Our air fryer chicken nuggets recipe will make your favorite treat, but better.
If you find yourself ordering Mcnuggets all the time, you don’t have to anymore because this recipe is a boon. Using an air fryer, you can recreate the addictive treat with all those great flavors, but without the oil.
Plus, there will be no greasy stove tops to clean afterward. All you need to do is coat the chicken, press a button, wait impatiently, and enjoy!
So, to get the ingredients list and step-by-step how-to, click here to jump straight to our recipe card. Or, read on and learn some facts about chicken nuggets that may strike your fancy.
Are Chicken Nuggets Healthy?
Chicken nuggets sit near the junk food end of the nutrition spectrum, and for legitimate reasons:
1. High Fat Content
To achieve that crisp, golden exterior, restaurants and fast-food chains cook their chicken nuggets in a deep fryer. This allows the oil to seep into the nuggets, which you will consume later on.
A single gram of fat contains 9 calories while the same mass of protein or carbohydrates carries only 4. Your body needs a certain amount of fat to stay healthy, of course, but a bunch of excess fat just adds extra pounds.
2. High Acrylamide Level
Acrylamide is an odorless, flavorless substance that forms when starch in foods reacts to hot oil, and it’s unhealthy to consume.
Research shows that acrylamide increases your risk of developing cancer. The stuff is particularly prevalent in processed foods like chips, snacks, fries, and basically anything that comes out of a deep-fryer.
If you’re a fan of deep-fried foods, chances are you’ve been consuming acrylamide throughout your life. But there is a solution.
How Our Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets Are Created to be Better
When we learned that air-frying uses very little oil, we knew we needed to try making chicken nuggets in one. This method not only puts far less oil into your body but also decreases the nuggets’ acrylamide level to almost zero.
It was simple to cut out the oil, so next we tackled the sodium and saturated fat content, which the USDA recommends we limit.
Since salt and dipping sauces are the major sources of these nutrients, we simply went easy on them. As a result, the sodium and saturated fat levels are limited to 271mg and 3.8g per serving respectively, less than 17% of the recommended amounts.
If you love fast food treats like chicken nuggets but also want to pursue a healthy diet, check out these recipes:
- Air fryer onion rings
- Air Fryer Baked Potato
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp Recipe
- Air Fryer Fish Sticks Recipe
Ingredients for Our Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets Recipe
Now that you know these nuggets will treat you better, let’s get to know what they’re made of:
1. Chicken Cut
Of course, you can’t make chicken nuggets without chicken, and it has to be the most flavorful cut — chicken thigh. It’s our favorite part of the bird because it’s juicier than the breast and has fewer bones than the wings.
If you love the leaner cut, feel free to opt for the breast. Just remember to remove the skin (it will get chewy) and the outcome will always be crispy and delicious.
Nuggets wouldn’t be so tasty without the correct seasonings. They determine whether you will reach for seconds with enthusiasm or regret.
For fried foods, we always season ours with onion and garlic powders. Their flavors are much more concentrated then the fresh version so they’ll give you a great savory base.
Next, we wanted a little heat, so we added paprika and chili flakes for their kick. You can add cajun seasoning if you fancy.
And finally, a dash of salt, so your nuggets don’t turn out bland. We only added a little to make the treat tasty and keep the sodium within the allowance.
For the coating, we went for the classics: flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. We did, however, add parmesan and butter to the breadcrumbs to make the nuggets a little more special.
With the ingredients ready, let’s cook!
We also have a large collection of air fryer dinner recipes for your reference. Come check them out.
How to Make Chicken Nuggets in an Air Fryer
Here are what you’ll be doing to make our grease-free air-fryer chicken nuggets:
- Preheat the air fryer
- Marinate the meat
- Mix the breadcrumbs
- Coat the chicken
- Place the “nuggets” in and cook
- Serve with mayonnaise
This is just here to give you an overview of the steps. The more detailed instructions for our air-fryer chicken nuggets recipe are down below.
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Nuggets in an Air Fryer
So, you have frozen chicken nuggets and are wondering if they can be cooked in an air fryer. Yes, they can.
What they need is a little extra time, allowing the air fryer to first bring them to room temperature, then cook. In our experience, an additional 4-5 minutes is all it takes, since the air fryer heats things very quickly.
To have perfectly air fryer chicken every time, check out our easy chicken air fryer roundup. For more chicken side dish ideas, have a look at our Air Fryer Chicken Tenders and Popcorn Chicken Recipe.
How to Store and Reheat Chicken Nuggets
We don’t recommend leaving leftover nuggets because they won’t crisp up again no matter how you reheat them. Instead, they’ll become dry chicken chunks coated in a tough crust.
If you have too many raw nuggets for one sitting, you don’t need to cook all of them.
You can cook the extras for only half the time (about 7 minutes), leave them to cool, and freeze them. This will cook them on the inside, and all they’ll need is a second fry with a spray of oil to create that golden, crispy crust.
If you want to include more chicken in your diet, this healthy and delicious chicken recipes or best chicken thigh roundup have bunch of ideas.
Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets Recipe
This air fryer chicken nuggets recipe makes you a healthier alternative to the classic McDonald's snack.
- cook TIME 15 mins
- prep TIME 15 mins
- total TIME 30 mins
- COURSE Side Dish
- CUISINE American
- SERVINGS servings
- CALORIES 251 kcal
- 13 ozskinless boneless chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 0.1 tspsalt
- 0.3 tspground black pepper
- 1 tsponion powder
- 1 tspgarlic powder
- 0.3 tspchili pepper flakes
- 0.3 tsppaprika
- 0.8 tbspunsalted butter (melted)
- 0.3 ozparmesan (grated)
- 0.5 cupplain panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tbspparsley (finely chopped)
- 2 tbspall-purpose flour
- 1 medium egg
- 2 tbspJapanese mayonnaise
Preheat the air fryer to 350°F.
Place 13 oz chicken-thigh chunks in a bowl. Add 1/8 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp paprika. Mix to coat all the pieces with the seasonings, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
In a smaller bowl, mix 3/4 tbsp melted butter, 0.25 oz grated parmesan, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and 1 tbsp chopped parsley. You can add everything to a food processor and blend instead of mixing if you prefer. Crack an egg into another small bowl and whisk well.
Add 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour to the bowl of chicken thighs and mix to coat all of the pieces in flour. Pick up a piece, dip in egg, then breadcrumbs, then egg again, and finally breadcrumbs again. Be sure to coat all sides evenly, and do the same to all of the pieces. Set the nuggets aside on a rack or a large dish.
Open the air fryer. Place the nuggets inside in one layer, and cook for 10 minutes. Flip with a pair of tongs, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with 2 tbsp mayonnaise.