Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are a healthier way to serve America’s favorite kid-friendly dinner! Whether you’re cooking for the kids (or you just want to feel like one again), these homemade nuggets offer everything you love about those little, handheld nibbles of fried chicken, only now there’s less oil and fewer calories.
They “fry” up shockingly crispy and crunchy, with a gorgeous golden panko breading on the outside. On the inside, you’ll find a center of irresistibly tender, perfectly cooked white meat chicken.
Looking for more ways to put that air fryer to delicious use? Try our Air Fryer Pickles next!
THE BEST HOMEMADE AIR FRYER CHICKEN NUGGETS
The air fryer is your best friend when it comes to making breaded food and baked food actually taste like fried food, and these Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are no exception.
Contrary to what some might believe, the air fryer isn’t actually frying at all — it’s more roasting than anything. The air fryer is essentially a countertop-sized convection oven. Convection ovens are known for evenly cooking food, and in combination with that basket of perforated holes, you can’t get better all-around airflow from any other cooking device. That is what makes the air fryer ideal for mimicking the crunchy texture of food fried in hot oil.
These chicken nuggets are a far healthier way to enjoy one of your childhood favorites, and thanks to our foolproof method for both prepping the nuggets, along with an irresistibly delicious, Southern-style dredge, and the perfect temp and time combo, you won’t find a more delicious Air Fryer Chicken Nugget Recipe on the internet. Guaranteed.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN NUGGETS IN THE AIR FRYER
- Preheat the Air Fryer
- Cut the Chicken Into Nuggets
- Set Up the Dredging Station
- Coat Chicken With Batter
- Spritz With Cooking Spray
- Air Fry In Batches
1. PREHEAT THE AIR FRYER
Preheating the air fryer is just as important as preheating an oven. Actually, it may be more important since the cooking time is often drastically lower in an air fryer. Don’t skip this step!
To preheat your air fryer simply set the temperature to 375°F and the time somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes, or however long you think it will take you to get all your chicken battered.
2. CUT THE CHICKEN INTO NUGGETS
To go from breasts to nuggets, the first thing you’ll need to do is pound out the chicken. The best tools for this job are:
- Ziploc Gallon-Sized Bags
- Mallet or Rolling Pin
Pounding out the chicken will ensure quick and even cooking when it comes time to cook your nuggets in the air fryer.
Place the chicken breast in the ziplock bag one at a time, remove as much air as possible, and seal it. Then, beginning at the thick portion of the chicken breast, firmly pound it out using the flat-end of the mallet or the rolling pin.
Pound the chicken, working toward the thin end of the breast until it is about a 1/4″ in thickness. The goal is to get the chicken as thin as possible without tearing the meat apart.
To cut the chicken breasts, use a sharp knife and cut the chicken, against the grain, into slices about two inches in width. Then, cut each slice into one-and-a-half to two-inch pieces.
3. SET UP THE DREDGING STATION
To set up a dredging station for your Air Fryer Fried Chicken Nuggets, you’ll need three shallow trays or bowls (such as a pie plate). In tray one, add all-purpose flour and spices, tray two will consist of eggs and water, and tray three will be a simple mixture of panko and salt.
4. BATTER THE CHICKEN
You’ll kick off the dredging with a nice even coating of the seasoned flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour before sending the chicken to the egg mix!
Next, submerge each chicken nugget in the egg tray, taking care to get the egg mixture up and around the sides as well. Allow any excess to drip off before moving on to the next tray.
The last tray is the panko breadcrumbs. Add the chicken to the panko breadcrumbs, turning the chicken as needed and pressing gently to make sure the panko coating adheres.
5. SPRITZ WITH COOKING SPRAY
Have a large rimmed baking sheet off to the side of your dredging station when assembling your Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets. The baking sheet will provide you with ample workspace to spread out the nuggets without crowding them. Where there is no oil, there is no browning. Which means that gorgeous golden, crispy crust? It’s not going to happen unless it comes into contact with a spritz of oil.
Allowing room between each chicken nugget is important as it allows you to get an even, full-coverage mist of oil across both the surface and along the sides of each and every nugget.
Lightly coat the panko breading with the cooking spray, turn each nugget, and spritz again.
6. AIR FRY (IN BATCHES)
Airflow is very important when it comes to air fryer recipes. You want air to circulate around the entire chicken nugget in order to get that golden, crunchy crust. Therefore, you must fry the chicken in batches and avoid stacking…tempting as it might be.
Add the chicken to the air fryer in a single layer and fry at 375°F for eight to eleven minutes (or until the chicken is fully cooked through). Remove the Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets from the basket using a pair of kitchen tongs, and repeat as needed.
Then, allow the nuggets to cool slightly, and serve alongside your favorite dipping sauce!
HOW LONG DO I COOK CHICKEN NUGGETS IN THE AIR FRYER?
There are multiple factors that go into cooking time, and this is the reason recipe developers always give you a range of time rather than one, specific number. The temperature of the chicken as it goes into the air fryer, how thick it is, how large the nugget has been cut…all of these factors affect cooking time.
Chicken nuggets that are a quarter-inch thick and two inches in circumference will take between eight and eleven minutes at 375°F to cook through in the air fryer. Larger chicken nuggets will take longer and smaller chicken nuggets will take less time.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH AIR FRYER CHICKEN NUGGETS?
Below are a few of our favorite pairings for a well-rounded, kid-friendly chicken nugget dinner!
If you’re looking to indulge, try our oven-roasted steak fries, homemade shells and cheese, or creamed corn. If you want to keep in line with healthier options, our zucchini veggie bake, steamed broccoli, or fresh green beans will do the trick!
SAUCES YOU’LL LOVE WITH AIR FRYER CHICKEN NUGGETS!
Can’t resist a good dipping sauce? Me either. If you’re looking to serve your nuggets with anything other than ketchup, try one of our homemade sauces to take your Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets to the next level!
HOW TO STORE AIR FRYER CHICKEN NUGGETS
If you end up with leftover Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets, you can either keep them in the refrigerator or in the freezer. If you like your nuggets extra crunchy, the latter is the best option.
Refrigerated Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets will become soggy. Frozen nuggets, on the other hand, will maintain a crispy, crunchy coating when reheated.
CAN I FREEZE THEM?
To freeze leftover nuggets, lay them on a flat surface lined with wax paper and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight, freezer-safe, ziptop bag and freeze for up to two months.
HOW TO REHEAT THEM
Frozen Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets will reheat in the air fryer beautifully! Just preheat your air fryer for 10 minutes at 375°F. Then, add a batch of frozen nuggets to the air fryer, and cook for eleven to thirteen minutes, or until warmed and heated through to your liking.
5 MORE KID-FRIENDLY DINNERS YOU’LL LOVE
These Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are crispy and crunchy, with a gorgeous golden panko breadcrumb coating, and a center of irresistibly tender, juicy white meat chicken!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, separated
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- nonstick cooking spray (Avocado, canola, or vegetable oil preferably in an aerosol can), about 2 tablespoons
Have ready three shallow bowls or trays for a dredging station. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F for 10-15 minutes.
Place a chicken breast in the ziplock bag and remove as much air from the bag as possible. Seal it and beginning at the thick portion of the chicken breast, firmly begin pounding it out using the flat-end of the mallet or a rolling pin until it is about a 1/4″ in thickness.
Cut each breast into strips about 2″ wide, cutting against the grain. Then, cut the strips into pieces 1 1/2 – 2″ in diameter. Set the chicken aside.
In the first tray, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika. In the second tray, whisk together the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water. In the third tray, mix together the panko breadcrumbs with a generous pinch of salt.
Fully coat each nugget in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Submerge in the egg mixture, allow excess to drip off, and then transfer to the tray of panko. Coat thoroughly with the panko, applying gentle pressure as needed to ensure the coating adheres. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
Once you have all of the nuggets coated, transfer them to a large, rimmed baking sheet and mist the tops and sides with the nonstick cooking spray. Flip the chicken, and mist the other side.
Add a single layer of nuggets to the basket of the air fryer and cook at 375°F for 8-11 minutes. Remove the nuggets, and repeat with the remaining chicken.