Golden crispy chicken tenders are on top of many people's favorite food lists, including my own. They are on my naughty indulgent food list, that is. They are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, who could resist them. And for many, they may even remind you of childhood. Even though your chicken tenders usually are made from chicken breasts, they are the fattiest when deep-fried. Not mentioning the additional ingredients used to make them, like bread crumbs and buttermilk, it can load your chicken tenders up with a whole lot of calories.
The healthier alternative method to make chicken tenders includes baking, pan-frying, or air frying. These methods can minimize the fat and calorie content of your chicken tenders. Out of all the methods, air fryer chicken tenders is my personal go-to method and is my favorite method. The air fryer method is very convenient with a few clicks, and you do not need to watch it while it is air frying, the air fryer is super easy to clean, and you don't need to use any oil at all. With other methods, you still need to use some oil or cooking spray for cooking. Most importantly, air fryer chicken tenders are as close as the deep-fried chicken tenders without all the oil, calories, and fat. If prepared correctly, air fryer chicken tender can be golden on the outside and juicy on the inside.
As a golden crispy chicken tenders fan, I love making this air fryer chicken tenders recipe. This air fryer recipe tastes just like the real deal, except it is healthier, so you can enjoy indulging just a bit. I don't know about you, but I love dipping my chicken tenders in honey mustard sauce. Before we go into any further drooling details, here is how I make my healthier alternative yet satisfying golden crispy chicken tenders.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Prep Time 15 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Serving Size 2
1 Lb Chicken Breasts or Chicken Tenders
1-2 Cup Pickle Juice
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs Or Nut Crumbs
1/2 Cup Flour Of Your Choice
1/2 Tablespoon Ground Garlic
1 Teaspoon Ground Paprika
1 Teaspoon Himalayan Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Large Eggs Whisked
1 Tablespoon Pickle Juice Optional
1. If you are using whole chicken breasts, cut them into smaller sizes. How big to cut, I will let you decide because I believe this is a personal preference.
2. Brine your chicken by marinating them in pickle juice. You can use any pickle juice. Make sure you submerge the breast in the pickle juice and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
3. Grab two bowls. In the first bowl, whisk the eggs and pickle juice to make your wet mixture. In the second bowl, add all the remaining ingredients in it to make your dry mixture. Make sure your dry mixture is mixed well, so when you dip chicken in, it gets a bit of everything.
4. When you are ready to make your air fryer tenders, use a tong or a fork, get a piece of chicken out of the pickle juice and drop it in your dry mixture. Make sure the chicken breast is covered evenly with the dry mix. Then dip into your egg mixture and then back to the dry mix. Make sure it is coated evenly, and then place it in your air fryer basket. Repeat until you run out of the chicken.
5. Turn your air fryer on and let it air-fried at 400F for 20 minutes. The air fryer time will depend on the size of your tender. At 10 minutes, you should check and see the progress of your chicken tender. Flip the tenders over and then continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until it is done to your liking. If you like it to be a little darker and crispier, add another 2-3 minutes on your air fryer.
- Preheat your air fryer. Some air fryers require pre-heat. If this is the case for you, preheat your air fryer accordingly.
- Brining. Brining your chicken is an important step. It makes sure your chicken is moist when cooked, so don't skip this step—a minimum of one hour but can be left alone overnight.
- Without Brining. While the brining step is highly recommended, you can still make this recipe if you are in a last-minute rush and don't have time to brine. If you don't have time to brine your chicken, cook it at a lower temperature of 375 F for about 30 minutes. This way, it doesn't dry out your chicken while maintaining enough heat to achieve that crunch.
- Flip Your Chicken Tender. More importantly, don't forget to flip your chicken tender midway through cooking. This way, it will ensure the whole tender gets the crispy texture.
5 Reasons Why I Love This Recipe
- This air fryer recipe is super easy to make, and it tastes just like the real deal. It is harder to achieve this level of crispy with other methods like baking and pan-frying.
- Healthier than your classic traditional deep-fried tenders. Fewer calories and less fat.
- Air fryers are super easy to use and clean.
- This recipe is oil-less. You don't even need to use cooking spray on the air fryer basket. With other healthier alternatives, you will need to use a bit of oil or cooking spray.
- You can make this recipe gluten-free, paleo, or Keto-friendly, so everyone is happy.
Organic Chicken Breast
When picking chicken breast or tender to consume, I always go with organic certified and pasture-raised chicken breast. This means chickens are feeding on a certified organic diet, and they have the ability to roam freely on the pasture. And do not get confused this with free-range. Free-range just means the bird has access to the outdoor, but this doesn't mean the chicken ever sees the outdoors. Just remember, happy chicken means tastier chicken.
Chicken Breast Vs Tenderloin
For this recipe, you can use either chicken breast or tenderloin, and there is a difference. Tenderloin is actually a muscle that is located behind the breast. Besides the obvious difference in size and shape, tenderloins are higher in calories and less in vitamins and minerals than chicken breasts.
For a healthier option, slice your chicken breast into smaller pieces.
How To Brine Your Chicken
Brining your chicken is an important step that I do not recommend that you skip. This step makes sure your chicken stays moist and tender while it is being cooked. To brine, you will need to let pickle juice to do its magic. If you don't have pickle juice at home, make a mixture with cider vinegar, salt, and water.
Are Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Healthy?
Compared to deep-frying chicken tenders, air fryer chicken tenders are much healthier because they are not drenched and cooked in oil. With circulating hot air around the chicken tenders at high speed, it produces a crispy layer. That is the reason why you don't need to use any oil or even cooking spray in an air fryer and still achieve that satisfying crisp.
If you are in the experimenting mood, you can get a little creative with your tender by adding fun ingredients into your dry mixture. For example, add chili flakes, herbs, and even parmesan cheese. We will leave how you like to flavor your tenders to you.
Now, if you are looking for gluten-free or low carb options, you can swap your panko with nut crumbs. Yes, it is made from nuts, and it will give your chicken an extra nutty flavor. You can also swap regular flour with gluten-free flour like cauliflower flour, rice flour, or coconut flour.
Learn more about how air fryer works.