Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
All-time childhood favorite meets healthy weeknight dinner via extra crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders!
A homemade version of my most-requested meal growing up, these healthy air fried chicken tenders are made with simple ingredients and a serious upgrade from the frozen ones I once prayed my mother would serve for dinner every night.
From the ages of approximately 4 to 14, chicken tenders (and their first cousin, chicken nuggets) were, to me, the pinnacle of culinary perfection.
I ordered them at every drive-through, tried to sneak a frozen box into my mom’s grocery cart, and if we ate out for a “fancy” dinner (ahem, Chili’s) I’d order them off the appetizer menu as my main dish.
On a recent road trip, we pulled through a drive-through and for whatever reason, I HAD to have chicken fingers, along with my childhood dipping sauce of choice, honey (it’s also the inspiration behind my baked Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders).
Freshly enamored, I pulled out my new go-to weapon for making healthy versions of deep-fried favorites, my air fryer.
Watch out golden arches, you have been beat!
Crunchy and crispy outside, tender inside, and completely dippable 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 making the chicken tenders crispy is a combination of regular breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs.
The regular breadcrumbs adhere easily to the chicken, so you get a complete coating.The larger panko breadcrumbs add essential texture and crunch.
Some recipes call for air fryer chicken tenders with flour, but (as with Air Fryer Fried Chicken Breast) I find breadcrumbs yield a better breading that is more reminiscent of the frozen variety (in a good way).
I’ve suggested some light seasoning that gives the chicken tenders flavor without losing the simplicity of their appeal.
Feel free to switch them up to suit your and your family’s preferences.
If you love fried chicken with buttermilk, check out my Baked Fried Chicken.
Chicken Tenders. Beloved by children and adults alike, chicken tenders are a delicious, quick-cooking option for lean protein. You can find pre-cut chicken tenders at most grocery stores.
Eggs. Help the breadcrumbs adhere to the chicken tenders. Panko Breadcrumbs. Panko provides a lighter breadcrumb coating that crisps up perfectly in the air fryer. Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs. Regular breadcrumbs help fully coat the chicken tenders in breading, filling in any gaps that the panko might leave behind. Paprika. Adds a mild, savory earthiness. Garlic Powder. For necessary garlicky goodness. Salt + Pepper. The essentials.
Dry and salt the chicken strips.
Beat the eggs in one bowl and combine the breadcrumbs and spices in another.
Coat the chicken in the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture.
Lay the tenders on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place a single layer of tenders in your air fryer. Coat with olive oil spray.
Air fry chicken tenders at 400 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Repeat with remaining chicken. ENJOY!
How long chicken tenders stay in the air fryer will depend upon your model, as well as how crisp you would like them to be.
In my model at 400 degrees F (400 degrees F is the best temperature at which to air fry chicken), the chicken tenders cook in 7 to 8 minutes.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Sauce Suggestions
Because dunking in your favorite dipping sauce is half of the fun!
Barbecue Sauce. My recipe for homemade BBQ sauce is delish!Ketchup. The classic. Honey Mustard. Try the honey mustard dipping sauce from my Pecan Crusted Chicken.Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip. This lightened-up version tastes just as good as the original ranch dressing.Honey. My childhood fave! It’s sticky and sweet. Buffalo Sauce. An easy way to enjoy buffalo chicken flavor. This is Ben’s choice (he also loves these Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and Air Fryer Chicken Wings)!Sweet Chili Sauce. Sweet, tangy, and a little spicy. (Try these Korean Air Fryer Chicken Wings or Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders if you enjoy Asian-inspired sauce flavors.)Basil Dipping Sauce. Try the light and fresh basil dipping sauce from my Zucchini Fries. Sweet and Sour. It’s *almost* like having takeout. (Sweet and sour fans, don’t miss my Sweet and Sour Chicken.)
To Store. Refrigerate air fryer chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or (if you are desperate and don’t care about texture) in the microwave. To Freeze. Lay cooked air fryer chicken tenders in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat directly from frozen.
To ensure your frozen air fryer chicken tenders are crispy once reheated, skip the microwave. Rewarming them in the oven or air fryer will help crisp them back up.
Leftover chicken tenders make a fabulous addition to your favorite salad. I love swapping them for the chicken in this Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad or adding them to this Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing.
What to Serve with Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
Air Fryer. This is the one I own and love! It works wonders with all kinds of chicken, including Air Fryer Chicken Thighs.Instant Read Thermometer. The best way to tell when your tenders are done. Tongs. Ideal for flipping the chicken tenders.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can certainly put frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer, but only if you are making air fryer chicken tenders with no breading. Because this recipe is breaded, you will need to thaw the chicken first in order for the bread crumbs to adhere. Thawed, raw chicken is completely safe to put in an air fryer.
For chicken tenders without breading (say you are following a keto or low-carbohydrates diet), skip the breading, use the seasoning from my Air Fryer Chicken Breast and cook the chicken tenders at 400 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes cooking time as directed in this recipe. (These Grilled Chicken Tenders are another delicious option.)
Yes, you can certainly swap different spices in this recipe. For those who enjoy 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 the paprika for Italian seasoning.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
FOR THE AIR FRYER CHICKEN TENDERS:
2 pounds chicken tenders about 142 teaspoons kosher salt divided2 large eggs1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs1/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs2 teaspoons paprika1 teaspoon garlic powder1/4 teaspoon ground black pepperOlive oil spray
FOR DIPPING (optional):
Greek Yogurt Ranch DipHoney Mustard Sauce from this Pecan Crusted ChickenBarbecue SauceBasil Yogurt Sauce from these Zucchini Fries
TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or in the microwave.
TO FREEZE: Lay cooked chicken tenders in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen.
More Scrumptious Air Fryer Recipes
Air Fryer Tofu
Air Fryer Chicken Wings