All-time childhood favorite meets healthy weeknight dinner with extra crispy Air fryer chicken tenders!
These healthy air fried chicken tenders are a homemade version of my most requested meal, made with simple ingredients and a serious improvement over the frozen ones I once prayed my mom would serve up for dinner every night.
From about the age of 4 to 14, Chicken Tender (and their first cousin, Chicken Nuggets) represented the pinnacle of culinary perfection for me.
I’d order them every time I drove through, tried to sneak a frozen box into my mother’s shopping cart, and when we ate out for a “fancy” dinner (er, Chili’s), I’d order them as a main from the appetizer menu.
On a recent road trip, we drove through a drive-thru and for some reason I HAD to have chicken fingers, along with my favorite childhood dipping sauce, honey (it’s also the inspiration for my Baked Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders).
Newly in love, I pulled out my new favorite weapon for making healthy versions of fried favorites, my air fryer.
Watch out for golden bows, you’ve been beaten!
Crispy and crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside and fully submersible, just like Air Fryer Shrimp and Air Fried Mozzarella Sticks, these healthy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders have officially replaced the frozen and fast food versions in my heart.
How to Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
The key to getting the chicken breasts crispy is a combination of regular breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs.
- The regular breadcrumbs will cling to the chicken slightly, giving you a full coating.
- The larger panko breadcrumbs add substantial texture and crunch.
Some recipes call for air fryer chicken tenders with flour, but (like the fried air fryer chicken breasts) I find that breadcrumbs make better breading that’s more reminiscent of the frozen version (in a good way).
I suggested a light spice that would add flavor to the Chicken Tenders without sacrificing the simplicity of their appeal.
Feel free to change them according to your and your family’s preferences.
- chicken keeper. A favorite of kids and adults alike, chicken tenders are a delicious, quick-to-prepare lean protein option. You can find pre-cut chicken breast fillets at most grocery stores.
- eggs. Help the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken tenders.
- Panko breadcrumbs. Panko offers a lighter breadcrumb coating that crisps up perfectly in the air fryer.
- Wholemeal Crumbs. Regular breadcrumbs will help coat the chicken breasts completely in the breading and fill in any gaps the panko might leave.
- paprika. Adds a mild, spicy earthiness.
- garlic powder. For the necessary garlic goodness.
- salt + pepper. The most necessary.
- Dry and salt the chicken strips.
- In one bowl, beat the eggs and in another, mix together the breadcrumbs and spices.
- Dip the chicken in the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture.
- Place the tenders on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Place a single layer of tenders in your air fryer. Brush with olive oil spray.
- Sear chicken breasts at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 to 8 minutes, turning halfway through. Repeat with the remaining chicken. HAVE FUN!
How long chicken breast fillets stay in the air fryer depends on your model and how crispy you want them to be.
In my model at 400 degrees F (400 degrees F is the best temperature for air frying chicken), the chicken tenders cook in 7 to 8 minutes.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders sauce suggestions
Because dipping in your favorite dipping sauce is half the fun!
- To store. Refrigerate air fryer chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To warm up. Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or (if you’re desperate and don’t care about the texture) in the microwave.
- Freeze. Place cooked chicken breasts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze them until firm, then place the frozen tenders in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat directly from the frozen.
To ensure your frozen chicken breasts are crispy after reheating, skip the microwave. Reheating them in the oven or air fryer will crisp them up again.
Recommended tools to make this recipe
The best air fryer
This air fryer model has many different settings and includes a rack for frying. The accessories are also dishwasher safe.
frequently asked Questions
You can certainly put frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer, but only if you’re cooking chicken tenders from the air fryer without the breading. Since this recipe is breaded, you’ll need to defrost the chicken first so the breadcrumbs will stick. Thawed, raw chicken is perfectly safe to put in an air fryer.
For unbreaded chicken (e.g. if you’re on a ketogenic or low-carb diet), skip the breading, use the seasoning from my Air Fryer Chicken Breasts, and cook the chickens at 200 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes of cooking time as indicated in this recipe. (These grilled chicken tenders are another delicious option.)
Yes, you can certainly swap out different spices in this recipe. For those who like spicy chicken tenders, add some cayenne pepper to the breadcrumb mixture. If you’re a fan of garlic parmesan air fryer chicken tenders, add parmesan cheese and extra garlic powder. For an Italian flair, swap out the paprika for Italian seasoning.
FOR THE AIR FRYER CHICKEN TENDER:
- 2 lb chicken keeper about 14
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 2 Big Eggs
- 1/3 Cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 Cup Wholemeal Crumbs
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Olive oil spray
Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt.
In a shallow bowl (a cake pan works well) beat the eggs together. In a second shallow bowl, stir together the panko, breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and keep it nearby.
Brush the chicken breasts with it: Dip each piece of chicken, one at a time, into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture, patting gently as needed to ensure adhesion. Shake off excess.
Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. If you want to keep the chicken warm between batches, turn a regular oven up to 250 degrees F. Coat the air fryer basket with the olive oil cooking spray, then add chicken tenders in one layer so they’re not touching (I can do 4 cook at once). Coat the top of the chicken breasts with oil spray.
Fry the chicken for 7 to 8 minutes, remove the Airfryer basket and turn the pieces halfway through cooking. (The chicken should read at least 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer and the outsides will be golden brown and crispy.) Repeat with the remaining chicken tenders, keeping them warm in the oven between batches as desired. Enjoy hot.
- TO STORE: Store chicken breasts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO WARM UP: Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or in the microwave.
- FREEZE: Place cooked chicken breast fillets in one layer on a baking sheet. Freeze them until firm, then place the frozen tenders in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat frozen food.
Portion: 1(of 4)Calories: 343kcalCarbohydrates: 12GProtein: 53GFat: 9GSaturated Fatty Acids: 2GPolyunsaturated fat: 2GMonounsaturated fatty acids: 3GTrans fats: 1GCholesterol: 227mgPotassium: 913mgFiber: 2GSugar: 1GVitamin A: 680ieVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 2mg
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