This easy Air Fryer Fried Chicken is crunchy and golden, with juicy and moist chicken on the inside. It’s one of the easiest ways to make fantastic fried chicken without the mess of deep frying.
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I’ve made fried chicken dozens of times, usually on the stove top in an inch of hot oil. It’s delicious, but it’s also a huge pain to make. After I’m done frying all the pieces, the kitchen is a greasy disaster that needs to be scrubbed from top to bottom. Using the air fryer, you have none of that mess.
In my opinion, the air fryer produces chicken that you wouldn’t even really know wasn’t deep fried. It’s pretty genius actually. If you love fried chicken, but not all the mess and extra calories, this is the method for you.
Why Use an Air Fryer
An air fryer is an incredibly easy way to cook just about anything. You place the food in a fryer-style basket and hot air rapidly circulates all around the food, making the food crisp – much like deep-frying, but without the oil.
For fried chicken, there are a number of benefits in using the air fryer rather than deep frying. The biggest reasons are:
- Way less mess. You aren’t frying in a vat of hot oil, so it won’t be spattering all over your kitchen.
- Way healthier. Since you’re cooking the chicken with a lot less oil, the breading won’t soak that all up. That means less calories, less unhealthy fats, and an overall lighter meal.
- Less time. When you deep fry chicken, even if it’s in a deep fryer and not in a skillet on the stove top, you have to stand over the food and watch as it cooks so it doesn’t burn or cause a fire. With the air fryer, all you have to do is put the chicken in, turn it on, and come back to flip it once during cooking. Easy peasy.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken – Use whatever chicken pieces you like to eat, but I would suggest bone-in, skin on chicken breast, thighs, or drumsticks. You can make more than 4 pieces if your air fryer can hold it without overlapping. Most air fryers cannot hold more than 4 pieces at a time, so you will have to do it in batches, which is not ideal.
- Buttermilk – Soaking the chicken in buttermilk for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours will impart flavor and ensure the chicken stays moist inside. I add sriracha or another hot sauce to the buttermilk to give even more flavor. It does not make the chicken spicy, so no worries.
- Egg – Egg acts as a binding agent to keep the breading adhered to the chicken.
- Flour – Flour helps form the breading on the chicken.
- Seasonings – The flour mixture for the breading will be very bland and flavorless unless you add some spices. I like paprika, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. These will add extra flavor to the breading. You could also use Cajun seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, or any version of “KFC herbs and spices” you like.
- Cooking oil spray – You must spray the pieces of chicken well with the cooking spray in order for the breading to get crispy “fried” like fried chicken should be. Even if you coat the chicken well so the flour isn’t dry anymore, it will be way less oil than you would have used to deep fry, so don’t be shy.
How to Make Air Fryer Fried Chicken
Soak the pieces of chicken in a bowl with the buttermilk and sriracha for up to 2 hours.
In another bowl, whisk the egg. In a large shallow bowl (or large Ziploc bag) add the flour, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Mix together well.
Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and dip them, one at a time, into the flour, then the egg, then the flour again. Shake off any excess egg and/or flour as you go. Set the pieces on a wire rack to rest for 5 minutes. Spray the chicken with cooking spray on both sides.The flour should be moistened well with oil.
Place the chicken pieces into the air fryer basket or tray. Cook on 390° F for 25 minutes, flipping the chicken pieces halfway through cooking. Remember that not all air fryers are the same and the chicken you use might be larger or smaller than mine. Therefore, it’s wise to check the chicken temperature with an instant read thermometer to make sure it’s done.
The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 175° F. Remove the chicken from the air fryer and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
How Long to Cook the Chicken
If you’re making this air fryer chicken for the first time, you will want to be aware of the cooking times for different pieces of chicken. Also be aware that not everyone’s chicken is going to cook at the same rate, so while mine took 25 minutes, yours might take less or more time.
- Chicken thighs and drumsticks – It’s best to cook chicken thighs and drumsticks to an internal temperature of 180-185°F. It helps breaks down the meat fibers and leads to a better cooked chicken, especially around the bone. This might take 27 or 28 minutes, as opposed to 25 for breasts.
- Chicken breasts – Chicken breasts should reach internal temp of 165 °F. If you cook them longer, they will begin to dry out.
- Chicken tenders – Chicken tenders in the air fryer only take about 15 minutes to cook, depending on thickness and whether they were frozen to begin with. They won’t take nearly as long as the other cuts, so keep your eye on them
- Chicken wings – Wings tend to take about the same amount of time as a breast – 25 minutes. It takes this amount of time to properly render the fat to crispy.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t overcrowd the basket. The pieces of chicken need room around them for the air to circulate and get the skin crispy. If you have too many pieces for your basket, you’ll have to make them in batches. You can keep the already cooked chicken warm on a plate in the oven.
- Not all chicken pieces will be the same size so they may cook at different speeds. It’s best to use an instant read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature has reached 165° F. For bone-in chicken, the internal temperature should read 175° F.
- You can put a small amount of water in the bottom of your air fryer basket or tray to keep it from smoking. This obviously only works with some types of air fryers. If you have one with a basket or a tray above the heating element, you could put a bit of water in to keep the oil from smoking.
- You’ll get a crispier, golden skin if you spray the outside of the chicken with cooking spray before cooking. The flour needs oil to not be dry and flaky.
What Oil & Oil Sprayer is Best for the Air Fryer?
The biggest issue most air fryer lovers face is finding the right oil and oil sprayer to use on food cooked in the air fryer. A fine mist of oil will help the entire piece of food crisp evenly, so it’s very important.
My personal preference is to use canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil. I use both a refillable spray bottle like the Evo one pictured below and non-propellant extra virgin olive oil, which has not harmful aerosols or chemicals.
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Air Fryer Fried Chicken
- 4 pieces of chicken whatever pieces you like most
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons sriracha or hot sauce
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Spray olive oil for cooking
- Soak the pieces of chicken in a bowl with the buttermilk and sriracha for up to 2 hours.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg. In a large shallow bowl (or large Ziploc bag) add the flour, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Mix together well.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and dip them, one at a time, into the flour, then the egg, then the flour again. Shake off any excess egg and/or flour as you go. Set the pieces on a wire rack to rest for 5 minutes. Spray the chicken with cooking spray on both sides.The flour should be moistened well with oil.
- Place the chicken pieces into the air fryer basket or tray. Cook on 390° F for 25 minutes, flipping the chicken pieces halfway through cooking.
- The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 175° F. Remove the chicken from the air fryer and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
All air fryers have different wattage and may cook at different rates. You may need to adjust the time or temp for the best results.
🥧 If you’re interested in more great recipes, I share all my favorite recipes over at A Food Lover’s Kitchen, and you’ll find Instant Pot recipes at A Pressure Cooker Kitchen, and cocktails and drinks at Savored Sips. Check it out today!
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Laura spends a lot of her time cooking and creating recipes to share. She loves traveling and learning about new foods around the world to bring into her own recipes at home.