Chicken tenders, rubbed with sesame oil, seasoned with a family-favorite spice mix, rolled in delicious Italian seasoned bread crumbs, then air fried on high to create a crispy crust that envelopes succulent and tender chicken meat inside.
If you like tender, juicy white chicken meat, covered by crunchy, well-seasoned crust, you will love these air fryer chicken tenders. They are crispy on the outside, and so moist and juicy on the inside, that as you bite into them, you get an explosion of tasty juicy goodness in your mouth. They are very addictive. I’ve been asked many times to make more and more of them. I don’t mind, they are also one of the quickest and easiest chicken dishes to make.
The secret to the best tasting air fryer chicken tenders is threefold. Firstly, you need to layer the flavors. Chicken tenders are flavorless and boring, they need a lot of flavor to taste great. They will taste exceptionally good if you season the tenders themselves, then dredge them in a well-seasoned bread crumb mix.
Secondly, there has to be a crispy crust to contrast the tender and succulent interior of the chicken tenderloins. I tried many different mixes but nothing worked as well as good old bread crumbs.
Forget about buttermilk and flour, or eggs and flour. Leave those for frying. When air fried, they result in a rubbery skin that is quite bad-tasting, frankly.
Finally, you want to air fry them at the highest temperature your air fryer can achieve, usually 400F to 410F. Tenders are small and thin, and long cooking times dry them out. Short, high-heat cooking, like grilling, broiling or pan-frying, results in beautiful browning and tender, juicy white chicken meat. The same applies to air frying. Only when cooking at high temperatures will you get that crunchy crust and juicy, succulent meat.
How many chicken tenders can you cook in an air fryer?
This is a very important question to ask, because with air fryers size matters a lot. Also, air fryers come in many sizes. Mine is a 6.8 quart one one and it tops out at 10 chicken tenders. A 3.5 quart fryer will fit half as many. I find that you don’t really need to leave a lot of space between chicken pieces to get great results. They can even touch in some spots. Look at the picture below in the instructions section to give you the idea of spacing that works well for me.
With what to serve air fryer chicken tenders?
These are really good on their own, as they are well-seasoned, and don’t really need any sauce on them. That said, we often use our favorite homemade buttermilk ranch dressing as a dipping sauce. A 50/50 mix of BBQ sauce and hot sauce is another great option if you crave that Buffalo chicken flavor.
As far as side dishes go, creamy garlic mashed potatoes are a great option. They complement each other very well. For a healthier meal, try our delicious tomato and cucumber salad, or the crispy air fried brussels sprouts.
And don’t forget the try these crunchy air fryer French fries as an accompaniment.
Looking for more tasty air fryer recipes? Make sure to check these out:
- Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
- Steak In an Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Sesame Chicken Breast
- Air Fryer Shrimp
- Crispy Air Fried Brussels Sprouts
Equipment used and shown on the pictures above: Chefman 6.8 Quart Air Fryer.
- 1 lb chicken tenders about 10 pieces
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil or olive/vegetable oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder or granulated onion
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 cup bread crumbs Italian seasoned
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- In a medium bowl, mix the bread crumbs and the oil with a fork, until the mixture is homogeneous and crumbly.
- Combine chicken rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Rub the chicken with sesame oil, then season with the chicken rub. Pat down to make the seasonings stick.
- Roll chicken tenders in bread crumbs and place on the air fryer rack, leaving some space between chicken pieces. Sprinkle leftover crumbs on top of the tenders.
- Air fry, without preheating, at 400F for 10 minutes. Your air fryer may cook differently so start checking for doneness at 8 minutes. For more crunch, cook an extra minute. The chicken will still be tender and juicy on the inside but mighty crunchy on the outside.
- Remove the chicken and serve hot with you favorite side dish.