The BEST Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets (Pickle-Brined)

A pickle brine results in the most moist, delicious and tasty grilled chicken! The acid in the pickle juice works to brine the outside of the chicken– keeping the moisture locked inside. The slight tang given off from the pickle juice hits just perfect! These Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets are AWESOME for meal prep or just when you need to cook your chicken QUICK!

grilled chicken nuggets made in the air fryer

You guys! This has to be one of the most fun and useful meal ideas to date! Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets. Yes, grilled nuggets made in the AIR FRYER. In a pickle brine! Say what?! These pickle nuggets are absolutely delicious and way better (and cheaper) than fast food. This is 100% about to be your new favorite air fryer chicken recipe!

Have you heard of people using pickle brine as a brine before? Similar to a lemon juice or apple cider vinegar brine, the acid in pickle juice acts as a brine to keep your chicken’s moisture locked inside. And the slight tanginess from the pickle juice itself brings the perfect amount of flavor. It’s truly not overpowering, just a slight tang! That’s what makes these Easy Grilled Pickle Chicken Nuggets such a crowd-pleaser!

This was my first time using a pickle brine to prepare my chicken and I am so impressed at how tasty the chicken came out. And this easy recipe. Simple ingredients, fool proof recipe. As with any chicken recipe, the key is to not overcook the chicken. Otherwise, these are very straightforward and simple to make! I’d recommend letting your chicken sit in the pickle juice for at least 30 minutes for maximum moisture lock and flavor. But even if you only had time for 5 minutes, they’ll still be incredibly delicious.

This is a great recipe for meal prep. Add them on top of my Grilled Pickle Nugget Salad or eat alongside some Air Fryer Green Beans. You can even dip in one of my favorite things, my Chick-fil-a Honey BBQ Sauce. Either way you choose, these nuggets are going to make for a delicious meal!

chicken marinating in a pickle brine in a ziploc bag

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THESE AIR FRYER GRILLED CHICKEN NUGGETS

  • They’re the most tender, moist and delicious chicken nuggets you’ve ever had!
  • One of my all time favorite air fryer recipes
  • Super easy to prep. Just dice the chicken and place in pickle juice!
  • Two easy cooking methods: toss them on the grill or pop in the air fryer.
  • You can pair them with almost anything!
  • Copycat Chick-fil-a recipe (taste wise, not method- they don’t actually use pickle juice!)
  • Kid AND adult friendly. The whole family LOVES these.
  • PERFECT for meal prep and air frying!
ingredients for air fryer grilled chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken – I used boneless skinless chicken breast. You could use chicken thighs as well if you prefer. We’ll cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  • Pickle juice
  • Salt
  • Smoked paprika – can sub for chili powder for a little more kick!
  • Nonstick cooking spray – I used olive oil spray.
  • Optional extras: brown sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, other seasonings of choice
juicy cooked naked chicken nuggets with a beautiful brown brine

HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER GRILLED PICKLE CHICKEN NUGGETS

  1. Add your chicken cubes to your large ziplock bag (or bowl) along with the pickle juice and seasonings. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.  
  2. Remove chicken from the brine and lightly pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all over with salt and smoked paprika.

Air Fryer method: Preheat the air fryer to 375°F. Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Add the chicken in a single layer and spray the top with cooking spray. Cook for 8-10 minutes, tossing halfway through. 

Grill method: 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, flip, and grill for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. The chicken’s internal temperature should read 155°F*.

*Carry-over cooking will ensure your chicken reaches 165°F and prevents overcooking. Cooking time will vary depending on brand of air fryer and thickness of chicken.

HOW LONG TO COOK GRILLED CHICKEN NUGGETS

For this recipe, I used an air fryer and grill, but you should be able to cook in a pan or in the oven just fine! I haven’t tried it myself, but here’s what I would do:

Cooking recommendations:

  • Air fryer / 375°F / 8-10 minutes – This is probably the easiest method and the one we do most often.
  • Grill / 450°F / 3 minutes each side – Just as easy as using the air fryer. I also love getting those grill marks!
  • Oven / 400°F / 16-18 minutes – Place your chicken pickle nuggets on a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the preheated oven. I would flip halfway through.
  • Stovetop / Medium-heat / 4-5 minutes each side – Add to a heated pan and cook for 4-5 minutes untouched. Then, flip and cook another 4-5 minutes.

It’s important to note that cooking times will vary based on the size of the chicken you use. Always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. I like to remove the chicken from the heat when it reaches 155°F. Carryover cooking will ensure chicken reaches 165°F.

You can also always slice a nugget in half, and as long as chicken is no longer pink, it’s good! 

grilled chicken nugget caesar salad in a large bowl

HOW TO PREVENT AIR FRYER GRILLED CHICKEN NUGGETS FROM BECOMING DRY? 

As with any cooked chicken, the key to this recipe is to not overcook the chicken. For best results, take chicken out when internal temperature reaches 155 F. Carryover cooking will ensure chicken reaches 165°F.

CAN I MAKE INTO AIR FRYER GRILLED CHICKEN TENDERS INSTEAD?

You could most definitely turn these into air fryer grilled chicken tenders! If you wish to make into tenders, use chicken tenderloins or cut into small tenderloin size pieces. Depending on how thick, tenders may take a little longer, about 10-12 minutes to cook.

grilled chicken Mediterranean pasta salad in a large bowl

WHAT TO SERVE WITH THESE DELICIOUS AIR FRYER CHICKEN NUGGETS

  • French fries – I love Alexia frozen brand!
  • Potato salad
  • Air Fryer Green Beans – for a balanced healthy meal
  • Barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce, honey mustard, hot sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce!

GRILLED PICKLE CHICKEN NUGGETS Q+A

How long does the chicken need to marinate in the pickle brine?

At least 30 minutes is best, but even if did 5, they’ll still be good.

Do you taste the pickle?

To me, you really don’t! The pickle juice gives them a slight tang, but it’s really not overpowering at all. I definitely still think you would love these even if you hate pickles.

What do these chicken nuggets taste like?

They taste similar to Chick fil a grilled nuggets and air fryer naked chicken tenders.

What’s the best way to cook these chicken pickle nuggets?

I love to use the air fryer, but there is definitely a way to fit how your kitchen works! I share options for the oven, grill, air fryer, and stove top in the post above.

MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE

WANT TO MAKE THIS RECIPE?

If you try these Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets and love them, please rate this recipe!

You can also tag me on Instagram, @LaurenFitFoodie. It makes my day seeing your yummy recreations!

Yield: 4 servings

The BEST Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets (Pickle-Brined)

The BEST Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets (Pickle-Brined)

A pickle brine results in the most moist, delicious and tasty grilled chicken! The acid in the pickle juice works to brine the outside of the chicken– keeping the moisture locked inside. The slight tang given off from the pickle juice hits just perfect! These Air Fryer Grilled Chicken Nuggets are AWESOME for meal prep or just when you need to cook your chicken QUICK!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

To Marinate:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice (120g)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar, optional
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, optional

After Marinating:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Add your chicken cubes to your large ziplock bag (or bowl) along with the pickle juice. Add the brown sugar and black pepper now too if using (I don't taste a huge difference either way!) Let marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.  
  2. Remove chicken from the brine and lightly pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all over with the salt and smoked paprika.

Air Fryer method: Preheat the air fryer to 375°F. Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray. Add the chicken in a single layer and spray the top with cooking spray. Cook for 8-10 minutes, tossing halfway through.


Grill method: 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).


*carryover cooking will ensure your chicken reaches 165°F and prevents overcooking.

Notes

MFP entry: LFF Grilled Chicken Pickle Nuggets

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

85g

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 164Total Fat: 1.2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gCarbohydrates: 0.1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 35.2g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram and tag me @LaurenFitFoodie! 

6 Comments

  1. These look amazing. I may make them to put in a pasta salad this week. One question though, how much brown sugar goes in them and is it regular brown sugar or swerve brown sugar? Thanks

    • That would be an awesome idea!

      I have made them both ways and actually can’t tell much of a difference! I just added to the recipe card in case you want to try it with it. I used regular brown sugar!

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