Can you air fry frozen chicken strips? Yes! This air fryer frozen chicken tenders recipe will work with any of your favorite frozen breaded chicken strips brands. Cooking frozen chicken tenders in the air fryer makes for an easy weeknight meal your family will enjoy. Get the recipe for the healthiest and best air fryer frozen chicken tenders, learn what temperature to air fry chicken strips, and more!
With information on the correct air fryer cooking temperature, you can air fry frozen breaded chicken strips with no problems. The chicken will retain its crispy coating while staying tender and moist on the inside.
Your air fryer frozen chicken tenders with breading will turn out just like they were oven baked. However, no oven is needed for this recipe.
Whether you’re looking to cook Tyson frozen chicken strips in the air fryer or another brand, they’ll work. (Though you may have to adjust the cooking times slightly with certain brands.) You’ll also learn how to find healthiest frozen chicken tenders below.
There are a lot of healthy recipes out there that take one hour or more in prep and cooking time. It’s great if you make those sorts of recipes occasionally, but it’s what you do consistently that counts most towards your health. If you’re making frozen chicken strips regularly because it’s what you like and have time for, let’s talk about the best options!
- How to Find the Healthiest Chicken Tenders
- Kidfresh Frozen Chicken Strips Nutrition
- Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders Ingredients
- How to Make Frozen Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
- How long to air fry frozen chicken tenders?
- Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- What goes with air fryer frozen chicken tenders?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I find other recipes for my air fryer?
- And now for the disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
How to Find the Healthiest Chicken Tenders
If you read my post on Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Nuggets, the principles here are exactly the same. The healthiest chicken tenders (if we’re talking about avoiding ultra-processed foods) will generally be homemade baked chicken tenders.
(P.S. Want a homemade chicken tender recipe? Try cutting the chicken in my Air Fryer Breaded Chicken Breasts recipe into strips before breading and air frying. Voila! Homemade chicken tenders are all yours.)
If I’m buying frozen chicken tenders, I will generally look for an ingredient list similar to breaded chicken tenders I’d make at home. Here are some things I look for:
Breading made of whole grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds
Most chicken tenders are breaded with white flour and other refined grains. By choosing a whole grain breading, you’re getting fiber and some nutrients not commonly added back when refined grains are enriched. Chicken tenders without breading are also a great option.
Minimally processed chicken
Aim for tenders made of chicken that has not been heavily processed. This can be white meat or dark meat chicken. What we don’t want is the chicken version of ultra-processed cheese food in our chicken strips.
No sugar added (or a minimal amount)
The average American’s intake of added sugars far exceeds the current recommendations. Chicken tenders are a savory entrée that really don’t benefit from the sweetness, so no need to add sugar here.
No (or minimal) low quality added oils
If I’m purchasing a food, I prefer that it contains the same oils I cook with at home (mainly avocado or olive oil). That said, it’s practically impossible to avoid oils like canola and soy oil in foods like frozen chicken strips. I just do the best that I can.
Lower sodium than competitor brands
On average, most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker. Some brands of frozen chicken strips are extraordinarily high in sodium. Though I’m not on a low-sodium diet, I prefer the taste of chicken tenders that are not loaded with salt.
It’s possible to find frozen chicken strips and tenders that include hidden nutrient-dense ingredients, such as veggies. If you’re struggling to increase your vegetable intake, as many are, these products may be a stepping stone to help you out. I’m going to cover one of these healthier chicken strips options in the next section.
Kidfresh Frozen Chicken Strips Nutrition
I wanted to find a product for this recipe that aligned with my healthier chicken tender criteria above. I ended up using the Kidfresh White Meat Chicken Sticks. This product might make a good bridge to fish sticks for the kids who are resistant to eating seafood.
The labeling on this product seems to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis. These are “chicken sticks” but also “chicken pattie fritters.” I think describing them as chicken sticks or strips is right on; they’re a bit thinner than most chicken tenders.
Similar to the Kidfresh nuggets, we thought these tasted great. They had no weird aftertaste from the hidden cauliflower and onions. I don’t think most would suspect that this is a “healthier” option.
What follows is the nutrition information for Kidfresh chicken sticks. The information given is for 7 sticks, or ¼ of a 13.4-ounce package.
(Note: In the air fryer recipe below, I’ve divided the package into 3 servings. I like to see adults get at least 4 ounces of protein group foods per meal when using meat, poultry, or fish for protein. Multiply the calories and grams provided by 1.333 if you’re dividing the package into 3 servings.)
210 calories per 7 breaded chicken sticks
These chicken sticks are made with white meat chicken breast, which is a lean protein. The shape of these chicken sticks allows more surface area for breading than the Kidfresh chicken nuggets. Thus, these are higher in calories per serving than the nuggets, since you’re getting more breading.
Lower in added fat than deep fried chicken tenders
You’re getting 11 grams of total fat and 3 grams of saturated fat per 7-piece serving of chicken strips. Since the strips are browned in expeller pressed canola oil and they have more breaded surface area than the Kidfresh nuggets, they are higher in fat than the nuggets. However, these chicken strips still likely have less saturated fat than similar products that are deep fried.
Whole grain chicken tenders
You are getting a whopping 19 grams of whole grains per 7-stick serving of this product. That is because these chicken tenders are breaded with whole wheat flour (the second ingredient in the ingredients list). The breading also has some whole grain millet flour.
Protein chicken strips
Because the chicken strips have a higher breading-to-poultry ratio than the nuggets, they are higher in whole grains but lower in protein. You’re getting 8 grams of protein per 7 chicken sticks. If you bump up the portion size like I recommend, you’re still only getting 10.7 grams of protein per serving.
If your goal is weight loss, I generally recommend aiming for a minimum of 20-25 grams of protein per meal. (This assumes you are eating three meals per day.) In case it wasn’t evident by now, I consider the Kidfresh chicken nuggets to be more nutrient-dense than the Kidfresh chicken sticks. However, either product is preferable to competitors that use a lot of additives, added sugars, and refined grains in their products.
Lower sodium chicken tenders
The packaging states that Kidfresh has “35% less sodium than the leading brand of chicken fries.” (Wait, what the heck are chicken fries?!? Lol) Seven of these chicken strips contain 320 mg of sodium (13% DV), not bad for a premade frozen entrée.
No added sugar
Molasses (a type of added sugar) IS included in the ingredients list for Kidfresh chicken sticks. However, the product lists zero grams of added sugar per serving, so the amount is minimal.
Chicken tenders with hidden veggies
These chicken strips contain hidden pureed onions and hidden pureed cauliflower. These ingredients contribute to the small amount of vitamin C (2% DV) you’re getting per 7-strip serving.
I plan on updating this recipe in the future with information on other healthier brands of chicken tenders. Stay tuned if you cannot find the Kidfresh tenders in your area (or if they become unavailable online).
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders Ingredients
You don’t need much for the basic air fryer chicken tenders recipe. Here’s what you should have on hand:
- Frozen chicken tenders (do not thaw)
- Your favorite dipping sauce (ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, mustard, etc.)
We used The New Primal Mustard BBQ Sauce for dipping. As you can probably guess by the name, it’s a tasty mix of mustard and barbeque sauce. You’re getting 1 gram of added sugar per 2-tablespoon (15-calorie) serving, but it’s from ingredients like pineapple juice concentrate and tamarind concentrate.
You’ll also need an air fryer for this recipe. I have a spacious 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Ninja and other brands of air fryers, as well as air fryers with baskets can also cook frozen chicken strips. However, they may require a slightly longer or shorter cooking time than I’ve listed below.
Here are the ingredients in the Kidfresh white meat chicken sticks:
- Chicken breast meat
- Whole wheat flour
- Pureed cauliflower
- Pureed onions
- Unbleached wheat flour (likely a refined flour, since the word "whole" is not used)
- Corn starch
- Yellow corn flour
- Rice starch
- Molasses (but 0 grams added sugar per serving)
- Leavening (cream of tartar, baking soda)
- Sea salt
- Whole grain millet flour
The strips were also "browned in expeller pressed canola oil." You’ve got to love the convenience of this product. You can avoid adding a bunch of breading ingredients to your shopping list because they’ve done the work for you.
How to Make Frozen Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
If you’re making side dishes with a long cooking time, you’ll definitely need to start them first. These air fryer chicken strips cook very quickly!
IMVHO, the air fryer is your secret on how to make frozen chicken tenders crispy. Start by putting your frozen chicken strips in a single layer on your air fryer baking trays. No crowding, please!
If you have a small air fryer, you may have to cook the strips in multiple batches. I was able to fit the whole package of frozen chicken tenders in a single batch by using two trays.
How long to air fry frozen chicken tenders?
The brand of frozen chicken tenders I used took a total of 15 minutes of air frying time. Each batch may take a little less time in smaller air fryers. This is because in smaller fryers, the food spends more time in the closest position to the air fryer’s heating element.
To begin, air fry the frozen tenders for 8 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, flip the strips over and switch the position of the air fryer trays in the oven.
Air fry your strips for an additional 7 minutes at 400F. They will reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when they’re done cooking. The chicken breading should be nice and crispy.
That’s seriously it for this one. Plate those tenders up with some veggies and your favorite sauce for dipping. Enjoy this easy meal that even picky eaters tend to love!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). These chicken strips have a high breading-to-chicken ratio. That means that they are relatively high in calories compared to the protein they provide. To round out this entrée, I recommend adding a glass of milk for additional protein plus some veggie side dishes.
If your goal is weight loss, I generally think it is better to skip breaded foods and other items containing a lot of flour. Most grain-based flours (including whole grain varieties) provide 100-110 calories per measly ¼-cup. Nut flours contain more protein but are often even higher in calories.
Instead of choosing a breaded chicken tender, I would pick plain chicken tenderloins if your goal is fat loss. Since plain chicken is kind of bland in the flavor department, I’d add some herbs and spices to kick things up a notch.
On the other hand, what if you’re trying to encourage a picky child or someone who is underweight to eat more? In that case, a little whole grain breading might be your friend!
Breaded proteins and breaded veggies tend to be more appealing to those who are having trouble eating compared to plain protein and veggies. Add a favorite sauce for dipping, and you may find the person willing to try types of food they typically avoid. How optimal a particular food choice is almost always comes down to an individual’s food preferences, personal health goals, budget, and medical needs.
What goes with air fryer frozen chicken tenders?
If I’m doing an entrée as easy as frozen tenders, I don’t generally want complicated sides. Sometimes I’ll do a fridge clean out of 2-3 veggies of different colors that can be eaten raw. That way I don’t need to do additional cooking outside of air frying the chicken strips.
The veggies can be eaten as a finger food with dip along with the chicken strips. As I’ve mentioned here many times before, veggies add a lot of volume to meals for few calories. They’re nutrient-dense and a great way to round out the meal if you have a weight loss goal.
Here are a few ideas for sides for frozen chicken tenders that are finger foods:
- Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
- Carrot sticks
- Snow peas or sugar snap peas
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets
- Strips of cucumber
- Strips of sweet bell peppers
- Celery sticks
- Jicama sticks
If you’ll also be feeding kids, another benefit of this strategy is that kids tend to like dippable finger foods. They might be more likely to eat veggie sides if they’re served with a dip that they like. (I’m not making any guarantees that this will work, but it might be something to try.)
You could, of course, always serve your tenders with some cooked vegetable sides instead. I roasted some koginut squash to go with our meal, but any of your favorite veggies could work here. Here’s a few ideas for cooked veggie sides:
- Air Fryer Carrots
- Brown Butter and Sage Air Fryer Squash
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
(And if you want to learn more about unusual veggies like koginut squash, be sure to subscribe to our email list. I share fun finds related to food, health, and cooking just about every week!)
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I air fry frozen chicken strips with no breading?
Yes, you can make air fryer frozen chicken tenderloins with no breading! Spray your air fryer racks with cooking spray and air fry the frozen chicken strips at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally. The strips are finished air frying when they’ve reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
How many calories in air fryer frozen chicken tenders?
The specific number of calories in your frozen chicken fingers will depend on a number of factors:
- Your portion size
- Whether they are breaded or not
- How they are prepared (i.e., oven baked? deep fried? air fried chicken?)
- Ingredients used in preparation (added oils, seasonings, etc.)
These air fryer frozen chicken sticks (if using the portion size provided in the recipe) provide 280 calories per serving. This does not include any dips or side dishes that you add to your meal.
Are frozen chicken strips gluten free? Are frozen chicken strips low carb?
The frozen chicken strips that I am using for this recipe are neither gluten free nor low carb because they have whole wheat flour as a second ingredient. For gluten free frozen breaded chicken, here are a couple of options:
I’d just stick to chicken strips with no breading if you’re on a low carb diet. I’m thinking the diet will be more sustainable if you learn to enjoy foods without breading. You could also try making your own breading with pork panko or almond flour.
How can I find other recipes for my air fryer?
I am completely obsessed with air fryers, and I think you will be too when you see all the things you can make! This site has an entire section devoted to Air Fryer Recipes that you definitely need to check out. If you’re unsure where to begin, here are a few of my favorite easy air fryer recipes to get you started:
- Air Fryer Popcorn (Yes, you can pop popcorn in an air fryer!)
- Air Fryer Rotisserie Chicken
- Frozen Hash Browns in the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Frozen Pizza
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders | Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Strips
- 13.4 ounces frozen chicken strips (do not thaw)
- 6 tablespoons sauce for dipping (BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing, etc.)
- Spread the tenders out in a single layer on two air fryer trays. Try to make sure the chicken isn't touching for optimal air fryer air circulation.
- Air fry the frozen tenders for 8 minutes at 400°F. Then, flip the breaded chicken over and switch the position of the air fryer trays in the oven.
- Air fry your chicken strips for an additional 7 minutes at 400°F. They should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F and the breading on the chicken should be nice and crispy.
- To serve: divide the chicken strips between three plates. Add two tablespoons of dipping sauce to each plate along with any side dishes that you will be having. Enjoy!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). These chicken strips have a high breading-to-chicken ratio. That means that they are relatively high in calories compared to the protein they provide. To round out this entrée, I recommend adding a glass of milk for additional protein plus some veggie side dishes. If your goal is weight loss, I generally think it is better to skip breaded foods and other items containing a lot of flour. Most grain-based flours (including whole grain varieties) provide 100-110 calories per measly ¼-cup. Nut flours contain more protein but are often even higher in calories. Instead of choosing a breaded chicken tender, I would pick plain chicken tenderloins if your goal is fat loss. Since plain chicken is kind of bland in the flavor department, I’d add some herbs and spices to kick things up a notch. On the other hand, what if you’re trying to encourage a picky child or someone who is underweight to eat more? In that case, a little whole grain breading might be your friend! Breaded proteins and breaded veggies are (sometimes) more appealing to those who are having trouble eating compared to plain protein and veggies. Add a favorite sauce for dipping, and you may find the person willing to try types of food they typically avoid. How optimal a particular food choice is almost always comes down to an individual’s food preferences, personal health goals, budget, and medical needs. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe and depends on the brand of frozen chicken strips you use. The nutrition information listed below does not include the dips and sides you add to the meal.