Get ready to fall in love with these air fryer chicken tenders, just as I did!
The first time I made them in my air fryer, I was amazed at how simple and delicious they turned out, with no need for heavy breading. Each bite exploded in crispiness, revealing tender, juicy chicken inside.
This recipe is perfect for anyone, whether you’re new to cooking or just looking for a healthier way to enjoy crispy chicken.
I’ve shared it with friends and family, and it’s always been a hit. It has become a staple in my kitchen, and I hope they’ll find a special place in yours too.
What We Will Cover
What We Will Need
Ingredients for the Chicken Tenders
- Chicken: 1 1/2 lbs (approx 600-700 grams) of skinless chicken tenders*
- 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika.
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
- 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic.
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- Oil: 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, for that golden crispiness.
* If you are in the UK you can look for “Mini Chicken Breast Fillets”.
Flavor Boosters (Optional)
- Spice: A pinch of cayenne pepper for those who appreciate a bit of heat. (Nicely complements the smokiness of the paprika).
- Citrus Zest: A bit of lemon zest to give the tenders a refreshing twist.
Required Tools and Equipment
- Tongs: Essential for safely flipping the tenders mid-cook.
- Mixing Bowl: Use this for combining the chicken with the seasonings, ensuring an even and flavorful coating on every tender.
- Meat Thermometer (Optional): Perfect for those who want to ensure their chicken is cooked just right.
- If you don’t have tongs, you can use a fork or spatula, but be cautious as they might not provide the same grip and ease of flipping as tongs.
- For the mixing bowl, any large bowl will do, as long as it gives you enough space to mix the chicken and seasonings thoroughly.
How To Make Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
Total Preparation Time: 3-5 minutes
- Remove Tendons: If not already done, remove the tendons from the chicken tenders. This step significantly improves tenderness.
- Pat Dry: Gently pat the chicken dry with paper towels. This ensures that the oil and seasonings adhere better, enhancing the flavor.
- Season: Place the chicken in a small bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the tenders, ensuring they are evenly coated. Then, add the smoked paprika, onion powder, granulated garlic, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Stir well to coat each tender thoroughly with the spice mix.
Total Cooking Time: Approximately 10 minutes.
Step 1: Preheat Air Fryer: Preheat your air fryer for 3 minutes at 400° F (200° C). This step is crucial for achieving perfect crispiness from the start.
Step 2: Prepare Air Fryer Basket: Lightly spray the air fryer basket or rack with cooking oil. This helps prevent sticking and contributes to a crispy exterior.
Step 3: Arrange Chicken Tenders: Place the chicken tenders in the air fryer basket in a single layer, without overlapping. If all tenders don’t fit, cook them in batches or slightly overlap them with minimal touching to ensure even cooking.
Step 4: Cook: Air fry the tenders at 400° F (200° C) for 10 minutes. Use tongs to flip the chicken halfway through the cooking time for even cooking and crispiness on both sides.
Tip for Checking Crispness: After cooking, tap the chicken with a fingernail. A hollow sound indicates they’re cooked through and crispy.
Step 5: Check Doneness: Ensure the internal temperature of the thickest tender is at least 165° F (74° C)
Step 6: Serve or Keep Warm: Remove the chicken tenders from the air fryer. Serve immediately or keep them warm a 200° F (100° C). They remain crispy and delicious this way.
I love pairing honey mustard with the spicier tenders, as the sweetness beautifully balances the heat.
Classic ketchup is a hit with the smoky paprika-flavored tenders, especially with the kids.
My go-to sides for these tenders are coleslaw for its creamy crunch, air fryer chips for a delightful contrast, and a fresh green salad for a lighter touch.
Wraps and Salads:
On lighter meal days, I chop the tenders into bite-sized pieces and add them to wraps or salads.
In wraps, I typically include crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and a drizzle of ranch or Caesar dressing – a combination that never fails to please.
In salads, the tender pieces add a satisfying crunch alongside mixed greens, cucumbers, and a light vinaigrette.
Storage and Reheating Tips
- Storing Leftovers: Through trial and error, I’ve discovered the best way to keep leftover tenders crispy. I let them cool completely, then store them in an airtight container with parchment paper between layers. This method keeps them fresh and ready to enjoy for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- Reheating: For that just-cooked crispiness, I always reheat the tenders in the air fryer at 350 degrees F for about 3-4 minutes. It’s a quick and effective way to bring back that delightful crunch.
FAQs and Troubleshooting
Why are my chicken tenders not crispy?
Ensure your air fryer is preheated properly and that the chicken tenders are not overlapping in the basket. Also, make sure they are patted dry before seasoning. Excess moisture can prevent them from getting crispy.
Can I cook frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer?
Yes, you can cook frozen tenders in the air fryer. However, the cooking time will be longer, and they may not be as flavorful as when marinated and seasoned fresh.
How do I prevent the chicken from sticking to the basket?
Lightly spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil before placing the chicken tenders in it. Additionally, using a non-stick basket or parchment liners can help prevent sticking.
Can I stack the chicken tenders in the air fryer?
It’s best to cook the tenders in a single layer. Stacking them can lead to uneven cooking and less crispiness. If you have a lot of tenders, cook them in batches.
Why are my tenders dry?
Overcooking can cause the tenders to dry out. Keep an eye on the cooking time and check the internal temperature to avoid overcooking. A little bit of oil also helps keep them moist.
Can I use different seasonings?
Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices. I’ve tried everything from curry powder to Italian seasoning, and each brings a unique flavor to the dish.
Like It? Share It!
Did you love the flavor of these juicy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders? Pin this recipe to keep it handy and revisit your new favorite meal whenever you need a quick and delicious dinner idea that’s sure to please everyone at the table!