Juicy and crisp, air fryer chicken tenders are made in no time for a family favorite meal! These healthy chicken tenders feature tons of crunch without the need for cooking in oil.
I’ve never understood why chicken tenders are considered just a kid’s menu thing. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy fried, crispy chicken when the craving strikes? I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to chicken dishes.
For years we’ve been enjoying these baked coconut chicken tenders at home, but after buying an air fryer I quickly set to work on making a faster, all-purpose version. And these certainly don’t disappoint!
Reasons To Love This Recipe
- They’re quick, taking less than 15 minutes of cook time in the air fryer.
- The seasoning is so versatile. Besides panko, flour, and eggs, you can honestly use whichever spices you like. Pre-made spice blends simplify things, but the individual spices listed in the recipe card here are pantry staples and provide a balanced, fairly neutral flavor.
- It can’t be understated: air fryer chicken tenders are a whole lot healthier than traditionally fried tenders. These and a side salad make a decidedly adult chicken tenders meal.
- Chicken tenders: Chicken tenders/strips/fingers are their own white meat chicken part attached to each breast. You can purchase a package of tenders to use in this recipe, or in a pinch you can slice chicken breasts into strips of equal thickness.
- Panko: The larger pieces of panko create more “crunch” than traditionally-sized breadcrumbs.
- Spices: While just salt and pepper would work, the addition of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne add a nice all-purpose flavor without bring too much heat.
Prep this recipe by getting out three separate bowls: one for the panko, one for the eggs, and another for the flour and seasonings. Beat the eggs in their bowl and stir together the flour and seasonings.
Also spray your air fryer basket with cooking spray.
- Start by coating a tender in the spiced flour mixture, taking care to coat all of its surface area well. Then dip it in the egg until fully moistened.
- Now dip the tender in the panko until coated, pressing the panko into the chicken to really help it adhere.
- Repeat for the remainder of the tenders, placing each in a single layer onto the sprayed air fryer basket. Spray the tops of the tenders with olive oil spray. I have an air fryer/toaster oven combo that can fit one pound of chicken tenders in one layer, but if your air fryer is smaller, you will need to cook them in multiple batches.
- Air fry at 350°F for seven minutes, then flip each tender over and spray the sides that are now on top with olive oil spray.
- Air fry them again for 5-6 minutes, or until the middle of the biggest tender reaches 165°F. As all air fryers cook differently, the time required for your batch of chicken tenders to reach fully cooked may vary.
Chicken Tender Dredging Tips
Dredging anything can create a kitchen mess. To minimize clean-up and simplify the process, follow these tips when making air fryer chicken tenders.
- Don’t skimp on bowl size. Use a bowl that’s large enough to contain all of the panko, keeping in mind it shifts around and rises up the sides as you’re pressing in and moving around the tenders.
- Set up your work station in order. Keeping things in line helps reduce mess as crumbs and drips don’t go everywhere. For this recipe, I have my plate of chicken tenders on the left, with the flour bowl, egg bowl, panko bowl, and air fryer basket in order going right. That way I just move down the line.
- When dredging, designate one hand for the wet ingredients and the other for the dry. This helps prevent a ton of build-up on your fingers. For example: use your right hand (dry hand) to pick up a tender and place it in the flour bowl. Continue to use your right hand to cover the tender in flour, and drop it in the bowl with the egg. Now use your left hand (wet hand) to dunk the tender around the egg, and lift the tender up and place it in the panko. Use your right hand again to coat it in panko and transfer to the basket.
Yes! You can go in many directions with the flavors. The amount of cayenne (one-eighth teaspoon) called for in the recipe does not bring heat, rather it adds to the flavor. Bump that up if you like spicy. Otherwise your favorite blend would work, such as lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, etc. This easy buffalo spice mix would be fab for those who love heat.
To keep the tenders crisp when reheating, air fry leftover refrigerated tenders at 325°F for 7 minutes, or until warmed throughout and crisped again.
More Air Fryer Recipes
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- 1 lb chicken tenders
- 1 cup (53g) panko breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (60g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Olive oil spray
- Spray air fryer basket well with cooking spray and set aside for now.
- Set out three shallow bowls. In the first bowl add the panko, in the second bowl add the eggs, and in the third bowl add the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and ground cayenne.
- Beat the eggs well with a whisk. Also stir together the flour and spices until evenly combined.
- Starting with the first chicken tender, press it into the seasoned flour so all sides are well-coated. Next dip it in the egg mixture until fully moistened, holding the tender above the egg bowl for a few seconds so excess drips back in. Then press the tender well into the panko to adhere all over.
- Place the breaded tenders onto the sprayed air fryer basket. Repeat for all tenders, placing them in the basket next to one another in a single layer with a tiny bit of space between tenders. Depending upon the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook them in batches.
- Spritz the tops of the breaded tenders with olive oil spray.
- Air fry at 350°F for 7 minutes, then remove the basket and carefully flip each tender over. Spray the now-top side of the tenders with olive oil spray and air fry again for 5-6 additional minutes, or until the center of the thickest tender reaches 165°F (fully cooked).
- Use a large enough bowl for the panko as it moves around as you coat the tender.
- Arrange the tenders, dredging bowls, and air fryer basket in order of use for keeping your kitchen counters tidy.
- Designate a dry hand (for the flour and panko bowl) and a wet hand (for the egg bowl) to minimize how coated your hands get.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.