These easy juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside air fryer chicken tenders (no breading) are the perfect quick dinner, ready in less than 20 minutes!
I just don’t know how I’ve owned an air fryer this long and never made some naked (no breading) chicken tenders in it?!?! How have I lived?
We usually make my paleo air fryer chicken tenders using almond meal, but the whole dredging process takes more patience and time than I have some nights, even if they taste BOMB that way. But then, it occurred to me, why not just make chicken tenders like I was going to make them on the pan or grill, but in the air fryer. Uh, DUH, again I ask myself why I’d never thought of doing that before!
Honestly, the seasoning blend, though. It deserves a post of its own. While I had all the ingredients out I doubled the seasonings and added it to its own jar with a label for future fast use!
When I cook dinner nowadays, it basically has to be done in 30 minutes or less. This is because I have a sitter here until 5 PM so I can work and the kids need to eat at as close to 5:30 PM as possible, so that gives me 30 minutes of cook time (give or take tantrums, nursing, whatever else is happening at that time). I know some families have later schedules that work for them, sometimes, I wish we did too, but this is what works for us right now.
What I love about this meal (other than it’s freaking delicious) is it’s a crowd-pleaser. Everyone loves it including picky 3-year-olds, babies, and adults. It’s flavorful and juicy on the inside, but the crispy crust takes this chicken to a whole new level. And the best of all is it can pair with just about anything else you have on hand, including all types of dipping sauces. So, you really can’t go wrong with this one!
How to Make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders – No Breading
This recipe is SOOOOO easy. Maybe that’s why the reel I made for this recipe (@hungryhobbyrd) exploded in popularity at over a million views! I’ve been blogging for 8 years and have never gotten so much excitement about a recipe!
You pat dry your chicken tenders, toss them in oil, then toss them in the seasoning, and throw them in the air fryer. That’s it!
You may notice my red air fryer insert. My Instant Pot Vortex looks like it’s been in battle. All the non-stick coating is gone, which isn’t great for cooking and health reasons. I found this insert on Amazon made from 100% food-grade silicone and have been using it for a few months now.
Since IP apparently does not replace the tray insert that goes into the IP Vortex basket, I’ve been much happier with this insert than replacing a perfectly working machine or using flammable parchment paper inserts. Everything I’ve ever made in it has cooked perfectly and clean-up is a breeze. The only downside is it decreases the overall size of the basket, but that trade-off is well worth it.
Swaps and Substitutions Air Fryer Chicken Tenders – No Breading
You can easily swap and substitute spice levels, just know that this will obviously change the recipe from its original flavor.
Also, my lemon pepper had a little bit of sugar and salt in it. If yours doesn’t, you can add up to 1/2 tsp of each.
You can use regular or sweet paprika instead of smoked, but again, the flavor will change a bit.
I opted to skip the cayenne pepper that is so often found in chicken tender recipes in favor of not hearing kids or the husband complain about the spice level. There just really is no acceptable level of tolerance when it comes to cayenne pepper and my family. That being said, if I was making this for myself, I’d add at least a little in. Maybe like 1/8tsp, but, I LOVE the heat and spicy food, they do not.
Can I use chicken breast to make this air fryer chicken tenders recipe?
Yes, you could use this seasoning blend on chicken breast instead of tenders. However, you may need to cook the chicken longer and less surface area would be covered with the seasoning. My advice would be to pound your chicken breast to tenderize then, cut it into strips to create tenders.
Can I use chicken thighs to make this air fryer chicken tenders recipe?
Yes, you could use this seasoning blend on chicken thighs instead of tenders. However, the cooking time will be closer to 20-25 minutes. Cook skin side down first, flipping halfway through.
How to Freeze and Store Air Fryer Chicken Tenders – No Breading
Storing: You can coat the chicken tenders in seasoning up to 24 hours ahead of time, in case that helps your meal prep plans! Otherwise, once the chicken tenders are cooked they will store for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Reheat: I like to use the reheat function on my air fryer to reheat these! I put them in cold and set the reheat temp to 280F for 10 minutes. They are perfectly crisp and reheated throughout went hey come out!
*Anytime you cook or reheat chicken you want it to reach 165F prior to eating.
Option 1: Freeze raw chicken tenders (as long as they haven’t been previously frozen) with seasoning on them. Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet on wax paper so that they do not stick together. You can pop them in the air fryer from frozen, but they will require an additional 3-5 minutes of cooking time.
Option 2: Freeze cooked chicken tenders, defrost under refrigeration, reheat to 165F in the microwave or you can try the reheat mode in the air fryer (I haven’t tried it, it may dry out the chicken too much!)
MORE FUN AIR FRYER RECIPES TO TRY
- Air Fryer Tortilla Strips
- Air Fryer Tortilla Chips
- Air Fryer Quesadilla
- Air Fryer Cauliflower Gnocchi
- Air Fryer Sweet and Spicy Dry Rub Wings
- Air Fryer Sweet Potato Chicken Nuggets
- Healthy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- 20 Minute Air Fryer Fish Tacos
- Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma
- Air Fryer Bone-In Chicken Thighs
- Air Fryer Turmeric Cauliflower
What To Serve With Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries
- Healthy Coleslaw
- Slow Cooker Carrots
- Bacon Broccoli Slaw
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Spicy Quinoa Skillet
- Air Fryer Turmeric Cauliflower
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders - No Breading
- Air Fryer - Basket or Rotisserie Style
- 3 lbs chicken tenders
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1/2 tbsp lemon pepper
- 1.5 tbsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt* Optional if lemon pepper spice isn't salted
- Preheat Air Fryer to 375F.
- Pat dry chicken tenders (especially if defrosted from frozen) and toss with oil in a large bowl.3 lbs chicken tenders, 1 tbsp avocado oil
- Combine seasonings in a small bowl.1 tbsp avocado oil, 1/2 tbsp lemon pepper, 1.5 tbsp garlic powder, 1.5 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp dried parsley, 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp salt*
- Toss chicken with 1/2 of the seasonings, and then rub each piece with the remaining seasonings as you transfer each piece from the bowl to the air fryer. Make sure to leave space between your chicken tenders when arranging them in the air fryer. You'll likely need to work in batches. For 2lbs of chicken, I had to cook three batches.
- Cook at 375F for 10-16 minutes, flipping at 6 minutes in. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Repeat with remaining chicken.