Frozen Raw Chicken Tenders In Air Fryer Recipe

If you’ve ever tried to replicate those crispy, juicy chicken tenders you get in restaurants from the comfort of your kitchen only to come out with something soggy, bland, and just frankly disappointing, I know how you feel.

That’s why I’ve taken the liberty to painstakingly replicate those crunchy, juicy, and flavorful tenders that take you right back to childhood. 

In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make chicken tenders that are delicious, easy to make, and healthier than traditional chicken tenders that are deep fried in oil.

I’ll be using the brand Tyson, but you can use any brand of raw chicken tenders for this recipe and it will be just as delicious!

What You’ll Need 

  • 10 Frozen raw chicken tenders 
  • Buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Pickle Juice
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup Corn Starch
  • 2 ½ cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot

Ingredient Notes

  • Frozen raw chicken tenders-

For this recipe you’ll want to use frozen raw chicken tenders, bringing them to room temperature before you’re going to soak them in the buttermilk.

  • Buttermilk-

Soaking your chicken in buttermilk for several hours before you’re ready to cook them will tenderize your chicken because of the acid in it, make it tender and juicy, and will also make the chicken flaky and crispy when you dredge it through your dry mix. This is the secret to juicy, crunchy chicken. 

  • Pickle juice-

Adding pickle juice to our egg mixture when it comes time to coat the chicken will also aid in producing tender, moist chicken. 

  • All Purpose flour-

Using good quality flour is important in this recipe as it makes up half of it, my favorite is King Arthur flour. Using quality flour will improve the taste of your chicken tenders.

  • Corn starch-

On top of flour, using corn starch will make your chicken tenders crunchy and cause clumping when coating your chicken, giving you those crunchy pieces of breading on your chicken tenders that burst with flavor. 

  • Panko Bread Crumbs-

Since we’re cooking this recipe in the air fryer, using bread crumbs will help aid in making this recipe crispy and ensure that it cooks correctly. 

  • Seasonings-

Chicken and flour alone is not enough. If you don’t have seasoning in your breading, your chicken tenders will still be good, but they won’t be flavorful.

You definitely don’t want to skimp on the seasonings when it comes to this recipe. 

  • Eggs-

We’re going to use eggs in this recipe as the binder for what holds the bread together on our chicken fingers. 

  • Franks Red Hot-

Adding hot sauce to this recipe won’t make it spicy, but it’ll give it a nice kick and add a depth of flavor that is nice. Although, if you want your chicken tenders to be hot, just add more  to your liking!

How To Make It

Step 1: Thaw Your Chicken

Depending on when you thaw your chicken, you can either thaw it in the fridge overnight, or in the sink filled with cool water.

Make sure you do this early enough in the day to have time to soak the thawed chicken in buttermilk for several hours. 

Step 2: Soak Your Chicken

Once your chicken is thawed, in a large bowl combine your buttermilk, and all of your seasonings.

Mix well, add the chicken, and toss well. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 

Step 3: Make Your Dredge 

Once your chicken is done marinating you’re ready to start cooking. Get out three bowls.

In your first bowl, combine your eggs, pickle juice, some of the buttermilk from your chicken marinade, and hot sauce. Whisk together.  

In the second bowl, combine your flour, corn starch, and again the same amount of seasonings you used for the buttermilk.

Add about a tbsp of the egg mixture into your dry mixture, this will help clump up the dry mixture a little and give the breading some texture. 

Mix well. In your third bowl measure out your bread crumbs.

Step 4: Coat Your Chicken

Starting with the flour mixture, put your chicken tenders in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then back into the flour and egg one more time.

Finally, coat them in breadcrumbs and place them on a tray. Repeat these steps until all your chicken tenders are coated. 

Once all your tenders are breaded, let your chicken tenders rest for 15 minutes or so, this will give the breading a chance to dry out a little, which will make your tenders even more crispy in the fryer. 

Step 5: Cook Your Chicken

Once your tenders are done resting, spray the basket of your air fryer with nonstick cooking spray and fill the basket with the tenders, making sure not to crowd the basket so everything will cook evenly. 

Spray the tenders with cooking spray, and cook at 400℉ for 17 minutes, flipping halfway and spraying with more oil. 

Repeat until all tenders are done cooking, covering your already cooked tenders with a paper towel to keep them warm. 

Step 6: Grab Your Dipping Sauce, And Enjoy!

Once all your chicken tenders are done cooking, plate them up and garnish with parsley if you like, and serve with whatever side dish and dipping sauces you want!

Other Alternative Ingredients

How to Make this Gluten-Free

To make this gluten free, all you will need to do is change the flour and bread crumbs.

To keep the measurement for flour the same as this recipe, you’ll want to buy a 1:1, or measure for measure gluten free flour. 

My favorite is the King Arthur brand. If you buy a flour that is not measure for measure, the brand will usually have instructions on the bag for how to convert it to the recipe you’re using.

For the breadcrumbs, you can buy gluten free breadcrumbs at most major grocery stores. 

How to Make this Keto-Friendly

To make this recipe ketogenic, you’ll want to substitute the All-Purpose flour for either almond flour, or keto wheat flour.

The measurements will be the same, and you can find that keto wheat flour is sold by, thankfully, the brand King Arthur. 

You will have to order this specialty flour on Amazon though. For the buttermilk, you’re going to either cut the buttermilk out of this recipe completely, or you can use coconut milk and white wine vinegar instead.

Simply combine 2 tbsp white wine vinegar in a measuring cup, and fill with vinegar until you get to two cups. 

For the corn starch, there aren’t many substitutes that will still keep the integrity and flavor of your dish, so I would suggest you just omit it completely. 

Don’t worry, the chicken tenders will still be good. Finally, for the breadcrumbs, you can buy bread crumbs specifically made for keto diets available at Walmart or Amazon.

How to Make These Hot Chicken Tenders

To make this recipe into spicy chicken tenders, you’ll simply want to add more hot sauce to your egg mixture, as well as cayenne and creole seasoning to your buttermilk and flour mixture, about a tbsp each. 

What if I Want to Make and Freeze my Own Chicken for this Recipe?

You absolutely can, you’ll get the same results and it will be just as tasty!

Do I Have to Add Pickle Juice and Hot Sauce?

Nope. You can choose to leave these things out, I just think it will taste better and add an exceptional flavor profile to your chicken tenders. 

What if I Just Want to Use Bread Crumbs?

You can choose to leave out the flour and only use bread crumbs, but chicken tenders may not be as crunchy, the breading won’t be very thick, and the breadcrumbs may not stick to the chicken as well, causing your tenders to have patches of missing breading. 

Can You Make This Ahead Of Time?

Of course! Follow all the instructions to make this recipe up until you’re about to cook them, instead laying them out on a tray and letting them sit in the freezer until they’re frozen again. Once that’s done, store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

What To Serve With This Dish 

This recipe is so versatile, the pairing possibilities are endless. Mac and cheese, french fries, coleslaw, really anything you’d like. 

As for dipping sauce you could go for the classic ranch, honey mustard, ketchup, or BBQ, but if you want to kick it up a notch you can toss your tenders in honey mixed with hot sauce, or honey mixed with BBQ.

General Tips And Tricks

  • Don’t marinate your chicken in the buttermilk for more than 72 hours or the acid in the buttermilk will cause your chicken to become mushy.
  • When dredging your chicken, use a fork to stir the flour after each coating. This way the flour will be broken up again after each coating and will make it easier for it to coat the chicken. 
  • To make sure you evenly coat the chicken with flour, press it down into the flour instead of dragging it through so it will adhere better. 

Cooking Times By Air Fryer Model

ModelCooking timeTemperature
Ninja Foodi15 minutes 430 ℉
Philips Airfryer XXL (HD9630)30 minutes 415 ℉
Nuwave Bravo XL Grill15-17 minutes 415 ℉
Power XL 2&3 Qt Vortex20 minutes 440 ℉
Cuisinart15 minutes 440 ℉
Cosori17 minutes 400 ℉
Breville Smart Oven25 minutes 490 ℉


Cooking Times By Brand 

Pilgrim11 minutes 
Perdue 11 minutes 
Tyson13 minutes 
Kirkwood12 -14 minutes
Great Value 14 minutes 

The number of tenders you’ll put in your basket depends on the size of your air fryer, so make sure you don’t overcrowd your basket and leave space between each tender. 

Air fryer Chicken Tenders

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 5 hours
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 17 minutes

This is the perfect recipe if you’re looking to make a quick and easy lunch or dinner that’s healthier than traditional chicken tenders which are typically fried in oil, but by using an air fryer you're cutting out the fat and calories.


  • 10 Frozen raw chicken tenders
  • Buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Pickle Juice 
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup Corn Starch
  • 2 ½ cups Panko Bread Crumbs 
  • 1 tbsp salt 
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot


  1. Thaw your chicken. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine your buttermilk and seasonings, and toss your chicken in it, making sure the buttermilk is covering all of the chicken. 
  3. Cover and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
  4. Get out 3 medium sized bowls. In the first bowl, combine your egg, pickle juice, hot sauce, and ⅓  cup of the buttermilk used with the chicken and whisk together.
  5. In the second bowl, combine your flour, corn starch, and seasonings, using the same amount listed in the recipe, and add about a tbsp of the egg mixture into your dry mixture. In the third bowl, add your bread crumbs. 
  6. Starting with your flour, dredge the chicken tenders and then put them in the egg mixture, making sure they’re fully coated, then repeat this process, putting it back into the flour and then the egg mixture.
  7. For the final coat, toss them in the bread crumbs and lay your tenders out on a tray.
  8. Let rest for 15 minutes. 
  9. Coat the basket of your air fryer with nonstick cooking spray, and fill the basket with your tenders, making sure not to overcrowd it. Lightly spray your tenders with cooking spray.
  10. Cook your tenders at 400℉ for 17 minutes, flipping halfway and spraying with more oil. Repeat this step until all your tenders are cooked. 
  11. Serve up with your sides and dipping sauces, and enjoy!
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