Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets

$4.64 recipe / $1.16 serving
by Marsha - Budget Bytes
5 from 5 votes
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Am I the only one late to the Air Fryer club? I assumed it was just another kitchen appliance that I probably didn’t need taking up space on my countertop. Well I finally received an air fryer as a gift recently, and boy was I wrong! I’m loving the air fryer now, especially when it comes to making simple recipes like these Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets! They’re super easy to make, I can control the ingredients, and I can get about 2 dozen homemade chicken nuggets for half the cost compared to a fast food restaurant, #winning!

Air fryer chicken nuggets in a serving dish with BBQ and ranch dipping sauces.

What You’ll Need for Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets

When I say these nuggets are super easy to make, I mean you really only need a few ingredients:

  • Chicken – I’m a chicken breast girl so I’m using a boneless, skinless chicken breast for my nuggets. You can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, however I haven’t tested it with chicken thighs, so the cook time may vary.
  • All Purpose Flour – A light coating of flour helps the buttermilk to adhere to the chicken. 
  • Buttermilk – Thick buttermilk keeps the chicken tender & moist, and also helps the breadcrumbs adhere to the chicken nuggets. 
  • Breadcrumbs – Of course it wouldn’t be a chicken nugget without that iconic golden brown breading. We’re using regular plain breadcrumbs so we can season them to our liking.
  • Oil and Spices – A little bit of cooking oil to help the breadcrumbs crisp up and brown evenly. And a simple spice mix flavors the chicken.

Buttermilk Alternatives

Buttermilk is a common ingredient used in baked and fried chicken recipes, but you may not always have it on hand and it can sometimes be a little pricey. So here are some other alternatives:

  1. Milk + Vinegar or Lemon juice – Mix 1 Tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of milk. Stir and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Proceed to use in the recipe in place of buttermilk.
  2. Greek yogurt – Plain greek yogurt, like buttermilk, is a cultured milk product that can also help keep the nuggets tender and moist. This is what we used in our Baked Chicken Nuggets recipe and they turned out great! In a small bowl add ⅓ cup greek yogurt, ⅛ tsp salt, and 3 Tbsp of water. Stir together until smooth, but still thick enough to coat the chicken. Proceed to use in the recipe in place of buttermilk.

Buttermilk is definitely the best option, so if you do have some on hand use that instead of an alternative.

Plated air fryer chicken nuggets with one nugget being grabbed.

Recipe Tips For Success!

  1. Add the oil and spices to the breadcrumbs separately. Add the spices to the breadcrumbs first and give it a good mix, then add the oil and combine. This allows the spices to be evenly distributed.
  2. When adding the breading to the chicken, flip and press the nuggets into the breadcrumb mixture making sure it’s completely coated evenly all the way around.
  3. Remember to preheat the air fryer. Similar to preheating your oven, it’s a good idea to preheat your air fryer so the chicken nuggets can cook evenly and get crispy on the outside.
  4. Don’t crowd the basket. Space the nuggets out in an even layer so the hot air can circulate around the chicken. Cook in two separate batches if you need to.

How to Reheat Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets

If you have any leftover chicken nuggets the best way to reheat them to maintain their texture and flavor would be in the air fryer. Simply preheat the air fryer to 375°F, place the nuggets in the air fryer basket in a single layer, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through, making sure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

What To Serve With Chicken Nuggets

What’s a chicken nugget without a great dipping sauce? Here are some of our favorites:

And if you’re looking for more side dish ideas to go with these chicken nuggets, try our Oven Baked Steak Fries, Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries, Homemade Mac and Cheese, a side of Simple Sautéed Vegetables, or a quick Pasta Salad!

Plated air fryer chicken nuggets with one nugget being dipped in ranch dipping sauce.
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Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets

5 from 5 votes
These Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are tender, juicy, easy to make, and perfect with your favorite dipping sauce!
Air fryer chicken nuggets plated in a serving dish with ranch and BBQ dipping sauces on the side.
Servings 4 5-6 nuggets each
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 8 minutes
Total 23 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2/3 lb.) ($3.50)
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided ($0.05)
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk ($0.24)
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs ($0.60)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.08)

Instructions 

  • On a cutting board, cut the chicken breast into 3/4 inch pieces. You should get approximately 20-24 chicken nuggets depending on the size of your chicken breast.
  • Sprinkle ¼ tsp of salt evenly over the chicken pieces. Next sprinkle the flour over the chicken and toss to coat evenly.
  • In a small bowl add the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and ½ tsp salt. Mix seasoning into the breadcrumbs. Next add the cooking oil to the breadcrumbs and stir until the oil is evenly coating the breadcrumbs. It should look like damp sand.
  • In another small bowl add ½ cup buttermilk.
  • Now line up the chicken, buttermilk, and breadcrumbs. Using tongs or your hands, begin to coat the chicken nugget pieces by first dipping them in the buttermilk, then transfer them to the breadcrumbs and coat them evenly with the breadcrumbs. Set the coated chicken pieces to the side.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Once preheated, place the chicken nuggets in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Try not to overcrowd the basket. You can cook the chicken nuggets in 2 batches if needed. Air fry for 8 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway through.
  • Remove chicken nuggets from the air fryer and let cool for 3-5 minutes, then serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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Equipment

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 211kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 10gFat: 9gSodium: 667mgFiber: 1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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How to Make Air Fryer Chicken NUggets – Step by Step Photos

Chicken breast being cut into 1 inch pieces on a cutting board

On a clean cutting board, cut the chicken breast into 3/4 inch pieces. You should get approximately 20-24 chicken nuggets depending on the size of your chicken breast.

Chicken breast nuggets seasoned with salt and dusted with flour.

Season the chicken by adding ¼ tsp of salt evenly over the chicken pieces. Next sprinkle 1 Tbsp all purpose flour over the chicken pieces. Toss the chicken to coat evenly.

Breadcrumbs with seasoning and oil mixed together.

In a small bowl add 1 cup of plain breadcrumbs, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp smoked paprika, and ½ tsp salt. Mix seasoning into breadcrumbs. Next add 2 Tbsp of cooking oil to the breadcrumbs and stir until the oil is evenly coating the breadcrumbs. It should look like damp sand.

Chicken nugget assembly line with chicken pieces on the left, buttermilk and breadcrumbs in the middle, and coated chicken nuggets on the right.

In another small bowl add ½ cup buttermilk. Line up the chicken, buttermilk, and breadcrumbs. Using tongs or your hands, begin to coat the chicken nugget pieces by first dipping them in the buttermilk, then transfer them to the breadcrumbs and coat them evenly with the breadcrumbs.

Breaded chicken nuggets

Set the coated chicken pieces to the side.

Breaded chicken nuggets added to air fryer basket.

Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Once preheated, place the chicken nuggets in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Try not to overcrowd the basket. You can cook the chicken nuggets in 2 batches if needed.

Cooked chicken nuggets in the air fryer basket with one being lifted with tongs.

Air fry for 8 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway through.

Cooked Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets plated in a serving dish.

Remove the chicken nuggets from the air fryer and let cool for 3-5 minutes, then serve with your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!

Plated Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets with one nugget being dipped into ranch sauce.
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  1. Turned out absolutely amazing! I was skeptical about the oil in the breading, but was the secret to the whole recipe.

    1. We never tried freezing them! I’d be concerned that the breading wouldn’t hold up after being in the freezer.

  2. If one doesn’t own an air fryer does this also work in a full size oven that has a convection option?

    1. Sure! We only tested it in our air fryer though, so the cooking time may be a bit different.

  3. Great recipe, thanks! I made this twice, once as nuggets, and once as breaded cutlets. Both times the meat came out perfect. I had to make it gluten free, so the first time I used GF flour and GF bread crumbs, and the second time I used potato starch and blitzed up rice krispies. The cereal worked shockingly well and was way cheaper than the bread crumbs. Hope that helps someone with similar dietary issues.

  4. These turned out so great! Thank you 🙏 for sharing his recipe .
    My 4 year old kiddo has many allergies and finding nuggets that are Free of egg; soy, onion and garlic has been tough. I made these and she enjoyed them.

  5. These are delicious, my very picky eaters loved them. How would you adapt them for the oven? I’d love to make a batch and bake them all at once.

    1. We haven’t tried that, unfortunately. I’m not sure the breading will hold up after freezing and thawing.

  6. I’m back. These are the best chicken nuggets I have ever had. I used the buttermilk substitute as shown at the top of this page, family loves them.

  7. Hi, I’m just making these now, not done yet, but noticed you don’t have the buttermilk listed in ingredients. Completely okay as I could see it in descriptions, but thought I’d let you know so you could add it :)

    1. You can, but you’ll end up with a different texture. You may also need to adjust the spices and oil that are stirred into the breadcrumbs because panko is so much less dense.

  8. I’m so glad to see this. I’ve been hoping you all would do one. Did you squash the chicken at all? The finished nuggets seem a little flatter than the ¾” chunks of raw chix. I’m so excited to try these.

    1. Nope! We just cut it into chunks. :) If you scroll down to the step by step photos at the bottom you can see the same chicken pieces through the whole process.