These air fryer chicken tenders are super simple and delicious. Made with just a few simple ingredients, these chicken tenders are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Plus, they’re ready in just minutes, making them the perfect weeknight meal.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It is easy to make, and quick to cook – perfect for a quick dinner or a no-fuss appetizer
- It doesn’t require any oil, so it’s healthier than traditional fried chicken tenders
- It has a really great crispy coating that doesn’t require you to mess around with raw egg
Breaded chicken tenders are one of those classic comfort foods that we all crave from time to time. And while they’re usually deep-fried, there’s no reason why they can’t be made in the air fryer!
This healthier version is just as crispy and delicious, but without all the oil. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce or as part of a main dish. They’re sure to be a hit with the whole family.
Scroll down for the printable recipe card for these crispy air fryer chicken strips, or read on for all the details!
What do you need?
This recipe calls for fresh raw chicken tenderloins, but you could also use chicken breast strips.
The chicken is tossed in seasoned flour ahead of breading to help it stick to the chicken strips.
Use all purpose flour, and add seasoning of your choice.
You can use a store bought seasoning mix, or make a simple homemade mix from:
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
If using store-bought seasoning, choose one with salt in it, or add a teaspoon of salt to unsalted seasoning.
You’ll need around 6 teaspoons of seasoning in total, so adjust that if you need to add salt (5 teaspoons unsalted seasoning + 1 teaspoon salt).
Ranch dressing is used to stick the breadcrumbs to the tenderloins. It is easier to use than raw egg or buttermilk, and gives a really good texture coating with a satisfying crunch.
If you don’t have ranch dressing you can substitute mayo.
The crispy coating for this recipe is made using a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and shredded cheddar cheese. You could substitute Parmesan cheese for the cheddar if you prefer.
How to cook chicken tenders in the air fryer
1. Bread the chicken tenders
Prepare a mixing station with three shallow containers. In the first container, stir together the flour and seasoning. In the second container, place the ranch dressing. In the last container, stir together the panko crumbs and cheese.
Use the following process to bread each chicken strip one at a time:
- Roll each chicken tenderloin in the flour mixture until well coated. This helps the ranch dressing to stick to the chicken, and stops your crispy coating from sliding straight off.
- Then roll the floured chicken tender in the ranch dressing. This will help the panko crumbs to stick, it tends to create a better structure to the crumb compared with using raw egg.
- Finally, gently roll the chicken tender in the panko mixture until it is well coated. Press the bread crumbs on using the back of a spoon so they stick well.
2. Air fry chicken tenders
- Preheat the air fryer to 360°F/180°C. If your air fryer basket is prone to food sticking you can lightly spritz it with olive oil or line it with parchment (if parchment is recommended for your air fryer).
- Place the chicken tenders in the air fryer basket or tray in a single layer, ensure they are not touching. Depending on the size of your air fryer you may need to cook the chicken in batches, or use a layer accessory.
- Cook the chicken tenderloins in the air fryer for 12-18 minutes, until they are crispy, golden brown, and are cooked through. See section below for more details on cooking times.
Note: you can also cook these chicken tenders in a regular oven, just place them on a lined baking sheet, and cook in the oven at 390°F/ 200°C for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
How long to air fry chicken tenders
The exact cook time will depend on a few factors, including the size of the chicken tenders, as well as how powerful your air fryer is.
Chicken tenders need to be cooked until they reach the safe internal temperature of 165°F/ 74°C all the way through.
To confirm they are cooked correctly, check the internal temperature in the center of the largest chicken tenders with an instant-read thermometer.
Serve these chicken tenders with your favorite dipping sauce, for a crowd-pleasing snack or appetizer. BBQ sauce, sweet chili, garlic mayo or ranch dressing are all good options.
Or, you can serve these tenderloins as a main dish, by adding a green salad, or fresh steamed vegetables, and maybe some fries.
Storing and reheating
Store any leftover chicken tenders in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use them within 3 days.
Reheat chicken tenders in the air fryer at 360°F/180°C for 5-10 minutes until heated through to 165°F/ 74°C.
How to cook chicken tenderloins in an air fryer.
- 2lb/ 900g raw chicken tenderloins/ chicken breast strips
- 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons chicken seasoning [Note 1]
- ¾ cup ranch dressing [Note 2]
- 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
Bread the chicken tenders
- Prepare a mixing station with three shallow containers.
- Place the flour and seasoning (+salt) in the first container, and stir together. Place the ranch dressing into the second container. Place the panko crumbs and cheese in the third container and stir together.
- Roll each chicken tender one at a time, first in the flour, then the ranch dressing, and then the panko mixture, ensuring good coverage.
Air fry chicken tenders
- Preheat air fryer to 360°F/ 180°C.
- Place crumbed chicken tenders in air fryer basket in a single layer. Ensure they are not touching.
- Air fry chicken tenders for 12-18 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through
- Check that the largest few chicken tenders have reached the safe temperature of 165°F/ 74°C in the center of the thickest part [Note 3]. Air fry for additional 2-3 minute intervals if required until the safe temperature is reached.
- Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!
- Check that your chicken seasoning has salt, if not, substitute one teaspoon of the seasoning for salt (5 teaspoons unsalted seasoning + 1 teaspoon salt = 2 tablespoons).
- You can substitute mayonnaise in place of ranch dressing.
- Use an instant-read meat thermometer to confirm tenders have reached the safe temperature 165°F/ 74°C all the way through before consuming.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 539Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 153mgSodium: 674mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 49g
Nutrition information is an estimate and provided for informational purposes only.