Our air fryer chicken tenders recipe can help you recreate exactly what you love, but minus all the grease.
If you love crispy, juicy chicken tenders but hate to deep-fry your food, an air fryer is what you need. With just a little bit of oil (or none at all ), they will still come out crisp and won’t grease a finger.
You can click here for quick access to the full ingredients list and detailed instructions. Or, read on to learn more about how air-fried chicken tenders are better for your health.
Are Air-Fried Chicken Tenders Healthy?
Air-fried chicken tenders are better than the original deep-fried version: they are cooked in hot air instead of hot oil. Any present fat will melt and stay at the bottom of the air fryer, cutting out plenty of calories (and saturated fat) from your food.
Plus, cooking starch (in the coating) in hot oil produces plenty of acrylamide, a compound known to raise the risk of cancer. By using an air fryer, you’re also lowering the level of acrylamide in food significantly.
How Our Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Recipe Is Healthier
At Healthy Recipes 101, we make sure your favorite dishes have nutritional profiles that comply with the USDA’s dietary guidelines. Specifically, we adjust the ingredients, so the calories, sodium, and saturated fat content stay within moderate levels:
- The seasoning: We only seasoned the chicken tenders with 1/8 tsp salt, to keep the sodium within allowance.
- The coating: Most of the saturated fat comes from the eggs, butter, and parmesan cheese. We adjusted the amount, so the tenders turn out fragrant, crispy, and have a moderate amount of saturated fat.
- The oil: We could spray a little oil on top, but we tried a no-oil version instead, and the chicken still came out crispy. This significantly reduced the calorie content.
- The dipping sauce: Dips like mayonnaise are rich in saturated fat and sodium, so we only serve the chicken tenders with 2 tbsp of mayonnaise.
As a result, each serving has three large chicken strips and dip, but only yields 250 calories and moderate levels of sodium and saturated fat.
To learn more about the USDA’s allowance (and ours) for different meal courses, click here.
Main Ingredients for This Recipe
Let’s have a look at your to-be grocery list:
1. Chicken Tenders
Chicken tenders are the white meat located on either side of the breastbone, under the breast meat. They are shaped like fingers and hence, are also called chicken fingers or chicken strips.
Since chickens don’t have plenty of chicken tenders, some restaurants use chicken breast or finger-shaped pulverized chicken meat instead. You can use either — your chicken tender will still be juicy and crispy.
Firstly, we seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper — the musts.
Then, we added onion and garlic powder instead of fresh onions and garlic cloves. They are concentrated with flavor and have no problems sticking to the meat.
To give them a little bit of heat, we used paprika and chili powder. Some recipes also call for Cajun powder, and we think it’s a lovely addition.
We also added dried oregano for aroma. Oregano complements chicken the way thyme does a steak.
Like other fried treats, chicken tenders have a simple breadcrumb coating. They’re first floured, then dipped into beaten eggs, and finally into the breadcrumb mixture.
For a thicker and more flavorful coat, we double-breaded the chicken and added parmesan and butter to the breading. This is the secret to crisp, finger-licking good chicken tenders.
4. Sauce for Chicken Tenders
Besides mayonnaise, you can serve chicken tenders with one of these dips:
- Chick-fil-A sauce: a salty-sweet dipping sauce with a hint of smoky flavor. Make by combining 2 parts mayonnaise, 2 parts BBQ sauce, 1 part Dijon mustard, and 1 part honey.
- Honey mustard sauce: sweet, tangy, and pungent. Make by combining 1 part honey, 2 parts Dijon mustard, and a little bit of red wine vinegar to taste.
- Pesto sauce: a refreshing dip that preserves the pure flavor of the chicken. Make by blitzing 1 part olive oil, 1 part garlic, 2 parts parmesan, and 4 parts basil until smooth.
- Thousand island sauce: a simple dip that works for most snacks. Make by combining 2 parts mayonnaise, 2 parts ketchup, and 1 part honey.
Since sauces are often high in sodium and saturated fat, we recommend having only 2 tbsp of sauce for 4 servings.
How to Make Chicken Tenders in an Air Fryer
With the ingredients gathered, here’s what to do next:
- Marinate the chicken
- Preheat the air fryer
- Prepare the breading stations
- Coat the chicken strips
- Cook them for 7 minutes
- Serve with dipping sauce
For the more detailed air fryer chicken tenders recipe with measurements and timing, refer to the recipe card below.
Cooking Frozen Chicken Tenders in an Air Fryer
You can place frozen chicken tenders in your air fryer and cook them without thawing them first. They only need 10 minutes in a 350°F preheated air fryer.
You can get frozen chicken tenders in stores, or make them yourself. Simply follow our recipe, place the breaded tenders into a Ziploc bag, and you can store them for months in the freezer.
Storing and Reheating Chicken Tenders
If you have leftover chicken tenders, you can refrigerate or freeze them and reheat them using your air fryer. However, since the coating is already cooked, you won’t achieve the crispy coating after reheating.
We highly recommend that you just make enough chicken tenders and then freeze the rest. Frozen chicken tenders only take 10 minutes to cook.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Recipe
- 10 oz chicken tenders or chicken breast cut into strips
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- 0.25 oz parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 tbsp parsley finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 2 small eggs
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
- Place 10 oz chicken tenders in a bowl. Add 1/8 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/4 tsp chili powder. Mix everything together and allow to marinate.
- Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (skip if you’re making chicken tenders to freeze).
- In another bowl, mix 1 cup breadcrumbs with 0.25 oz parmesan, 1 tbsp parsley, and 1/2 tbsp melted butter. Crack 2 small eggs into another bowl.
- Coat the seasoned chicken in 2 tbsp flour. Dip each piece into the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, then eggs one more time, and the breadcrumbs again. Place the coated pieces on a plate.
- Open the air fryer. Place the chicken tenders in the frying chamber on one layer (we cooked them in 2 batches) and cook for 7 minutes. If you’re using frozen chicken tenders, cook for 10 minutes instead.
- Serve with 2 tbsp mayonnaise or any dip you fancy.