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How To Cook Frozen Chicken Tenders In an Air Fryer

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So you have an air fryer, and you want to use it instead of your oven to make crispy chicken tenders for your kids. You’ve heard that it makes healthier fried food than a normal fryer, but you have no idea how to air fry frozen chicken. How can you cook frozen chicken tenders in your new air fryer?

Here’s how to cook frozen chicken tenders straight from the freezer in an air fryer:

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400℉ (204.4℃).
  2. Spritz the basket with cooking spray (optional).
  3. Lay frozen chicken tenders in a single layer in the basket.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes
  5. Let cool for a few minutes.
Cooked breaded chicken tenders in a basket beside fries.

Get more easy recipe ideas here.

These instructions are valid for pre-cooked chicken tenders only. But don’t worry, as this article will address instructions for raw and cooked frozen chicken tenders. 

The only ingredients you need for this air fryer recipe are frozen breaded chicken strips from your local grocery store (we like Tyson chicken but use your favorite brand) and perhaps some cooking spray so they won’t stick to the basket. 

Let’s get started with this easy air fryer recipe!

1. Preheat the Air Fryer to 400℉ (204.4℃)

If you want crispy chicken tenders, you’ll need to set your air fryer to at least 350℉ (176.6℃) or higher to cook them properly. When you have frozen foods, such as frozen chicken tenders, you’ll need to set the temperature to at least 400℉ (204.4℃). But why?

The temperature needs to be this high because, if it isn’t, the frozen parts, such as the breading, could create a very soggy outer layer, which is not very appetizing. 

Should you preheat your air fryer?

You don’t need to, as the temperature will quickly rise anyway. However, if you start with a hot fryer, there’s not as much chance of the breading getting soggy. Also, if you start with a hot fryer, you don’t risk getting food poisoning when the chicken falls below the safe temperature.

The best way to keep your frozen chicken tenders away from the danger zone is to start with a hot air fryer.

2. Spritz the Basket With Cooking Spray

Some state that you should not spritz your air fryer basket with oil, as it could ruin the basket. However, others say that this should be fine if you don’t put too much on it. 

While this might seem somewhat confusing, let’s see if I can clarify it for you. 

The reason why some people caution against spraying oil on your fry basket is since it depends solely on air circulation, the fry basket needs to have the slots free from any debris, crumbs, or fat. 

So when you spray it with oil, it could clog, and the air won’t circulate well.

I find it works best to use only a small amount of cooking spray to avoid food sticking and be sure to clean well after the fryer cools.

RELATED: How to Cook Frozen French Fries in the Air Fryer

3. Lay Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Nuggets In a Single Layer In the Basket

While this next step should be common knowledge, many people seem to think that if they put an entire pile in the basket, the air fryer will make it come out perfectly.

Air fryer frozen chicken strips need to be in a single layer.

If you don’t put a single layer inside the fry basket, it will not cook properly, and your tenders will become soggy. To avoid that, you’ll want to lay your frozen chicken tenders in a single layer in the basket. 

By doing this, you ensure that your air fryer frozen chicken tenders come out very crispy.

If you intend to cook a lot of chicken fingers, you may need to consider cooking them in multiple batches so you maintain single layer cooking in the air fryer.

4. Cook For 8-10 Minutes

An air fryer comes with an internal timer, but you might not want to depend on this. The reason is that sometimes, these timers don’t always work properly. Instead, you’ll want to set a separate timer for 8-10 minutes at 400℉ (204.4℃) for frozen tenders.

A Cuisinart air fryer set for 400 degrees to cook chicken nuggets for 10 minutes.

You may want to check on your tenders halfway through the cooking time and flip them so they are cooked thoroughly and that there are no burned spots.

5. Let Cool For a Few Minutes

Once your air fryer chicken tenders are cooked, you’ll want to remove them from the basket and place them on a cooling rack for a few minutes.  

You don’t want to bite into a scorching hot chicken tender!

After they’ve cooled for a few minutes, feel free to serve them with your favorite dipping sauce or dip. My kids like ranch dressing, but others might like another flavor such as bbq sauce, honey mustard, garlic sauce, or a mixture of mayo, ketchup, and spicy mustard. 

Cooked chicken tenders on white plate with garnish.

Cooking Raw Chicken Tenders In an Air Fryer

Now that you know how to cook frozen pre-cooked chicken tenders in an air fryer, what about cooking raw chicken in an air fryer? Would that be safe? Or would it even work?

Our friends at the Food Network have already figured out the answer to these questions. You can cook a frozen raw chicken breast the same way in an air fryer. The only difference is that you need to cook it longer.

Here are the steps for cooking a frozen chicken breast in an air fryer:

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 380℉ (193.3℃).
  2. Spray the fryer basket with a small amount of oil.
  3. Rub the breast with oil.
  4. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper, or other seasonings that you prefer.
  5. Once your air fryer is heated, place the chicken in the basket.
  6. Set a timer for 18 minutes.
  7. When time is up, check the chicken to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165℉ (73.8℃).
  8. If it doesn’t, put it back in the fryer for another two minutes. 

Let cool and then serve.


Cooking frozen chicken tenders in an air fryer isn’t difficult if you follow the instructions in this article. You can even cook fresh chicken tenders in your air fryer if you make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165℉ (73.8℃).

Using an air fryer is healthier and takes less time than deep frying while giving you nice crispy chicken strips vs what you might get from heating chicken tenders using a microwave. 

Air fryer chicken nuggets are a quick appetizer for guests or a small meal to add with a salad or even tater tots or french fries , which my kids love.

Once you’ve mastered chicken tenders with your air fryer, you can make several fried snacks that used to be off the menu for you. With how an air fryer works, you might even start making a variety of dishes with your air fryer!

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