Forget the Fryer: 8 Recipes for Baked Alternatives

We’re not against all fried food, or even making fried food every now and then, but sometimes you just want the baked version. This can be for health reasons since, as FitDay points out, you add extra calories and fats to foods when they get the frying treatment. How unhealthy the food is varies based on what you are making and what kind of oil you are using, but when it comes to making the foods at home, other factors enter the equation. In addition to potentially being better for you, baking is a more accessible option.

Frying can require fryers or pots and pans you may not have, as well as other equipment — like special thermometers — to ensure you get everything just right. With baking, all you need is your oven, the recipe, and the ingredients. Approach it from a health angle or because it is just a little bit easier: either way, you’ll want to preheat your oven now, because you’re about to start baking alternatives to your favorite fried foods.

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1. Cajun Fries

Kick up your baked fries with Rachel Ray’s Food Network recipe. Cut into wedges, these thick fries are tossed in a blend of seasonings, creating cajun flavor for your potato wedges. You’ll get four servings of simple-to-make, delicious-to-eat fries.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium thin-skinned white potatoes
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (⅓ handful) ground thyme or poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon (⅓ handful) sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon (⅓ handful) ground cumin
  • coarse salt and black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut potatoes into wedges. In a large bowl, combine oil, hot sauce, thyme, paprika, and cumin. Toss potatoes in dressing and spread out in a single layer on a nonstick cookie sheet. Season wedges with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, turning once.

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2. Baked Chicken Wings

Bon Appétit is giving you two ways to enjoy crispy chicken wings straight out of your oven with recipes for both a buffalo sauce and a soy-ginger glaze. You could also serve your sauces on the side for dipping, determining just how much of which sauce you want after taste testing both. Slate maintains that when you’re roasting your chicken wings, this is what you’ll want to do anyway in order to retain the crispy caramelization chicken wings achieve when roasted. The buffalo sauce can be made up to one week in advance, and the soy-ginger glaze up to five days; for each, you’ll want to cover and chill if storing, warming the sauce and/or glaze before using.

Ingredients:

Buffalo sauce

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)

Soy ginger glaze

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (2-by-1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

Wings

  • 5 pounds chicken wings, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: For the buffalo sauce, mix the first four ingredients in a medium bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in hot sauce; keep warm. To make the soy-ginger glaze, bring all ingredients and ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve honey. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to ¼ cup, 7-8 minutes. Strain into a medium bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes to thicken slightly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a wire rack inside each of the two large-rimmed baking sheets. Place all ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Divide wings between prepared racks and spread out in a single layer. Bake wings until cooked through and skin is crispy, 45-50 minutes.

Line another rimmed baking sheet with foil; top with a wire rack. Add half of wings to ginger-soy glaze and toss to evenly coat. Place wings in a single layer on prepared rack and bake until glaze is glossy and lightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Toss remaining half of wings in buffalo sauce. Serve immediately (no need to bake).

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3. Baked Churros

Churros that you can form carefully on a baking sheet, rather than directly into oil heated for frying sounds — in some ways — a whole lot easier. That is exactly what you’ll be doing when you follow this recipe from HGTV and Heather Baird when you bake your churros. This makes about eight 10-inch churros, which would be fantastic with dulce de leche. All you’ll need for Very Best Baking‘s version is a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ⅓ cup margarine or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup water, brown sugar, and salt. Add butter and place over medium-high heat. Heat until butter is melted and mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat and add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Mixture will clump and pull away from the sides of the pan. Mix and mash with a wooden spoon until no streaks of flour can be seen.

In a small bowl, combine eggs and vanilla. Scramble mixture with a fork and then add to the dough ball in the saucepan. Stir and mash, breaking up the dough until loosened. Stir well until eggs are incorporated and mixture has the appearance of mashed potatoes.

Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with Ateco decorator tip No. 867, or pipe the dough in a zip-top bag with the corner snipped for churros with no ridges. Pipe dough into long, thin lengths on the parchment-covered pans. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the end of the dough from the piping tip. Leave about 2 inches of space between the churros.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly puffed. Turn oven to broiler setting and watch carefully as churros toast and turn deep golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. If you’re working in batches, be sure to return the oven setting to 425 degrees Fahrenheit before putting in the next pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon and pour onto a long dish. Roll churros in mixture.

Serve with dulce de leche made by pouring the sweetened condensed milk into the top of double-boiler pan; cover. Place over boiling water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40-50 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Remove from heat. Beat until smooth.

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4. Baked Falafel

In addition to a New York Times recipe for fried falafel, Mark Bittman also has a baked alternative. He shared this no-fryer version from his cookbook VB6 on his website, and it makes eight servings. Serve the falafel in wraps, on a salad, or as is with tahini sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups dried chickpeas
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup tahini

Directions: Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches – the beans triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 12-24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged. You’ll want to soak them until you can break them apart by pinching the chickpeas with your fingers.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, herb, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, baking soda, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary; add water tablespoon by tablespoon if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or cayenne as needed.

Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Roll the bean mixture into 20 balls, about 1½ inches each, then flatten them into thick patties. Put the falafel on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until golden all over, 10-15 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, whisk the tahini and remaining salt with ½ cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the falafel drizzled with the sauce.

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5. Popcorn Shrimp

Cookin’ up Dreams will have you bakin’ up shrimp with this recipe that takes a restaurant favorite and throws it in the oven instead of the fryer. If you buy frozen shrimp, you can thaw them in cold water first. This recipe serves four.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian or other seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • cooking spray
  • cocktail sauce, for dipping (if desired)

Directions: Pat thawed shrimp dry and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place flour with salt and pepper, eggs, and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes. Begin dipping shrimp in flour and shake off excess, move through the egg, then coat with breadcrumbs. Place coated shrimp on a wire rack on a sheet pan. Be sure to spray the rack before placing the shrimp on it. Once all shrimp are coated, spray them liberally with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, cool slightly and they are ready to enjoy!

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6. Baked Crab Cakes

Staying with seafood, baked crab cakes are possible thanks to this recipe from Sunset. Served in the original with a roasted pepper-chive aioli, you could always sub in a lemon-dill, tartar, or remoulade. Crab cakes also are a great addition to sandwiches or salads. This makes 24 appetizer-sized crab cakes, so you may want to adjust the recipe or form larger cakes — although appetizer size is the perfect proportion for sliders.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces shelled cooked crab
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1¼ cups Panko or fine dried bread crumbs

Roasted pepper-chive aioli

  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup chopped drained canned roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions: Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Sort through crab and discard any bits of shell. In a large bowl, combine celery, minced chives, mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and hot sauce; mix well with a fork. Add crab and ¼ cup panko; stir gently just to mix. Put remaining 1 cup panko in a shallow bowl. Shape crab mixture into 24 cakes, each about 2 inches wide and ½ inch thick. Turn each cake in panko to coat on all sides, pressing gently to make crumbs adhere. Place cakes slightly apart in an oiled 12-by 17-inch baking pan. Bake in a regular or convection oven until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. With a spatula, transfer crab cakes to a platter.

Mix all the aioli ingredients together in a bowl. Spoon a dollop of roasted pepper-chive aioli onto each cake. Garnish platter with fresh chives. Serve hot.

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7. Elephant Ears

A staple at fairgrounds across America, elephant ears are a fried food indulgence that you can bake when you follow this recipe from Taste of Home. It makes around a dozen crispy elephant ears – perfect for sharing!

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 package (¼ ounce) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

Filling/topping

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans

Directions: In a large bowl, combine milk, water, and yeast; set aside. In another large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg to yeast mixture; beat into dry ingredients until blended. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Punch dough down; turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 8-10 times. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll into an 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 1 cup over dough. Beginning with a long side, roll up jelly-roll style; pinch edges to seal. Cut into 1-inch slices.

For each elephant ear, sprinkle a small amount of the remaining cinnamon-sugar on a piece of waxed paper. Place a slice of dough on cinnamon-sugar; roll into a 5-inch circle. Place sugared side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with some of the remaining butter; sprinkle with pecans and cinnamon-sugar. Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.

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8. Corn Dogs

A common problem encountered with many baked corn dogs is the batter, which tends to spread or not preform as well as people would like when placed in the oven instead of the fryer. You can eliminate this problem and quite a few ingredients if you go the semi-homemade route with Pillsbury’s recipe, which relies on frozen biscuit dough.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (16.3 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (such as Grands)
  • 8 teaspoons ketchup
  • 8 teaspoons mustard
  • 8 hot dogs

Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Press or roll each to form 6½-inch oval. Spread each biscuit with 1 teaspoon ketchup and 1 teaspoon mustard. Place 1 hot dog in center of each biscuit. Roll dough around hot dog; seal ends and edges well. Place seam side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

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