Learn how to make air fryer chicken nuggets that are crispy on the outside, juicy, and tender on the inside, and make for the ultimate quick and easy snack or lunch for adults and kiddos alike!
It’s no secret I love my air fryer. Chicken is one of our favorite proteins to cook in this gadget, including air fryer chicken tenderloins and air fryer chicken wings. When we want something fun yet wholesome, nothing beats using it to make chicken nuggets!
Compared to the fast foodstuff, it’s far healthier and quicker, and clean-up is a breeze.
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Why this recipe works
- Healthier. Like air fryer orange chicken, no deep frying is needed, so you already cut a ton of calories and fat compared to traditional nuggets. We also use breast meat instead of off-cuts too!
- Less clean up. Similar to air fryer chicken cutlets, you’ll only need a few bowls to coat the chicken in batter and your air fryer basket. No messy deep fryer is needed.
- Perfectly crisp and juicy. The air fryer creates a perfect balance of crispy coating without drying out the chicken. The texture is extra juicy in the middle, which is what we all want!
- Works with frozen chicken. Like with air fryer chicken patties and air fryer hash browns, you can store breaded nuggets in the freezer and pop them straight into your air fryer.
What I love most about this recipe is how kid-friendly it is! With minimal prep work needed, you can whip up these nuggets at a moment’s notice. I like to pair them with some air fryer French fries or air fryer bagel bites for the ultimate takeout fakeout meal.
You need just a handful of pantry staple ingredients to air fry chicken nuggets. Here is everything you will need:
- Chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are best. Cut them into nugget shapes. If you can’t find chicken breasts, use tenderloins or tenders.
- Panko breadcrumbs. For the crispy coating. You can swap it for gluten-free bread crumbs if desired.
- Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated for added flavor and also enhances the crispiness.
- Salt. To taste.
- Oil. A small amount of oil is needed to mix into the breading to help them stick to the chicken pieces and also crisp up beautifully. Any neutral oil works, like olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Flour. For dredging the nuggets. Similarly to bread crumbs, the flour can be swapped for gluten-free flour.
- Eggs. To bind the breading to the nuggets.
How to make air fryer chicken nuggets
Preheat the air fryer: First, preheat the air fryer to 200°C/400°F.
Make the coating: Grab a mixing bowl and add the panko, parmesan cheese, salt, and oil. Mix with a fork until combined. In a second bowl, add the flour, and in a third bowl, add the beaten eggs.
Dredge the nuggets: Dip the chicken nuggets in the flour, shake off the excess, and dip it in the egg, then coat it in the panko mix. Press firmly to make sure the panko sticks to the nuggets. Repeat this process until all of the chicken nuggets have been coated.
Air fry the nuggets: Generously grease the air fryer basket with oil. In a single layer, add the chicken nuggets, working in batches if needed.
Spray the tops of the chicken nuggets and air fry them for 12-15 minutes or until they’re golden and crispy. Repeat this as necessary until all of the nuggets are cooked.
Rest and serve: Let your nuggets cool briefly before serving them with ketchup and any dipping sauce you prefer.
Can I bake them instead?
Yes! If you’d prefer to make baked chicken nuggets, you can do so with one simple swap.
First, prepare the chicken nuggets as instructed, then transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Next, bake them in a preheated oven set to 200°C/400°F for 12-15 minutes, checking halfway through for doneness.
Recipe tips and variations
- Switch up the spice mix. Cayenne, oregano, paprika, and garlic powder are all great options for adding more flavor to your nuggets.
- Make the nuggets the same size. This ensures they cook evenly and completely.
- Use a meat thermometer. I find this a surefire way to guarantee fully cooked nuggets. Look for an internal temperature of 74°C/165°F.
- Air fryer frozen chicken nuggets. If using frozen breaded nuggets, just let them cook for a few minutes longer than fresh. No thawing is needed.
What to serve with chicken nuggets
As for sides, you can make this a meal by pairing them with some salad, steamed vegetables, or even some baked potatoes.
To store: Leftover chicken nuggets can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
To reheat: Either put them back in the air fryer at 180°C/350°F for 2-3 minutes or pop them in a preheated oven. Avoid the microwave, as the chicken will lose its crispiness.
To freeze: Let the nuggets cool before transferring them to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag, and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
More ways to enjoy chicken in the air fryer
Frequently asked questions
If your nuggets are in an even layer in the air fryer basket, you shouldn’t need to flip them. If there is some overlapping between the chicken, then you can try flipping them at the 5-minute mark, so all sides get properly crisp.
When made with gluten free flour and bread crumbs, these nuggets are suitable for celiacs.
To air fry frozen chicken nuggets, simply add them to the preheated air fryer and air fry at 200C/400F for 8 minutes, shaking once halfway through.
Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
- Preheat the air fryer to 200C/400F.
- In a mixing bowl, add the panko, parmesan cheese and salt, and oil, and mix until combined. In another bowl add the flour and in a third, add the beaten eggs.
- Dip the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, dip it in the egg, then coat with the panko mix, pressing firmly for it to stick on. Repeat the process until all the chicken is coated.
- Generously grease the air fryer basket. In a single layer, add the chicken nuggets.
- Spray the tops of the chicken nuggets and air fry for 12-15 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
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