Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Published Feb 03, 2022, Updated Nov 07, 2023
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These healthy air fryer chicken tenders are coated in breadcrumbs and a blend of spices. They’re crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and loaded with flavor. They’re great for meal prep or a quick weeknight dinner.
Perfectly crispy chicken tenders in under 15 minutes?! You better believe it. If you don’t have an air fryer, this recipe might convince you to purchase one! These tenders are worth the investment.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Dare I say better than fast food? I love a good chicken strip from time to time and I have to say… these are better than most restaurant versions I’ve had!
- This is a dinner the entire family will love. No more making different meals for different family members – this is guaranteed to be a family favorite for the kids (and adults).
- It’s perfect for busy weeknights. Get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes!
- boneless skinless chicken breast – I usually buy organic chicken breasts and cut into strips. It’s cheaper than buying pre-cut chicken tenders and I personally hate dealing with the tendon that you’ll typically find in store-bought tenders. That said, you can totally buy pre-cut chicken tenderloins if you prefer.
- seasoned Italian style breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs – I used a combination of seasoned Italian style breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs for the coating on these chicken tenders. I like the flavor the Italian style breadcrumbs add and the crisp texture that the larger panko breadcrumbs provide so the combo is perfect.
- spices – we’re adding more flavor to the breading with a mixture of paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.
- sea salt and pepper – to bring all of the flavors together.
- egg – helps bind the breading to the chicken.
How to Remove the Tendon From Chicken Tenders
Like I mentioned above, I usually but boneless skinless chicken breast and cut them into tenders so I don’t have to deal with the tendons that come in packaged chicken tenders. The tendon is a a thick, white string of fat that goes down the middle or side of the tender. Some people may not mind eating this, but I don’t like the texture so if I do buy chicken tenders I prefer to remove it. There’s a quick hack I learned a few years ago where you use a fork and napkin (for securing hold to the tender) to easily strip with out. Watch a video on how to do it here.
How to Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
You’ll start by prepping the breading. Mix the breadcrumbs, panko, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
In a separate shallow bowl, crack and whisk an egg. Take one piece of chicken and dredge it in egg, wiping off any excess. Dip the coated chicken into the bread crumb mixture and roll until it is completely coated. Place the coated chicken into the air fryer basket.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken tenders, making sure you aren’t overcrowding the air fryer. You want them to be in a single layer so they can get nice and crispy! Work in batches if needed. Cook at 400ºF for 7-8 minutes, flipping halfway. The chicken is ready when the internal temperature is 165ºF.
pro tip! Make sure that you are air frying your chicken tenders in a single layer and in batches if needed, otherwise they won't cook as evenly and won't crisp up!
You can’t have chicken tenders without dipping sauce! Here are some of our favorites to dip chicken tenders into:
- Ranch – my vegan ranch dressing is a great option. If you’re looking for a store-bought version, I recommend Primal Kitchen ranch – it’s allergen-friendly and made with really great ingredients.
- BBQ my homemade BBQ sauce has the same bold, sweet and spicy flavor that you love from regular BBQ sauce, it’s just made healthier without any corn syrup, refined sugar or added preservatives.
- Honey Mustard – one of my favorite dips to pair these chicken tenders with! This homemade honey mustard dressing is so good!! It’s creamy, perfectly sweet with a touch of tanginess and only takes 5 minutes to whip up!
- Chick-Fil-A Sauce – my homemade Chick-Fil-A sauce tastes like the real deal, but uses blended cashews instead of mayo. It’s the perfect sweet and savory sauce to pair with these chicken tenders.
- Ketchup – can’t go wrong with good ol’ ketchup. Try to buy a version without any added sugar if possible. The Primal Kitchen unsweetened ketchup is my go-to store-bought brand.
What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
These air fryer chicken tenders can be served in so many different ways! Here’s what I would serve them with:
- Vegetable fries – my favorites are baked zucchini fries or baked sweet potato fries! Or use the air fryer again to make air fryer sweet potato fries!
- Greens – create a quick salad by topping a bed of greens with chicken tenders! Top with any veggies you have and a delicious dressing and it’s bound to be a tasty salad. Try the tenders in my blackened chicken Cobb salad.
- Make a wrap – wrap greens, veggies, chicken tenders and the sauce of your choice inside a tortilla.
- Kid friendly options – can’t go wrong with mac and cheese and chicken tenders, right?! Make a pot of vegan mac and cheese or protein packed healthy mac and cheese and serve chicken tenders on the side.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re looking for a gluten-free option try my recipe for baked chicken tenders instead. They’re breaded with almond flour and coconut so they’re gluten-free and paleo.
Totally! If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake these chicken tenders in the oven at 400°F for 20 minutes, flipping halfway, until the chicken tenders are golden brown and completely cooked through. Pro tip: line your baking sheet with a wire rack. This will result in a crispier texture.
I haven’t tried an egg substitute with this recipe, but I bet using a flaxseed egg or an egg replacer would work. If you try either of these options let me know in the comments below!
That depends on your air fryer! Some recommend preheating and others do not require it. Check your owners’ manual to see what they recommend. If you don’t have a preheat setting, just set your air fryer to the required temperature about 3 minutes before adding your food.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover chicken tenders store really well! After allowing them to cool, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I haven’t tried freezing these, but I’d imagine they’d freeze just fine! Let the tenders cool completely and store in a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to use, place tenders in the fridge for about 24 hours before you want to use them so they have time to thaw. To reheat, I like to pop them back in the air fryer for a minute or two so they crisp back up!
More Air Fryer Recipes to Try
- Air Fryer Chicken Breast
- Air Fryer Broccoli
- Air Fryer Tofu
- Air Fryer Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Asparagus
- Air Fryer Salmon
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
- Air Fryer Salmon Bites
- Air Fryer Baked Sweet Potato
- Air Fryer Butternut Squash
- Air Fryer Carrots
Popular Chicken Recipes
- Healthy Chicken Enchiladas
- Easy Grilled Chicken Breast
- Chicken Protein Bowl
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Healthy Chicken Parmesan
- Chicken Enchilada Soup
- Detox Soup
- Healthy Chicken Tacos
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- Place breadcrumbs, panko, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
- Crack an egg into another shallow bowl and whisk.
- One by one, dredge each chicken tender in the egg bowl, wiping off any access and then dip each into the breadcrumb mixture. Roll until each tender is covered completely.
- Preheat air fryer if required. Add chicken tenders to your air fryer in a single layer and cook at 400°F for 7-8 minutes, flipping once halfway. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer basket. If you have a thermometer, you can check to make sure the tenders have an internal temp of 165°F to ensure they are cooked through. Just know that cook time will vary depending on the size of your tenders.
- Enjoy chicken immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.
- Chicken breast: I usually buy organic chicken breasts and cut into strips. It’s cheaper than buying pre-cut chicken tenders and I personally hate dealing with the tendon that you’ll typically find in store-bought tenders. That said, you can totally buy pre-cut chicken tenderloins if you prefer.
- Oven option: If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake these chicken tenders in the oven at 400°F for 20 minutes, flipping halfway, until the chicken tenders are golden brown and completely cooked through. Pro tip: line your baking sheet with a wire rack. This will result in a crispier texture.
- Gluten-free: If you’re looking for a gluten-free option try my recipe for baked chicken tenders instead. They’re breaded with almond flour and coconut so they’re gluten-free and paleo.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.