Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken makes the PERFECT dinner! You can make these easy buttermilk chicken tenders in the oven, air fryer, or on the stove.
You are going to LOVE this crispy, crunchy buttermilk chicken tenders recipe! These have a general seasoning blend that is versatile and kid-friendly. They taste AMAZING with the homemade ranch recipe down below, but they also pair well with barbeque sauce, honey mustard, or your favorite dipping sauce!
This easy chicken recipe is great for meal prepping! Add them to salads, roll them up in wraps, toss them into pasta, or use them to make sandwiches. This buttermilk chicken can even be frozen, so you can make a double batch for later! Whether served for a toddler-friendly lunch or as an appetizer while watching the game, these crunchy chicken fingers are going to become a quick favorite for the whole family.
Ingredients for Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Here’s a quick overview for what you’ll need for this 30-minute chicken recipe. Find exact measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- Chicken tenderloins – Boneless, skinless. These cook quickly and are both versatile and kid-friendly. You could slice chicken breasts or thighs into tenders if you prefer; just make sure they are all the same size so that they cook evenly.
- Buttermilk, Avocado oil, Apple cider vinegar – These make our marinade, and it’s the perfect combination for tenderizing and flavorizing. Feel free to swap the oil with your preferred oil if you would like.
- Garlic powder, Onion powder, Smoked paprika, Salt, and Black Pepper – These add a great, all-purpose seasoning that pairs well with tons of different dips. These will go into the marinade and the breading so the flavor comes through.
- Flour and Cornstarch – If you’re gluten-free, I recommend Gluten-Free Bisquick or cup4cup gluten-free flour. If you aren’t gluten-free, all-purpose flour works best. I have not tried any low-carb flours and cannot recommend any substitutions.
- Oil – If you are cooking these in the air fryer or oven, you need spray oil. If you plan to fry these on the stove, you’ll need a few cups of cooking oil (vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, whatever you prefer).
Ranch dressing ingredients
This buttermilk chicken is amazing dipped in a quick, homemade ranch dressing. This is a great way to use more of that buttermilk!
- Mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk
- Fresh herbs: Dill and chives
- Dried seasoning: Parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt
How to Make Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders
These easy buttermilk chicken fingers are SO simple! To make sure your chicken is cooked through, I recommend using an instant-read thermometer. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to making this crunchy, tasty chicken.
In a large bowl or bag, stir together the marinade ingredients until well combined. Add in the chicken and make sure it gets coated well on all sides. Cover the bowl (or close the bag) and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. This step is not optional–It really is necessary to get the classic buttermilk flavor AND to get the right texture in the breading.
In a shallow bowl, mix together the ingredients for the breading. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade, then place all pieces into the breading mixture. Carefully toss the chicken to coat until the breading starts to clump together and stick to the chicken.
To air fry, start by preheating the air fryer to 380 degrees for 3-5 minutes. Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray, then carefully place the chicken in a single layer into the basket. Do not stack chicken tenders on top of one another, and don’t let them touch–This will prevent the breading from crisping up and cause the chicken to cook unevenly. Depending on the size of your air fryer, this means you may have to cook these in batches.
Spray the chicken with the cooking spray, then close the air fryer and let it cook for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, flip the chicken and spray again. Cook for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. For oven instructions and skillet instructions, scroll down to the FAQ section.
Note: If you don’t spray the chicken with the oil, they will remain pale even when perfectly cooked. The oil is absolutely necessary for the golden brown, crunchy coating.
How to make homemade ranch dressing
This delicious dip couldn’t be easier–No cooking necessary! Grab a mixing bowl, add in the ranch dressing ingredients, and mix until well combined. It’s nice and herby–Use it on salads, with veggies, in a wrap… Anywhere you would use bottled ranch! It’s hard to guess how long it will last because it depends on how fresh your buttermilk and sour cream are, but usually you should be able to get at least a week out of it!
What to serve with buttermilk fried chicken
We love these crunchy chicken strips with classic sides like Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, or Air Fryer Potato Wedges. To add in more veggies, try Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole or Crispy Green Bean Fries instead! Make sandwiches with Gluten-Free Buttermilk Biscuits for a great breakfast or lunch. Make a fun appetizer dinner and serve these with Jalapeno Poppers and Onion Rings!
More great sides to serve with chicken tenders
- Sweet Potato Cheddar Cornbread
- Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Rice
- Air Fryer Zucchini with Parmesan
- The BEST Smashed Broccoli
Want more? Check out this list of the best Air Fryer Vegetables for easy side dishes!
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can place a paper towel under/between the tenders to help soak up any excess moisture or oil, keeping the tenders crunchy for longer. Make sure you allow the chicken to cool completely before closing it up in a container–Any remaining heat will turn into moisture which could make your breading become soggy.
Allow the chicken to cool completely, then place the tenders (not touching) on a baking sheet or plate. Freeze for 2-3 hours, then transfer to a freezer bag. This prevents all the chicken tenders from freezing together in a clump so that you can pull out just the amount you need later. The chicken is best thawed and reheated within 3 months.
To keep the buttermilk fried chicken crunchy, I recommend reheating in the air fryer or oven. Skip the microwave as it can make the tenders soggy. If your chicken tenders are frozen, I recommend using the oven method as the air fryer may overcook your breading before the inside of the tenders are hot.
- Oven – Preheat to 350 degrees F, place on a baking sheet with space between each chicken tender. Reheat until warmed throughout, usually 8-15 minutes depending on how many you’re reheating at once. If you want them crispier, place a wire rack on your baking sheet and reheat the tenders on the rack. Frozen chicken tenders will take longer. If they look like they’re getting too browned before the inside is warm, cover loosely with foil.
- Air Fryer – Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees F. Place the buttermilk chicken into the basket and reheat for 6-8 minutes, flipping halfway through for the best crunch. Don’t overcrowd the basket; the tenders should not be touching or stacked on one another for the best texture.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken FAQs
Marinading is crucial to this recipe. It gives the chicken a ton of flavor and also ensures the right ratio of liquid to dry ingredients when breading the chicken! If you don’t have time to marinate the chicken, I recommend just waiting until you get the chance. It really does make a HUGE difference.
To get the ultimate crunch like you would at a pub, you will want to fry your buttermilk chicken in a pot on the stove. Heat about 3/4″ of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat (350-375 degrees). Once it’s hot and sizzling (toss in a little piece of breading to see if it’s ready), place your chicken tenders in the pot. You don’t want to crowd them, so cook in batches if you need to. Each batch will take 6-9 minutes (depending on how crowded the pot is & how hot the oil is), but make sure you flip them around the 3-4 minute mark so the entire chicken tender is evenly cooked and perfectly crunchy. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the inside of the chicken has reached 165 degrees.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with silicone or parchment paper. Spray both sides of the chicken strips very generously (remember, the oil is what helps the breading crisp up for a great crunch, so don’t skip this step). Place them on the prepared baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes. You don’t have to flip these as long as you sprayed oil on both sides. This method is the least crispy of the 3 options.
If you like this easy chicken recipe, you have got to try these!
- Dill Pickle Chicken Fritters – If you love fried chicken and fried pickles, this is going to be your new favorite recipe! For a spicy twist, try this jalapeno version.
- Easy Keto Chicken Tenders – Even our low-carb friends can enjoy crispy chicken fingers! This recipe works in the oven or air fryer, and we LOVE freezing them for easy lunches.
- Pecan Crusted Chicken – Crunch lovers, this recipe is for you. Healthy nuts give this chicken recipe a delicious coating that adds great texture to salads and wraps.
- Cornflake Chicken Tenders – Convenient cereal gives this chicken a lighter, more delicate crispness that you’ll love. Note to remember: Kellog’s cornflakes are not gluten-free.
- Air Fryer Chicken Tenderloins – When you want to focus on the juicy, tender chicken, you skip the heavy breading! This recipe is so quick and is a lighter option.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- 1 pound chicken tenderloins
- spray oil or cooking oil if frying on the stove
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ cup cup4cup gluten-free flour or all-purpose flour if you're not gluten-free
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Homemade Ranch Dressing (optional)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp fresh dill
- 1 tsp fresh chives
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp salt
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the marinade ingredients until well combined. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
- Preheat your air fryer to 380 degrees.
- In a large shallow bowl, stir together the breading ingredients.
- Bread the chicken by removing it from the marinade and placing all the chicken pieces in the breading mixture. Toss and coat the chicken until the breading starts to clump together and stick to the chicken.
- Once preheated, spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray. Carefully place the chicken in a single layer in the air fryer basket (you may have to cook in batches), then spray generously with cooking spray. Air fry the chicken for 8 minutes. After the 8 minutes, flip the chicken and spray again with cooking spray. Air fry an additional 4-6 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- While the chicken is air frying, stir together the ranch ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until well combined.
- Once the chicken is done cooking, allow to cool slightly, then serve with the ranch!