Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are my favorite, quick, easy, and delicious lunch or dinner go-to. So skip the freezer aisle and make these at home instead!
But what’s better than average chicken tenders? Homemade buttermilk chicken tenders aka Chick-Fil-A copycat chicken tenders!
Chick-Fil-A Copycat Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
Thank me now, thank me later, thank me when you can’t stop eating these chicken tenders, or thank me on a Sunday when you are craving Chick-Fil-A and they are closed.
Either way, I am about to change how you prepare chicken tenders in your house! My copycat Air Fryer Chicken Tender recipe provides the same great taste we all know and love, but at a fraction of the calories.
I was a little worried my recipe wouldn’t taste the same as something Chick-Fil-A perfected. However, these Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are a HUGE win in my house and taste INCREDIBLE!
BONUS: this recipe happens to be gluten-free!
Chicken Tenderloins Air Fryer ingredients
- Chicken breast tenders: If you can’t find actual tenderloins, you could also buy regular chicken breasts and slice them into the correct size and shape.
- Pickle juice: Marinating the chicken in pickle juice and buttermilk helps tenderize the meat and infuses it with flavor. The acidity of the pickle juice helps to break down the proteins in the chicken and gives it a more tender and juicy flavor.
- The buttermilk adds richness and tanginess while also helping to tenderize the chicken even more.
- Almond flour and panko: Using both of these ingredients for the breading ensures a nice golden brown exterior with the perfect crispy crunch.
- Seasonings: I like to use a simple blend of salt, paprika, and garlic powder to season my tenders.
- Mayonnaise: Ensures the breading adheres well to your chicken.
How to Air Fry Chicken Tenderloins
1. Brine the chicken. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pickle juice and buttermilk. Add your chicken tenders to the bowl, and make sure they are completely covered. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
2. Prepare the panko bread crumbs. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, panko, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.
3. Cook the chicken. Preheat the air fryer and brush a very thin layer of mayonnaise over both sides of the chicken tenders. Then dip in the panko mixture, making sure both sides are fully coated in panko bread crumbs.
Shake off excess before placing the chicken onto a tray. Lightly spray both sides of the chicken with olive oil or cooking spray.
In batches, cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side, until the chicken is cooked through and crispy with a golden exterior.
How To Make Chicken Tenders In The Oven
Don’t have an air fryer, but need this Chick-Fil-A Copycat Chicken Tender Recipe in your life? Not to worry!
Prepare the chicken the same way, but preheat your oven to 425ºF. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping halfway. If you are looking for that extra crunch, broil on the top rack for 2 minutes.
PRO TIP: Chick-Fil-A sauce is my favorite for dipping these chicken tenders. Check out my copycat recipe for the famous Chick-Fil-A Sauce!!
Copycat Chick-Fil-A sauce for these Air Fried Chicken Tenderloins
Their famous sauce is so easy to make at home and is perfect for dipping crispy chicken tenders.
It’s made with BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, honey mustard, and a few pantry staple spices. I always have these things in my kitchen, so it’s super simple to whip up in 5 minutes.
Make a side of waffle fries, and you’ll feel just like you’re sitting at Chick-Fil-A!
Substitutions for Air Fryer Chicken Tenderloins
I hate pickles, do I really need to use pickle juice?
Yes, the pickle juice is CRUCIAL to this recipe and makes them SO tender and good! I don’t love chicken, but I honestly cannot stop eating these tenders when I make them. They really don’t taste like pickles either.
What is the purpose of buttermilk?
The buttermilk helps cut through the acidity of the pickle juice. That said, you don’t want to skip this ingredient.
I don’t have buttermilk, what can I substitute with?
If you don’t have buttermilk, it is actually really easy to make your own. For every 1 cup of milk, add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice OR white vinegar. Stir until combined and voila, you have made your own buttermilk!
Can I substitute almond flour?
Yes, you can substitute almond flour for regular all-purpose flour. Note: That substitution no longer makes this recipe gluten-free though.
Can I use chicken breasts?
If you only have chicken breasts on hand, you can slice them into 1-2 inch thick strips to make tenders.
What to serve with Air Fried Chicken Tenders
How to store Air Fryer Chicken Tenderloins
Allow your chicken tenders to cool, then transfer to an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. Keep them in the fridge for 4 to 5 days, or the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to reheat Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
Pop your tenders back into the air fryer at 350 degrees F and cook until they’re heated through. Give them a flip if you think they need it. For a crispier result, give them a light spritz with cooking oil first.
Chicken Tenderloins in Air Fryer FAQs
You want to ensure the thickest part of your chicken tender has an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Another way to tell if your chicken is cooked is when the juice of the chicken is clear.
Yes! I prefer to thaw out my chicken first. However, to cook frozen chicken in the air fryer, you are going to want to grease the air fryer basket and preheat at 400ºF for 5 minutes.
Place your frozen chicken tenders into the air fryer basket at 400ºF for 10 minutes. Check for doneness and cook for 3-5 more minutes if necessary.
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of tenders. Thicker cuts will require additional time.
As long as you cook it fully, it’s perfectly safe to cook raw chicken in your air fryer!
Be sure not to overcook your chicken, as this will dry out the tenders and cook all of the moisture away. If they’ve been marinated properly and they have a decent coating of the breading mixture, the moisture should be nice and locked in.
MY FAVORITE KITCHEN TOOLS USED:
- Ninja Foodi Air Fryer
- GoWise Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Accessory Pack
- Silicone Tip Tongs
- Nesting Mixing Bowls
See all my favorite kitchen and household items here.
WANT TO TRY THIS AIR FRYER CHICKEN TENDERS RECIPE?
PIN IT to your chicken recipes, air fryer recipes, or copycat recipes board to save it for later!
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More Air Fryer Chicken Recipes To Try
- Old Bay Air Fryer Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
- 5 Spice Perfect Air Fryer Chicken
- Air Fryer Cornish Hens
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Sandwich
Did you make this recipe? Post a photo on Instagram and tag me @JZEATS or #JZEATS so I can see! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, too!
Air Fried Chicken Tenders
- In a large mixing bowl, combine pickle juice and buttermilk. Add the chicken tenders to the bowl, making sure they are completely covered. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. If you're short on time, marinate them for at least 30 minutes – but I've found that 1.5 hours is the sweet spot.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, panko, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.
- Preheat the air fryer to 375. Brush a very thin layer of mayonnaise over both sides of the chicken tenders. Then dip in the panko mixture, making sure both sides are fully coated in panko bread crumbs.Shake off excess before placing the chicken onto a tray. Lightly spray both sides of the chicken with olive oil or cooking spray.