A dinner that kids will love! Quick and easy homemade Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets. They are perfectly seasoned, juicy and tender crunchy bites of chicken made with either chicken thighs or breasts. Make this quick and easy dinner recipe tonight.
Make these air fryer chicken nuggets for dinner and your kids will stop asking to go through the drive-through to get their fix! These nuggets from scratch are easy to make and so much better with less oil and fat.
This is a great weeknight meal to make in your air fryer – sometimes I serve them with fries on the side or a healthier side dish like asparagus or broccoli. The kids don’t complain about the veggies when I serve them with these crispy chicken nuggets!
Why This Recipe Works
- The breading is what makes these so great. The chicken is soaked in buttermilk first which tenderizes it and adds flavor. Then they’re coated in seasoned flour and cornstarch and finished with a breadcrumb coating.
- This combination makes the BEST breading for nuggets – crispy and flavorful with juicy chicken inside!
- You can use chicken thighs or breasts for this recipe – either one makes the best boneless chicken bites.
- Cook them in your air fryer for the crispiest breading! Just like deep-fried ones except so much better because you don’t need all the oil and it doesn’t make a big mess.
My kids beg for this dinner and I have to say I’m always happy to make it – I love these crispy homemade chicken nuggets just as much as they do!
- Boneless chicken thighs or breasts – I like thighs because they are juicier, but either will work. Cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- Smoked paprika – if you don’t have smoked, regular paprika will work, too!
- Seasonings – A mixture of garlic powder, ground mustard, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper gives these their delicious flavor!
- Cornstarch – Makes them nice and crispy!
- All-purpose flour – white flour is best and I’m not sure how whole wheat would work. You should be able to sub gluten-free flour with no problems.
- Buttermilk – Forgot this? Learn how to make a buttermilk substitute!
- Egg whites – These act like glue to hold the breading together. Whisk them in a small bowl until they are frothy. Save the yolks to make an omelet!
- Breadcrumbs – you can use regular dried breadcrumbs or panko
- Cooking spray – this is optional, but recommended. The spray will help them crisp up as they cook.
How to Bread the Nuggets
Set up a breading station with three separate bowls. Shallows bowls work the best or pie plates!
- In the first bowl, combine the spices, cornstarch, and flour.
- Combine the buttermilk and egg whites in the second bowl.
- Pour the breadcrumbs into the third bowl.
Coat all of the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, followed by the milk mixture, and finish them in the breadcrumbs.
Depending on the size of your bowls, you can do a few pieces at a time.
How to Cook Them in an Air Fryer
Place the nuggets in the air fryer basket. They should be in an even layer with space between them. Depending on the size of the basket, you may need to cook them in batches.
Spray the chicken with cooking spray and then place the basket in the air fryer.
Cook them for five minutes at 325°F. Take the basket out, turn them over and spray the other side with cooking spray. Replace the basket and cook them for five minutes more.
Don’t skip the cornstarch in the breading! It absorbs a lot of moisture which helps make the breading really crispy.
For the breadcrumbs, you can use plain ones or amp up the flavor with seasoned breadcrumbs.
To make the breading process go faster, you can place the flour mixture into a large ziplock back, the milk mixture in another, and the panko in another bag. Place enough pieces for one air fryer basket into the flour mixture. Close the bag shake, then remove and place in the milk mixture, using a slotted spoon, remove from the milk mixture and place in the panko. This is faster than hand-dipping them.
Don’t pile the nuggets in the basket – always cook them in an even layer so they get crispy all over.
Make sure the meat is cooked through! The easiest way to know if it’s done is to check the biggest piece with a thermometer – it should be 165°F. Or, just slice it in half – it should be cooked through with clear juices.
Leftovers will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator. Or, you can freeze them for up to two months.
Don’t forget a dipping sauce! We love BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, and ranch dip with ours.
Make it a Meal
Looking for some great side dishes to go with them? Here are some we love:
- You can’t go wrong with some Tater Tots or Sweet Potato Fries!
- Add your favorite potato chips or make your own Sweet Potato Chips.
- My family loves Bacon Ranch Potato Salad, too, or try a Broccoli Salad on the side.
Surprise your family with these air fryer chicken nuggets and you will get rave reviews! No more drive-throughs or greasy nuggets – these air-fried ones are always a hit. Enjoy!
More Chicken Air Fryer Recipes
- Make the best crispy Fried Chicken in your air fryer! It tastes just as good as classic fried chicken but with way less oil.
- Delicious, juicy Wings are great for dinner or parties!
- Use your air fryer to make amazing Chicken Parmesan!
- Air Fryer Chicken Legs are a really easy main dish your family will love!
Love this recipe? Be sure and comment below and leave a 5-star rating! I know you’ll love this delicious recipe as much as we do!
And if you’re like me and snap photos, be sure to tag me on Instagram @julieseatsandtreats or #julieseatsandtreats that way, I’m sure to see your delicious dish!
Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
- 2 ½ lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts cut into nugget size pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp oregano
- 4 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ c. buttermilk
- 4 egg whites whisked till slightly frothy
- 3 c. panko or breadcrumbs herb or other
- Cooking spray or olive oil in a spritzer optional
- Trim chicken of any fat and cut into nugget size pieces.
- In a small bowl or ziplock bag combine the spices, cornstarch and flour.
- In a separate bowl or bag combine buttermilk and egg whites and whisk to combine.
- In a separate bowl or bag add the panko or breadcrumbs.
- Add a few chicken pieces to the flour mixture and coat.
- Remove chicken and place in the milk, making sure to cover well.
- Remove and place in the panko.
- Place in the air fryer basket, making sure not to touch the pieces.
- Place the breaded chicken pieces in the basket making sure to leave room between pieces. SPray the top of the chicken with nonstick spray or olive oil.
- Place the basket in the air fryer and set for 325° and cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn the pieces over after 5 minutes and respray with oil. Return the basket and cook for an addition 5 minutes.
- Check for doneness in the fattest nugget. If the internal temperature is not 165 degrees F, cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
- Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce.