Forget to defrost dinner? No need to worry because you can cook these frozen chicken breasts right in the air fryer! Not only are they ready in less than 30 minutes but they’re incredibly tender and juicy too.
We’ve all had those days where dinner just totally escapes you. Or, those times where we fully intended to defrost something and just forgot.
Well, here’s some good news for those exact times – you can cook frozen chicken breasts in the air fryer without any thawing necessary!
I’ve done a few frozen recipes in the air fryer before like frozen air fryer broccoli and shrimp so I knew the air fryer was capable of taking something that was essentially a block of ice and turning it into a crispy delicious final dish but I had my doubts about it being able to keep an entire chicken breast tender and juicy while cooking.
I was happy to be proven wrong though and end up with perfectly moist and juicy chicken breasts in just 25 minutes.
So, if it’s one of those nights and you just need a quick and easy dinner on the table, this one’s for you!
Prefer a seafood dinner instead? Check out the recipe for making frozen salmon in the air fryer instead!
CAN YOU COOK CHICKEN BREASTS FROM FROZEN IN AN AIR FRYER?
Yes! I know it seems nuts that you can cook a completely frozen piece of chicken in the air fryer but it’s true!
With just a few extra minutes of cooking time than a thawed chicken breast, the air fryer will completely cook a frozen chicken breast and keep it moist and tender!
Only have chicken tenders in the freezer? No worries, those will cook just as well as breasts. Or, you can turn them in to delicious crispy air fryer buffalo chicken tenders.
From oil sprays to muffin cups and from pizza pans to racks, we've got them all, and they make fantastic Christmas presents, too!
DO I NEED TO THAW CHICKEN BEFORE AIR FRYING?
Not if you don’t want to!
The beauty of the air fryer is its flexibility. It’s sort of similar to the Instant Pot in that it can handle defrosted or frozen meats with ease.
If you find yourself having forgot to defrost the chicken for dinner, this recipe is for you. There’s no need to thaw the chicken before air frying.
The air fryer makes quick work of anything frozen and you can even do your side dish by making these air fryer frozen vegetables too!
INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING AIR FRYER FROZEN CHICKEN BREASTS
- 2 frozen uncooked chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds total)
- avocado oil
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- smoked paprika
The seasoning mixture is really up to you though.
You can use any seasoning blend you like, you’ll just be mixing it with the oil as you’ll see below to create a “paste” that’s then brushed all over the frozen chicken before it cooks in the air fryer.
HOW TO COOK FROZEN CHICKEN BREASTS IN THE AIR FRYER
I don’t often preheat the air fryer when using it but this is one of those times you’ll want to. Similar to this air fryer skirt steak or air fryer lamb chop recipe, you want the air fryer nice and hot before the meat goes in.
Preheat the air fryer at 400°F for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the avocado oil and spices together in a small bowl and stir until combined. Brush the mixture on top of each chicken breast coating the entire surface.
Place the seasoned chicken into the air fryer either on the trays of an oven model or in the basket. This is one of those times you may want to use aluminum foil in the air fryer to catch any drippings as the chicken cooks for easier cleanup.
Air fry the frozen chicken breasts for about 25 minutes.
If you have a basket model air fryer, flip the chicken half way through the cooking time.
If you have an oven model air fryer, this isn’t necessary as long as the tray is placed in the middle of the air fryer so the air can evenly circulate around the chicken as it cooks.
Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken breasts but for these which were about 1 1/4″ thick, it took 25 minutes.
The best way to determine if the chicken is fully cooked is to use an instant read thermometer. Once the chicken reaches 165°F it’s safe to eat.
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, err on the side of underdone and slice the meat in the thickest part. If it’s still red/pink, you can always return it to the air fryer to cook longer.
Remove the chicken once fully cooked and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
For a simple dinner, serve with rice, potatoes or something like mashed yuca and your favorite vegetable.
CAN YOU MAKE COOKED FROZEN CHICKEN BREASTS IN AN AIR FRYER?
This recipe is for cooking raw, uncooked chicken breasts in the air fryer but you can definitely also use pre-cooked frozen chicken breasts if that’s what you have on hand.
The process and recipe is exactly the same, you’ll just reduce the cooking time in the air fryer slightly.
Since you don’t need to worry about the chicken hitting 165°F as it’s already been cooked, pull the chicken from the air fryer once it’s warmed through.
This will probably take at least 15-18 minutes from a purely frozen state.
TIPS FOR THE BEST AIR FRIED FROZEN CHICKEN BREASTS
- Try to choose chicken breasts of a similar size so they cook evenly at the same time.
- If you have a basket air fryer, make sure not to stack or overlap the chicken breasts. This is more easily avoided in oven models with trays.
- Don’t let the chicken thaw at all while prepping. The seasoning mixture actually sticks better to the frozen chicken if it’s frozen solid rather than spent any time at room temperature.
- Save the juices from the bottom tray of the air fryer! Pour them over the chicken before serving for extra flavor!
WHAT OTHER SEASONINGS CAN I USE?
This seasoning blend is both simple and pretty universally liked but if you prefer to try a different blend of flavorings, feel free!
Here are some other chicken breast seasoning ideas:
- Italian seasoning blend
- Chili spices
- BBQ sauce
- Buffalo sauce (like these Instant Pot chicken leg quarters)
Combine the seasonings with the oil (unless using BBQ or buffalo sauce) to create a paste and brush onto the chicken in the same method as this recipe.
STORING AND REHEATING LEFTOVER CHICKEN BREAST
The chicken can be stored just like any other chicken leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
It makes great leftovers for lunch, can easily be repurposed into tacos or shredded for adding to salads and topping pizzas.
I find using the microwave for reheating to be the best at retaining moisture in the chicken. Reheat in a glass container or plate with a loose cover and only until just warmed. You want to avoid cooking the chicken any further if possible.
MORE AIR FRYER RECIPES TO TRY:
If you have split chicken breasts, try this split chicken breast recipe also made in the air fryer. The seasonings are simple just like this recipe but with great flavor from including the bone!
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Breasts
- 2 frozen chicken breasts, about 1.5 pounds total
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat air fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the oil and spices in a small bowl and stir until combined.
- Brush the seasoning mixture onto the tops of the chicken breasts coating the entire surface.
- Place the seasoned chicken breasts into the air fryer and cook for about 25 minutes. If you have a basket air fryer model, you'll want to flip the chicken half way through cooking. If you have an oven model air fryer, there's no need to do this, simply place the tray in the middle of the air fryer for even cooking.
- The chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature reads 165°F with an instant thermometer. Cooking time will depend on thickness of the chicken breasts.
- Remove cooked chicken from the air fryer and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing to serve.
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.