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Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Tenders

Air fryer chicken tenders are moist, juicy and so easy to make. Ready in 10 minutes, these healthy air fryer chicken tenderloins don’t have any breading or coating and are the perfect weeknight meal. Dip in your favorite sauce or serve along side rice, potatoes or pasta for a simple meal the whole family will enjoy.

Be sure to check out Air Fryer Chicken Bites or Air Fryer Greek Chicken for more ways to make chicken quickly in the air fryer.

Grilled chicken tenders in an air fryer basket with blue napkin on the side.
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Why you will love this air fryer chicken recipe

  • Quick and easy – since the chicken tenders are so thin, they cook up quickly. These cook in less than 10 minutes and only take a minute or two to prep.
  • Simple ingredients – this recipe for air fryer grilled chicken tenders uses a simple marinade of olive oil, apple cider vinegar and spices you likely have in your cabinets right now. This recipe was written to be super versatile and go with so many dishes.
  • Customizable – change up the flavor of the chicken tenders by using different spices before cooking or use a fun dip to change up the flavor.
  • Good for you recipe – this healthy chicken tenders recipe is made without breading and is naturally gluten free, dairy free paleo, Whole30 and low carb.
Ingredients to make air fryer grilled chicken tenders on marble countertop.

Ingredients

  • Chicken tenderloins – chicken tenders (called chicken mini fillets in the UK) are thin pieces of white meat chicken that come from the tender right behind the breast of the chicken. Chicken tenders has a tendon running through the center that can be chewy, so it’s best to take a minute to remove the tendon before cooking. You could also use chicken breast cut into thin slices.
  • Olive oil or avocado oil – the olive oil helps ensure the spices stick to the chicken and also help the chicken get juicy when cooking.
  • Apple cider vinegar – the apple cider vinegar adds a touch of acid to the dish, helping to round out the flavors without overpowering the chicken. You could also use lemon juice.
  • Spices: Salt, paprika, dried chives or garlic powder and dried thyme – these spices are super simple but add so much flavor to the chicken. Anytime I want to make a simple chicken recipe that I know everyone will love, it always starts with salt and paprika (not smoked paprika). The slight sweetness and earthiness of the paprika really makes the recipe shine. Use dried chives or garlic powder to give a slight onion/garlic flavor.

How to make chicken tenderloin in the air fryer

Start by prepping the chicken. Remove the white fibrous tendon from the center of the tenderloin. I like to use the fork and paper towel method, but you could also use a knife (see below for tips). This step is option but well worth the time investment for the best texture.

Add the chicken to a bowl. Add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and spices. Stir well until the chicken is well coated in the spices.

Place the chicken in the air fryer basket, ensure that the chicken doesn’t overlap (I usually use tongs for this).

Raw chicken tenders in air fryer basket before cooking.

Cook at 375F for 8 minutes. After 6 minutes of cooking, pause the air fryer and flip the chicken, making sure that the chicken is again in a single layer.

Chicken tenders in air fryer basket before being flipped.

After 8 minutes, let the air fryer turn off but don’t open it. Let the chicken rest for 2-3 minutes in the air fryer. This allows the chicken to continue to cook with the residual heat but doesn’t overcook the chicken.

Once 2-3 minutes have passed, open the air fryer and check to ensure the chicken is done (use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 165For split the thickest piece in half to ensure it’s fully cooked).

Fully cooked chicken tenders in air fryer basket.

Top tip for making grilled chicken tenders in the air fryer

  • Take the time to remove the white tendon from the tenders. Although tenders are thin and easy to cook, leaving the white tendon in can make them chewy and less delicious.
  • The cooking time will depend on how thick the chicken tenders are and how strong your air fryer is. I have tested this recipe 4 times in my Ninja Air Fryer and it works perfectly each time. If you have a different model, you may need more time.
  • Don’t let the chicken overlap or it may take longer to cook, which can dry out the chicken.
  • Make this with chicken breast instead of tenders if you prefer. Cut the chicken breast down into 1-1.5 inch long pieces for easy cooking.
  • Change up the flavor based on what you are serving with the air fryer grilled chicken tenders.

Other flavors to try

This recipe for chicken tenders in the air fryer was written to be very versatile, meaning that the flavors will go with so many dishes so that you can always use this base recipe for any meal.

However, if you are making something specific and want to change the flavors or want to try something different, here are some other flavor combinations you can try:

  • Mexican – remove the dried thyme, reduce the paprika to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.
  • Italian – remove the dried thyme, reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1.5 teaspoons of italian seasoning
  • Greek – remove the dried thyme, reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Use lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar
  • Smoky – reduce the paprika to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Spicy – add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
  • Ranch – omit the paprika and dried thyme. Use a total of 1 tablespoon dried chives, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon dried dill and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • BBQ – remove the dried thyme add 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Everything bagel – remove the dried thyme, reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Add 1 tablespoon of everything bagel seasoning.
Hand holding a grilled air fryer chicken tender over the plate.

What to serve with air fryer chicken tenders

Common questions

How do you remove the tendon from chicken tenders

I have found that the easiest method for this is the paper towel and fork method.

  • Use a paper towel to grip the white tendon (usually a little bit is visible and easy enough to grab with a paper towel). If you can’t easily grip the tendon, use the fork to expose it enough that you can grip it with the paper towel.
  • Once you have a grip on the tendon, place the prongs of the fork around the tendon then pull down with the fork. The fork will follow the tendon down and you will be able to pull it out completely without using a knife.

Alternatively, you can use a sharp knife and cut the tendon out with the chicken on a cutting board. Try not to take too much of the chicken meat when doing this.

Grilled chicken tenderloins in the air fryer basket.

Can you use chicken breast for this recipe?

Yes, you can easily use chicken breast instead of tenders. Be sure to cut the chicken down into 1-1.5 inch strips to ensure that the chicken breast cooks up in the same amount of time.

Can you use frozen chicken

The beauty of this recipe is that it cooks quickly and that the chicken is well coated in the delicious marinade for a juicy, tasty piece of chicken in each bite. Frozen chicken is hard to coat in the marinade and may not cook evenly.

Because of that I recommend that you use fresh chicken tenders or defrost your chicken in the fridge 24-36 hours in advance. I like to place the chicken in a large container with cold water in the fridge to ensure that it defrosts completely overnight.

Can you double the recipe?

If you want to double the recipe, you will need to cook the chicken in batches so that the chicken does not overlap in the air fryer.

Air fryer chicken tenders stacked on a white plate.

Storing leftovers

  • Fridge: These air fryer chicken tenders actually maintain their moist, juicy interior even after being in the fridge and reheated. Store in the fridge up to 3 days.
  • Reheat leftover chicken tenders in the microwave (1:30 -2 minutes on high) or in the air fryer at 350F  for 3-4 minutes until hot.
  • Freezer: You can also freeze leftovers. Allow the chicken to cool completely in the fridge then transfer to a freezer safe bag or container and freeze up to 3 months. Allow the chicken to defrost completely before reheating or the chicken is likely to dry out when reheating.

Substitutions

  • Chicken tenderloin – use boneless, skinless chicken breast or turkey breast cut into thin strips (1-1.5 inches)
  • Olive oil – use avocado oil or your favorite neutral oil
  • Apple cider vinger – use lemon juice or lime juice in place of the vinegar.
  • Spices – see the list of spices above or use your favorite spice combination.

If you love this healthy chicken recipe, you should try

Spatchcock Chicken (Air Fryer)

Buffalo Chicken Bites (10 minutes)

Italian Chicken Cubes (10 minutes)

Shredded Chicken Breast (Instant Pot)

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Chicken tenders in air fryer basket with a blue napkin on the side.

Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Tenders

Air fryer chicken tenders are moist, juicy, easy to make and ready in 10 minutes. These chicken tenderloins cooked in the air fryer are healthy and made without any breading. Naturally gluten free, dairy free, Whole30 and low carb friendly.
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Course: dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: air fryer chicken tenders, air fryer grilled chicken tenders, chicken tenderloins air fryer
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Prep the chicken by removing the white tendons from the chicken tenderloins. Use a knife or fork and paper towel method (see below).
  • Add chicken to bowl with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and spices. Stir well until all the chicken is well coated.
  • Place the chicken tenders in the air fryer basket (try not to overlap the chicken).
  • Cook in air fryer at 375F for 8 minutes. After 6 minutes, pause the air fryer and flip the chicken.
  • After 8 minutes, turn off the air fryer but don't open the air fryer basket. Let the chicken rest for 2 minutes in the hot air fryer basket to continue to cook. This helps ensure the chicken is cooked without overcooking it).
  • Check the chicken to ensure it's fully cooked (should read 165F in the thickest part. If it needs more time, cook 1-2 more minutes at 375F.

Equipment

Notes

Top tips
  • Take the time to remove the white tendon from the tenders. Although tenders are thin and easy to cook, leaving the white tendon in can make them chewy and less delicious.
  • The cooking time will depend on how thick the chicken tenders are and how strong your air fryer is. I have tested this recipe 4 times in my Ninja Air Fryer and it works perfectly each time. If you have a different model, you may need more time.
  • Don’t let the chicken overlap or it may take longer to cook, which can dry out the chicken.
  • Make this with chicken breast instead of tenders if you prefer. Cut the chicken breast down into 1-1.5 inch long pieces for easy cooking.
  • Change up the flavor based on what you are serving with the air fryer grilled chicken tenders.
Other flavors
Here are some other flavor combinations you can try:
  • Mexican – reduce the paprika to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.
  • Italian – reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1.5 teaspoons of italian seasoning
  • Greek – reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. Use lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar
  • Smoky – reduce the paprika to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Spicy – add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
  • Ranch – omit the paprika. Use a total of 1 tablespoon dried chives, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon dried dill and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • BBQ – add 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Everything bagel – reduce the paprika down to 1/4 teaspoon and reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Add 1 tablespoon of everything bagel seasoning.
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Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
230
Fat
 
8
g
Carbohydrates
 
1
g
Fiber
 
0.3
g
Sugar
 
0.1
g
Protein
 
36
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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