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!
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!
HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER CHICKEN TENDERS
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 egg wash and panko bread crumbs. In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, panko, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.
3. Cook the chicken. Preheat the air fryer to 375º F. Dip the chicken in the egg, then into the panko mixture, and shake off excess before placing the chicken onto a cutting board. 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.
Serve your chicken hot with Chick-Fil-A Sauce, BBQ sauce, Ranch, or Ketchup!
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!!
Chick-Fil-A Sauce Recipe
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!
Recipe Notes And Substitutions
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.
Questions You Might Have About The Recipe
How do I know my chicken tenders are fully cooked in the air fryer?
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.
Can I cook frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer?
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.
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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
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 Fryer 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 small mixing bowl, beat the eggs. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, panko, garlic powder, paprika, and salt.
- Preheat the air fryer to 375. Dip the chicken in the egg, then into the panko mixture and shake off excess before placing the chicken on a cutting board or large dish. Lightly spray both sides of the chicken with olive oil.
- In batches, cook the chicken 5-6 minutes on each side, until the chicken is cooked through and crispy and golden on the outside. Serve with Chik-Fil-A Sauce, BBQ sauce, or ketchup.