Crispy, golden, and utterly irresistible, these air fryer chicken tenders will become your new go-to dinner favorite. Soaked in a rich buttermilk marinade, they deliver mouthwatering flavor with every bite.
This recipe is an excellent way to show off the talents of your favorite kitchen appliance. Air fryers have become all the rage in recent years and this recipe will show you why. No need to mess around with hot oil and all the fuss associated with traditional deep frying methods for making chicken tenders. We’ll use buttermilk and a simple seasoning mix to marinate chicken breast tenderloins, before giving them that awesome, crispy coating you know and love.
What are Buttermilk Chicken Tenders?
This recipe uses chicken breast tenderloins and buttermilk to create perfect air fryer chicken tenders. The tenderloins are from a section underneath the regular chicken breast and contain the perfect meat for making chicken tenders. We’ll soak them in buttermilk, salt and garlic powder to further tenderize the meat and infuse deep flavors. This assures us of having a chicken tender that’s moist and delicious.
Ingredients and Equipment Needed
We like to keep things simple here at RecipeTeacher so let’s take a quick look at what’s needed to make these awesome chicken tenders…
- Air Fryer (I use a 5.8qt Cosori basket style air fryer)
- 2 bowls (cereal bowls work)
- 1 large plate for the breadcrumbs (a paper plate is fine)
- 1 large (gallon-sized) zip-top bag (or other container to marinate the chicken)
The ingredient list is quite simple too. You’ll probably have many of the ingredients in your pantry already.
- Chicken Breast Tenderloins
- Panko Breadcrumbs
- Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, flour, cayenne pepper
- Non-stick cooking spray or olive oil spray
Chicken breast tenderloins are commonly found in the meat section of the supermarket with all the other cuts of chicken. They are usually in packages of about 1lb. No worries if the package is a little more or a little less than 1 pound. That’s generally around 8 normal-sized chicken tenderloins in a package.
What About the Tendon in the Tenderloins?
Chicken tenderloins contain a tendon which is usually visible as a thin white strip. No worries at all here. It gets super thin inside the tenderloin and mostly goes unnoticed. However, sometimes the end (and toughest part) will be quite visible towards the larger end of the tenderloin. Simply use kitchen shears and cut it away. If you absolutely want to remove the whole tendon, grab the tough end using a paper towel and then use a sharp knife to pull and cut away. It might take a little practice to not tear up the tenderloin. That’s why I’ve found that just cutting away the end is quite sufficient.
Tenderize and Flavorize!
Chicken tenderloins are quite tender as is, but we’re going to take it a step further to make these even better. In a large zip-top bag, add the buttermilk, salt and garlic powder. Mix it up and add the chicken tenderloins. Close the bag and let it marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours – overnight. The really infuses flavor and makes the tenders the perfect consistency.
Make Your Breading Station
This part is fun and also a good part for the kids to help. One bowl will have the flour mixture; one bowl will have beaten eggs; and a large plate or dish will have the panko breadcrumbs.
I like to do the breading with cool water running from the kitchen faucet in order to quickly rinse my fingers after each tender. I feel this makes things a little easier but it’s by no means necessary.
- Start by taking a chicken tender out of the buttermilk marinade and let any excess buttermilk drip off.
- Then put the tender in the flour mixture so it has a thin coating, shaking off any excess.
- Next, it gets dunked into the beaten egg. Make sure it gets well coated in egg, you don’t want any dry flour spots exposed. Remove from egg and let any excess drip off.
- Then, place the tender in the panko breadcrumbs so it’s well coated. Press the breadcrumbs into the meat a little bit if need be. You chicken tender is now breaded! Set it aside on a paper plate. Continue the process with each chicken tender.
Preheat Air Fryer, Then Air Fry Chicken Tenders
Now that all your chicken tenders are breaded (and your hands washed off), spray the air fryer basket or tray very well with cooking spray and preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 400°(F). Once preheated, place the tenders in the basket or tray in a single layer – do not overlay or stack! Now, give them all a very good spray with oil. This is important. Even though we’re not deep frying, we still need a thin misting of oil on the outside in order to properly crisp. Canola oil cooking spray or olive oil spray works well.
Set the air fryer to the air fry setting at 400°(F) for 8 minutes. Turn the tenders after 4 minutes. After the 8 minutes are complete, check the center of the largest tender with an instant read food thermometer. The chicken tenders are fully cooked once the internal temp reaches 165°(F). If not done, continue air frying at 2-minute intervals until done.
Ready to Serve!
Your buttermilk chicken tenders are now ready to serve! What kind of dipping sauce do you like with your chicken tenders? To start, take a bite and enjoy the awesomeness of these chicken tenders without any dipping sauce. That marinade really infuses a nice base flavor into the chicken, while the seasoned coating adds all the rest of the flavor notes.
Let’s Get Saucy
Ok, back to the question of your favorite sauce… I go back and forth between BBQ and ranch. Sometime I’m even in a honey mustard mood. There’s so many great dipping sauces to enjoy, and you can put a few different ones out with these tenders.
Want to try something really special? Try this for a dipping sauce:
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1.5 tbs ketchup
- 1 tbs mustard
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp salt
Mix it all together in a bowl and let it chill for a bit. You’ll be in for a real treat!Print