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Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
  • Calories: 330
  • Protein: 46 g
  • Total Fat: 6 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 5.5 g
    • Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 145 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 24 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
  • Total Sugar: 3 g
    • Natural Sugar: 3 g
    • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 230 mg

Crispy-crunchy on the outside and juicy-succulent on the inside, these tenders have become a fast family fave. Of course, you can make them the old-fashioned way (baked in the oven; see instructions below), but if you have an air fryer, this version provides a more faux-fried eating experience. Oh, and don’t skip the marinating chicken step; it helps lock in moisture and will ensure your chicken pieces are extra-tender and irresistibly good. While I recommend using low-fat buttermilk as your marinade (contrary to the name, there’s no butter in this milk), you can also use yogurt, kefir, or even pickle juice (yep—jarred pickle juice works really well). Lastly, don’t forget to whip up the simple side sauces (including Honey Mustard, BBQ Mustard, Lemon Dill, Spicy Ketchup, Creamy Ketchup) so every eater can choose their own dipping adventure.

I have a few Air Fryers that I love, including this one from COSORI, which has nearly 100,000 ratings; this compact Ninja one that features a 4-quart ceramic-coated nonstick basket and crisper plate; and another one from Ninja that has dual baskets. Check them out to see if one fits your needs.

  • Prep time
  • Total Time
This recipe makes 4 servings (4 tenders per serving)
Ingredients:
  • • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins*
  • • ½ cup low-fat buttermilk
  • • 1 large egg
  • • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • • 1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (preferably whole grain)
  • • 1 teaspoon smoky paprika, optional
  • • Kosher salt for sprinkling on top

* You can also slice large chicken breasts into strips

Preparation:

Add chicken tenders to a bowl or zip-top plastic bag with the buttermilk. Mix the chicken around. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes until overnight.

Preheat air fryer to 400˚F. Mist the basket with nonstick oil spray.

Set up a 2-step dredging station: In a wide shallow bowl whisk together the egg with the mayo. In a second wide shallow bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and optional smoky paprika.

Shake or drain the chicken to remove excess buttermilk. One at a time, dip the chicken tenders into the egg-mayo mixture, dripping off any excess egg, then place in the breadcrumb mixture (fully submerge and pat to coat on all sides with the breading). Place the tenders in air fryer basket in a single layer (make sure they’re not touching or on top of each other), mist tops of tenders with olive oil spray and lightly sprinkle on some salt. Close the basket door and cook 4 minutes. Open the basket and using tongs, carefully flip the tenders over (being gentle to keep the breading intact) and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes until crispy.

Oven directions: If you don’t have an air fryer, follow the same instructions for the chicken and preheat oven to 450°F. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil spray and place the breaded chicken tenders on top in a single layer. (If you have a wire rack, position it on top of the baking sheet and place your chicken directly on it, as this will produce a crispier underneath.) Mist chicken tops with additional olive oil spray and lightly sprinkle on salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the breading is golden brown and crispy and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F.

Serve with Honey Mustard, BBQ Mustard, Creamy Ketchup, Spicy Ketchup or Lemon Dill on the side for dipping.