Air Fryer Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders are just as crave-able as the deep-fried version, made lighter and healthier in the air fryer! Savory seasoning and a crunchy pretzel chicken tender breading has these crispy chicken strips tasting their absolute best.
Easy Pretzel Crusted Panko Chicken Tenders
We love crispy chicken tenders in our family. However traditional frying methods, as we all know, aren’t exactly the healthiest! That’s why I love this recipe for Panko and pretzel-crusted chicken tenders made in the air fryer. These tasty chicken pieces “fry” up light and crunchy, all while keeping things leaner and healthier with significantly less oil.
Let’s dive into how to make perfectly crispy chicken in the air fryer, with the best flavor and texture thanks to pretzel breading! I just know the whole family is going to love it.
What You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need to make these extra crispy homemade chicken tenders. Don’t forget to check out the recipe card for the exact ingredient amounts!
- Pretzels: I use Dot’s Original Seasoned Pretzels for the added flavor. If you can’t find these pretzels, you can always use another brand or regular pretzels instead.
- Spices: I recommend a blend of smoked paprika and Cajun spice for smokiness and kick, as well as garlic salt for added flavor.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Panko crumbs offer the best, biggest crunch alongside the pretzels.
- Eggs: An egg wash helps the breading to coat the chicken.
- Chicken: You can find pre-cut chicken tenders in most grocery stores. Alternatively, you can buy whole chicken breasts and cut them to tender size.
- Cooking Oil: When air frying, I recommend using olive oil (or another cooking oil) in a mister bottle, and not a non-stick aerosol spray like PAM. The cooking oil will help crisp the tenders, without damaging the air fryer basket coating.
How to Make Air Fryer Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders
With just a bit of prep and a short stint in the air fryer, this is one of the easiest chicken dinner ideas you can make. Kids love these crispy chicken tenders, and the whole recipe comes together in less than 20 minutes! Here’s what you do:
Make the Breading: Using the food processor, grind the pretzels until they’re roughly the size of bread crumbs, then combine them with the Panko crumbs. Add the seasoning and mix the crumbs up well.
Make the Egg Wash: In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whisk them together.
Coat the Chicken: Dip the chicken tenders one by one first into the bowl with the egg wash, and then into the crumbs. Lay the finished chicken strips onto a parchment lined baking sheet for now.
Cook: Working in batches, place the coated chicken pieces into the air fryer basket. Fry them at 370 degrees for about 14 minutes, until the pretzel crust is golden and crispy,
Can I Make Them In Advance?
The pretzel crust on these will be at its crispiest when the chicken tenders are fresh from the air fryer! For this reason, I always recommend making them fresh as a first choice.
However, you can make chicken tenders ahead if you wish for easy meal prep. Prepare and bake the chicken as directed, then store them airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You can also freeze air fried chicken tenders for longer storage. See later in this post for more guidance on freezing and reheating!
Tips for Success
The following are some tips for the crispiest, most delicious homemade chicken tenders:
- Don’t over-crush the pretzels. You’re going for a texture similar to the Panko breadcrumbs, and not pulverized pretzel dust!
- Pat the chicken dry. Make sure to pat the chicken tenders with a paper towel before dipping and dredging them through the pretzel crumbs. This lets the coating stick!
- Work in small batches of three at a time. Don’t overload the basket, and make sure to leave enough space between the chicken tenders to allow the hot air to really crisp them up!
- Use a meat thermometer. If you’re not sure if your chicken is thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature has reached a safe 165 degrees F.
- Avoid sticking: If you’re worried about your chicken tenders sticking to the air fryer basket, go ahead and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
- Make gluten-free chicken tenders. Swap out the seasoned pretzels in this recipe for gluten-free pretzels instead for an allergy-friendly version.
We love dunking our favorite air fryer chicken tenders in classic honey mustard sauce, or one or more of these yummy homemade dipping sauces:
And if you’re looking to turn these into a meal, here are some easy recipes to serve alongside chicken tenders:
- Mozzarella Sticks
- Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries
- Air Fryer Smashed Potatoes
- Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
- Chicken and Waffles
- Easy Apple Slaw
- Honey Glazed Carrots
- Broccoli Salad
Storage and Reheating
Cooked chicken tenders can be stored airtight in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days. To reheat, pop the chicken back into the air fryer until they’re heated through (exact reheating times will vary depending on the size of the chicken tenders and the air fryer model).
Do These Freeze Well?
Chicken tenders are easy to freeze. Once they’re cooked and cooled completely, lay the chicken tenders out on a baking sheet to place in the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container. Whenever you’re ready, just reheat the breaded chicken tenders in the air fryer straight from frozen.
More Flavorful Chicken Recipes
Air Fryer Pretzel Crusted Chicken Tenders
- 2 cups pretzels (I use Dot's Original Seasoned Pretzels)
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp Cajun spice
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- ¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 pound chicken tenders
- Cooking oil spray
- Add pretzels, to the bowl of your food processor, process on high until it mostly looks like bread crumbs.
- In a small bowl add the pretzel crumb mixture and Panko crumbs, stir to combine.
- Add all seasonings to the pretzel mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the 2 eggs to a shallow bowl, whisk
- Pat chicken tenders dry
- Working one chicken tender at a time, dip first in the egg, and then the pretzel crumbs to coat.
- Set to the side on a parchment covered baking tray.
- Repeat with each chicken tender
- Spray the basket of your air fryer with non-stick cooking spray
- Add the chicken tenders to the basket, three at a time.
- Put the basket in the air fryer and turn it on 370°F for 14 minutes.