Golden, crispy chicken tenders are on many people's favorite food lists, including mine. Admittedly, they reside on my list of guilty pleasures. With their irresistible crispiness on the outside and moistness on the inside, it's hard to resist their allure. Moreover, for many, they evoke fond memories of childhood. However, it's worth noting that chicken tenders, typically made from chicken breasts, become the fattiest when deep-fried, not to mention the additional ingredients like bread crumbs and buttermilk, which contribute to their high-calorie content.
Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to prepare chicken tenders, such as baking, pan-frying, or air frying. These methods help reduce the fat and calorie content of the beloved dish. Among these alternatives, my personal favorite and go-to method is using an air fryer. The air fryer method provides excellent convenience with just a few simple steps, removing the necessity for continuous monitoring. Additionally, it's incredibly easy to clean, and best of all, it requires no oil whatsoever.
In contrast, other methods still necessitate the use of some oil or cooking spray. Most importantly, air fryer chicken tenders can closely resemble their deep-fried counterparts in terms of taste and texture without excessive oil, calories, and fat. When properly prepared, air fryer chicken tenders have the potential to yield a delightful golden exterior and a juicy, tender interior.
Being a devoted fan of golden, crispy chicken tenders, I find great joy in preparing this air fryer chicken tenders recipe and it may just be one of your new favorite air fryer recipes. It delivers the same delicious taste as the traditional version, except it's healthier, allowing for a guilt-free indulgence. Personally, I relish dipping my air fryer chicken tenders in the honey mustard dipping sauce. But before we delve further into the mouthwatering details, let me share with you my recipe for these satisfying golden, crispy chicken tenders, which offer a healthier alternative.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
1 hour and 30 minutes
1. Cut the skinless chicken breast into strips. Use a sharp knife to slice the skinless chicken breast lengthwise into even strips. The thickness of the strips can vary based on personal preference, but aim for around 1/2 to 3/4 inch (1.3 to 1.9 cm) thick. Cutting against the grain of the meat can help ensure tenderness in the cooked chicken tenders.
2. Mix the pickle juice and unbreaded chicken tenders in a spacious bowl, ensuring the chicken is completely immersed in the pickle juice. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. This brining process will work its magic by tenderizing the raw chicken and imparting it with delicious flavors.
3. After brining, remove the raw chicken tenders from the pickle juice and pat them dry using paper towels.
4. In a shallow bowl or dish, thoroughly blend together whole wheat flour, panko breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger powder, salt, and black pepper, ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated.
5. Take each chicken strip and submerge it in the beaten eggs, ensuring a complete and even coating.
6. Coat the chicken strip in the flour mixture by gently pressing it to ensure the coating adheres thoroughly. Repeat this process for all the chicken strips, ensuring each one is evenly coated.
7. To prevent sticking, apply a light coating of cooking spray to the air fryer basket.
8. To prevent sticking, apply a light coating of cooking spray to the air fryer basket.
9. Air fry the chicken tenders at a temperature of 400°F (200°C) for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. This will allow the chicken tenders to achieve a desirable golden brown color and a crispy texture.
10. After cooking, remove the chicken tenders from the air fryer and allow them to cool for a few minutes before serving.
11. Serve the air fryer chicken tenders with your favorite dipping sauce or alongside a side salad for a complete and balanced meal. And once you are done, don't forget to clean up your air fryer, as it does leave some residue behind.
Tips & Notes
Use high-quality pickle juice: Choose pickle juice that is made from natural ingredients and doesn't contain excessive amounts of salt or additives. You can also use pickle juice from homemade pickles if available.
Brine for optimal flavor: Ensure the chicken receives sufficient time to marinate in the pickle juice. Allowing it to brine for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 4 hours will aid in tenderizing the chicken and imparting a tangy pickle flavor.
Pat dry the chicken: Once the chicken is taken out of the pickle juice, be sure to use paper towels to pat it dry thoroughly. This helps remove excess moisture and ensures a better coating when dredging the chicken in the flour mixture.
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g
Saturated Fat 3.1g
Total Carbohydrate 16.8g
Dietary Fiber 1.7g
Total Sugars 1.4g
Vitamin D 8mcg
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Preheat the air fryer: Preheating the air fryer before cooking the chicken tenders is crucial. This helps achieve a crispier exterior and ensures even cooking throughout.
Don't overcrowd the air fryer basket: Arrange the chicken tenders in the air fryer basket, ensuring they are in a single layer with enough space between each strip. Avoid overcrowding, as this can result in uneven cooking and diminish the desired crispiness.
Flip halfway through cooking: To achieve even cooking and a golden brown color, remember to flip the chicken tenders halfway through the cooking time. This ensures that both sides are cooked evenly.
What Ingredients You Will Need To Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Chicken breasts are a popular choice for making chicken tenders because they are lean and tender. They provide a notable protein content and are comparatively low in fat, making them an excellent source of dietary protein. Using a boneless, skinless option removes unnecessary fat and makes chicken tenders healthier.
You can opt to use chicken tenderloins in this recipe and make air fryer chicken tenderloins. However, breasts tend to be leaner than chicken tenderloins. They contain less fat and fewer calories per ounce, which can contribute to a healthier dish. If you're conscious about reducing fat and calorie intake, using the breasts can align better with your dietary preferences.
While chicken breast is larger and wider than chicken tenderloins, it allows you to make the ideal cut for your air fryer chicken tenders. Not to mention, chicken breast is meatier and firmer in texture. It can offer you a more satisfying texture than chicken tenderloins.
If you opt for raw chicken tenderloins, note that they tend to be smaller and narrower. They may result in smaller, thinner chicken tenders that could cook faster and have a different texture. However, if you prefer the flavor or convenience of chicken tenderloins, you can certainly use them as a substitute in this recipe and make air fryer chicken tenderloins.
Pickle juice refers to the liquid in which pickles are brined, giving them their distinctive flavor. It typically consists of vinegar, salt, water, and various spices. The vinegar's acidity helps tenderize the chicken and infuse it with a tangy and slightly salty flavor. The pickle juice also adds a unique twist to the traditional chicken tender recipe.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour serves as a healthier substitute for refined white flour, offering greater nutritional value and benefits. It is made from grinding whole wheat kernels, meaning it retains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white flour. The whole wheat flour provides a crispy coating for the chicken tenders while adding a nutty flavor.
Paprika is a spice derived from the drying and grinding of red peppers, resulting in a flavorful and vibrant addition to dishes. It adds a subtle smokiness and a mild, slightly sweet flavor to the chicken tenders. The vibrant red color of paprika also contributes to the appealing appearance of the finished dish.
Garlic powder is created by dehydrating garlic cloves and grinding them into a fine powder, resulting in a concentrated form of garlic flavor. It imparts a savory and slightly sweet flavor to the chicken tenders, enhancing their taste. Garlic powder offers a convenient method to infuse dishes with the essence of garlic, eliminating the requirement for using fresh garlic cloves.
Onion powder is produced by finely grinding dehydrated onions, resulting in a powdered form that provides a concentrated onion flavor to recipes. It adds a mild onion flavor to the chicken tenders, complementing the other spices. Onion powder is a versatile ingredient commonly used in various dishes for its ability to provide a subtle onion taste.
Salt and black pepper
Salt and black pepper are essential seasonings that play a vital role in enhancing the flavors of chicken tenders. Salt enhances the overall taste, while black pepper adds a hint of mild spiciness. Together, they provide a well-balanced seasoning to the dish.
Beaten eggs are used as a binding agent in the recipe. They help the flour mixture adhere to the chicken strips, creating a crispy coating. Eggs also add moisture and contribute to the overall texture of the chicken tenders.
Cooking spray is a convenient way to lightly coat the air fryer basket, preventing the chicken tenders from sticking during the cooking process. This method allows for a crispy exterior to be achieved without requiring excessive oil, thereby reducing the overall fat content of the dish.
Ginger powder is derived from drying and grinding the ginger root, which is a popular spice known for its unique flavor and various health benefits. It has a warm, slightly spicy, and pungent taste that can add a subtle kick to dishes.
Panko Bread Crumbs
Panko bread crumbs originating from Japan are created using crustless white bread, resulting in a unique type of breadcrumb. The bread is processed into large flakes rather than finely ground, resulting in a lighter and crisper texture compared to regular breadcrumbs.
Panko bread crumbs are renowned for their exceptional ability to produce a crispy coating when used in frying or baking various foods. Adding panko bread crumbs to the recipe can elevate the texture and crispiness of the air fryer chicken tenders.
How To Store Leftovers
Place the cool air-fried chicken tenders in a container or bag in the refrigerator. Store the chicken tenders in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. For the best taste and freshness, consuming the chicken tenders within this specified time frame is recommended.
Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for reheating for a few minutes. Arrange the leftover chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Reheat the chicken tenders for approximately 5-7 minutes or until they are heated through and achieve a crispy texture.
For longer storage, you can freeze chicken tenders for later use. For best results, we suggest individually wrapping each chicken tender or placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to keep them separate and avoid any contact between the chicken tenders. This initial step helps prevent them from sticking together during freezing. Once they are wrapped, place them into a freezer-safe container or bag. Frozen chicken tenders can typically be stored in the freezer for around three months without significantly declining quality. However, for optimal taste and texture, consuming them within 1 to 2 months is advisable.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does it take to cook chicken tenders in an air fryer?
The cooking duration may vary based on factors such as the thickness and size of the chicken tenders, as well as the specific model of your air fryer. On average, air frying chicken tenders at 400°F (200°C) takes around 10 to 15 minutes. For consistent browning, it is advisable to flip the chicken tenders halfway through the cooking process.
Are air fryer chicken tenders healthier than deep-fried chicken tenders?
Air fryer chicken tenders are generally considered healthier than deep-fried ones. Air frying requires only minimal oil, leading to a significantly lower fat content than deep frying. Additionally, the air fryer facilitates the attainment of a crispy exterior without the requirement for excessive oil, thereby reducing calorie intake.
Should I preheat the air fryer before cooking chicken tenders?
It is generally advised to preheat the air fryer before use for optimal outcomes. Preheating helps ensure even cooking and helps achieve a crispier exterior on the chicken tenders. Most air fryers require a preheating time of about 5 minutes before adding the food.
Can I use a different type of flour instead of whole wheat flour?
Absolutely! While the recipe suggests using whole wheat flour for a healthier option, you can use other flour, such as all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour, if you prefer. Please be aware that using different flours may result in slight variations in texture and flavor.