For the ultimate crispy & spicy air fryer buffalo chicken tenders, look no further. Crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside. This easy 20-minute recipe is sure to become a new favorite in your home.
Kids & adults alike will love these panko-crusted chicken tenders. They are spicy but not insane. Feel free to add more or less to get the mild, medium, or hot heat level your family loves. The perfect lunch, dinner, or party appetizer.
I created this recipe after making my Sheet Pan Buffalo Chicken & Broccoli. I wanted something crunchy but still healthy. The air fryer was a no-brainer and viola - the crunchiest air-fried buffalo chicken tenders ever!
- Ingredients for Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders
- Why Make Chicken Tenders from Scratch?
- Time & Temperature
- How to Air Fry Panko Chicken Tenders
- Condiment & Dip Ideas
- Substitutions & Variations
- Equipment Needed
- Storing & Reheating Leftovers
- Top Tips
- More Easy Chicken Recipes
- What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
- Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders
- Food Safety
Ingredients for Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Here is all you need to bread your own chicken tenders at home. Making them from scratch is so much better than any store-bought frozen ones. The meat is more tender & juicy. Plus you control the heat & spice levels.
- Chicken Tenders - this boneless skinless cut is perfect for handheld crispy chicken.
- Panko Breadcrumbs - the flaky coarse breadcrumb gives you more crunch than traditional or Italian-style breadcrumbs.
- Egg - helps the panko stick & adhere to the chicken tenders.
- Buffalo Hot Sauce - I like the classic, Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce.
- Salt - the best flavor enhancer.
- Pepper - to help add flavor and season the plain panko.
- Garlic Powder - added flavor to the breadcrumbs.
- Cayenne Pepper - spice up the panko.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Why Make Chicken Tenders from Scratch?
There are so many brands of frozen breaded chicken tenders in every store, why make it at home instead you ask? Here is what makes this recipe so much better than ready-made.
This homemade buffalo chicken tender recipe is great because:
- Can use organic ingredients if desired.
- No processed or artificial ingredients.
- Costs less than premade.
- Control the heat level.
- Tenders are better than nuggets, plus great for kids & adults.
- Fresh chicken tastes way better than frozen!
Time & Temperature
I have a Breville Smart Oven/Air Fryer. It is a tray-style air fryer/toaster oven combo. The time & temperature will be the same basket-style models too.
This recipe is the best for breading that is dry, crispy, & not soggy. It also results in tender chicken that is moist & not dried out. The perfect bite!
It only takes about 12-15 minutes to cook raw chicken tenders. So even when in a rush and needing dinner in a pinch, this quick recipe is a must-make.
How to Air Fry Panko Chicken Tenders
No one will guess how easy this delicious yet healthier recipe is. All you need is 20 minutes & a few simple steps for homemade breaded chicken tenders. This is how to make homemade breaded buffalo chicken tenders in the air fryer.
Steps to bread & air fry chicken tenders:
- Dip, coat, & oil the tenders
- Air fry the chicken tenders
- Serve with dipping sauces & dressings
1 - Dip, Coat, & Oil the Tenders
Preheat the air fryer to 375°. Set the timer for 14 minutes. While it is preheating, prepare the chicken.
Set up a breading station. You will need 3 pie pans or shallow-rimmed baking dishes. Pat the chicken tenders dry so the egg & panko will stick. Place them in one of the shallow dishes.
In one of the other pans, add the egg & scramble it using a fork or whisk. Add the buffalo sauce and whisk to combine. Next, add the panko breadcrumbs & all the spices to the 3rd pan. Once all 3 pans are ready, it is time to dip & coat each tender.
Using your hands or a fork, dip each tender into the egg mixture to coat on all sides. Let any excess drip off back into the pan & then transfer to the panko. Roll in the breadcrumbs until all sides are covered. Use your hands to press on any that may not be sticking.
Transfer breaded tenders to a plate. Once all the tenders are coated with buffalo sauce & panko, spray them with avocado oil lightly on both sides.
2 - Air Fry the Chicken Tenders
Once the air fryer has preheated, add the tenders to the basket or rack. Keep them in a single layer. Make sure there is space between them so the heat can circulate - don't overcrowd them. (do 2 batches if you must)
Hint: for easy clean-up and no chance of sticking, use parchment liners in the air fryer.
Let them cook halfway through before flipping them over. My tray/rack model doesn't require rotating them over but it is best to do this if you have a basket-style air fryer.
How to Tell They Are Done: The tenders are ready when the panko has turned golden brown. Check to make sure the internal temperature is 165 °F (74 °C). Some larger pieces may need more time.
3 - Serve with Dipping Sauces & Dressings
Once the chicken is ready, use tongs and carefully place them on a plate or platter. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces, dressing, & condiments. Below is a list of my favorites, including a few homemade ideas.
Condiment & Dip Ideas
Serve this while fresh, hot, & crispy. Plate them for dinner or put them on a platter for parties or buffets. Serve these on game day, Super Bowl parties, birthdays, & events. Here are the best dipping sauce, dressings, condiments, & accompaniments to serve with these spicy tenders:
Substitutions & Variations
Here are some great recipe variations & ingredient substitutions that can be made. Add, omit, or use one of these alternatives for other delicious recipe ideas for air-fried chicken tenders. These may help you enjoy this recipe even with dietary, health, or personal nutritional preferences.
- Panko - instead of panko, use regular breadcrumbs.
- Tenders - if you cannot find tenders, use boneless skinless chicken breasts & cut them into strips like in my Teriyaki Chicken on a Stick recipe.
- Egg - for an egg-free option, use water or milk instead. The panko may not stick as well but it is better than simply omitting it.
Here are a few ideas for other yummy ways to enjoy this recipe.
- Extra Spicy - gently toss the cooked tenders in a bowl with more Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce to cover it in buffalo sauce for next-level heat.
- Kid-friendly - omit the buffalo sauce when prepping and serve it on the side instead.
This recipe is simple to make and only requires a few pieces of equipment & ingredients. Since the tenders are air-fried, you will need an air fryer & accessories that make cooking easy.
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Storing & Reheating Leftovers
Leftovers store well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Place air fryer chicken tenders in a container with a slide or covered with foil in the fridge. Reheat in the air fryer set to 400° for 5-7 minutes.
Tenders cooked in the air fryer can be frozen to enjoy later. The panko-breading holds up well in the freezer. Place the cool tenders in a Ziploc freezer-safe resealable bag. Store for up to 30 days. Reheat from frozen in the air fryer at 400° for 12-15 minutes.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Pat the chicken dry so the sauce & panko stick.
- Don't skip the egg, it helps the breadcrumbs stick.
- Don't overcrowd the air fryer.
- Use an internal thermometer to make sure the chicken reaches 165°. Check each one since they will be different sizes & some may be done while others are still undercooked.
- Serve immediately while hot & crispy with dipping sauces & dressings.
Both are made from boneless chicken breasts. Tenderloins are a small part of the underside of the breast meat. Strips however are technically thin cut strips of the whole boneless breast. Like nuggets & fingers, the shape/cut of the chicken makes the difference.
If you are on a low-carb or keto diet, chicken tenders without breading are a good choice. I recommend air frying these seasoned with all 4 spices only (omit the panko & no egg needed). When they are done cooking, toss them in the buffalo sauce & enjoy.
More Easy Chicken Recipes
Looking for other chicken recipes like this? Try these:
What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
These are my favorite side dishes that pair well with air fryer buffalo chicken tenders:
Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders
- air fryer
- 3 pie pans or shallow-rimmed dishes
- 1 pounds chicken tenders
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup Frank's RedHot buffalo sauce
- 1 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- avocado oil spray
- ranch or blue cheese dressing optional
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°. Set the timer for 14 minutes.
- Pat the chicken dry - this helps the sauce & panko stick. Place the chicken in one of the pans.
- In another pan add the egg. Whisk to scramble. Add the hot sauce and whisk again to mix. In the last pan, add the panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, & cayenne. Stir to combine.
- Using your hands dredge the chicken in both pans. Begin by dipping one at a time in the egg mixture. Let the excess drip off back into the pan before adding to the panko. Roll the tenders in the breadcrumbs until coated. Set aside on a plate & repeat until all are done.
- Spray both sides lightly with avocado oil spray. Once the air fryer is preheated, add the tenders to the tray or basket. Place in a single layer and do not overcrowd.
- Let them cook for 7 minutes & then flip them over if needed. Continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes.
- How to Tell They Are Done: The tenders are ready when the panko has turned golden brown. Check to make sure the internal temperature is 165 °F (74 °C). Some larger pieces may need more time.
- Using tongs carefully remove them from the air fryer and place them on individual plates or a platter. Serve with your ranch, blue cheese dressing, or your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy immediately while hot & crispy.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 9.7g||12%|
|Saturated Fat 2.7g||13%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9.8g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0.8g||3%|
|Total Sugars 0.4g|
|Vitamin D 4mcg||19%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
|Recipe analyzed by|
When handling & cooking raw chicken, follow these safety tips:
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands & any surfaces after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods