Air fryer croquettes, inspired by Spanish croquetas de jamon, have a delicious, crispy exterior and a soft, creamy center—and you don’t even have to break out the frying pan. Everyone goes wild for this delicious appetizer.
Ham Croquettes Are All You Need to Make Your Next Tapas Party Amazing
To taste a croquette is fall in love with croquettes.
When I first tasted croquettes almost two decades ago, at the famed tapas restaurant Jaleo in Washington, D.C., it was love at first bite!
A few years ago I discovered a Spanish restaurant about an hour away from us that was also serving up some amazing versions of these fried bites of heaven. I made a few trips back specifically to get them.
But then it hit me: I need to figure out how to make these things myself! And so here we are.
This recipe isn’t traditional — it features a mashed potato base instead of bechamel sauce — but they taste spot-on and they’re so easy to make using your air fryer. These are so tasty you’ll never miss the traditional fried version!
Use your leftovers! These air fryer croquettes are a delicious way to use leftover mashed potatoes
7 ingredient recipe. Simple and straight-forward, but chock full of flavor. Just how this foodie likes it.
Prep them ahead. Make a double (or triple!) batch and keep them in the freezer. You’ll never be more than a few minutes away from a tasty snack.
What are Croquettes?
So first off, what are croquettes?
Traditionally, they’re crispy, fried rolls with a creamy center and a crispy, crunchy exterior.
Spanish ham croquettes, which these were inspired by, are a popular item on tapas menus. The soft, oozy center is often confused for cheese or mashed potatoes, but it’s actually a very thick cream sauce (bechamel) infused with finely chopped jamon iberico or jamon serrano. They’re crispy, salty, and utterly delicious.
Bechamel isn’t difficult to make, but it does require a pan on the stovetop and it doesn’t hold up well in the air fryer.
So I used mashed potatoes instead.
As I said above, these aren’t traditional. But they do have all of the delicious flavor that you’d expect in a croqueta de jamon!
Ingredients you’ll need:
Leftover mashed potatoes. For the best results, use smooth mashed potatoes without skins and without too many strong flavors. Use leftover potatoes, or just buy a tub of premade mash at the grocery store.
Milk. Stirring milk into the potatoes helps loosen them up, giving you a texture that’s softer and more sauce-like.
Nutmeg. A pinch of ground nutmeg hints at the traditional bechamel flavor and gives these that unmistakable croquette flavor that so many people just can’t put their finger on.
Cured Ham. For the most authentic flavor, use Jamon Serrano or Jamon Iberico. A little goes a long way, but it can be pricy. You can also use prosciutto or even finely diced leftover Easter ham or Christmas ham.
Egg. To help create a crisp crust.
Unseasoned bread crumbs. For extra crunch, you can also use panko bread crumbs.
Manchego cheese. To sprinkle over the top!
How to make croquettes in the air fryer
- Mix together the mashed potatoes, milk, ham, and nutmeg.
- Shape heaping tablespoons of the potato mixture into logs.
- Bread the logs by dipping them into breadcrumbs, then egg, then more breadcrumbs. Spritz generously with olive oil cooking spray.
- Chill the croquettes thoroughly to help them firm up and keep their shape while they cook. 10 minutes in the freezer should do it!
- Air Fry in a preheated air fryer until golden brown and crispy.
- Serve topped with finely shredded Manchego cheese.
Busy Foodie Tips and Tricks:
- Be sure to thoroughly chill the croquettes (or even better, freeze them!) before cooking so they firm up. This will make it so the outside breading crisps up and holds everything together before the filling gets too runny. If you skip this step, the potatoes will melt and you’ll be left with a (very tasty) mess
- Double breading these helps ensure every part of the surface is coated and helps them crisp up. Make sure you’re generous with the bread crumbs and don’t forget to coat the ends!
- Jamon iberico is definitely a treat — 2 ounces cost me $17 — but there’s nothing quite like it. It’s intensely meaty, salty, and fatty. You can also use Jamon serrano (slightly more affordable) or speck, which have a similar deep porky flavor. In a pinch, you can also make these with prosciutto, pancetta, or even finely chopped leftover roast ham from your holiday dinner. These options won’t taste quite the same, but they’re still astoundingly delicious.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! They need to freeze for at least 10 minutes to hold their shape while they cook, but you can freeze them for up to 3 months. If cooking these croquettes from frozen, add 2-3 minutes to the cook time.
Yes, it will just take a little longer! Bake at 425ºF for 15-20 minutes, turning them over halfway though the cooking process. You can also deep fry them on the stove top.
These ham and potato croquettes are best served immediately, so I prefer to make them in advance and cook however many I want at the moment. If you do have leftovers, keep them in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat for 3-4 minutes in the air fryer.
More appetizer recipes you’ll love:
- Fig and Goat Cheese Bites
- Roasted Olives with Feta Cheese
- Air Fryer Frozen Sweet Potato Fries
- Air Fryer Patatas Bravas
- Air Fryer Samosas
Air Fryer Croquettes
- 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 ounces cured ham, such as jamon serrano finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs beaten
- olive oil spray
- finely shredded Manchego cheese for serving
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, milk, ham, and nutmeg. Mix well.
- To shape the croquettes, roll 1 heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture into a log. Coat with breadcrumbs, then into beaten egg. Roll in breadcrumbs again until fully coated. Spritz well with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining potatoes.
- Place the croquettes onto a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for at least 10 minutes or until firm.
- Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF.
- Arrange the croquettes in a single layer in the air fryer basket (cook in batched if necessary). Air fry for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
- Carefully remove the croquettes from the air fryer and serve piping hot, topped with finely grated Manchego cheese.