Air Fryer Buttermilk Chicken Tenders


Winner, winner, chicken for dinner. Chicken tenders, that is. When it's time to whip up a supper the whole family will love, chicken tenders are the go-to choice. This recipe, which the Southern Living Test Kitchen developed using the air fryer, makes chicken that is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. And sometimes (ok, all the time), the best thing about chicken pieces involves the dipping sauce that you can serve with them, from honey mustard and ketchup to barbecue and Sriracha aioli. Our homemade dipping sauce is creamy and delicious, and made with some of our favorite ingredients, such as mayonnaise, buttermilk, brown mustard, fresh lemon juice, and just enough sugar to add a touch of sweetness. 

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs
Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 tenders)


Chicken Tenders

  • 3/4 cup whole buttermilk

  • 2 teaspoons grated garlic (about 3 medium garlic cloves)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders (about 8 tenders)

  • 1 1/4 cups panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup whole buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon spicy brown mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 small lemon)

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Prepare the Chicken Tenders: Place buttermilk, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a ziplock plastic bag. Add chicken; seal bag, and gently toss to completely coat chicken. Let marinate at room temperature, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, stir together panko, Parmesan, oil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish, stirring to evenly combine. Set aside.

  3. Prepare the Sauce: Stir together mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

  4. Preheat a 5.3-quart air fryer to 400°F for 2 to 3 minutes. Working with 1 tender at a time, remove chicken from marinade, and place in panko mixture, gently pressing to fully coat on both sides. Gently shake chicken to remove excess, and place in air fryer basket. Repeat process with remaining tenders. Cook until chicken is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of meat registers 165°F, about 6 minutes per side. Serve Chicken Tenders hot alongside Sauce.

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