We have a high bar for jalapeño poppers, and this easy air-fryer version surpasses it. In our books the jalapeño itself needs to be cooked through but still sturdy enough to support all the filling. This recipe calls for large jalapeños, which fit more filling than smaller ones and tend to be sturdier. The molten cheese will not spill out of these poppers thanks to the way they are filled and rested for a few minutes in the air fryer after cooking. Finally, the breadcrumb coating remains crispy for a very long time because of the addition of crushed kettle potato chips.
Working with disposable rubber gloves to protect your skin, halve each jalapeño lengthwise, slicing through the stem. Remove the seeds and white ribs with a spoon or small melon baller. Arrange the halves on a baking sheet rounded sides down. If any of the halves tilt sideways instead of standing straight up, slice a sliver of skin off the rounded side, making sure not to cut through to the cavity, so they sit level.
Add the cream cheese and Cheddar to a small bowl and mix together with a rubber spatula until combined. Stir together the breadcrumbs and potato chips in a medium bowl.
Divide the cream cheese mixture among the jalapeño halves, smoothing it down with your finger or the back of a butter knife so the filling is level with the top of the jalapeno, not mounded. (You may have extra filling depending on how large your jalapenos are.) Firmly press the breadcrumb mixture over the cream cheese to fully coat. Spray the breadcrumbs with nonstick spray.
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F and set to cook for 4 minutes. Arrange the poppers in a single layer in the basket so they’re not touching, working in batches if necessary. Air fry the poppers without opening the basket to check on them. When the air fryer turns off, let the poppers sit in the basket for another 4 minutes without opening the machine. (this will allow the poppers to cool slightly and the cheese to set so it doesn’t slide out—don’t worry, it’ll still be gooey.)
Carefully open the air fryer basket and remove each popper with a spatula. Serve the poppers sprinkled with the bacon.
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