These Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are just as crispy and juicy as deep-fried ones but so much healthier. You only need a small amount of oil to make them, but you’d never guess they’re healthier! They taste just like restaurant chicken tenders and they’re so easy to make.
If you have an air fryer you already know that it’s a great way to make crispy “fried” food without all of the oil and mess and these chicken tenders are one of our favorite things to make in it. If you love classic chicken tenders that are crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside then you will love this recipe!
I’m a sucker for restaurant chicken fingers that are so crispy and juicy with all the dipping sauces to go with them. Until I got an air fryer, I never made them at home because dealing with all of the hot oil makes a mess and they’re not so healthy, either.
So, hello, air fryer. This recipe is so easy and a great way to enjoy a favorite fried food without the guilt. I’m sharing all of my best tips so you can make the most delicious air fryer chicken tenders!
Marinate the Chicken
For this air fryer chicken tenders recipe, you’ll need one pound of chicken tenders.
Just like you would for fried chicken, you will want to marinate the chicken first. All you do is combine buttermilk with paprika and Worcestershire sauce and marinate the chicken in it for two hours. Marinating the chicken does a few things:
- The buttermilk is acidic which means it will break down the chicken so it’s very tender once it’s cooked. It gives it the best texture! Buttermilk also adds a tangy flavor to the meat.
- The Worcestershire sauce adds salt so the chicken is perfectly seasoned and also ups the savory flavor of the chicken. It’s hard to explain but it’s often referred to as “umami” which is a specific savory taste.
Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook them. Letting them come to room temperature will ensure they cook evenly once you put them in the air fryer (they also cook faster when they’re not ice cold!).
For the breading, combine panko breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt in a shallow dish, like a pie plate.
Before you coat the chicken, remove the excess buttermilk by shaking it off. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture so it’s completely covered on all sides. Gently shake off any excess breadcrumbs and place each chicken piece in the basket of the air fryer.
How to Cook Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
The great thing about the air fryer is that you don’t need any extra oil to cook the chicken. The olive oil in the breading mixture is all you need to get a super crispy coating once the tenders are cooked.
Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook the chicken in batches. You will want to fit as many as you can, but they need to be in an even layer. Don’t stack them on top of each other otherwise they won’t cook evenly.
Cook the chicken tenders in the air fryer for four to six minutes and then flip the pieces over and cook them for another four to six minutes.
The best way to tell if they are cooked through is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 165°F. The breading should also be crispy and golden brown.
Repeat this cooking process with other the other batches.
What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
We always need a dipping sauce! We love ranch dressing, but your favorite BBQ sauce, honey mustard, sweet and sour sauces are delicious, too. Sometimes we have a mix of sauces so everyone can choose their favorite.
If you are making them for dinner add a side of French fries, your favorite cooked vegetable or a side salad to make it a complete meal.
Since these chicken tenders are made with hardly any oil you can definitely feel good making them more often! So, break out your air fryer and get these on your meal plan. I know you will love them as much as we do!
- You can use different flavor profiles with these Chicken Tenders. Experiment and have fun.
- Add Red Pepper flakes for a spicier option
- Make it Buffalo wing style by adding Buffalo wing sauce
- Add Barbecue sauce for yet another taste.
Other Dinners You'll Enjoy
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Recipe
- 1 pound chicken tenders
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine buttermilk, paprika and Worcestershire sauce in a measuring cup. Put chicken tenders in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the chicken and make sure all chicken is fully covered. Let it marinate for 2 hours. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
- In a shallow dish (pie plates work great) combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil. Mix together well.
- Remove chicken one a time and shake off any excess buttermilk mixture. Then dredge the chicken tender into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure they are fully covered. Gently shake off any excess and place in the air fryer basket. Add as many chicken tenders that you can fit in the air fryer basket. Cook for 4-6 minutes on each side. Make sure the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Using a meat thermometer check that the chicken is at 165°. Repeat the process for the remaining chicken tenders.
- Try different dipping sauces. We used Ranch dressing but you can try many store bought sauces that will be delicious or try making your own sauce.
If you love classic chicken tenders that are crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, then you will love this Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe! You only need a small amount of oil to make them, but you’d never guess they’re healthier!
Mel is an IT guy turned blogger and is discovering his love of cooking and photography. If you ever have Fantasy Football questions, he's your guy.