopped mini pepperonis for the filling? It’s definitely a pizza party. Or wrap a full-size slice of pepperoni around the outside before air frying.
5. Mediteranean poppers
Travel to Greece in your own home with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.
For more air fryer appetizers, check out these recipes