How long do chicken tenders take in air fryer?

Chicken tenders are a quick and easy meal that can be made even faster by cooking them in an air fryer. Air fryers use rapid air circulation technology to crisp and cook food using little to no oil. This makes them an excellent choice for cooking chicken tenders that are tender and juicy on the inside with a crispy exterior.

What temperature should I use to cook chicken tenders in an air fryer?

The ideal air fryer temperature for cooking chicken tenders is between 380-400°F. Setting the air fryer to 380°F will ensure the interior of the tenders cook through without overcooking the outside. Meanwhile, 400°F will deliver crispier and more well-browned exterior. Just keep an eye on the tenders when cooking at a higher temp to avoid burning.

How long does it take to cook chicken tenders in an air fryer?

Most raw boneless chicken tenders take 8-12 minutes to cook in an air fryer set to 380°F. Larger tenders or tenders with bone in may take closer to 15 minutes. The cooking time can vary based on the thickness and size of the individual pieces.

As a general guideline, here are the approximate air fryer cook times for chicken tenders:

  • Small raw boneless tenders (1⁄2 inch thick): 8-10 minutes
  • Medium raw boneless tenders (3⁄4 inch thick): 10-12 minutes
  • Large raw boneless tenders (1 inch thick): 12-14 minutes
  • Bone-in tenders: 14-16 minutes

Keep in mind that just like a traditional oven, air fryer cook times can vary across different models and capacity sizes. Get to know your particular air fryer and adjust the time up or down as needed.

Tips for the best air-fried chicken tenders

Follow these tips for crispy, juicy chicken tenders cooked to perfection in your air fryer:

  • Pat the tenders dry before seasoning and cooking. Any excess moisture will prevent the exterior from getting crispy.
  • Lightly coat tenders in oil or cooking spray before air frying. A thin layer helps promote even browning.
  • Use a breading for extra crispy results. Try seasoned breadcrumbs, panko, or flour dredged and egg washed tenders.
  • Arrange tenders in a single layer in the air fryer basket, not overlapping.
  • Preheat air fryer for 3-5 minutes before adding food. This helps it recover heat faster.
  • Flip the tenders halfway during cooking for even browning.
  • Brush cooked tenders with melted butter, sauce, or other desired finish.

How to tell when chicken tenders are done in an air fryer

With air frying, it can be tricky to visually check for doneness like you would grilling or pan frying. Here are some ways to confirm your chicken tenders are fully cooked:

  • Use a meat thermometer – Chicken is safely cooked at an internal temperature of 165°F. Insert a digital instant read thermometer into the thickest part of a tender to check it’s reached 165°F.
  • Cut into a tender – The interior should be white throughout with no traces of pink.
  • Press test – A fully cooked tender will feel firm when pressed. If still squishy, it needs more time.
  • Look for crisping – The breading or exterior should be browned and crunchy when done.

If the tenders need a little longer, pop them back in the preheated air fryer for 2-3 minutes until cooked through.

How to reheat leftover chicken tenders in an air fryer

Air fryers can also be used to reheat already cooked chicken tenders so they come out crispy.

To reheat chicken tenders in an air fryer:

  1. Pat tenders dry before placing in the air fryer basket.
  2. Set air fryer to 330°F if reheating breaded tenders or 300°F for plain cooked tenders.
  3. Reheat in batches for 3-5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Watch closely to avoid over-drying.

The lower temperatures help prevent excessive browning or drying out the tenders when reheating. And reheating in small batches helps ensure even heating.

Best sauces and seasonings for air fried chicken tenders

Chicken tenders are the perfect canvas for a wide range of flavors. Before or after air frying, try these tasty sauces and seasonings:

  • Buffalo – Classic buffalo sauce made with hot sauce, butter, and spices
  • BBQ – Sweet and savory barbecue sauce
  • Ranch – Cool, creamy ranch dressing for dipping
  • Honey mustard – Tangy honey mustard sauce
  • Garlic parmesan – Buttery garlic and herb sauce with Parmesan
  • Jerk – Spicy and robust Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • Cajun – Zesty Cajun or Creole seasoning blend
  • Lemon pepper – Bright lemony pepper flavor
  • Teriyaki – Sweet and salty Japanese teriyaki marinade

When breading chicken tenders before air frying, also try coatings like:

  • Seasoned flour
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Crushed cornflakes
  • Shredded coconut
  • Pork rind crumbs

The possibilities are endless for giving your air fried tenders extra flavor and crunch!

Air Fryer Chicken Tender Recipes

Here are some delicious recipe ideas for cooking chicken tenders in an air fryer:

Crispy Parmesan Chicken Tenders

These protein-packed tenders are dredged in Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs for a crispy, flavorful coating.


  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pat chicken tenders dry and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumb mixture into separate bowls.
  3. Working one at a time, dredge tenders in flour, dip in egg, then coat in breadcrumb mixture.
  4. Arrange coated tenders in air fryer basket in single layer. Air fry at 380°F for 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Serve warm with desired dipping sauce.

Sweet Chili Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

These Asian-inspired tenders are tossed in a sticky sweet chili sauce for finger-licking flavor.


  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Oil for misting or brushing


  1. Whisk together chili sauce and honey in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Toss chicken tenders in cornstarch to lightly coat.
  3. Mist tenders with oil then place in air fryer basket in single layer.
  4. Air fry at 380°F for 10-12 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Toss tenders in the bowl with chili sauce to coat. Serve immediately.

Lemon Herb Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Refreshing lemon and herbs give these tenders a Mediterranean flair.


  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a bowl, combine lemon zest and juice, garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add chicken tenders and turn to coat in marinade. Let sit 10-15 minutes.
  3. Transfer tenders to air fryer basket in single layer, reserving excess marinade.
  4. Air fry at 380°F for 10-12 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Brush reserved marinade on tenders when done cooking.

Are chicken tenders healthy in an air fryer?

Chicken tenders are a lean, protein-rich food. Opting to make them in an air fryer rather than deep frying makes them even healthier.

Here are some of the health benefits of air fried chicken tenders:

  • Lower in fat and calories compared to deep fried
  • Contain less saturated fat when cooked without breading
  • High in protein to build and repair muscle
  • Provide nutrients like B vitamins, zinc, iron, and magnesium
  • Can be part of a balanced diet in moderation

Air frying uses at least 70-80% less oil than deep frying. And chicken tenders have less fat than chicken thighs or wings. Choosing boneless, skinless tenders further reduces the fat and calorie content.

Breading or coating the tenders before air frying will increase the fat, carbs, and calories. But they are still a healthier option than take-out fried tenders bathed in oil. Just keep portion sizes reasonable.

For a nutrition powerhouse, use healthy coatings like ground almonds, panko crumbs, or shredded coconut. And dip air fried tenders in tangy sauces and dressings rather than creamy, mayo-based dips.

Common problems and solutions when cooking chicken tenders in an air fryer

Air frying chicken tenders is pretty straightforward. But occasionally things can go wrong. Here are some common issues and how to fix them:

Tenders are not crispy:

  • Pat tenders thoroughly dry before cooking
  • Use a light coat of oil
  • Increase air fryer temperature to 390-400°F
  • Extend cook time by 2-3 minutes

Tenders are overcooked and dry:

  • Reduce air fryer temperature to 370°F
  • Cut cook time down by 2-3 minutes
  • Avoid overcrowding the basket

Breading falls off tenders:

  • Make sure tenders are dry before breading
  • Press coating onto tenders to adhere
  • Let sit 5-10 minutes after breading before air frying
  • Use a binder like egg or buttermilk when breading

Tenders are not done in middle:

  • Increase air fryer temperature to 400°F
  • Extend cook time by 2-3 minutes
  • Cut tenders thinner or pound to even thickness
  • Flip tenders midway during cooking

Checking tenders early and adjusting time or temperature is the best way to avoid any pitfalls. With a little trial and error, you’ll be air frying perfectly cooked, crispy tenders every time.

How to store and reheat leftover air fried chicken tenders

Cooked air fried chicken tenders keep well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Here are some tips for storing and reheating them:

  • Let tenders cool completely before storing.
  • Place in a sealed container or resealable plastic bag.
  • Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat in the air fryer at 300°F for 4-5 minutes until hot.
  • Can also be reheated in the microwave or oven.

For longer storage, cooked chicken tenders can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let cool completely before freezing in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating to serve.


Air fryers offer a quick and convenient way to enjoy deliciously crispy chicken tenders at home. With an air fryer, chicken tenders cook up tender and juicy in as little as 8-12 minutes. Adjust the temperature from 380°F for gentler cooking up to 400°F for maximum crispiness. Bread, season, or sauce air fried tenders to suit your taste.

Air frying is healthier than deep frying chicken tenders, with significantly less fat and calories. Check tenders are cooked through and monitor cook times to avoid drying them out. Store leftovers properly in the refrigerator or freezer to enjoy again later.

With minimal prep and easy cleanup, whipping up these family-friendly chicken tenders in the air fryer makes for a quick weeknight dinner or fun weekend snack. Crispy on the outside and juicy inside, air fryer chicken tenders are hard to beat!

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