These Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are incredibly juicy, tender, and so simple to make. You won’t miss the breading in this versatile chicken recipe! This delicious air fryer main dish is perfect for salads, wraps, and more!
Please don’t get me wrong – I love me some crispy breaded fried chicken. But at home, I don’t always want to deal with actually breading the chicken. It takes time and it can get messy.
Sometimes I just like to keep it simple. A quick marinade, toss it in the air fryer. Done! That’s the deal with this recipe. These Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are basic AF and can be used for lots of different kinds of meals. AKA naked chicken tenders.
I even enjoy eating them cold! The quick marinade helps them become perfectly tender and juicy. And the air fryer helps maintain that juiciness all through cooking.
Total Time: 50 minutes
Method: Air Fryer
Prep: 5 Ingredients or Less
Watch how to make this Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Recipe (1 minute 25 seconds):
What are the ingredients in these Air Fryer Chicken Tenders?
Here are the ingredients in this easy air fryer chicken recipe:
- boneless skinless chicken breast – I always have boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer so that’s what I used for this recipe. You can also use chicken tenders already cut, or chicken thighs (reduce cook time by a couple minutes). Use whichever you want!
- avocado oil – I prefer to use avocado oil as the marinade base because of the high smoke point. You can also use olive oil.
- white vinegar – This ingredient is super important because it’s going to tenderize the chicken during the quick marination period. Vinegar is an acid which helps break down the meat fibers.
- Italian seasoning – I love Italian seasoning for a classic, versatile chicken flavoring, but you can switch it out for a different flavor! Ideas are listed below.
- garlic powder – I love garlic. It adds wonderful flavor to the chicken, no matter what other seasonings you choose.
- fine sea salt & fresh ground black pepper – Salt also helps tenderize and flavor the chicken. I love fresh ground black pepper for flavor as well.
How do you make these Air Fryer Chicken Tenders?
The first step is to prepare the chicken. Place the raw chicken breasts on a cutting board, and use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the chicken breast into uniform strips about 1 inch thick.
In these photos, I’m using my Misen Chef’s Knife (affiliate link!)! Depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts, you should get 8-12 chicken tender slices from one pound of chicken.
Each chicken breast should make 4-6 strips. If your chicken breast is on the thicker side, make 4-5 slices closer together. If your chicken breast is thinner, make 3-4 slices a bit farther apart.
One of my chicken breasts was thicker, and one was thinner. I got 9 chicken slices total from my slightly over 1 pound pair of chicken breasts.
Next, gather the remaining ingredients in order to marinate the chicken. In a large bowl, add the cut chicken strips, oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and stir everything together with tongs.
Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. This step is important for tender and juicy chicken! Do not let the chicken marinate for over 12 hours – this could over tenderize the chicken and give it a mushy texture.
To cook the chicken, place the strips into the air fryer basket in a single layer. Try to keep them evenly spaced so they don’t touch, if possible. If you have a smaller air fryer, you may need to do this in batches.
Air fry at 380F for 9-11 minutes, flipping halfway through. The chicken tenders are done when the edges and sides are beginning to turn golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165F degrees.
Serve chicken tenders immediately on a salad, in a wrap, in a grain bowl, or with sides like tater tots or fries.
How long does it take to make Air Fryer Chicken Tenders?
In total, it should take you around 50 minutes to make these chicken tenders from start to finish. This includes 30 minutes to let the chicken marinate in the fridge. Work on your sides during that time!
Why use vinegar? Will the chicken taste like vinegar?
The vinegar is important to the marinade because it helps tenderize the chicken tenders so they’re the perfect consistency to bite right into.
Vinegar is an acid, so adding even a small amount helps begin to break down the fibers of the chicken.
The air fryer chicken tenders will not taste like vinegar. There is such a little amount of vinegar that the spices added cover up the vinegar completely.
Using Chicken Breast vs Chicken Tenderloins
I always have boneless skinless chicken breasts on hand from my Butcherbox meat delivery service (affiliate link!), so that’s what I prefer to use. Using high quality chicken will give you a more juicy and flavorful result after cooking.
You can also use pre-cut chicken tenderloins if you want to. I prefer to cut my own chicken and I hate dealing with the giant tendon in the middle of each store-cut tenderloins.
How to serve these air fryer chicken tenders:
Here are a few ideas for serving these Air Fryer Chicken Tenders:
- On a salad! This chicken is a great addition to grocery store salad kits, particularly to the kale caesar version 🙂
- On a wrap or a pita with veggies and melty cheese
- With potato wedges or tater tots as the sides
- In a grain bowl with veggies and pesto
- on a caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto
Alternative seasoning ideas for the chicken tenders:
To change up the flavors of this chicken, leave out the Italian seasoning, and substitute with one of these other ideas:
- cajun seasoning
- Ranch seasoning powder
- bbq rub
- chili powder + cumin
- lemon pepper
What kind of air fryer do you recommend?
The air fryer I have currently, and the one that is pictured in this post is the Cosori XL 5.8 qt Air Fryer (affiliate link!). If you’re going to invest in an air fryer to cook things for 2 or more people, you should opt for a larger size like this one, in my opinion!
I previously had a slightly smaller Philips Air Fryer with a metal grate basket which I liked, but I prefer the larger Cosori model with the nonstick coated basket.
If you have a smaller air fryer, I would recommend cooking the chicken tenders in two batches.
Is this recipe freezer friendly?
Yes, you can freeze the cooked chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 months. However, for best quality, I prefer to eat the chicken from the refrigerator within 4 days of cooking. That’s when it’s the most juicy!
How can I meal prep this recipe?
The best way to meal prep this recipe is to completely cook the chicken as the recipe instructs, and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Use the chicken for various recipes over the next 3-4 days. Reheat in the air fryer at 350F for 7-10 minutes, until hot and sizzling.
If you want to freeze, I suggest freezing cooked tenders in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen in the air fryer at 350F for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.
How to store these chicken tenders:
Place leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
How to freeze these chicken tenders:
Wrap tightly and place in an airtight or vacuum sealed container. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to reheat these chicken tenders:
From the fridge: Place cold tenders in the air fryer and cook at 350 for 5-7 minutes or until the tenders are hot. These tenders would also reheat well in a HotLogic Portable Oven – link to my review.
From the freezer: Place frozen cooked tenders in the air fryer and cook at 350F for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Did you make this? I want to see how it turned out! Tag me in your social media post @projectmealplan and use #projectmealplan when you share!
Air Fryer Chicken Tenders (No Breading!)
These Air Fryer Chicken Tenders are incredibly juicy, tender, and simple to make. You won’t even miss the breading in this versatile chicken recipe! Use raw chicken breast or tenders to create the most delicious chicken that’s great for salads, wraps, grain bowls, and more!
- 1 pound raw boneless skinless chicken breasts (or tenderloins)
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Prepare the chicken: Place raw chicken breasts on a cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the chicken breast into uniform strips about 1 inch thick. Each chicken breast should make 4-6 strips, depending on size and thickness.
- Marinate chicken: In a large bowl, add the cut chicken strips, oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir gently until chicken is coated in oil and spices. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Do not skip – this step helps tenderize the chicken. Do not let the chicken marinate for more than 12 hours – this could over tenderize the chicken and give it a mushy texture.
- Cook the chicken: Place chicken strips into the air fryer basket in a single layer, not touching each other if possible. Air fry at 380F for 9-11 minutes, flipping halfway through. Chicken is done when the edges and sides are beginning to turn golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165F degrees. If you have a smaller air fryer, you may need to do this in batches.
- Serve & store: Serve chicken tenders immediately on a salad, in a wrap, in a grain bowl, or with sides like tater tots or fries. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Chicken: Tenderloin cuts are traditional for ‘tenders’, however I prefer to use organic chicken breast from my ButcherBox meat delivery service (affiliate link!) because I do not like the tenderloin cut. Strips and tenders are very similar, so you can pick your favorite. To customize: Sub Italian seasoning for your favorite seasonings such as Cajun, ranch powder, chili powder, etc.
Nutrition information estimated with My Fitness Pal. Recipe video added 6/4/21.
- Serving Size: 4 ounces
- Calories: 189
- Sugar: 0g
- Fat: 8g
- Carbohydrates: 1g
- Protein: 26g
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