Crunchy and full of so much flavor, our air fryer chicken tenders are a fast, kid-friendly, and tasty meal for busy nights. Avoid fast food and fill your tummies with these delicious homemade chicken tenders instead!
🍽️ Why This Works
Less Oil Than Frying. Yes, this recipe calls for a little bit of oil spray. However, the amount of oil needed to get your air fryer chicken tenders crispy is significantly less than the amount needed for frying in a skillet or deep frying. This is better for you.
Less Heat in the Kitchen. If you are used to baking yours, you are going to be surprised at how much less heat the air fryer puts into the kitchen while they are cooking.
Less Mess. Cleaning up the air fryer is breeze when you use parchment paper. Just toss that paper in the trash, use a paper towel to wipe out any stray crumbs or dusting of oil spray, and put it all away until next time. So much easier than disposing of used grease, or scrubbing a skillet or baking pan.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Chicken Tenders – Look for firm, pink meat without yellowing or striation. Check to make sure the package doesn’t have a significant amount of liquid in the bottom of the tray. Check the sell by date.
Panko Bread Crumbs – These Japanese bread crumbs are very light and flaky but crisp up beautifully.
Eggs – Wet sticks to dry and dry sticks to wet when you put a breading on chicken. So in order to add the second mixture to finish off the breading you will need to dip the chicken in an egg wash. It goes like this: 1) chicken into cornstarch mixture, 2) chicken into egg wash, and 3) chicken into breading mixture.
Seasoning – We used a blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley.
Doritos – Add a little extra crunch and flavor with chips. We used nacho-flavored Doritos.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Food Processor. This is the easiest way to crush the Doritos. You can also crush them in a sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin. This is a great project for your kids!
Baking dishes or bowl. You will need several containers to coat the chicken in breading. I like to use the square glass baking dishes because these are shaped correctly for long thin chicken tenders.
Air Fryer. We use a simple air fryer with a non-stick basket.
Step One: Add the chips to a blender or food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds until crumbs resemble the same size as panko with some larger pieces.
Step Two: Mix panko and chip crumbs in a large dish.
Step Three: Mix the cornstarch and the spices in another dish. Stir the eggs in another dish as shown.
Step Four: Using the following steps, bread each of the tenders. Toss the tenders in the cornstarch, then dip chicken in the egg wash, and then finally in the crumbs. Fully coat the tenders in each step.
Step Five: Place the tenders on parchment paper in the air fryer basket and use olive oil spray ands spritz with oil. Alternatively, use a cooking spray.
Step Six: Air fry each batch at 400°F for 15 minutes, flip and spray with oil halfway. Make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
Step Seven: Remove the tenders and let cool. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
When you buy chicken tenders they still each have a tendon which is a long, thin white strip of what looks like fat but is somewhat hard. You can remove this quickly and easily with a fork. Follow these instructions. You do not have to remove it, and we usually just ignore them.
An air fryer works through the circulation of hot air. Make sure you do not crowd your basket and keep air from moving around the meat.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Place your leftover chicken tenders in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for one or two days.
If you would like to freeze the chicken, you can move the airtight container to the freezer. It will keep frozen for up to three months. If you know that you will be using the leftover chicken cut into small pieces, you should go ahead and dice it before freezing it.
Reheat the chicken in an air fryer or skillet. You can use a microwave, but chicken turns to rubber in a microwave very quickly so proceed with caution. For safety reasons, make sure you reheat the chicken to 165ºF.
If you want to remove the tendons from the chicken tenders, that can be done when you purchase the chicken up to two days in advance of cooking it.
If you would like to do all of the prep in advance, you can freeze the breaded chicken tenders and then just increase the cook time as needed to cook them from frozen.
Additions and Substitutions
If you don’t love the texture of nacho-flavored Doritos, you could use regular potato chips, salt and vinegar chips, regular tortilla chips, or Cheezit crackers instead. Any crunchy chip will work. Bread crumbs or Panko work great here as well.
Did you know you can buy gluten-free panko bread crumbs? If you need to keep this dish GF, just look for this amazing substitute.
If you don’t like working with the pre-cut chicken tenders, you can make this recipe by cutting breast meat into the size of tenders.
Serve your air fryer chicken strips with several dipping sauce choices. We enjoy honey mustard, chipotle mayo, thousand island dressing, bbq sauce, ketchup, Mambo sauce, buffalo sauce or teriyaki sauce.
We recommend pairing the chicken tenderloins with your favorite sides such as Sheet Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts Stalk, Smashed Potatoes, or Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad. If you have a second air fryer, you will enjoy Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries or Air Fryer French Fries- curly or waffle versions.
❓ Recipe FAQ
15 minutes at 400ºF. The exact time will vary depending on how thick your chicken tenders are, the size of your air fryer basket and how full it is, and the starting temperature of the meat. Make sure you cook your tenders until they reach 160ºF.
We use two different methods to insure that our chicken tenders turn out perfectly crispy. First, the combination of panko bread crumbs and crushed Doritos forms a crunchy breading before you begin. Second, the chicken tenders are sprayed lightly with oil before they are cooked and again halfway through the cooking time. This allows the breading to crisp nicely.
400ºF is the temperature we used for optimal results. Every air fryer is different and some have pre-determined temperature settings. In that case, get as close to 400ºF as you can without going significantly over that temp.
Here is the secret to get breading to stick to chicken. Wet sticks to dry. Dry sticks to wet. The chicken starts out wet, so you can dip it straight away into your cornstarch and seasoning mixture and it will stick. Next, dip your chicken into an egg wash (mix of eggs and water), which is even stickier than plain raw chicken. Finally, dip your chicken in the heavier breading mixture of panko bread crumbs and crushed Doritos. If you try to go straight from raw chicken to the the heavier breading mixture, the chicken is not typically wet enough to keep a good bond.
Yes, technically you can, using a rack. Each layer should be spread out with room for air circulation around each of the chicken tenders. If your air fryer came with a rack, you can add a second layer as long as it is not touching the first layer and their is room for the air to circulate. This may increase the cooking time.
Yes. Cut the breasts length wise into ½ to ¾” width pieces is all it takes.
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Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- Kitchen Bowls
- Parchment Paper
- 1 lb Chicken Tenders
- 4.5 oz Doritos nacho cheese
- 1 cup Cornstarch
- 3 cups Panko
- 1 tbsp Parsley
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp Pepper
- ½ tsp Salt
- Crush the Doritos using a food processor, blender, or even using a wooden rolling pin. You want the size of the crumbs to be similar to that of the Panko.
- Mix the crumbs with the Panko in a large dish.
- Mix the cornstarch with the parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a separate dish.
- Add the eggs to a third dish and use a fork to break the yolk and mix them well.
- Place a chicken tender in the corn starch to coat both sides. Then dredge them in the egg wash, and finally add it to the Panko mixture. Make sure both sides of the chicken are evenly coated.
- Place the coated tender on an Air Fryer parchment paper or silicone liner and lightly spray them with a spritz of olive oil.
- Cook them at 400°F for 15 minutes. Turn them over half way through, spritz that side, and then let it continue cooking.
- Make sure the internal temperature of the tenders reach 160°F.
- Remove the tenders, let them cool slightly and serve with your favorite dipping sauces.