Air fryer chicken tenders are a savior when it comes to satiating a craving for takeout. Skip the drive-thru, stay home, and enjoy half the fat and no guilt!
Air fryer chicken tenders are about to become your new weeknight staple. If you have kids or are a kid at heart, you are likely familiar with boneless, fried chicken. It’s always a crowd-pleaser. The beauty of the air fryer is that you can get that signature fried texture with a fraction of the fat. All-in-all, I love experimenting with the air fryer and making all my classic “fried” favorites with it.
How Long it Takes to Air Fry Chicken Tenders
The time it will take to cook your chicken depends on the thickness of the cut. Generally speaking, you will cook each tender for 5 minutes. Then, use clean tongs to flip the tenders and repeat for 5 minutes more on the other side. Transfer tenders to a cooling rack and repeat depending on how many batches you are whipping up.
Our Favorite Air Fryer to Use
In the past couple of years, the world of air frying has exploded. I have to admit, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of an air fryer in the beginning, but this appliance has truly grown on me. The COSORI has worked wonders for me. I have been using this air fryer for over a year and love the functionality. It has a ton of presets for common foods (chicken, fries, steak, bacon, shrimp, etc.), which helps take the guesswork out of how long to cook certain things. It’s also super easy to clean, so no complaints there.
How to Make Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Using the air fryer couldn’t be any easier. Follow these simple step-by-step directions to nail air fryer chicken tenders every single time:
- Prepare the Batter: First, whisk the egg in a small bowl. In a separate, shallow dish, whisk the salt, pepper, and breadcrumbs together.
- Coat the Chicken Tenders: Next, dip a piece of chicken into the egg mixture, followed by a dunk in the breadcrumbs. Place each coated tender on a platter.
- Assemble the Chicken Tenders: Assemble the chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Lightly spray the chicken tenders and the wire basket to prevent any sticking.
- Preheat the Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 390°F.
- Air Fryer the Chicken Tenders: Once preheated, air fry the first side for about 4 minutes and turn the chicken midway through for an additional 5 minutes on the other side. Enjoy the tenders immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.
3 Tips for Making Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
If it’s your first time making fried chicken in the air fryer, these 3 pointers will help you nail it.
- Slice the chicken into similar-sized pieces. To promote even cooking, slice the chicken into similar 2-inch long pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, but the closer in size the better.
- Don’t crowd the chicken. The air fryer works by circulating hot air around the food to crisp it up. If you crowd the chicken too much, the air won’t be able to hit all the sides and create a 360° crust.
- Work in batches if you have to. If you are making tenders for a big crowd or meal prep, work in batches of about 4-6 tenders at a time.
Hot Tip: Unsure if your chicken strips are fully-cooked? Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature has reached 165°F.
Different Dipping Sauces
Perhaps the best part of eating chicken tenders is pairing them with your favorite dipping sauces…
- Honey Mustard – For quick honey mustard, mix 1/3 cup mustard with 1/4 cup honey and garlic powder to taste.
- Creamy Tomatillo Dressing – A zesty, creamy dressing made with cilantro, tomatillos, jalapeños and more. Addictingly delicious!
- BBQ Sauce – Our recipe for BBQ sauce is fully customizable depending on how spicy you like it.
- Light Ranch Dressing – This herby ranch gives you all the zest with less fat.
- Buffalo Sauce – To make a tangy buffalo, whisk 1/3 cup hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter melted, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Ketchup – Let us not forget about ketchup here. Simple, tangy, and so kid-friendly.
Side Dishes for Air Fryer Chicken Strips
For a complete meal, pair your air fryer chicken tenders with 3-ingredient ranch roasted potatoes or air fryer french fries (you already have the air fryer out anyways, right?). These tenders also make for such a wonderful salad topper. We like to serve them over a heap of homemade caesar salad or our 15-minute arugula caprese salad.
Refrigerating Leftover Chicken Tenders
Store the chicken tenders for up to a week in an airtight container. We like to make a batch and use them for sandwiches, salads, and snacks. To reheat the chicken — you guessed it — bust out the air fryer again! Reheat cooked tenders for 1-2 minutes in the air fryer. Unlike the microwave, the air fryer will make the tenders crispy, not soggy.
Freezing Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Make a large batch of chicken tenders, freeze them, and have them on hand for later. To do so, freeze the raw chicken tenders by separating the tenders by a layer of parchment paper within an airtight container. Reheating frozen tenders will take about 5 minutes per side at 400℉.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Video Tutorial
Can you put frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer?
Yes, the air fryer is powerful enough to cook frozen chicken tenders. That said, it will take a few minutes longer per side depending on the thickness of the tenders.
Can you air fry chicken tenders without breading?
Yes, you can air fryer chicken tenders without any breading whatsoever and keep it low-carb. A simple dry seasoning of salt, pepper, and garlic powder can do the trick. That said, feel free to add some paprika or grated parmesan cheese to your naked chicken tenders for extra flavor.
Are air fryer chicken tenders healthy?
Yes, air fryer chicken tenders are quite healthy. They contain a fraction of the fat as deep-fried chicken tenders and are made with much less oil. Aside from the carbs in the panko breadcrumbs, they are pretty solidly wholesome.
Can you put raw chicken tenders in an air fryer?
Yes, you can put raw chicken tenders in the air fryer. It’s ideal to air fry them from raw, as this yields a much juicier texture than from frozen.
Other Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Bacon – Crispy, mess-free bacon
- Korean Air Fryer Pork Ribs – Sweet and salty mini ribs
- Brussels Sprouts Recipe – Perfectly crispy and tender brussels
- Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets – Breaded chicken breast nuggets
- Whisk an egg in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine salt with pepper and breadcrumbs. Cut chicken into 2 inch pieces.
- Dip chicken into the egg mixture.
- Follow by covering all sides with seasoned bread crumbs.
- Spray the air fryer basket with oil. Place the chicken on the inside, leaving some space in between each one.
- Air fry at 390 °F for about 4 minutes and turn it over. Air fry for another 5 minutes or so, depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
- Serve chicken tenders with your favorite sauce or simply ketchup. Enjoy!