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Air Fryer Crispy Chicken Tenders with Sriracha Mayo

 5 from 1 reviews

Just 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook, teamed up with sriracha mayo, these air fryer crispy chicken tenders are sure to be a hit!

Air fryer crispy chicken tenders on a blue plate with sriracha mayo

Air frying chicken tenders has become increasingly popular among home cooks, healthy eaters and busy people – and for good reason.

This cooking method offers a healthier alternative to traditional deep frying while – if you get it right – still delivering the satisfying crunch you want.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of air frying chicken tenders, covering everything from the basics to tips and tricks for achieving the perfect result every time.

Benefits of Air Frying

Air frying offers numerous benefits compared to traditional frying methods. Some of the key advantages include:

  1. Healthier meals: Air frying uses hot air circulation to cook food, which requires little to no oil. This results in fewer calories and less fat in your chicken tenders without sacrificing taste or texture.
  2. Faster cooking times: Air fryers can preheat and cook food much quicker than an oven, saving you time in the kitchen.
  3. Less mess: No need to deal with hot oil splatters or disposing of used oil, making clean-up a breeze.
  4. Versatility: Air fryers can handle a wide variety of foods, including raw, frozen, and breaded chicken tenders, as well as other proteins and vegetables.

Air Frying Basics

Can you air fry chicken tenders (raw, frozen, breaded)?

Absolutely! Air frying is incredibly versatile, allowing you to cook raw, frozen, or breaded chicken tenders with ease. The key is to adjust the cooking time and temperature to suit each type.

What temperature to use for air frying chicken tenders?

The optimal temperature for air frying chicken tenders is usually between 175°C to 200°C (350°F to 400°F). Higher temperatures will give you a crispier exterior, while lower temperatures will ensure the chicken is cooked through without drying out.

How long to cook frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer

Cooking frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer typically takes between 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tenders and the wattage of your air fryer. Always check the internal temperature of the chicken tenders with a meat thermometer to ensure they reach 74°C (165°F) before serving.

How to air fry chicken tenders with and without breading

Using flour, breadcrumbs, or panko for breading

You can use flour, breadcrumbs, or panko for breading chicken tenders. Flour gives a light, delicate crust, while breadcrumbs and panko offer a thicker, crunchier texture. To achieve the best results, use the three-step breading process: flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs or panko.

Here’s how you can air fry chicken tenders with and without breading:

For breaded chicken tenders:

  1. Prepare your breading station with three shallow dishes. Fill the first with flour, the second with beaten eggs, and the third with breadcrumbs or panko.
  2. Dredge each chicken tender in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then, dip it in the beaten egg, followed by the breadcrumbs or panko, pressing gently to ensure even coating.
  3. Preheat your air fryer to 190°C (375°F) and lightly coat the air fryer basket with olive oil spray.
  4. Place the breaded chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, making sure they do not touch to ensure even cooking.
  5. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken tenders are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).

For non-breaded (naked) chicken tenders:

  1. Season the chicken tenders with your preferred spices or marinade.
  2. Preheat your air fryer to 190°C (375°F) and lightly coat the air fryer basket with cooking spray.
  3. Place the seasoned chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, making sure they do not touch to ensure even cooking.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken tenders reach an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).

Tips for achieving the perfect crispiness

  1. Preheat your air fryer: Preheating your air fryer to 190°C (375°F) for a few minutes before cooking ensures the chicken tenders cook evenly and turn out crispy.
  2. Avoid overcrowding: Place the frozen chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, leaving enough space between them for air circulation. Overcrowding can result in uneven cooking and less crispy tenders.
  3. Shake or flip the tenders: Shake the basket or flip the chicken tenders halfway through the cooking process to make sure all sides cook evenly and become crispy.
  4. Adjust cooking time: If your chicken tenders are not as crispy as you’d like after the initial cooking time, add a few more minutes to achieve your desired level of crispiness.

Seasoning ideas for breaded chicken tenders

Customize your breaded chicken tenders with these seasoning ideas:

  1. Classic: Season the flour with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  2. Spicy: Add cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and chili powder to the flour for a spicy kick.
  3. Italian: Mix dried oregano, basil, and thyme into the breadcrumbs or panko, and add grated Parmesan cheese for an Italian twist.
  4. Lemon pepper: Combine lemon pepper seasoning and garlic powder in the flour for a zesty, savoury flavour.

Feel free to experiment with your favourite spices and herbs to create your own unique flavour combinations.

Gluten-free breading options

For gluten-free chicken tenders, use gluten-free flour, such as almond or coconut flour, and gluten-free breadcrumbs or panko. You can also use crushed gluten-free cereal or cornmeal as a breading alternative.

Healthier alternatives to traditional breading

  1. Almond flour: Almond flour is a low-carb, high-protein option that adds a nutty flavour to your chicken tenders.
  2. Coconut flour: Coconut flour is another low-carb alternative with a subtle coconut taste.
  3. Ground nuts: Finely ground nuts, like almonds or pecans, create a crunchy, nutrient-dense breading.
  4. Chia seeds: Combine chia seeds with your gluten-free flour or breadcrumbs for added fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.

How to air fry chicken tenders with breading in a Ninja Foodi

The Ninja Foodi is a 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker, so you can do full meals in one unit. It’s a pressure cooker that crisps!

  1. Prepare your breading station with three shallow dishes. Fill the first with flour, the second with beaten eggs, and the third with breadcrumbs or panko.
  2. Dredge each chicken tender in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then, dip it in the beaten egg, followed by the breadcrumbs or panko, pressing gently to ensure even coating.
  3. Preheat your Ninja Foodi to 190°C (375°F) using the Air Crisp function and lightly coat the air fryer basket with olive oil spray.
  4. Place the breaded chicken tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, making sure they do not touch to ensure even cooking.
  5. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken tenders are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).

My Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Recipe

These air fryer crispy chicken tenders are perfect for Netflix and chill, or a cheeky lunchtime treat. If you’re working from home, they can be made in a total of 20 minutes, no problem. They don’t have too many ingredients either, so after making them a few times, you probably won’t even need a recipe.

If you’re in the UK, you’ll maybe know these as chicken goujons or chicken strips.

I’ve used Korean chilli powder in the recipe, but you could easily substitute for chipotle chilli powder.

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Air fryer crispy chicken tenders on a blue plate with sriracha mayo

Air Fryer Chicken Strips with Sriracha Mayo

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 450 g chicken breasts (cut into strips)

Egg wash

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Breadcrumbs

  • 25 g panko breadcrumbs
  • 25 g breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp Korean chilli powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch pepper

Sriracha Mayo

  • 55 g mayo
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 10 g chives
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Whisk the egg wash ingredients together.
  2. Mix the breadcrumb ingredients together.
  3. Arrange the bowls so you can dip the chicken in the egg wash with one hand and move it to the breadcrumb bowl, then cover it with breadcrumb with the other hand. The idea is that you keep one hand dry all the time.
  4. Fill up the air fryer with your first batch, spray them with a light covering of olive oil and get them going for 11 minutes at 195C. Turn them over halfway through and spray again with olive oil.
  5. Lay out the second batch on a tray of some kind.
  6. When you cook the second batch you’ll only need to do them for 10 minutes as the air fryer will be preheated. If you forget this, don’t worry too much, one minute over isn’t going to be a disaster.
  7. Finely chop the chives and mix all mayo ingredients in a bowl.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/3 of the recipe
  • Calories: 449
  • Sugar: 2.7 g
  • Sodium: 1374.1 mg
  • Fat: 22.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 19.7 g
  • Protein: 41.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 226.3 mg

Reheating and Troubleshooting

How to reheat air fryer chicken tenders

Reheat air fryer chicken tenders by placing them in a single layer in the air fryer basket and cooking at 350°F (175°C) for 3-5 minutes, or until heated through and crispy.

Common issues with breading and how to avoid them

  1. Breading falling off: To prevent breading from falling off during cooking, press the breading firmly onto the chicken tenders after dredging them in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs or panko.
  2. Uneven breading: Ensure even coating by thoroughly shaking off excess flour and allowing excess egg wash to drip off before coating with breadcrumbs or panko.
  3. Soggy breading: Avoid soggy breading by not overcrowding the air fryer basket, which allows for proper air circulation and even cooking.

Why are my chicken tenders soggy from the air fryer?

Soggy chicken tenders may be the result of overcrowding the air fryer basket or cooking at too low of a temperature. To avoid soggy tenders, ensure there is enough space between them for air circulation and cook at the recommended temperature of 190°C (375°F).

Why is chicken not crispy in the air fryer?

If your chicken tenders are not crispy in the air fryer, it could be due to insufficient preheating, overcrowding the basket, or not flipping the tenders halfway through cooking. Make sure to preheat your air fryer, leave enough space between tenders, and flip them for even cooking and crispiness.

What is the secret to crispy food in the air fryer?

The secret to crispy food in the air fryer is proper air circulation, which allows the hot air to evenly cook and crisp your food. To achieve crispy results, preheat your air fryer, avoid overcrowding the basket, and flip or shake the food halfway through cooking. Additionally, lightly spraying the food with cooking spray can enhance crispiness.

Does chicken get rubbery in an air fryer?

Chicken may become rubbery in an air fryer if it’s overcooked or cooked at too high of a temperature. To prevent rubbery chicken, use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches 74°C (165°F) and avoid overcooking.

Health Benefits and Nutritional Information

Are air fryer chicken tenders healthy?

Air fryer chicken tenders are healthier than their deep-fried counterparts because they require less oil, which reduces their fat and calorie content. Air frying also retains more of the chicken’s nutrients compared to deep frying.

Comparing air-fried and deep-fried chicken tenders

Deep-fried chicken tenders are typically higher in calories and fat due to the absorption of oil during frying. Air frying, on the other hand, uses hot air circulation to cook the chicken, resulting in a lower calorie and fat content while still achieving a crispy exterior.

For more information on the health benefits and nutritional information of air-fried chicken tenders, refer to this article from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: [https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2021/03/30/air-fryers/]

Pairing Chicken Tenders with Delicious Sides

Here are some delicious side dish ideas to pair with your chicken tenders and chicken strips:

  1. Sweet potato fries: Air fry sweet potato wedges for a healthy, flavourful side dish.
  2. Coleslaw: A tangy, crunchy coleslaw pairs well with crispy chicken tenders.
  3. Roasted vegetables: Air fry a mix of colourful vegetables, like bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, for a nutritious side.
  4. Quinoa salad: Combine cooked quinoa with chopped vegetables, herbs, and a light vinaigrette for a protein-packed side.
  5. Green salad: A fresh green salad with a variety of greens, veggies, and a light dressing complements the savoury chicken tenders.
  6. Steamed or grilled corn: Serve tender, juicy corn on the cob alongside your chicken tenders for a classic combination.
  7. Baked zucchini fries: A healthy, crispy alternative to traditional French fries.
  8. Cauliflower rice: A low-carb, versatile side dish that pairs well with chicken tenders.
  9. Cucumber salad: A refreshing, tangy salad that complements the flavours of the chicken tenders.
  10. Green beans: Steamed or air-fried green beans with a touch of seasoning make a simple, nutritious side.
  11. Mashed sweet potatoes: A creamy, sweet alternative to traditional mashed potatoes.
  12. Grilled asparagus: A delicious, low-calorie side dish that adds colour and nutrition to your plate.
  13. Chickpea salad: A protein-packed salad with chickpeas, veggies, and a light dressing.
  14. Roasted Brussels sprouts: Air-fried or roasted Brussels sprouts with a touch of seasoning make a tasty and healthy side.
  15. Caprese salad: A classic Italian salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
  16. Air Fryer Potato Wedges: My recipe for Air Fryer Balsamic Potato Wedges here.

Dipping Sauce Ideas

Homemade dipping sauce recipes to complement air-fried chicken tenders:

  1. Honey mustard sauce: Combine honey, Dijon mustard, and mayonnaise for a sweet and tangy dip.
  2. Garlic aioli: Mix mayonnaise, minced garlic, lemon juice, and parsley for a creamy, flavourful sauce.
  3. Barbecue sauce: Make a homemade BBQ sauce with ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and spices.
  4. Ranch dressing: Whip up a healthier ranch dressing with Greek yogurt, herbs, and spices.
  5. Sriracha mayo: I’ve given you the recipe for this above.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use breadcrumbs instead of flour for fried chicken?

Yes, you can use breadcrumbs in place of flour. However, for better adhesion, consider using a combination of flour and breadcrumbs.

When trying to fry chicken, what causes the breading to turn out hard and chewy instead of flaky and crispy?

Overcooking or cooking at too high of a temperature can cause the breading to become hard and chewy. Cook at the recommended temperature and time for best results.

OK, you’re ready to go! Breaded chicken tenders – or goujons as we would call them in the UK – are one of those dishes where the air fryer excels.  It’s the perfect quick and easy week day meal for one or for the entire family.  Let me know how you get on with my recipe in the comments.  Also let me know if you have any question, I’d be happy to help.

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