Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets {Crispy & Juicy!}

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Crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside, these Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike!

Chicken Nuggets in Air Fryer

Chicken nuggets are basically the ULTIMATE finger food. They have a crispy crust, while their core is tender and juicy, and perfect for dipping.

While frozen chicken nuggets are a classic and convenient way to indulge in nuggets, making them from scratch is soooo worth the time and effort. The flavor of homemade air fryer chicken nuggets is unmatched! 

There are multiple ways to make chicken nuggets. You can make them out of ground chicken or canned chicken.

Air fryer chicken nuggets recipe bite shot, served in a medium baking dish with fry sauce.

What I like, though, is the Chick-fil-A style in which they use real, boneless chicken breast instead of ground meat—and that’s what we’re going to do in this recipe! 

Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps! This air fryer chicken nugget recipe is simple and SUPER tasty!

Ingredients for Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients for homemade chicken nuggets air fryer recipe

You can find the exact measurements of the recipe ingredients and customize the serving size in the recipe card after the detailed step-by-step instructions section.

In this recipe, we build flavor in layers to create the most tantalizing chicken nuggets you’ll ever have! Plus, most of these ingredients are pantry staples!

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Avocado oil spray
  • Buttermilk
  • All-purpose flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika 
  • Cayenne 
  • Salt and pepper 

Buttermilk is key in this recipe! The tang really makes for the most delicious air fryer chicken nuggets! 

While slightly higher in calories, chicken thighs can be used in place of chicken breast, and they bring a little extra fat and flavor.

Debone them first (if they’re not boneless), then portion them into smaller pieces.

Recipe Video

How to Air Fry Chicken Nuggets?

Making homemade chicken nuggets in the air fryer is easier and simpler than you’d think! In less than 25 minutes, you’ll have healthy, yummy chicken nuggets to please kids and adults alike!

Step 1: Slice your chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.

Diced, boneless skinless chicken breast

Carefully prep the chicken breasts by cutting each one into 1-inch pieces.

Step 2: Prepare the breading station.

breading station for chicken nuggets

Get three shallow containers and setup your breading station.

Breading Mix: In a medium-large bowl, add flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Whisk to fully combine.

Dredging Station: Take 1 cup of the dry mix and add it to a large container with a lid and set aside.

Wet Batter Station: In another medium-large bowl, add the buttermilk and 1/2 cup of the dry batter and mix until combined.

Step 3: Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF (204ºC).

Preating Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer to 400°F (204°C).

If your air fryer doesn’t have a preheating option, you can set the temperature to 400ºF (204ºC) and then let it cook for 5 minutes without food.

🚨 Important: Reduce the cooking temperature to 380°F (193°C) if you’re using a 4-quart air fryer or smaller. They are hotter due to the heating element being closer to the food.

Step 4: Bread the raw chicken nuggets.

Uncooked breaded chicken nuggets

While the air fryer is heating up, bread the chicken pieces.

First, add the chicken pieces (as many as will comfortably fit) to the dredging container. Place the lid back and shake until all of the chicken pieces are evenly coated with the dry batter. 

Then, transfer each piece to the buttermilk mixture and shake off any excess.

Finally, transfer each piece to the breading mix container, pressing to adhere.

Transfer all the breaded chicken to a clean plate until ready to air fry. 

💡 Pro Tip: This 3-step breading process is what guarantees the crispiest, best chicken! Be sure to follow the recipe as-written for best results.

Step 5: Air fry chicken nuggets for 10-12 minutes.

Cooking chicken nuggets in air fryer

When all the chicken is breaded and the air fryer is preheated, spray the air fryer basket with avocado oil. Then, place the uncooked breaded chicken cubes in a single layer before spraying them with neutral cooking oil.

Air fry the chicken nuggets, flipping and re-spraying halfway through, until golden, crisp, and fully-cooked, about 10-12 minutes.

Step 6: Prepare your favorite dipping sauce.

Mixing classic fry dipping sauce

While the chicken is air frying, prepare your favorite dipping sauce! Our favorite is just a 1:1 ratio of ketchup to mayonnaise! But sriracha mayo, honey mustard, and plain ketchup are also great choices.

Step 7: Allow the air fried chicken nuggets to rest for 3-5 minutes.

Chicken nuggets on a cooling rack

When the chicken is golden and crisp, transfer to a clean plate and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes to cool slightly before enjoying.

This step is crucial for maintaining the crispiness of the crust and the juicy tenderness of the cooked chicken breast.

Step 8: Serve and enjoy your crispy air fryer chicken nuggets!

Air fried chicken nuggets in a medium baking dish with fry sauce.

When the nuggets have cooled slightly, serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy! 

Of course these gourmet chicken nuggets are delicious just on their own, with a squeeze of lemon or with dipping sauce.

But, if you want a different way to serve them, toss them on top of a salad! A cobb salad, with bacon, blue cheese and avocado is the perfect foundation for some crispy chicken nuggets! Who says chicken nuggets can’t be gourmet?

Follow this air frying cheat sheet for cooking chicken nuggets in the air fryer.

TypeCooking TimeTemperatureNotes
Raw Chicken Nuggets10-12 minutes400°F (204°C)flip halfway
Frozen Chicken Nuggets8-10 minutes400°F (204°C)flip halfway
Suggested cooking times and air frying temperature for raw and frozen chicken nuggets.

🚨 Important: Reduce the cooking temperature to 380°F (193°C) if you’re using a 4-quart air fryer or smaller. They are hotter due to the heating element being closer to the food.

And don’t forget to preheat your air fryer for a more accurate cooking time.

Freezing & Storage

Freezing: Allow the chicken nuggets to cool completely. Then, transfer to an airtight container, separating each layer with parchment or wax paper, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Fridge: Allow the chicken nuggets to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or zip-top bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Reheating Chicken Nuggets in the Air Fryer

Reheating Leftover Chicken Nuggets 

To reheat your leftover air fryer chicken nuggets that have been sitting in your refrigerator, preheat the air fryer to 360°F (182°C). Then, add the nuggets in a single layer and air fry them until they are heated through and crisped, which usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Remember to flip the nuggets once halfway through the cooking process for even cooking.

Reheating Frozen Chicken Nuggets

If you bought frozen chicken nuggets, they come precooked and the cooking time will be a little less compared to raw ones. To do so, preheat your air fryer to 400°F (204°C), and cook them for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you can definitely air fry chicken nuggets! Air frying is a popular method for cooking chicken nuggets as it results in a crispy exterior while keeping the inside tender and juicy.

As a general guideline, most chicken nuggets will take about 8 to 12 minutes to cook in an air fryer at high heat. However, the cooking time for chicken nuggets can vary depending on the size of the nuggets, the number of servings you’re making, as well as the specific model of the air fryer.

To cook homemade chicken nuggets in an air fryer, start by dicing your chicken breasts. Then, prepare your breading mixture. Now, preheat your air fryer to high heat. Meanwhile, coat the chicken cubes in the breading mix and arrange them in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Spray them with neutral cooking oil for added crispiness. Lastly, air fry the nuggets for 10-12 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they are crispy and golden.

To reheat leftover chicken nuggets in the air fryer, first preheat your cooking appliance to 360°F (182°C). Once preheated, add the nuggets to the air fryer basket and cook them for 3-5 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

On average, a standard breaded and fried chicken nugget contains approximately 50-80 calories per piece. However, the number of calories can vary depending on the the size of the nugget and the ingredients used.

prep time10 minutes
cooking time12 minutes
total cooking time22 minutes

Homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets {Crispy & Juicy!}

courseSnack
cuisineAmerican
Crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside, these Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets are sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike! 🤩 Fry it to believe it!
Air fryer chicken nuggets in a medium baking dish with fry sauce.
5 from 2 votes
number of servings6

This ingredients checklist is interactive; you can use it as your grocery list.

Ingredients
 

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons Avocado oil spray

Breading

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne
  • teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Dice your chicken breast: Pat the boneless, skinless chicken breasts dry with a kitchen towel, and then slice them into 1-inch cubes. If the chicken breasts are frozen, thaw them overnight.
    Diced, boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Prepare the breading station: In a large container, combine the flour, corn starch, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Next, take ½ cup of the dry batter and add it to the buttermilk. Finally, place a cup of dry batter into a covered container.
    breading station for chicken nuggets
  • Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF (204ºC). If your air fryer has a capacity of 4 quarts or smaller, please see the note for more info.
    Preating Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer to 400°F (204°C).
  • Bread the raw chicken nuggets: First, transfer 10-15 pieces of uncooked chicken nuggets into the dredging container. Shake until lightly coated. Next, dip each nugget into the buttermilk mixture. Then, transfer them to the breading station and cover them with the dry batter mixture, pressing gently to help the breading adhere.Transfer to a separate container, then repeat the process until all the chicken breast chunks have been breaded.
    Uncooked breaded chicken nuggets
  • Air fry chicken nuggets for 10-12 minutes. To begin, add a single layer of breaded chicken nuggets into the preheated air fryer, then spray them with cooking oil. Flip halfway through, spray any remaining dry section with cooking oil and air fry them until the crust is crispy and golden brown. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) or higher.
    Cooking chicken nuggets in air fryer
  • Prepare your favorite dipping sauce. The classic sauces for chicken nuggets are barbecue sauce, honey mustard, or traditional fry sauce.
    Mixing classic fry dipping sauce
  • Allow the air fried chicken nuggets to rest on a cooling rack for 3-5 minutes. This will help maintain the crispiness of the crust and make your chicken nuggets more tender..
    Chicken nuggets on a cooling rack
  • Now all that’s left for you is to enjoy your air fryer chicken nuggets with your favorite dipping sauce or maybe a side of fries.
    Air fried chicken nuggets in a medium baking dish with fry sauce.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • For smaller air fryers (4-quart and below), reduce the cooking temperature to 380°F (193°C). They generate more heat because of the heating element’s proximity to the food.
  • If your air fryer doesn’t have a preheating option, you can set the temperature to 400ºF (204ºC)) and then let it cook for 4-5 minutes without food.
  • I used a 6-quart Instant Pot Vortex Plus to test this homemade air fryer chicken nuggets recipe. Cooking time and temperature may vary depending on your air fryer and the number of servings you are making. For optimal results, begin with the lower end of the suggested cooking time.
  • Any poultry products such as chicken breast should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) or higher.
  • For a crispy and juicy nuggets, allow them to rest on a cooling rack for at least 3-5 minutes after air frying.

Nutrition

Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 669mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 361IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 2mg
Keywords: air fryer chicken nuggets, chicken nuggets in air fryer

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