Tender and juicy, these crispy Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders are a meal you’ll have on repeat!! The crispy coating and mix of sweet and savory with the honey drizzled makes this a family favorite recipe that is a seriously a winner every time!
So simple to make, but oh so delicious!! The honey and pecans bring a slight sweetness and crunch which truly takes this easy and delicious chicken recipe to the next level! The best part is it takes less than 10 minutes to cook these up in the air fryer. This easy recipe is SERIOUSLY one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken!
They’re so versatile, which makes this one of my favorite dinner recipes! We love serving these pecan-crusted chicken tenders up with some of my Air Fryer Sweet Potato Wedges or Air Fryer Green Beans to build a complete meal. And I love adding them on top of a salad, like I do in my Fall Harvest Salad!
These tenders would even work great for meal prep because they’re a great protein to have on hand for the week! And then you can use it for all the things from wraps to salads to a classic finger food plate!
And please, don’t forget the dipping sauce!! Highly recommend some honey mustard – it pairs too well with the chicken and crunchy toasted pecans! But I also love my Skinny Honey Mustard Dressing or Chick-fil-a Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce! Classic ketchup, yellow mustard, dijon mustard or ranch all pair beautifully as well!!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THESE PECAN CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERS
- Deliciously tender and perfectly crisp chicken tenders!
- Recipe with simple ingredients made in the air fryer!!
- No excess oil like you’d get from fried chicken tenders – these tenders have healthy fats!
- A meal the whole family will love – even the pickiest of eaters!
- Great high protein recipe and a good change up from the usual.
- The perfect finger food and perfect for dunking in your favorite dip!!
- Staple recipe to add to your list. Because who doesn’t love a good chicken tender?!
- Chicken– I used chicken tenderloins. You could also do this with boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs.
- Egg – the egg mixture will help keep the crunchy pecan crust on the chicken cutlets.
- Milk – I used unsweetened almond milk. Any milk of your choice will work!
- Pecans – we’ll use ground pecans that we’ll pulse in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can add pecans to a ziplock bag and use something firm to crush pecans completely.
- Panko breadcrumbs – make sure you use panko breadcrumbs! Panko = crispy. Normal breadcrumbs don’t crisp up as well!
- Honey – This pairs amazing with the pecans but you can sub for maple syrup if needed.
- Seasonings: Grab some garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
HOW TO MAKE PECAN CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERS
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
- Prepare the chicken. Trim tendons from tenderloins if desired. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
- Egg wash: Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl.
- Pecan coating: Add the pecans, panko bread crumbs, garlic powder and paprika to a bowl of a food processor. Lightly pulse into fine crumbs. Then transfer the crumb mixture to a shallow dish or shallow bowl.
- Create an assembly line: With the chicken, egg, and pecan mixture. One by one, dip chicken tenders into the beaten egg and milk mixture, allowing any excess liquid to drip off, then coat each side with the pecan/panko mixture. Gently press the mixture onto the chicken so it stays until each tender is mostly coated. Then repeat for the rest of the tenders.
- Preheat the air fryer. Preheat to 375°F.
- Cook: Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Place chicken in a single layer and spray the top with cooking spray. Cook for 7-8 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until chicken is cooked through and a light golden brown.
- Serve: Let the chicken strips rest on a plate for 5 minutes before slicing. Drizzle the honey over the chicken right before serving.
If using chicken breast: Pound to even thickness using a meat mallet for even cooking. If thick, butterfly and cut in half horizontally (thinner chicken is easier to cook more even without it drying out).
OTHER WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN FINGERS
- Set grill to medium heat (~450°F). Spray grill with cooking spray.
- Add the chicken in a single layer and spray the top with cooking spray.
- Cook chicken for 3 minutes, then flip, and grill for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through (155°F internal temperature *).
Let the chicken rest on a plate for 5 minutes before slicing. Drizzle the honey over the chicken right before serving. Carryover cooking will ensure your chicken reaches 165°F and prevents overcooking.
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F.
- Add an oven-safe wire metal rack on top of the large baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
- Place the chicken tenders on top of the rack, about an inch apart.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through (155°F internal temperature*).
Carryover cooking will ensure your chicken reaches 165°F and prevents overcooking.
HOW TO STORE YOUR PECAN CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERS
Store cooked chicken tenders in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
HOW TO FREEZE YOUR AIR FRYER CHICKEN TENDERS
- Let cool COMPLETELY first.
- Then transfer to a baking sheet or other flat freezer-friendly dish (we want the nuggets to stay separated to prevent them from sticking together).
- Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. They’ll stay good for 3-4 months.
HOW TO REHEAT YOUR PECAN CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERS
HOW TO REHEAT IN AIR FRYER
Spray bottom of the air fryer basket with cooking spray and heat your tenders in the air fryer at 350 degrees for about 5-6 minutes.
HOW TO REHEAT IN OVEN
Place the chicken tenders on a baking sheet and broil them on high for a couple of minutes until they’re heated through and crispy on the outside.
HOW TO REHEAT FROM FROZEN
On a prepared baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until nuggets are cooked through. For best results, bake nuggets on a wire rack placed on the baking sheet so they crisp up evenly.
PANKO VS NORMAL BREADCRUMBS
If you want crispy chicken tenders, you need to use panko breadcrumbs instead of regular breadcrumbs. Why? Because the texture allows for less oil absorption, leaving the crumbs nice and crunchy when they come out of the oven.
You can absolutely still use regular breadcrumbs for these yummy chicken tenders! Just know they won’t get quite as crispy.
TIPS FOR BEST CHICKEN TENDERS
- Don’t over-crowd the air fryer basket. The air fryer needs to have enough room to deliver hot air around the chicken for it to cook and for the coating to crisp up.
- Use panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs crisp up way better than normal Italian breadcrumbs! Make sure you’re using the right kind.
- Pat chicken dry well. Pat chicken dry well with a paper towel before adding to the egg mixture. Removing as much liquid on the chicken as possible allows the coating to stick better to the egg wash on the chicken.
- Don’t overcook chicken. Since these are tenders and tenders do cook faster than whole breast, we’ll want to watch them closely. Over-cooking chicken drys it out and we want to keep our chicken juicy!
- Serve with honey mustard sauce. Seriously, I insist! It goes the absolute BEST with these tenders!!!
PECAN CHICKEN TENDERS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
For best results, stick with panko bread crumbs. They will give you the crispiest result! Normal breadcrumbs will work, the nuggets just won’t be as crispy.
Nope. Use what you have hand!
Yes! I love to freeze them so I have some on hand in a pinch. See the directions above for information on how to freeze your nuggets.
Yes! Toasting the pecans before using them in this recipe adds additional nutty flavor and extra crunchy pecan goodness. Simply place the pecans on a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes. The cooking time may vary a little, but you will want them just lightly browned (without them burning).
WHAT TO SERVE WITH PECAN CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERS
- AIR FRYER GREEN BEANS
- SIMPLE SEASONED AIR FRYER SWEET POTATO WEDGES
- SHREDDED BRUSSELS AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD
- AIR FRYER ROASTED POTATOES
MORE CHICKEN RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
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