Frozen chicken tenders in air fryer make for a quick weeknight dinner, or a fun family treat for the weekend. Pair with perfectly crispy fries, or a veg and salad. And if you want a bit of extra oomph, amp up the flavor with my chicken tender upgrade and dip suggestions! If you’re ready to transform frozen chicken tenders to crispy on the outside, tender on the inside bites of perfect – keep reading!
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Strips are a Busy Family’s Best Friend
It’s a scene that’s familiar to families across the country (and probably the world). It’s mid week, and you have just enough time for a quick dinner after picking up Kid #1 for piano lessons and before shuttling Kid #2 to soccer practice.
Life these days is constantly on the go, and sometimes (okay – a lot of the time) families need something quick and delicious while making their way through the week.
Enter: air fryer frozen chicken tenders.
Air fryers are a busy person’s best friend, because they are high on the “set it and forget it” scale of convenience, while still making food that’s really darn good. I’ve become an air fryer fanatic in recent months, perfecting the art of air fryer frozen fries, air fryer pot pies, and air fryer burritos. Yum!
The brilliant thing about air fryers is they’re fast, and they consistently pump out perfectly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside food. No more soggy fries or mushy chicken strips breading. And you can do it without a ton of oil.
The air fryer is here to save dinner, and delivery the crispy you want in the time you have. If you’re ready to perfect air fryer frozen chicken strips, keep reading for my recipe and best tips!
Why Air Fryer Chicken Tenders Beats Baking, Deep Frying, or Ordering Takeout / Fast Food
On busy nights, I find it’s fairly easy to fall into the takeout trap. We eat takeout more often than I’d like to admit because, at the end of the day after working, getting a bit of exercise, and stealing a few moments to hang as a family, cooking is often the last thing my husband and I want to do.
And then there’s a whole other rabbit hole beyond the takeout trap: I’m talking fast food and drive through. Fast food seems even easier some days, especially when shuttling kids from activity to activity.
With air frying, however, it really isn’t a huge stretch to switch from relying on takeout or fast food to popping some frozen chicken tenders in air fryer, and prepping some raw or steamed veg or a salad. It makes dinner a bit friendlier on the wallet, not to mention your family’s health, and really doesn’t take too much time.
Cooking frozen chicken tenders in air fryer at home means you control what you’re eating. And any time it comes to food and ingredients, controlling what you put in your body is good news for your health.
You can use less oil, and choose the brand of chicken tenders you use (i.e. higher meat content, less fillers, less additives). You can also choose the type of breading you want if you’re on a special diet, or if you want to control for a specific ingredient or flavor preference (i.e. gluten free, coconut breading, etc).
At a restaurant or in a fast food lineup, their understanding of consumer behaviour always seems to best me, and I end up ordering the extra soda or treat I didn’t intend to buy. But by staying at home and keeping it in my kitchen, I find it’s much easier to add healthier choices, like veg or a salad, and a glass of water!
And of course, cooking at home is better choice for staying on a budget too!
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
Start by preheating your air fryer to 375F. I know I bang on this drum a lot, but pre-heating your air fryer (even if your air fryer instructions say you don’t have to) will you cook your air fryer chicken strips more evenly. This means perfectly crispy breading on the outside, and evenly cooked tender meat on the inside.
Once pre-heated, remove the frozen chicken strips from packaging and place in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
You don’t need to use oil, but if you want to ensure it doesn’t stick, use a really thin spray of high quality pure cooking oil. Evo misters are popular when making an air fryer recipe, because they let you use your own oil, and keep the quantity of oil to a minimum.
Air Fry the frozen chicken strips at 375F for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on size of the chicken strip.
For the frozen chicken tenders pictured in this post, I air fried for 18 minutes, and then let them rest for a minute. If you have smaller chicken tenders, 12 to 14 minutes should do the trick.
Remove the air fryer chicken tenders from the air fryer basket, and check they’re done using an instant-read meat thermometer. You want poultry to reach an internal temperature of at least 165F for safety.
Serve! I like to pair air fried chicken tenders with a dipping sauce, fries, veggies or a salad!
FAQs and Tips for Cooking Air Fryer Chicken Tenders (How to Get Frozen Chicken Tenders Perfect!)
Can I Stack Frozen Chicken Strips in the Air Fryer Basket?
No. You need to lay them flat in a single layer, and even leave a bit of space between them so they don’t stick together.
The whole magic of an air fryer is in the name – the air! The hot air needs to circulate freely and have access to the full surface area of whatever you’re cooking. In this case, leave a bit of space between the frozen chicken strips so the air can do its work, and make them perfectly crispy!
How Do You Know When Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Strips Are Done?
Use a meat thermometer when checking your chicken strips for doneness. Anytime you’re cooking poultry, you want to make sure it’s cooked thoroughly and reached a safe internal temperature of at least 165F. Meat thermometers have come a long way in the past decade, and the instant read versions with a digital screen are super easy to use (and give a lot of peace of mind!)
Are These Instructions for Pre-Cooked Frozen Chicken Strips or Raw?
These instructions for cooking chicken tenders in air fryer apply to raw chicken tenders.
You can also buy pre-cooked chicken, which will take less time by a few minutes.
In both cases, however, you should bring the tenders to the correct internal temperature according to the box to avoid food bourne illness – this is most likely 165F.
What About Different Variations on Breading?
For this frozen chicken strips recipe, I used standard breaded frozen chicken strips.
But there are tons of variations on the market today, and cook time will vary by a few minutes. If you want to experiment, try these instructions on different types of frozen chicken tenders:
- Panko Chicken Tenders. Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb that uses crustless white bread crumbs. They get super crispy in the air fryer or oven.
- Italian Bread Crumbs. These are flavored bread crumbs which often have some Italian cheese in them. Unfortunately, the cheese can burn in an air fryer. If you’re cooking air fryer frozen chicken tenders that use Italian seasoned bread crumbs, double check they don’t start burning. Sneak a peak at around the 10 minute mark.
- Gluten Free Chicken Strips. I haven’t tried making air fryer chicken tenders with gluten free breadcrumbs. I don’t know how the gluten free breading cooks compared to “normal” breading. I’d proceed with the same caution as you would with Italian bread crumbs.
- Coconut Frozen Chicken Strips: Check coconut chicken tenders at the 10 minute mark!
How to Make Frozen Chicken Tenders Better?
Personally, I love crispy chicken strips on their own. A bit of salt, some store bought dipping sauce, and a side of perfectly crispy fries? Perfection!
However, if you’re feeling creative, there are plenty of ways to upgrade your standard strips in the air fryer!
What Kind of Sauce to Use for Frozen Chicken Strips?
- Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Homemade BBQ Sauce
- Hot sauce
Chicken Parmesan and Marinara Tenders
After cooking, transfer your chicken tenders to a silicone mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Grate fresh parmesan and mozzarella on top. Melt the cheese slightly, sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley on top, and dip in store bought marinara sauce.
Make Breakfast for Dinner with Chicken and Waffles
For a big Sunday brunch or breakfast for dinner, these air fried chicken tenders work perfectly for my chicken and waffles.
You can read the full recipe here, but you basically pile the air fried chicken strips on top of a toaster waffle. Then drizzle with honey, maple syrup and optional sriracha for a bit of a kick!
I hope you enjoyed this article about how to cook frozen chicken strips in an air fryer.
If you know a chicken tender lover in your life, or someone who’s just getting started with air frying, please share!
- 1 bag of frozen chicken tenders from your favorite brand (I used large chicken strips in this recipe)
- Preheat air fryer to 375F for 3 to 4 minutes, or until your digital screen shows the correct temperature.
- Place 5 to 6 large frozen chicken tenders in air fryer basket, arranging in a single layer with a bit of space between each tender.
- Air fry at 375F for 18 minutes.
- Check internal temperature before serving. Chicken is safe at 165F internal temperature.
Air fry time will vary slightly based on the size and type of frozen chicken tender you use, as well as your air fryer. This cook time was calculated based on large frozen chicken strips. If you use strips that are more nugget sized, adjust the time downward and check after 10 minutes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 56Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 148mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g
ATurtlesLifeForMe.com offers estimations of nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators via a third-party plugin, and may be inaccurate. It is meant as a best guess, and not intended to provide dietary advice of any kind. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information obtained is accurate.