Ultra-crispy air fryer buffalo chicken tenders are a healthier knock-off recipe for the deep fried restaurant version. Perfect for an easy crave-worthy appetizer or main dish everyone will love.
Raise your (virtual) hand if you used to frequent chain restaurants back in the day and easily demolish an order of boneless buffalo chicken wings.
Mine’s sticking straight up.
Man, those were the days. Crap quality chicken, deep fried in the worst oils imaginable, coated in chemically laden sauce and not a single care in the world about eating it whatsoever.
That pretty much sums up my entire teens and most of my twenties. It was a blissful time.
So today, I’m recreating that delicious memory in a healthier way that my 40 year old self who knows better can fully enjoy.
These air fryer buffalo chicken tenders sacrifice none of the addicting flavor or texture of the real deal deep-fried original and they’re neck in neck with this chicken wing marinade recipe for the the best tasting chicken appetizer.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE CRISPY AIR FRYER BUFFALO CHICKEN TENDERS
- chicken tenders (or boneless chicken breasts cut into strips)
- buttermilk (store-bought or homemade)
- hot sauce
- gluten-free flour (or swap all-purpose flour)
- salt & pepper
- garlic powder
- baking powder
- buffalo sauce (choose your favorite store-bought brand)
From oil sprays to muffin cups and from pizza pans to racks, we've got them all, and they make fantastic Christmas presents, too!
GLUTEN-FREE & DAIRY-FREE AIR FRYER BUFFALO CHICKEN STRIPS
By simply using a gluten-free flour blend to coat the chicken tenders this recipe can be made without gluten. Of course, if you don’t need it to be gluten-free, all purpose flour can be used instead.
Buttermilk is used to tenderize the chicken (just like you would in traditional fried chicken) but if you’d like to keep the recipe dairy-free, use a non-dairy milk and make your own “buttermilk” by adding a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.
Homemade buttermilk can also be made with regular milk if you don’t want to purchase buttermilk for this recipe. I do this all the time in any recipe that calls for buttermilk.
And while I haven’t tried it with this recipe specifically, if you’re sensitive to eggs, aquafaba is a good vegan replacement. I use it for these Air Fryer Green Bean Fries and Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries with great success.
HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER BUFFALO CHICKEN
Start by preheating the air fryer to 400°F and lightly greasing the basket or trays with avocado or olive oil spray.
Pat the chicken tenders dry using a paper towel then place in a bowl with the buttermilk and hot sauce, turning to fully coat the chicken. Let soak for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and baking powder in a large shallow bowl.
Beat the eggs in another shallow bowl.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture letting any excess drip off then dredge in the flour. Transfer from the flour mixture to the beaten eggs and then back to the flour for a second coating.
The second coating is the key step to that extra crunchy exterior, don’t skip it!
Shake off any excess flour and transfer to the air fryer.
Air fry the chicken tenders at 400°F for 10 minutes total (or until fully cooked to 165°F internal temperature), flipping halfway through.
If using a basket model air fryer, the chicken will likely have to be air fried in batches. For air fryer oven models, the chicken tenders should fit on the trays in one batch.
Once the chicken comes out of the air fryer, brush with the buffalo sauce until well coated.
Serve immediately for the crispiest chicken.
HOW TO SERVE AIR FRYER BUFFALO CHICKEN STRIPS
For a simple appetizer, anything buffalo sauce flavored is always delicious with a blue cheese or ranch type dipping sauce and some celery or carrots. This creamy 3-herb dressing is also a great pairing.
It’s exactly how I enjoy these Buffalo Instant Pot Chicken Leg Quarters and honestly, I could do the same with these buffalo chicken strips and call it a meal.
For a more balanced meal, serve with a simple side dish of rice and your favorite vegetable.
Air Fryer Frozen Broccoli is an easy yet delicious option. With a meal like this I’m not above throwing some 2-minute rice in the microwave and rounding out dinner.
A simple salad is also an easy way to complete this meal.
HOW TO AVOID SOGGY CHICKEN TENDERS IN THE AIR FRYER
The easiest way to avoid the chicken tenders coming out of the air fryer soggy is to make sure to not overcrowd the chicken while cooking.
There should be ample space between the chicken tenders so the air can circulate around the entire piece of chicken and get the exterior nice and crispy.
Any leftover chicken can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Reheat in the air fryer for the crispiest results. It’s not recommended to freeze this recipe. The chicken will become very soggy after thawing.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THESE AIR FRIED BUFFALO CHICKEN TENDERS
- The crispy coating rivals anything out of a deep fryer.
- The buffalo sauce flavor is front and center.
- The spice level is easily adjusted based on the hot sauce you choose. Make it milder for a crowd or spice it up for die hard buffalo lovers.
- It’s easy! Unlike traditional deep frying, clean up is a breeze and you’re not left with any lingering oil smells.
MORE BUFFALO SAUCE RECIPES TO TRY:
Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Tenders
- 1 1/4 pound chicken tenders or boneless chicken breasts cut into strips
- 1 cup buttermilk, *see note
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend, can sub all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
- Preheat air fryer to 400°F and lightly grease the basket or trays with an olive oil or avocado oil spray.
- Pat the chicken dry using a paper towel.
- Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl and place the chicken in the bowl, turning to fully coat in the buttermilk mixture. Let sit for 15 minutes to tenderize.
- Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl large enough to fit the chicken strips and set aside.
- Combine the flour, spices and baking powder in another shallow bowl.
- Remove the chicken from the buttermilk one piece at a time shaking off any excess liquid and dredge in the flour mixture. Transfer to the bowl with the beaten eggs, turn to coat and then return to the flour mixture for a second coating. Shake off any excess flour and place in the air fryer basket or trays depending on the model.
- Repeat with remaining chicken tenders.
- Air fry the chicken at 400°F for 5 minutes per side flipping halfway through. Work in batches if necessary until all the chicken is air fried.
- Transfer to a plate after air frying and brush with the buffalo sauce. Best served immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.