What’s cooking today: Caramelised butternut in an air fryer

What’s cooking today: Caramelised butternut in an air fryer
Tony Jackman’s caramelised butternut cooked in an air fryer. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Can you caramelise halves of butternut in an air fryer? I wanted to know, so I followed my instincts and adapted what I know to this method of cooking. Turns out, you certainly can.

Butternut, gem squash, courgettes, potatoes; these are a few of my favourite things, but now I need to learn how to cook them in new ways. 

My new learning curve, as you may know from my first foray into cooking roast potatoes in what is really a countertop convection oven, is about trying to cook, in an air fryer, some of the things I like to cook by other methods.

Butternut is a tricky critter to cook. In an oven, it dries out easily, going from that perfect, succulent orange flesh to a curled-up shadow of itself, in barely minutes.

But butternut caramelises beautifully too, and if you get the balance right you end up with a real treat.


1 medium butternut

Olive oil

4 small pieces of cassia bark

4 garlic cloves, crushed and dehusked

A sprinkling of caramel sugar

Coarse sea salt

Black pepper


Halve the butternut, scoop out the pips and discard them.

Brush olive oil on the cut surface and in the cavities.

Put a piece of cassia bark (often marketed as stick cinnamon) in each cavity, and another piece on the flat part of each.

Smash the garlic with the flat side of a knife and take off the husks.

Put two crushed garlic cloves in each cavity.

Season the tops with salt and black pepper, and sprinkle a little caramel (or brown sugar) over. Only a little, it’s not dessert.

Preheat the air fryer to 190℃ and cook for 20 minutes.

Drizzle or spray a bit more oil on top.

Turn the heat up to 200℃ and cook for another 10 minutes.

Check to see whether it’s tender enough (pierce the flesh with a skewer) and, if not, put it in at 190℃ for 10 minutes more. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.



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