Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are the ultimate kid-friendly food that the whole family will love. Making homemade chicken tenders in an air fryer gives you healthy, crispy and tender chicken strips. This Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe is so easy that you’ll definitely want to add it to your weeknight meal plan.
Do your kids love chicken tenders? My daughter calls them chicken strips and they are pretty much the only thing my picky eater ever orders at a restaurant.
At home, she also constantly requests chicken strips for dinner. How many times can I feed my child chicken strips?!?
I think we have made every single brand of packaged chicken tenders from every single grocery store in the city. Some of the offerings my picky eater likes and some have not been a hit.
But none of the packaged chicken tenders (do you call them chicken strips or chicken tenders?) are as good as the restaurant deep-fried chicken strips — even though we cook them in the air fryer.
An air fryer definitely improves the store bought chicken tenders and makes the whole cooking and clean up process faster and easier than deep-frying or cooking in the oven.
And since I am often only making air fryer chicken tenders for my kids while I make my myself a salad for dinner, I really appreciate the convenience of the air fryer and the fact that I don’t have to heat up the oven.
However, on nights when I want chicken for dinner and my kids are asking for chicken tenders, I create a dinner WIN for all of us!
I make these delicious, crispy, homemade chicken tenders that bake up perfectly in an air fryer or in the oven. Yes, you can use this recipe to make your chicken tenders in an oven as well.
An air fryer will make your tenders extra crispy but if you make the full recipe of air fryer chicken tenders, you will have to cook them in batches. In the air fryer, you don’t want to overcrowd your strips, so you can’t cook too many at once.
If you don’t have an air fryer or if you want to cook one large batch of chicken tenders all at once, these strips also bake beautifully in the oven.
How To Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Over the years, I have made homemade chicken tenders in various ways. But I love these two tips I learned from Recipe Tin Eats:
- Use Panko breadcrumbs and brown them in the oven first
- Skip the flour bowl, and turn your breading process from three steps into just TWO by adding your flour to your egg mixture
Panko breadcrumbs are Japanese breadcrumbs. They are a larger cut than regular breadcrumbs and provide more of a crunch. You can find them in most grocery stores or, of course, at Asian supermarkets.
Browning the breadcrumbs with some olive oil before cooking allows them to get nice and crunchy and ensures you don’t have any mushy breading on your chicken tenders.
If you are using an air fryer, toasting/browning your breadcrumbs is not as critical since the air flows all around the chicken tenders and doesn’t usually cause the mushy problems that baking in the oven creates. Also, if you are making air fryer chicken tenders, be careful not to brown your breadcrumbs too long as they brown up more in the air fryer.
I am all for saving time and making less mess, so I love the idea of combining the flour and egg dredging into one step. It works perfectly.
If you are using an Air Fryer, place 6-8 battered chicken tenders in the bottom of the air fryer and spray generously with olive oil. if you want to cook more tenders at the same time, place an air fryer cooking rack in the air fryer and add a second layer of strips.
Set aside any remaining battered strips to cook when the first batch is finished, cooking each batch at 180C for 10-14 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
A Note About Brining Chicken
When I cook chicken, I like to brine it in salt water for 15-30 minutes, usually while I get the rest of my ingredients ready.
Brining keeps your chicken moist and juicy.
You can brine in just salted water, or you can add some other flavors such as herbs or garlic.
When reading recipes for brining, it often calls for Kosher salt. You can use table salt or sea salt, but the cup measurements will be different because of the size of the salt grains. Kosher and sea salt are more course and table salt is finer. Weight measurements, on the other hand, will be equal. Here is a salt conversion chart for your reference.
(If you are in a hurry or if your grocery store sells pre-brined chicken, you can skip brining. But in general, if you have the extra time, brining your chicken is a step you don’t want to skip.)
Okay, enough of my chatting, let’s make these air fryer chicken tenders… you have got hungry kids to feed!
Homemade Chicken Tenders for the Air Fryer or the Oven
- 1lb chicken breasts
- ¼ cup Kosher salt (optional for brining chicken)
- 1¾ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- Oil spray (I use olive oil spray)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ Tbsp Yellow mustard
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (optional but I like the extra zing)
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tsp Italian seasoning blend (unless your kids freak out at the sight of green herbs in their food)
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt (if you didn't brine your chicken)
- For Dipping Sauce
- ¾ cup greek yogurt or mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (or mustard of choice)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp dried dill
- To brine chicken -- add 4 cups of warm water to a large bowl and stir in ¼ cup kosher salt
- Add chicken and soak for 15-30 minutes
- While chicken is brining, prepare other ingredients
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper
- Spread out Panko breadcrumbs and spray lightly with oil
- Bake in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden
- Remove and allow to cool, then pour into a shallow dish and set aside
- In another bowl or shallow dish, prepare batter by mixing together flour, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar/lemon juice, egg, and seasonings
- Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels
- Cut chicken into strips about 3" long and 1.5" thick
- Dip each chicken strip into the batter and coat well
- Then dip each strip into the breadcrumb mixture, using your free hand to sprinkle breadcrumbs on any part of the chicken that is not well covered in breadcrumbs
- IF you are using an Air Fryer, place 6-8 battered chicken strips in the bottom of the air fryer and spray generously with olive oil,
- To cook more strips at the same time, place an air fryer cooking rack in the air fryer and add a second layer of strips
- Set aside any remaining battered strips to cook when the first batch is finished, cooking each batch at 180C for 10-14 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through
- IF you are cooking in the oven, place battered strips on a parchment covered baking sheet or a baking sheet with a rack placed on top so the chicken strips are raised off of the baking sheet
- Spray battered chicken strips generously with olive oil cooking spray and bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of strips
- For dipping sauce, whisk together yogurt/mayonnaise with mustard, lemon juice, and dill, and serve with chicken strips
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More Air Fryer Recipes
Do you love cooking in an air fryer? After you’ve made this Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe, be sure to try our other air fryer recipes: Airfryer Apple Pie Filo Pastries and Airfryer French Toast Sticks.