If you are bored of the standard oily deep-fried chicken and crave something healthier for National Fried Chicken Day (July 6), today’s air fryer buttermilk fried chicken recipe will become a fast favorite.
Coming with a beautifully crispy coating and tender meat, this air fryer buttermilk chicken ticks every box for flawless pieces of fried chicken. Plus, this finger-licking fried dish is relatively healthy.
Is This Recipe Healthy?
Yes, this air-fried buttermilk chicken is healthy. Our recipe is carefully formulated to ensure its nutritional content complies with the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines.
Calories: Each serving with two thighs and a dipping sauce provides about 480 calories. Serve it with a green salad and juice, and you have a wholesome and fulfilling 750-calorie meal.
Saturated Fat: We only use one tablespoon of olive oil to cook the chicken so that the dish ends up having a relatively low amount of saturated fat, 5 grams. Minimum saturated fat intake is recommended since consuming less helps support your heart health and decrease the risk of some diseases such as inflammation or obesity.
Sodium: Fried chicken shouldn’t be boring or bland, so we use a variety of seasonings, including a ¼ teaspoon of salt. This amount is enough to liven up the flavor of the meat while keeping the sodium within the recommended amount.
Chicken: You can use your favorite cut of chicken, from wings to thighs. A tip is to keep the bones in and skin on as this will result in a more crispy and juicy fried chicken. And if you go for breast, dice it in half to get the proper thickness to cook.
Buttermilk: The acidity in buttermilk breaks down the protein, making the meat tender and juicy when baked. If you run out of buttermilk, scroll down for a 5-minute DIY buttermilk recipe.
All-purpose Flour and Cornstarch: The chicken is coated with a blend of flour and cornstarch to ensure a crispy exterior. This coating creates a seal to help keep the moisture inside the meat, as well as turning out golden brown exterior perfection under heat.
Buffalo Sauce: Besides adding color to the chicken, this sauce gives an extra kick of spiciness. Of course, this is optional but we highly recommend it for maximum flavor.
Seasoning and Spices: We season both the chicken and the coating so that they can bring the flavor in each bite. This creates a fantastic tasting experience just like your favorite restaurant fried chicken.
Can I Use Frozen Chicken?
Yes, you can use frozen chicken for this air fryer buttermilk fried chicken recipe. However, the frozen chicken will not be able to bread and hold the coating well like its fresh counterpart.
If cooking from frozen, we recommend allowing your chicken to sit for 3 – 4 minutes before coating them.
Substitute for Buttermilk in This Fried Chicken
Buttermilk is the secret in the coating mixture for a perfect fried chicken. The acidity tenderizes the meat while its thicker liquid texture helps the flour coating stick to the chicken.
Creamy and tangy, it is an ingredient you don’t want to omit from this recipe. But if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, there are a few substitutions you can make from ingredients you will most likely have available:
1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of vinegar
1 cup of yogurt and ⅛ cup of milk
Just mix each together and let it sit for 5 minutes. And there you have it, homemade buttermilk in the blink of an eye. We actually did use the blend of milk and lemon juice in this recipe, and it was a huge success.
Tips for Making Perfect Dish
The first secret for a restaurant-quality fried chicken starts with marinating with buttemilk. The buttermilk’s acidity and enzymes break down the protein in meat, making it extra tender.
The second is seasoning your batter. Many people skip this step and simply dredge their chicken in plain flour, so the chicken just ends up tasting bland.
Instead, try to add in a teaspoon of cayenne or chili powder. It provides a bit of spiciness, giving your taste buds a good kick. You can also use onion and garlic powder.
And lastly, cook the chicken at the right temperature. If the heat is too high, it will make a dark exterior while the inside is left raw.
If the heat is too low, it can take a long time to cook the chicken, and the meat will turn out dense, dry and oily. The ideal temperature for a crispy-and-cooked-through chicken is about 350℉ – 360℉.
When it comes to buttermilk fried chicken, the side options are infinite, from mac and cheese to baked potatoes. We served the dish with classic coleslaw and a fresh juice; a simple combination but excellent enough to impress a guest.
The mayonnaise-based dressing adds creamy flavor to the colorful package of crunchy cabbage, corn, and carrot. Coleslaw can be served as a tasty side dish or a meatless appetizer.
2. Watermelon Cucumber Juice
A bright and light juice like watermelon cucumber juice will help balance the heartier meat and refresh your taste buds for the next bite. Additionally, it is a nice boost of vitamins and minerals.
Other Tasty Dishes You Can Make With Your Air Fryer
These 35-minute Air Fryer Chicken Enchiladas are a quick, hearty meal that even the kids will enjoy. It comes together more quickly than a traditional enchiladas.
Our Air Fryer Bacon Wrapped Chicken recipe transforms regular chicken breasts into a savory and smoky treat perfect for entertaining. In just 20 minutes, you'll have tender chicken breasts wrapped in chewy bacon and served with roasted vegetables.
Prep the coating batter: pour 3/4 cup milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice into a small bowl, use a wooden spoon to whisk the mixture until it thickens and becomes buttermilk. Add 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1 large egg yolk, and 1/2 tbsp tabasco, and whisk until well combined.
Rub 36 oz chicken drumsticks with 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp buffalo sauce, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 1/4 tsp salt. Marinate for 5 minutes.
Dredge the chicken in the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and then the coating batter. Shake off any excess before dredging them in the flour again. Ensure both sides of the chicken are fully coated and transfer them to a plate.
Place a parchment round in the bottom of the air fryer. Then set a single layer of chicken on it with space in between the pieces (about 2 servings for a batch). Spray about 1 tbsp of olive oil on the chicken. Air fry at 350℉ for 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Make the sauce: Whisk together 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise, 1 tsp dill, and 2 tbsp Greek yogurt.
Transfer the chicken to the plate. Garnish with 2 tbsp parsley. Serve the chicken hot with sauce for dipping.
Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 484Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Vitamin A 716IU
Vitamin C 10mg
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tuyet Pham is an award-winning Saigonese chef who believes that joy is the secret ingredient to delicious food. At Healthy Recipes 101, Tuyet personally tests and simplifies every recipe, ensuring maximum flavor with minimal effort. With a background at prestigious French restaurants P’TI Saigon and Le Corto, Tuyet knows how to make every dish exceptional.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.
Lizzie Streit is a Minneapolis-based dietitian and founder of It’s a Veg World After All. She completed her MS in Human Nutrition from Drexel University, and is an expert in culinary nutrition, recipe development, and nutrition communications. Lizzie’s philosophy is centered around making nutrition recommendations, and especially the advice to eat more vegetables, approachable and realistic. She is excited to be working with the team at Healthy Recipes 101 to ensure that their recipes are both nutritious and delicious.
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