I love crispy chicken tenders as much as my kids do, but I like to limit my breading and carbs as much as possible. On occasion, I want to enjoy some juicy chicken tenders, but in a healthier way, so that’s how I decided to try to make air fryer chicken tenders with no breading. Boy, was I not sorry. You will not miss the breading when you make this simple chicken tenders recipe. They’re juicy with so much flavor! Even my kids love them! It’s a win-win. I get in my lean protein and my whole family is happy as well. It's now become one of my favorite ways to cook chicken tenders.
How to Cook Air Fryer Chicken Tenders (with no breading)
For this easy air fryer recipe, there is no breading, no need for an egg wash, they're just "naked" chicken tenderloins. This low carb version makes the cooking process even faster and easier than standard breaded chicken tenders. First I remove the tendon from the tenderloin. Watch my quick tip video on what I believe to be the best method to remove the tendon easily and efficiently on the tenders. I found that the best way to do this is to use sharp kitchen scissors to gently cut off the tendon, running it along the tendon kind of like you're cutting wrapping paper without actually making the scissors open and close all the way.
Preheat your air fryer. If your air fryer does not have a pre-heat function, set it to 400 degrees for 3 minutes. Gently dab and dry off your chicken with a paper towel. Next, put all the tenders in a small bowl, add about 1 ½ tablespoons of olive or avocado oil and toss all the chicken to coat it. Once it's all coated add your seasoning blend which is a mix of the dry spices listed on the recipe card below. Toss it again making sure to get the dry rub all over the chicken. Once the air fryer is ready, gently place chicken tenders on the air fryer basket/rack in a single layer. If you have a large air fryer it can fit about ¾ of the chicken in one cook, but if you're using a smaller air fryer basket you might need to cook in 2 loads.
Make sure to check your chicken for proper doneness with an instant-read thermometer. You want the internal temperature of the chicken to be at least 165 degrees. After air frying, keep the cooked chicken warm in a pre-heated "warm" oven at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can you put raw chicken in the air fryer?
Yes, absolutely. You can cook many types of raw meat in the air fryer. This recipe is for air frying chicken from scratch, not reheating pre-cooked breaded strips. The beauty of the air fryer is that all that hot air is blowing all around your meat like a mini convection oven to cook it in less time. Cooking chicken this way makes for a speedy cook on your protein for a quick dinner.
Can I use a different cut of chicken?
You can use this recipe with different cuts of chicken like boneless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts. The exact cook time would differ based on the different sizes of chicken pieces. You could however cook them also at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken thighs will not cook as evenly and will have more dry pieces. Chicken breast will cook better if it is slightly pounded out to a more uniform thickness. They would require about 15-20 minutes of cook time.
Do I need to put oil on the air fryer chicken?
Yes, you need a little oil on the chicken to help keep it from sticking to the air fryer basket, but also to help the seasoning stick to the chicken. The air fryer does reduce the oil in most recipes, but the need for it is not completely eliminated.
Is Air Fryer Chicken Healthy?
This is definitely a healthy alternative compared to crispy chicken strips or chicken fingers. This delicious recipe is low carb, low fat, and high in protein! It's a healthy main dish that can be served with your favorite vegetables for a healthy, easy meal. If you are needing to know nutrition facts you will see them below the recipe via Nutrifox. If you eat these tenders with French fries and your favorite dipping sauce, you're obviously taking away the "health" factor, but that's your call.
Leftover Chicken Tenders
I am not a big fan of reheated chicken, so many times I prefer to use cooked chicken for cold dishes like a creamy chicken salad or cut it up into bite-size pieces and add it to almost any salad for a protein-rich lighter lunch option. Also, you can use this chicken to make your own lettuce wraps or chop it up into tacos, quesadillas, top on nachos or anything you would normally add chicken to.
If you have leftovers and need to reheat it, I do recommend the "reheat function" (usually 350 degrees) of your air fryer for slightly crispy reheated chicken. It'll be done in about 5 minutes, but be sure to use a meat thermometer to make sure you've reheated it properly.
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Simple Ingredients
Chicken tenderloins- For chicken, I always prefer to use Organic Free Range Chicken when possible. I find the chicken tastes better and doesn't have that preservative aftertaste to it.
Olive Oil- I like to use extra virgin olive oil in general. That is what I usually have on hand ready to use.
Cooking Oil Spray- I always use avocado oil spray on hand, so that's my go to cooking spray.
smoked paprika- this recipe uses a lot of paprika, so if you're not a fan of paprika, it's probably not for you. It gives this chicken a really bold flavor though if you like that sort of thing.
granulated garlic (Garlic powder is fine as well)
ground sea salt
ground black pepper
*Optional- add a little bit of ground cayenne pepper if you want a kick