All-time childhood favorite meets healthy weeknight dinner via crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders! A homemade version of my most-requested meal growing up, they are made with simple ingredients and a serious upgrade from the frozen ones I once prayed my mother would serve for dinner every night.

A plate of crispy air fryer chicken tenders with sauce

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From the ages of approximately 4 to 14, chicken tenders (and their first cousin, chicken nuggets) were, to me, the pinnacle of culinary perfection.

I ordered them at every drive-through, tugged the end of my mom’s grocery cart towards the freezer aisle hoping she’d grab a box, and if we ate out for a “fancy” dinner (ahem, Chili’s) I’d order them off the appetizer menu as my main dish.

These days, I rarely stop for fast food, but on a recent road trip, we pulled through a drive-through and for whatever reason, I HAD to have chicken fingers.

I consummated the experience by dunking them into my childhood dipping sauce of choice, honey (it’s also the inspiration behind my baked Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders).

They were SO GOOD.

Childhood Erin had a point.

A plate of air fryer chicken tenders with dipping sauce

Freshly enamored, I pulled out my new go-to weapon for making healthy versions of deep-fried favorites, my air fryer.

Watch out golden arches, you have been beat!

Crunchy and crispy outside, tender inside, and completely dippable just like Air Fryer Shrimp, these healthy air fryer chicken tenders have officially replaced the frozen and fast-food versions in my heart.

How to Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

The key to making the chicken tenders crispy is a combination of regular and panko breadcrumbs.

  • The regular breadcrumbs adhere easily to the chicken, so you get a complete coating. Some recipes call for air fryer chicken tenders with flour instead, but I find breadcrumbs yield a better breading that is more reminiscent of the frozen variety (in a good way).
  • The larger panko breadcrumbs add essential texture and crunch.
Air fryer chicken tenders being dipped in sauce

I’ve suggested some light seasoning that gives the chicken tenders flavor without losing the simplicity of their appeal. Feel free to switch them up to suit your and your family’s preferences.


If you love fried chicken with buttermilk, check out my Baked Fried Chicken.

The Ingredients

  • Chicken Tenders. Beloved by children and adults alike, chicken tenders are a delicious, quick-cooking option for lean protein. You can find pre-cut chicken tenders at most grocery stores.

Cutting Your Own Chicken Tenders

If your grocery store doesn’t sell chicken tenders, you can make your own from a chicken breast. Slice a boneless, skinless chicken breast lengthwise into strips (about a 1/2-inch thick).

  • Eggs. Helps the breadcrumbs adhere to the chicken tenders.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs. Panko provides a lighter breadcrumb coating that crisps up perfectly in the air fryer.
  • Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs. Regular breacrumbs help fully coat the chicken tenders in breading, filling in any gaps that the Panko might leave behind.
  • Paprika. Adds a mild, savory earthiness.
  • Garlic Powder. For necessary garlicky goodness.
  • Salt + Pepper. The essentials.

The Directions

  1. Dry and salt the chicken.
A bowl of eggs next to a bowl of breadcrumbs and a plate of chicken tenders
  1. Beat the eggs in one bowl and combine the breadcrumbs and spices in another.
Raw meat being dipped in breadcrumbs
  1. Coat the chicken in the eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture.
Raw chicken tenders on a baking sheet
  1. Lay the tenders on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Breaded raw meat in an air fryer basket
  1. Place a single layer of tenders in your air fryer. Coat with olive oil spray.
Crispy air fryer chicken tenders
  1. Air fry chicken tenders at 400 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Repeat with remaining chicken. ENJOY!


How long chicken tenders stay in the air fryer will depend upon your model, as well as how crisp you would like them to be.

In my model at 400 degrees F (400 degrees F is the best temperature at which to air fry chicken), the chicken tenders cook in 7 to 8 minutes.

A plate of crispy air fryer chicken tenders with sauce

Chicken Tenders Sauce Suggestions

Because dipping is half of the fun!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or (if you are desperate and don’t care about texture) in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Lay cooked chicken tenders in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat directly from frozen.

Storage Tips

To ensure your frozen chicken tenders are crispy once reheated, skip the microwave. Rewarming them in the oven or air fryer will help crisp them back up.

Healthy chicken tenders in an air fryer

Leftover Ideas

Leftover chicken tenders make a fabulous addition to your favorite salad. I love swapping them for the chicken in this Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad or adding them to this Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing.

What to Serve with Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Air Fryer

This air fryer model has numerous different settings and includes a rack for broiling. The accessories are dishwasher-safe too.

Air fryer chicken tenders on a white plate

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Air Fry Frozen Raw Chicken Tenders?

You can certainly put frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer, but only if you are making air fryer chicken tenders with no breading. Because this recipe is breaded, you will need to thaw the chicken first in order for the breading to adhere. Thawed, raw chicken is completely safe to put in an air fryer.

Can I Make Chicken Tenders without Breading?

For chicken tenders without breading, use the seasoning from my Air Fryer Chicken Breast and cook the chicken tenders at 400 degrees F for 7 to 8 minutes as directed in this recipe. (These Grilled Chicken Tenders are another delicious option.)

Can I Use Different Seasonings for Air Fryer Chicken Tenders?

Yes, you can certainly swap the seasonings in this recipe. For those who enjoy spicy chicken tenders, add some cayenne pepper to the breadcrumb mixture. If you’re a fan of garlic Parmesan chicken tenders, add Parmesan cheese and extra garlic powder.

Air fryer chicken tenders on a white plate

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

5 from 11 votes
Crispy, healthy air fryer chicken tenders. Made with simple ingredients, they taste far better (and are better for you) than frozen or fried.

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 8 mins
Total: 20 mins

Servings: 4 servings (about 14 tenders)



  • 2 pounds chicken tenders about 14
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Olive oil spray

FOR DIPPING (optional):


  • With paper towels, pat the chicken tenders dry. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • In a shallow bowl (a pie dish works well) beat the eggs together. In a second shallow bowl, stir together the panko, breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and keep it nearby.
  • Coat the chicken tenders: Working a few at a time, dip each piece of chicken into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, patting it gently as needed to adhere. Shake off excess.
  • Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. If you’d like to keep the chicken warm between batches, turn a regular oven to 250 degrees F. Coat the air fryer basket with the olive oil spray, then add chicken tenders in a single layer so that they are not touching (I can cook 4 at a time). Coat the top of the chicken tenders with oil spray.
  • Cook the chicken for 7 to 8 minutes, pulling out the air fryer basket and flipping the pieces over once halfway through. (The chicken should register at least 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer and the outsides will be golden brown and crisp.) Repeat with remaining chicken tenders, keeping them warm in the oven between batches as desired. Enjoy hot.


  • TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F, in the air fryer, or in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Lay cooked chicken tenders in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen.


Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 343kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 53gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 227mgPotassium: 913mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 680IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Love this recipe! Easy to make. I made it in the air fryer and the crust was so crispy but thankfully lacked the fat in other recipes. I served with bbq sauce last night and reheated leftovers today and had it with chipotle ranch. Would recommend both.5 stars

  2. Awesome recipe. My teenage son jumped in to help make them. We’re really enjoying our new air fryer and these recipes are a huge part. Nice easy instructions and great crispy taste to the chicken tenders. Thanks!5 stars

  3. Instead of wheat breadcrumbs, I used some pre seasoned ones (with romano, garlic and cheese) that I already had from Wegman’s. Have to say that these were the best air fryer tenders I’ve ever made! Everyone loved them and I’ve already saved the recipe to my list of favorites!5 stars

    1. Hi Tamara, I really don’t have a substitute for the spray. You could maybe try brushing them with oil but it might be a bit of a mess.

  4. Loved this recipe. I used Italian Bread Crumbs instead of the whole wheat, and Avocado oil spray instead of the Olive Oil because those were what I had on hand. My family loved this! Thanks a bunch.5 stars

  5. Everything about this recipe worked out amazing for me. I soaked my chicken tenders in buttermilk for 30 minutes before and it made an even juicer batch. Thanks for this recipe. 😊5 stars

  6. This was my first attempt at air fryer chicken strips, and my family loved these. I even made the bread crumbs from bread toasted in the air fryer! In my machine, it took 10 minutes per batch, turning at the 5 min mark, to get to 165°+. Highly recommend!5 stars