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About This Recipe
Did you know that Popeye’s blackened chicken tenders are actually fried? I know, right? Who knew!
The first time I tried the Popeye’s chicken strips I knew there had to be an easy way to recreate them without all the extra calories from frying. And let me tell you, these nailed it! These copycat Popeyes air fried blackened chicken tenders are so easy to make and have 0 carbs and only 3 grams of fat.
I absolutely love making air fried chicken for meal prep, salads, sandwiches, pastas and more! It’s a guaranteed way to make juicy, tender chicken every time! Plus, this chicken freezes so well so it’s perfect for making in advance and freezing for later when you might need a quick meal.
These air fryer blackened chicken tenders (Popeyes copycat) are great for adding protein to any dish but are also great served as a main entree!
Why You’ll Love These Air Fryer Blackened Chicken Tenders (Popeyes Copycat)
- Quick & easy – less than 5 minutes of prep and ready in just 30 minutes
- Awesome high protein option – 0 carbs, low fat and 28 grams of protein per serving!
- Great for meal prep! Make in bulk and enjoy this easy protein option as you wish all week!
- Super versatile – Perfect for salads, chicken sandwiches, pastas or with your favorite sides!
- Freezer friendly and an easy chicken recipe for last-minute meals!
- Chicken – I used chicken tenderloins for this recipe! I think tenderloins are so easy to cook and always turn out super tender. You can also use thin chicken breast or slice regular breasts into tenders
- Olive oil – or another oil with high smoking point (like avocado oil or canola oil). You could also just use cooking spray if you preferred.
- Seasonings – paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper
- Red pepper flakes – optional for heat
- Type of Chicken: Use chicken breasts or chicken thighs instead of tenders. You can cook them whole, cut them into slices, or dice them into 1-inch pieces.
- Use fish instead of Chicken: This blackened seasoning is also delicious with fish. Swap the chicken for some yummy shrimp, salmon, tilapia, or your favorite fish!
- Make it extra spicy! If you love spice, add 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper to your mix for an increase in heat!
- Sauce: These tenders were made for dipping!! You honestly can’t go wrong! BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, caesar dressing, honey mustard or bang bang sauce would all be delicious!
How To Make
The full printable recipe is below, but let me walk you through the process so you know what to expect when you’re making it!
1. Preheat the air fryer to 390 degrees F. In a small bowl, add all the spices for the blackened chicken.
2. Mix together.
3. Pat chicken tenderloins dry with a paper towel and spray with cooking spray. Then toss evenly with the blackened seasoning mix.
4. Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Place the tenders in the basket in a single layer.
5. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until cooked through.
6. Set on a plate to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
There are so many easy ways to reheat these blackened chicken tenders. You can use the air fryer, oven, or stovetop to reheat. My personal preference is the air fryer but any method will work!
- To reheat in the air fryer: place chicken tenders in the air fryer at 350F for 5-7 minutes. If your chicken tenders are frozen, increase the cooking time to around 12 minutes.
- To reheat on the stove: heat a little oil in a skillet, then place chicken tenders in pan and heat for 1-2 minutes on each side. Ensure you keep the chicken moving to prevent it from burning.
- To reheat in the microwave: wrap chicken tenderloins in a damp paper towel and reheat on 70% for 30 second increments or until heated through. Note: this is my least preferred method as it can sometimes make the chicken tenders tough but if you’re careful to not overheat it generally works just fine!\
- To reheat in the oven: preheat to 400°F and lay the chicken out on a baking sheet. Heat for 15-20 minutes, flipping once halfway through. You must defrost frozen chicken tenders before heating them in the oven.
How To Remove Tendon from Chicken Tenderloin
If you want to remove the tough white tendon from the chicken tender, you can use a fork and paper towel to quickly remove it. Simply place the tendon between the fork’s prongs, grip the tendon with the paper towel, and pull away from the chicken tenderloin. Check out this article for an example!
How do I know my chicken pieces are done?
One of the biggest mistakes when cooking chicken (or various other types of meat) is overcooking it and waiting until it reaches 165F to pull it out. You can actually cook chicken until it reaches 155F and allow carryover cooking to ensure it reaches 165F. This helps keep your chicken moist and juicy and avoids overcooking which can dry your chicken out. To check the internal temperature of the chicken, I recommend using an instant read thermometer!
Can I freeze these chicken tenders?
Yes! I love making a big batch of chicken tenders like these then placing in the freezer for when I need a quick protein option! To freeze, let cool completely. Then place in an airtight container or vacuumed-sealed freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place chicken tenders in fridge overnight or place in cool water to thaw quicker.
How can I cook these Copycat Popeye’s Blackened Chicken Tenders if I don’t have an air fryer?
If you don’t have an air fryer you can cook these easy blackened chicken tenderloins in the oven or stovetop! To cook in oven, place chicken on a sheet pan and cook at 400F for 15-18 minutes. To cook on stovetop, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken tenderloins to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until done.
Are these air fryer blackened chicken tenders (popeyes copycat) healthy?
Yes! This chicken tenders recipe is a great healthy alternative to the fast food option! It’s made with an easy, homemade blend of spices (no extra additives), way less cooking oil than traditional fried recipes (Popeye’s also fry their blackened tenders), and is low carb (and gluten-free) since it doesn’t require any type of flour mixture. One of my favorite reasons why I love the air fryer is because it requires less oil which helps keep fats down! This recipe also uses olive oil (instead of canola oil or seed oil) so it can be better for your hormones.
- 1 lb. chicken tenderloins
- 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp each: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
- 1 tsp each: cumin, oregano, salt, pepper
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes optional for heat
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- Preheat the air fryer to 390 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, mix together all the spices for the blackened chicken.
- Pat chicken tenderloins dry with a paper towel and spray with cooking spray. Then toss evenly with the seasoning mix.
- Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Place the tenders in the basket in a single layer. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Set on a plate to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
Nutrition is hand-calculated and accurate. No autocalulations! However, note that values can vary based on the brands you use and if you substitute ingredients.