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Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are crispy and golden on the outside and so juicy on the inside! These homemade breaded chicken fingers are extra flavorful without all the added grease.

A white bowl lined with parchment paper, containing fried chicken tenders stacked on a teal plate.

Who doesn’t love delicious crispy chicken tenders? Making them in the Air Fryer is not only easy but the end result is as tasty as the deep-fried version! They are a total crowd pleaser and will be loved by adults and kids alike!

Super tender inside and extra crispy on the outside. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce for a delicious meal reminiscent of your childhood. Breaded with a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, flour, and lightly seasoned, these Air Fryer chicken fingers taste even better than those frozen chicken fingers your mum made.

If you love fried chicken, check out my Air Fryer Fried Chicken recipe or if you are looking for a chicken recipe without breading, check out my Air Fryer Chicken Breast!

Why this recipe is so good

  • You know exactly what’s in it
  • Air Fried with a deep fried taste
  • Cooks fast and is done in 10 minutes
  • Kid-friendly with a simple but tasty seasoning
  • Easy to make with simple pantry ingredients

Ingredient Notes

Here is an overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom for quantities.

  • Chicken Tenders – Using pre-cut chicken tenders is the easiest. But you can also cut your own chicken tenders from a chicken breast by slicing it lengthwise into strips.
  • Buttermilk – Adds flavor, makes the meat more tender, and the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken tenders. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand see below how to make your own.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs – Panko breadcrumbs are crispier than normal breadcrumbs and perfect for this recipe. If you don’t have panko on hand normal breadcrumbs will work too.
  • Flour – All-purpose flour works best.
  • Baking Powder – Helps to make the chicken tenders extra crispy.
  • Salt and Pepper – I recommend using freshly ground black pepper but white pepper will work well too if you like it a bit spicier.
  • Paprika – Adds a mild but not spicy flavor.
  • Garlic Powder – I like to add some garlic powder to balance out the flavor but feel free to leave it out.
  • Melted Butter Unsalted butter works better. Butter adds a lot of flavor and makes the crust extra golden and crisp. But if you prefer you can also us a geneour spray of oil spray.

How to make this recipe 

Detailed measurements and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page on the printable recipe card.

Breaded chicken tenders lying next to each other on a white serving platter.
  1. Prep: Place the chicken tenders in a ziplock bag and pour the buttermilk into the bag. Squeeze the air out and seal the bag. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Combine: In a shallow bowl combine the panko breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, and spices.
  3. Coat: Remove the chicken strips from the buttermilk with a fork, shake off excess buttermilk, and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat on all sides.
  4. Preheat: Preheat Air Fryer to 350°F (180°C) if necessary.
  5. Bake: Put the chicken fingers in the Air Fryer basket and air fry for 10-12 minutes, pause after 4 minutes and brush chicken with melted butter then turn it over and brush butter on the other side. Cook until internal temperature reads 175°F and the chicken tenders are golden brown and crispy.
  6. Serve: Serve right away with your favorite dipping sauce.

Expert Tips

  • Marinate Chicken: The easiest way to marinate the chicken in the buttermilk is to put both together in a ziplock bag, press out the remaining air and put the bag in the fridge. You can marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours in the buttermilk.
  • Breading: Shake off excess buttermilk before putting the chicken pieces in the breading mixture. Also, shake off any excess breading mixture that doesn’t stick to the tenders before putting them in the Air Fryer.
  • Air Frying: Place the breaded chicken fingers in one single layer in the basket. They can overlap a little bit but don’t overcrowd the basket. I can cook about 1 pound of chicken tenders at the same time in my large Air Fryer (affiliate link).
  • Oil: You can use melted butter to brush the chicken tenders or use a pure oil spray like avocado oil or light olive oil.
  • Doneness: Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer to make sure the chicken is cooked but still tender and moist. The internal temperature should be 175°F.
  • Different Air Fryers: Different models of Air Fryers can cook faster or slower so make sure to keep an eye on the food.
  • Seasoning: Looking for a KFC inspired seasoning? Combine 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp celery salt, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.
  • Leftovers: Leftover chicken tenders can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Recrisp them in the Air Fryer at 350 F for a few minutes before serving.

Recipe FAQs

How long do you cook chicken tenders in the AirFryer?

Chicken Tenders cook really fast in the Air Fryer because the meat is lean. Depending on the size of your chicken strips they’ll take about 10-12 minutes in the Air Fryer. Cook them until they’re no longer pink in the center and have reached an internal temperature of 175°F. Don’t overcook them because the meat will get dry!

What does buttermilk do for chicken?

Marinating chicken in buttermilk produces tender and moist meat and adds flavor. The buttermilk works as a tenderizer and makes the breadcrumb mixture stick to the chicken.

Can I make this recipe in a regular oven?

Yes, you can make baked chicken tenders from this recipe! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, follow the recipe until the chicken fingers are ready to cook, place them on a lined baking sheet, and bake them for 15-20 minutes. Turn them after 10 minutes and brush them with butter.

A chicken Tender, with a bite taken out, with some ketchup on a marble surface, next to a whole tender, with small white square bowls of ketchup and mayonaise.

How to make chicken tenders from chicken breast

If you can’t get your hands on chicken tenders, you can cut your own from a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Cut the breast lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick stripes and you have perfect chicken-tender-sized pieces.

How to make your own buttermilk

The simplest way to make your own buttermilk is to pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring jug and then fill it up to the 1 cup mark with milk. Give the mixture a stir, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then use it in your recipe.

What to serve with Chicken Tenders

Serve these chicken tenders with Air Fryer French Fries or Air Fryer Potato Wedges.

Here are also some of my favorite dipping sauces to serve on the side:

  • Ketchup
  • Aioli Sauce
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce:
  • Honey Mustard Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
Close-up of a white bowl lined with parchment paper, containing fried chicken tenders stacked on a teal plate.

Leftovers

Leftover chicken tenders can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Recrisp them in the Air Fryer at 350 F for a few minutes before serving.

Leftover chicken also tastes great on a sandwich or cut into pieces and served over a salad.

Freezing

Yes, you can freeze the homemade chicken tenders! After they are cooked, let them cool down, then freeze them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag. Freeze them for up to 1 month. Reheat the tenders in the Air Fryer on 380F for a few minutes until heated through.

More Air Fryer recipes to try

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4.66 from 44 votes

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are crispy and golden on the outside and so juicy on the inside! These homemade breaded chicken fingers are extra flavorful without all the added grease.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1 lbs chicken tenders, (10-12 tenders)
  • ½ cup buttermilk, see above how to make your own
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter, or oil spray

Instructions 

  • Place the chicken tenders in a ziplock bag and pour the buttermilk into the bag. Squeeze the air out and seal the bag. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
  • In a shallow bowl combine the panko breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, and spices.
  • Remove the chicken strips from the buttermilk with a fork, shake off excess buttermilk, and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat on all sides.
  • Preheat Air Fryer to 350°F (180°C) if necessary.
  • Put the chicken fingers in the Air Fryer basket and air fry for 10-12 minutes, pause after 4 minutes and brush chicken with melted butter then turn it over and brush butter on the other side. Cook until internal temperature reads 175°F and the chicken tenders are golden brown and crispy.
  • Serve right away with your favorite dipping sauce.

Notes

  • Marinate Chicken: The easiest way to marinate the chicken in the buttermilk is to put both together in a ziplock bag, press out the remaining air, and put the bag in the fridge.
  • Breading: Shake off excess buttermilk before putting the chicken pieces in the breading mixture. Also, shake off any excess breading mixture that doesn’t stick to the tenders before putting them in the Air Fryer.
  • Air Frying: Place the breaded chicken fingers in one single layer in the basket. They can overlap a little bit but don’t overcrowd the basket. I can cook about 1 pound of chicken tenders at the same time in my large Air Fryer (affiliate link).
  • Oil: You can use melted butter to brush the chicken tenders or use a pure oil spray like avocado oil or light olive oil.
  • Doneness: Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer to make sure the chicken is cooked but still tender and moist. The internal temperature should be 175°F.
  • Different Air Fryers: Different models of Air Fryers can cook faster or slower so make sure to keep an eye on the food.
  • Seasoning: Looking for a KFC-inspired seasoning? Combine 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp celery salt, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.
  • Leftovers: Leftover chicken tenders can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Recrisp them in the Air Fryer at 350 F for a few minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 297kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 848mg | Potassium: 527mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 593IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

Originally published 2018, updated 2022. Recipe updated to simplify seasoning. Original KFC-inspired seasoning can be found in the notes section.

About Julia Foerster

Hi, I'm Julia! Born in Germany, I call Canada now my home and love to share my favorite dishes with you! Here you'll find hundreds of recipes, all made from scratch, with lots of tips and detailed step-by-step instructions.

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49 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Really liked these – thanks for sharing the recipe. They’ll definitely be a new go-to recipe here!
    Something that made me chuckle was the difference in the quantity of salt used for metric vs imperial measurements! :)

  2. 5 stars
    These are the best. I use tenders to make to make my teen Nashville Hot Chicken. Panko breadcrumbs are a must have for an airfryer. My favorite are from Trader Joe’s and their avocado oil spray.

  3. 5 stars
    This was LOVELY!! I didn’t have tenders, but chicken breast steaks & I used the KFC seasoning. Wow, just delicious! And it wasn’t too spicy – I just cut the white pepper by half. I will definitely make this again – and next time with tenders. Thank you so much! The best thing about the airfryer is that it doesn’t heat up the house like the normal oven does – which is a bonus here in Australia – today it was a very hot & humid 33C.

  4. 4 stars
    What is the serving size for the nutritional information?
    These were delicious! Though I wonder if they could be cooked at a higher temperature?

    1. This recipe makes 4 servings and the nutritional info is for 1 serving so about 3 chicken tenders. You could turn the temperature up for the last few minutes, I don’t recommend cooking them at a higher temperature the whole time because the breading would brown faster than the chicken cooks.

  5. 4 stars
    Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate the buttermilk option. This turned out good in the air fryer, however I am going to make it in light oil in a pan to make this crispier. Great flavour in the breading.

  6. 4 stars
    These were great. The only difference I made was to put some ranch powder in the buttermilk when I marinate. Been doing it for years. But I forgot to cut the salt back in the breading to compensate for that so they were a tad salty – totes my fault.
    Yes, if using spray oil be generous and do it before you put them in so you can all the parts.
    Let them rest a couple minutes and they are dynamite.
    Thanks for the great breading!