Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Crispy and juicy, these easy air fryer chicken tenders are a perfect party app or quick weeknight dinner. Dip them, wrap them, or add them to pasta and salads. They’re so versatile you’ll want to eat them a different way every week!

Becoming a parent has fully renewed my love for chicken tenders. I am equally excited as the kids whenever they’re on the menu —which is often. I serve these up almost weekly in our house thanks to their versatility and the generous freezer stash this recipe makes. 

The kids prefer these homemade chicken tenders with a copious amount of ketchup for dipping and a side of frozen peas —hello, easy meal. On the other hand, my husband and I love them bathed in this thick and creamy Buffalo sauce. Wrap them in a warm tortilla with crisp lettuce, crunchy cucumbers, a generous drizzle of Bleu cheese, and OH EM GEE. It’s an instant adult dinner that SAT. IS. FIES. Seriously, give it a try!

Why I love these healthy air fryer chicken tenders

  • Quick and easy meal to make
  • Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside
  • Made with simple ingredients
  • Kid-approved
  • Very versatile
  • Freeze well
  • Makes enough for a freezer stash
  • Air frying uses a lot less oil compared to deep frying
  • Packed with lean protein

Ingredients to make crispy air fryer chicken tenderloins 

To make these air fryer chicken tenders, you’ll need: 

  • Whole chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Eggs
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard: The kick of the Dijon doesn’t come through in the slightest — but if you’re worried or don’t have any, regular yellow mustard works, too!
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil spray

Ingredient substitutions

  • Gluten-free: You can easily make these air fryer chicken tenders gluten-free by substituting gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose and gluten-free Panko in place of traditional Panko bread crumbs.
  • Egg-free: I’ve not tried making these egg-free, but I would love to know what you substitute and how they turn out if you do! 

How to make chicken tenders in the air fryer

Here’s how to make perfect crispy chicken tenders in the air fryer:

  • Step 1: Pound, slice, and pat the chicken dry.
  • Step 2: Line the air fryer basket with foil and toast your Panko breadcrumbs (~1 cup at a time) at 360°F for about 4 minutes, shaking halfway through.
  • Step 3: Batter the chicken in a mixture of egg, mayonnaise, flour, salt, and pepper.
  • Step 4: Bread the chicken with the toasted Panko crumbs.
  • Step 5: Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C). Lightly spray the chicken tenders with cooking spray and place them in a single layer into the air fryer basket. Cook for 11-13 minutes.

How long to cook chicken tenders in the air fryer 

How long to cook chicken tenders in the air fryer will depend on your specific air fryer and the thickness of the chicken tenders.

Cooking time for ½-inch thick chicken tenders is 11-13 minutes at 350°F (165°C), or 13-15 minutes if frozen. Thicker chicken tenders may require 1-2 additional minutes. To ensure doneness, use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the thickest part is 165°F (74°C). 

Tips for tender, crispy air fryer chicken tenders

  • Pound the chicken breast. Pounding whole chicken breasts to ½”-⅔” thick will tenderize the meat and help the chicken tenders cook more evenly.
  • Toast the Panko. Toasting the breadcrumbs gives these homemade chicken strips their beautiful golden color and crispy, crunchy exterior. Skip this step, and they’ll be a bit blah.
  • Lightly spray with oil. Spraying the chicken with oil spray and cooking them in the air fryer creates a crispy crust on the outside, but using too much oil will cause the breading to get soggy. I recommend wiping the tip of your spray oil and giving it a test spray first. If your oil squirts more than it sprays, you’re better off skipping it altogether.
  • Take them out as soon as they’re done. These chicken tenders are best served right out of the air fryer. Let them sit for more than a minute; they may become overcooked or dried out.

How to freeze raw chicken tenders

Because this recipe calls for two pounds of chicken, you’ll likely have extras to freeze. Heck yea!

To freeze raw chicken tenders: 

  • Transfer breaded chicken tenders to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I like these half-sheets because they fit well even in a crowded freezer. 
  • Place the baking sheet(s) into the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours.
  • Once firm, transfer the chicken tenders to an airtight freezer bag or container, pressing out as much air as possible from the bag when sealing. I really like these ½-gallon or stand-up Stasher bags for freezing.  
  • Frozen chicken tenders are best if eaten within four months.
Raw chicken tenders on a baking sheet to freeze

Tools used to make this air fryer chicken tender recipe

Ingredients you can prep ahead

  • Slice and pound the chicken breast
  • Toast the breadcrumbs

How to serve air fryer chicken tenders

These little tenders are so incredibly versatile. Here are some quick, easy, and delicious ideas for how to serve them.

  • Solo with dipping sauces on the side. An easy appetizer idea! Ranch dressing, marinara, honey mustard, Buffalo, or bbq sauce make great dipping sauces for these crispy chicken tenders. 
  • Alongside frozen peas and baked french fries. Easiest kid dinner ever!
  • As a wrap. Fold 1-2 chicken tenders in a flour tortilla, add crispy lettuce, your favorite crunchy veggies, and a drizzle of your sauce of choice. Wrap and enjoy!  
  • As tacos. Slice the chicken tenders in half diagonally and place them in your preferred taco shell. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings like shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or jalapeños— and enjoy! 
  • On top of a salad. Slice your chicken into bite-sized pieces and serve over fresh lettuce and veggies. Top with your favorite dressing.

How to store leftover chicken tenders

  • Leftover chicken tenders can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  • If your leftover chicken tenders are raw, freezing them will prevent the breading from getting soggy. See How to freeze raw chicken tenders for freezing instructions above.

How to make these in the oven

Don’t have access to an air fryer? Make these easy, baked chicken tenders instead. It’s the same recipe, just made in the oven!  

Other great recipes you might like:  

Crispy air fryer chicken tenders on a wire rack and marble background drizzled with honey mustard
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Recipe

Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Crispy and juicy, these easy air fryer chicken tenders are a perfect party app or quick weeknight dinner. Don’t forget to freeze the extras! 

  • Prep Time:
    14 minutes
  • Total Time:
    25 minutes
  • Makes:
    ~18 tenders
  • Prep Time:
    14 minutes
  • Total Time:
    25 minutes
  • Makes:
    ~18 tenders
  • Ingredients

    • 2 pounds of chicken tenderloins or chicken breast
    • 2 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • ¼ cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • Olive oil spray

    Instructions

    1. Prepare your pan (if freezing). If you will be freezing some or all of the chicken tenders, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and set it aside.
    2. Prepare the chicken. Pat the chicken dry with a clean paper towel. If you’re using whole chicken breasts (not tenderloins), pound the chicken using a meat pounder or rolling pin until they are about ½” thick. Slice pounded chicken breasts into 1-inch wide strips. Set aside.
    3. Toast the Panko. Line the bottom of the air fryer basket with foil. Add half of the Panko and lightly spray with oil. Set the air fryer to 350°F (no need to preheat) and toast the Panko until golden brown, about 4 minutes, gently shaking the basket halfway through. Transfer the toasted breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl (I like to use a cake or brownie pan) and repeat with the remaining breadcrumbs.
    4. Bread the chicken. In a shallow mixing bowl, combine the egg, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, flour, salt, and pepper and whisk until fully incorporated. Add 1-2 chicken strips to the egg mixture and toss to coat. Transfer the battered chicken to the Panko pan with tongs or a fork. Use a spoon to sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, and gently press down on the chicken to help the breadcrumbs stick. Transfer breaded chicken to a large plate or prepared baking sheet if freezing. Repeat until all chicken tenders are breaded.
    5. Cook the chicken tenders. Lightly spray the ones you will be cooking with oil and place chicken tenders in a single layer into the air fryer basket. Air fry at 350°F (180°C) until chicken is cooked throughout, about 11-12 minutes (13-14 minutes if frozen). Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
    6. Freeze the extra chicken tenders. Transfer the baking sheet(s) with the extra chicken tenders to the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours. Once firm, move them to an airtight freezer bag or container, pressing out as much air as possible from the bag when sealing. Frozen chicken tenders are best if eaten within four months.

    Notes

    INGREDIENT NOTES

    • To make gluten-free chicken tenders: Substitute your favorite gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose flour in the batter, and use gluten-free panko instead of traditional wheat-based panko for the breading.

    INGREDIENT PREP

    • Toast the Panko and store it in an airtight container until ready to use
    • Make the batter up to 1 day in advance
    • Make your dipping sauces up to 1 week in advance

    LEFTOVERS

    Store leftover chicken tenders in an airtight food storage bag or container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, place on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet in a 250F oven/toaster oven for 5-7 minutes or until warmed through. Chicken tenders can also be microwaved for 30-45 seconds but be warned, they won’t be crispy.

    NUTRITION NOTES

    Nutrition information based on a 4-ounce serving and does not include dipping sauce.

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 4 ounces (approx. 2 tenders)
    • Calories: 188
    • Sugar: 0 g
    • Sodium: 446 mg
    • Fat: 5 g
    • Saturated Fat: 1 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 4 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 10 g
    • Fiber: 0 g
    • Protein: 23 g
    • Cholesterol: 83 mg

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    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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