How To Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders: A How-To Guide

by Ella

Air fryers have become a kitchen essential for many, thanks to their ability to create crispy and delicious dishes with significantly less oil than traditional frying methods. One popular dish that truly shines in an air fryer is chicken tenders. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and a hit with both kids and adults, air fryer chicken tenders are a quick and easy meal option. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of making perfectly crispy and flavorful chicken tenders in your air fryer. So, let’s dive in and discover the secrets to achieving restaurant-quality results in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Air fryer chicken tenders

Air fryer chicken tenders are a delicious and healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken tenders. They come out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Here's a simple recipe to make air fryer chicken tenders:
Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time15 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Yield: 2
Cost: $4


  • 1 pound of chicken tenders
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Cooking spray or oil for the air fryer basket


  • Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for about 5 minutes.
  • In three separate shallow bowls or plates, prepare the breading station. In the first bowl, place the flour. In the second bowl, whisk the eggs. In the third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese (if using), paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
  • Take a chicken tender and coat it in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip it into the beaten eggs, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, coat it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the breadcrumbs onto the chicken to adhere.
  • Place the breaded chicken tender in the preheated air fryer basket. Make sure they are not overcrowded; leave some space between each piece for proper air circulation. You may need to cook them in batches.
  • Lightly spray the breaded chicken tenders with cooking spray or brush them with a small amount of oil. This will help them turn golden brown and crispy in the air fryer.
  • Cook the chicken tenders in the air fryer for 10-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. The exact time may vary depending on the thickness of your chicken tenders and the specific air fryer model. They are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and are golden brown and crispy.
  • Remove the cooked chicken tenders from the air fryer, and let them rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

Choosing the Right Chicken

The foundation of fantastic air fryer chicken tenders is selecting the right type of chicken. You have a few options to consider:


Chicken Tenders: The easiest choice is to purchase pre-cut chicken tenders from your local grocery store. They are typically boneless and skinless, making preparation a breeze.


Chicken Breasts: You can also buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them into strips yourself. This option allows you to control the size and thickness of the tenders.


Marinating: For extra flavor and tenderness, you may choose to marinate your chicken tenders. Common marinade ingredients include buttermilk, yogurt, or a simple mixture of oil, vinegar, and your choice of seasonings.


Ingredients for Coating

Creating a flavorful and crispy coating for your chicken tenders is a key step in the process. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Flour: All-purpose flour is the base of the coating and helps the other ingredients adhere to the chicken.

Eggs: Beaten eggs act as the binding agent that allows the breadcrumbs to stick to the chicken.

Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are preferred for a lighter and crispier texture. You can use plain or seasoned breadcrumbs, depending on your taste.

Seasonings: This is where you can get creative. Common seasonings include salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Coating Process

Coating the chicken properly is essential to achieve a crispy and flavorful result. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Prepare the Dredging Stations: Set up three shallow dishes or plates. Fill the first one with flour, the second with beaten eggs, and the third with breadcrumbs mixed with your chosen seasonings.

Dredging: Take a chicken tender and dip it into the flour, ensuring it’s coated on all sides. Shake off any excess flour.

Egg Wash: Dip the floured chicken tender into the beaten eggs. Make sure it’s well-coated with egg.

Breadcrumb Coating: Transfer the tender to the breadcrumb mixture and coat it thoroughly. Press the breadcrumbs onto the chicken to ensure they adhere.

Repeat: If you prefer an extra crispy coating, you can repeat steps 2 to 4, coating the tender in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs a second time.

Place on a Tray: Once coated, place the chicken tender on a tray or plate. Repeat the process for all the tenders.

Preparing the Air Fryer

Now that you’ve successfully coated your chicken tenders, it’s time to prepare your air fryer. Follow these steps:

Preheat: Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for about 5 minutes. Preheating ensures even cooking and a crispy exterior.

Spray or Brush with Oil: To further enhance the crispiness, lightly spray or brush the chicken tenders with a small amount of cooking oil. This step is optional but highly recommended for a golden finish.

Arrange Tenders: Place the chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, ensuring they are not overcrowded. You may need to cook them in batches if your air fryer is smaller.

Air Frying the Chicken Tenders

With your air fryer preheated and the chicken tenders ready to go, it’s time to start cooking. Follow these guidelines for the best results:

Cooking Time: The cooking time for chicken tenders in an air fryer typically ranges from 12 to 16 minutes at 400°F (200°C). The exact time may vary based on the thickness of the chicken tenders and the specific air fryer model. It’s essential to check the internal temperature of the chicken to ensure it’s cooked to a safe 165°F (74°C).

Flip Halfway Through: To ensure even cooking and browning, flip the chicken tenders halfway through the cooking time. This will help both sides achieve that desirable golden crunch.

Check for Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken tenders. They should reach 165°F (74°C) to be safe to eat.

Resting: Once your chicken tenders are cooked to perfection, remove them from the air fryer and let them rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a juicy and tender interior.

Serving and Dipping Sauces

Your air fryer chicken tenders are now perfectly cooked and ready to be enjoyed. Here are some serving suggestions and dipping sauce ideas:

Side Dishes: Chicken tenders pair well with a variety of sides, such as french fries, coleslaw, a green salad, or steamed vegetables.

Dipping Sauces: Consider serving your chicken tenders with an array of dipping sauces. Some popular options include ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, ranch dressing, or buffalo sauce. Homemade sauces can also elevate the flavor profile.

Garnishes: For an extra touch of flavor and freshness, garnish your chicken tenders with chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Variations and Customizations

While traditional chicken tenders are undeniably delicious, you can get creative and customize your air fryer chicken tenders to suit your preferences. Here are some ideas:

Spicy Kick: Add cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or chili flakes to the breadcrumb mixture for a spicy twist.

Parmesan Crust: Incorporate grated Parmesan cheese into the breadcrumb coating for a cheesy and savory flavor.

Asian Fusion: Mix soy sauce, ginger, and garlic into your marinade for an Asian-inspired flavor. Serve with a side of sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Herb-Infused: Experiment with fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, or oregano in your breadcrumb mixture for an aromatic touch.

Gluten-Free: For a gluten-free option, use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs. Ensure all your ingredients are gluten-free if you have dietary restrictions.

Nut-Coated: Crushed nuts, like almonds or pecans, can be used in place of or in addition to breadcrumbs for a nutty crunch.

Cleaning Your Air Fryer

After enjoying your delicious air fryer chicken tenders, it’s important to clean your air fryer properly. Here’s how:

Unplug and Cool Down: Always unplug the air fryer and allow it to cool down completely before cleaning.

Remove the Basket and Pan: Take out the basket and pan from the air fryer. These are usually dishwasher-safe, but check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning recommendations.

Wipe the Interior: Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior of the air fryer, removing any food residue. Be gentle to avoid damaging the heating element.

Clean the Exterior: Wipe the exterior of the air fryer with a damp cloth.

Regular Maintenance: For regular maintenance, clean the air fryer after each use to prevent the buildup of baked-on residue.


Air fryer chicken tenders are a delightful and convenient meal option that satisfies both kids and adults. With the right ingredients, coating, and cooking techniques, you can achieve a perfect balance of crispy texture and juicy, flavorful chicken. By following this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to create restaurant-quality chicken tenders in the comfort of your own kitchen. Don’t be afraid to get creative with seasonings and coatings to make this dish your own. Happy air frying!



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