Much to my doctor’s displeasure, I can’t stay away from fried foods. I have a weak spot for French fries, doughnuts, and all kinds of crispy, golden brown foods—something that is, unfortunately, reflected in my devastatingly high cholesterol levels. They’re not a new invention, but it was only recently that I ate my first avocado fry, and while I won’t pretend they’re as good as French fries—they’re not—avocado fries are delicious in their own way, crispy and golden brown on the outside and buttery within.
One could, of course, actually fry an avocado fry, but for this recipe I opted for the oven or an air fryer, because, let’s be honest, if real frying is involved, I’m going with French fries. And the truth is, with just a few thoughtful techniques, this not-actually-fried snack simulates frying well enough to earn a welcome spot among the deep-fried foods I live for.
There are two main steps to nailing great avocado fries. The first is properly selecting your avocado so that it’s just ripe enough, but not so soft it’ll fall apart while you’re cooking. The second is being thoughtful about the breadcrumbs, in order to get the crispiest, most flavorful coating that mimics a fried food’s evenly golden-brown exterior. After that, you just have to decide whether you’re going to use an oven or an air fryer to cook them (short answer: if you have an air fryer, use it).
How to Pick Avocados for Avocado Fries
If you have a bunch of soft, ripe avocados sitting on your kitchen counter, this is not the recipe for them. It’s tempting to think that perfectly ripe avocados are always better for cooking and eating, but in the case of avocado fries—where we have to be able to peel, slice, and coat the avocado before cooking it—we want fruit that are ripe but on the firmer side.
The ideal avocado for this is one that gives just slightly when you gently press the fruit near the stem end, with flesh that’s a vivid pale green. Once cooked, the slightly too-firm slices will soften to the exact buttery texture we want from an avocado. Avoid rock-hard, under-ripe avocados; not only will they be a pain to cut into and pit, but they may also have an unpleasant bitter flavor.
The Road to the Best Breadcrumb Coating
You might be wondering: why panko and not breadcrumbs? Panko is airier and less dense, and makes a crispier, crunchier coating than breadcrumbs. It’s important, however, to crush some of the panko to reduce overly large flakes. In my early batches, the coloring was uneven, with parts of the avocado fries browning faster than others due to bits of panko that were too big, exposing the bits that stuck out further to a more intense blast of heat. An easy solution to this was to hand-crush the panko, so we’d end up with pieces that weren’t quite as large as out-of-the-box panko, but not quite as fine as standard breadcrumbs.
Just as important as the breadcrumbs themselves is what you do to them. The key to even browning is to toss the panko with oil so each breadcrumb becomes evenly saturated—the oil acts as a conductor for heat and helps us successfully mimic that fried effect we’re after.
Second, if we can add more flavor to the avocado fries, the breadcrumb coating is one of our best options for doing that (well, aside from a flavorful dipping sauce). There are no hard and fast rules for how you should season your panko, and if you’re happy with just salt and pepper, that’s totally fine—but this is also a great opportunity to open up your spice drawer and have a bit of fun. For a tangy, slightly spiced kick, I incorporated Tajín, a Mexican seasoning blend made of chiles, limes, and salt, into my panko mixture. Just as lime juice makes guacamole sing, Tajín lends a bright, zesty pop that complements the creamy, buttery flavor of avocado. No Tajín? Try mixing in smoked paprika for an earthy sweetness or crushed Sichuan peppercorns for a bit of málà heat. The possibilities are endless, and they do make a difference: After rounds of testing, I didn’t want to go back to plain salt-and-pepper–seasoned bread crumbs, so while the seasonings are optional in the recipe, I highly recommend them.
Air Fryer vs. Oven
Thanks to the air fryer, making crispy, crunchy food at home has become both easier and faster. These small but mighty machines function like small convection ovens by rapidly circulating hot air within the cooking chamber, resulting in faster cooking and more even browning. Though the fries you make in the air fryer will never be as golden and crunchy as ones made in a deep fryer, they come pretty darn close. And the best part? You don’t have to set up a pot of fryer oil, wait for it to come to temperature, and watch your fries like a hawk as you wait for them to cook.
If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t fret—I’ve developed an oven method for these avocado fries, too. All you have to do is bake the avocado fries in the oven at 400ºF for 18 minutes—flipping halfway through—until the avocado fries are crisp. It’s not quite as speedy as the air fryer, and the avocado fries don’t come out quite as evenly browned, but it’ll satisfy that craving for a crispy, crunchy snack.
In a medium bowl, lightly crush the panko with your hands until it is sandy in texture. Stir in tajín (if using), salt, and garlic powder. Drizzle in olive oil, mixing well to combine.
Halve and pit the avocados, then lay them, flat side down, on a clean work surface. Gently pull the peel back and discard. Slice each avocado lengthwise into 8 pieces. Working with one avocado slice at a time, dip in the lightly beaten egg to coat, then lift and allow excess to drip off. Transfer to the panko mixture and gently toss to coat well. Transfer to a platter and repeat with remaining avocado slices.
Preheat air fryer to 350ºF (175ºC) on the air fry setting. Place 8 avocado slices into the air fryer basket and cook, flipping halfway through, until the fries are crisp and golden brown all over, 8 minutes. Repeat with remaining avocado slices. Serve immediately, with dipping sauces if desired.
To make these fries in the oven, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Bake avocado fries on a rimmed baking sheet for 18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crisp and golden brown.