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Naked Chicken Tenders | Air Fryer Recipe

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Tender, juicy and full of flavor, these naked chicken tenders are air fried in no time. There’s no breading so these chicken fingers are low carb and fuss-free!

If you are new to using an Air Fryer, you may be interested in this Air Fryer for Beginners E-Book from Recipe This. It includes 101 recipes great for beginner Air Fryer users. If you need a little more in-depth training on using the Air Fryer, then their Air Fryer Advanced Quickstart Mini Course would be perfect.

Have you hopped on the air fryer bandwagon yet? We purchased an air fryer a little over a year ago, and I am just now sharing our first recipe. Now, that doesn’t mean this is my first time using our air fryer! In fact when we first got it I was using it all the time! I love cooking chicken wings in the air fryer, as well as quick roasting veggies.

However, the thing we cook most in our air fryer are these naked chicken tenders! Now this is a simple recipe that only requires some seasoning and lime juice. You could also use lemon juice if you don’t have lime. Simply coat the chicken tenders in lime juice and oil. Then season liberally! Please note that this recipe is full of spice. If you can’t handle the heat 😉 feel free to adjust the chili powder and pepper to your own preference.

raw chicken tenders seasoned ready to cook

These naked chicken tenders are juicy, flavorful and have a nice crispier outer coating. It’s amazing how close you can get to a fried chicken tender without breading and without skin with an air fryer! Plus with no breading these naked tenders are low carb and gluten free!

crispy naked chicken tenders

A few tips for cooking in an air fryer.

First, don’t crowd the meat inside the cooking basket. Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the food to create an even crispness. If the chicken is crowded and overlapping, then the air cannot circulate evenly, resulting in uneven cooking. Of course we have a smaller 3 qt air fryer, if you have a larger air fryer that has trays you can slide in and out, it may not be a problem for you.

birds eye view of chicken tenders in air fryer basket before cooking

The second tip for cooking chicken or other meat in an air fryer is making sure to use a liquid or oil to keep the seasonings in place. Like I mentioned before, hot air will be circulating around the meat, which could result in the seasonings blowing around and not sticking to the chicken. This could cause problems with your air fryer working properly. Giving the chicken a soak in some liquid first not only helps keep it moist and tender, but it gives the seasonings something to stick to. This will give you those nice crispy but juicy and flavorful naked chicken tenders.

birds eye view of finished chicken tenders in air fryer basket

The last tip for cooking in an air fryer doesn’t only apply to chicken or meat, but applies to everything. Buy an oil mister, don’t use those oils that come in a spray bottle. Generally those spray oils have a preservative in them that can cause the non-stick surface of the air fryer to start peeling over time. You don’t want that happening believe me! I use a Misto Oil Sprayer that you just put plain oil in (I use olive in our air fryer) and pump air into to create a spray.

chicken tenders after cooking

Can I use frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer?

This is another thing I have learned with our air fryer. Yes, you CAN use frozen chicken tenders and simply cook them a little bit longer. I will say that in my experience the cooked from frozen chicken tenders tend to be a little drier when cooked. They also create exponentially more mess to clean up in the air fryer basket. For these reasons and the best flavor I highly recommend using chicken tenders that are thawed out. In a pinch though, yes you can use frozen chicken tenders.

Close up finished naked chicken tenders

I don’t have an air fryer. Can I bake the chicken tenders instead?

You absolutely can bake these naked chicken tenders if you don’t have an air fryer. I recommend placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat your oven to 350, and once warmed, bake the tenders for 15-20 minutes. You’ll want to check them around the 12-13 minute mark if your chicken tenderloins are on the smaller side. It is important to note that baked chicken tenders will not be as “crisp” on the outside as when cooked in an air fryer.

Looking for more recipes using chicken tenders? Check these out!

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If you are new to using an Air Fryer, you may be interested in this Air Fryer for Beginners E-Book from Recipe This. It includes 101 recipes great for beginner Air Fryer users. If you need a little more in-depth training on using the Air Fryer, then their Air Fryer Advanced Quickstart Mini Course would be perfect.

This recipe is spicy. If spice isn’t your thing, adjust the chili powder and pepper to your own preference.
Naked Chicken Tenders Air Fryer Recipe

Naked Chicken Tenders Air Fryer Recipe

Yield: 8 chicken tenders
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Tender, juicy and full of flavor, these naked chicken tenders are air fried in no time. There's no breading so these chicken fingers are low carb and fuss-free!

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Olive oil mister* as needed

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine all dry seasonings and set aside *
  2. Add lime juice (or lemon juice) and 1 tbsp olive oil to a large ziploc bag. Toss chicken tenderloins in the liquid. Remove the chicken and discard bag.
  3. Coat both sides of chicken tenderloins with seasoning mix.
  4. Preheat air fryer to 375 for 3 minutes.
  5. After preheated, spray inside tray of air fryer with olive oil mister.
  6. Place chicken tenders in basket in a single layer. Do not crowd.
  7. Cook for 12-15 minutes at 375, flipping chicken tenders half way through cook time. If tenders are on the smaller side cook for 12 minutes and check for doneness. If juices run clear they are done.
  8. Serve warm with dipping sauce or your favorite side dish.

Notes

* This recipe is spicy. If spice isn't your thing, adjust the chili powder and pepper to your own preference.

Using an oil mister over prepackaged spray oil is preferred for most air fryers. Some prepackaged spray oil contains a chemical/preservative that can cause damage to the non-stick surface of the air fryer.

A small air fryer will fit 4-5 chicken tenders at a time. Cook the first batch fully, set on a plate and cover in foil while the second batch cooks. Once the second batch is cooked, place the first batch back in the air fryer for an additional 1 minute to heat back up.

Nutrition Information
Yield 8 tenders Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 117Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 38mgSodium 345mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 14g

Nutrition values are automatically calculated by third-party software using global standards. Please note that values can vary based on product brands and different nutritional calculators. The values stated here are only for a basic reference and are not evaluated by medical or nutritional professionals.

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Connie and George

Friday 9th of April 2021

This chicken recipe was delightful. I didn’t use chili powder. I did use turmeric, cardamom, tajin, salt pepper and onion powder. It didn’t look like enough dry mix so I added corn starch. All in moderation and it was delightful. I do believe the lime juice and olive oil are magic. Loved this dish.

Carmen

Sunday 4th of April 2021

Yes it’s hot, but it’s perfect. My bf loved it and wants to try the seasoning with pork chops too! Thanks!

Linda

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

Holy moly...my mouth is on fire!

Dave Peters

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Holy PEPPER Batman - way too much pepper - maybe 1/4 tspn?

Amanda

Friday 5th of March 2021

The recipe is correct as written, but feel free to adjust for your own personal taste!

Bruce

Thursday 4th of March 2021

We have an oven French door style air fryer. Should I use the basket type of insert, or just the regular solid pan style?

Amanda

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Hi Bruce. I don't have experience with that type of air fryer so I can't say for sure. If the pan has holes or room underneath that the air will circulate under, I'd say go for that. Otherwise the basket may work better for more crisp.