Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders are crispy, juicy, and smothered in spicy sauce. Made in just 20 minutes, these Nashville hot tenders are a win!

nashville hot chicken tenders on bread

Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

These Nashville tenders are a tasty dish that can easily be made at home without all the mess of frying chicken on the stove. You’ll be smacking your lips and licking your fingers after one taste.

Nashville hot tenders are spicy and offer lots flavor. Plus, you never have to get dressed or leave the house to make a batch. Serve it with a classic Macaroni and Cheese or Collard Greens, and you have a TRUE Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders Meal.

Looking for more air fryer chicken recipes? We got you covered! Try out our Air Fryer Copycat Buffalo Wild Wings Chicken Tenders, The Best Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks, Air Fryer Chicken Fajita Burritos, and Air Fryer Mexican Chicken Casserole.

Why We Love Nashville Hot Tenders

  • Incredibly simple to make
  • Homemade Nashville Sauce
  • Only 20 minutes
  • Basic ingredients
  • Party food

What You’ll Need to Make Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken

For the Chicken:

  • Chicken: I used chicken tenders, but you can use any kind of chicken.
  • Buttermilk: To soak your chicken in before cooking to make your chicken extra juicy.
  • Pickle Brine: To be added to the buttermilk before the chicken soaks.
  • Hot Sauce: Also to be added to the buttermilk. This will add some spicy flavor to the chicken.
  • Egg: Creates your batter.
  • Flour: Will make the chicken crispy. You can switch to gluten-free flour if needed.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Add as much or as little as you would like.
  • Salt

For the Sauce:

  • Butter: The base of the sauce.
  • Light Brown Sugar: Adds a hint of sweetness and makes the sauce sticky.
  • Cayenne: Makes the sauce hot, just how we like it.
  • Garlic Powder: Adds flavor.
  • Onion Powder: Adds flavor.
  • Salt
Ingredients Needed To Make Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

WHAT IS NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN?

Nashville chicken is a great fried chicken recipe. It is usually deep-fried and then coated with a hot sauce.

This was traditionally only served in the South, and obviously has its roots in Nashville, Tennessee. It starts with either a breast, thigh, or wings that have been marinated in a brine, then seasoned, floured, and dried. Nashville hot tenders are typically served over white bread, and on the side, you usually have some pickle chips.

It is different from your regular Buffalo Chicken because there is a paste you apply to the chicken, which makes it spicy. Air fryer Nashville Hot Chicken paste is typically a combination of lard and cayenne pepper. For this version, we use butter instead of lard. But you still get the same fantastic taste.

Typically, the dish is deep-fried, but you can get the same flavors with the air fryer without all of the oil’s added fat.

How To Make Nashville Chicken In the Air Fryer

Step 1: Soak the chicken

For Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders, we started by soaking the chicken in a bowl with the buttermilk, pickle brine, hot sauce, and egg. Cover and refrigerate for about two hours. If you don’t have two hours, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

dipping chicken into egg mixture

Step 2: Add the breading

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cayenne pepper, and salt. Add your chicken to the flour mixture.

dipping chicken into breading

Step 3: Air fry Nashville tenders

Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F for at least 5 minutes. Spray your air fryer basket with olive oil. Then, after you coat your chicken with the flour mixture, place them into the sprayed basket.

Spray the tops of the coated chicken tenderloins with olive oil spray, then set the timer for 10 minutes, flipping and spraying the tops of the chicken again.

air fryer basket with chicken tenders

Step 4: Make the sauce

Heat the butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt in a small pot. Simmer until hot.

How To Make Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

Step 5: Add the sauce

Brush the chicken tenders with the sauce and serve with some sauce on the side for dipping!

How To Make Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

Nashville Tenders Pro Tips:

  • Seasoning your chicken is essential. Making sure to coat your chicken evenly is necessary as well.
  • This air fryer Nashville hot chicken can be seasoned and then set refrigerated ahead of time. So, when you come home from work/errands/kids, etc., you can place it in the air fryer, spray it with olive oil spray, and air fry away!
  • The secret that most experienced air fryer people would tell you is to spray, spray, and spray your chicken. I use an olive oil spray. Always spray your chicken before and after you flip it. This will ensure a moist and delicious chicken dish. You should always flip the chicken halfway and then spray again. This way, both sides are lovely, light, and tender.
  • You can use any kind of chicken you have on hand, although I prefer boneless chicken for this dish if you are eating it on toast like an open sandwich.
  • Because eating uncooked chicken is unhealthy and can you sick, invest in a meat thermometer. I recommend always checking the temperature of your chicken before eating it to make sure it is fully cooked. You want the internal temperature of the chicken to reach 165 degrees.

Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken FAQs:

Are Nashville ChickenTenders Super Spicy?

The sauce for these Nashville chicken tenders does provide a really, VERY spicy, truly hot chicken. Start by adding a small amount, like 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and taste it as you add more. Otherwise, you may not like the chicken. The authentic Nashville Hot Chicken contains about two teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

Can I Use Whole Chicken Breasts Instead of Tenders?

Yes, they would come out amazing as well. I used chicken tenders since they are the classic way Nashville Hot Chicken is served, but it would be the same.

The cooking time will change by a few minutes, so remember to use your meat thermometer and check the chicken about halfway through the cooking process. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165 degrees F.

Can I Use Bone-In Chicken Instead of Boneless?

You can use this recipe with bone-in chicken; you need to cook the meat until it is fully cooked. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it is 165 degrees F. When you cook with bone-in meat, you need to ensure you don’t touch a bone when you check the meat. If you hit a bone, it will give you a false reading.

Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

Does The Nashville Chicken Store Well?

Like all fried foods, you will find the breading softens a bit once it cools down. You can store leftovers in the fridge for up to three days. Just make sure that you reheat in a skillet, on the stove, or warm it up in the air fryer to get a crispier texture than it was when first cooked.

You will find it can make the chicken a bit drier with reheating, but it will still taste delicious. Or, slice up the chicken and use it cold to top a salad!

What Is Nashville Chicken Usually Served With?

You can really serve this with anything, but the traditional Southern meal is served with:

Some Helpful Products Used In Making This Recipe

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. At no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Philips Kitchen Appliances Digital Twin TurboStar Airfryer XXL, with Fat Removal Technology, 3 Lbs, Black, HD9650/96

More Air Fryer Chicken Recipes

This Nashville Hot Chicken is so good! If you have been looking for an easy air fryer chicken recipe, this is one of my favorites. Here are some more amazing Air Fryer Chicken Recipes!

Air Fryer Nashville Chicken

Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders

4.34 from 9 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings

Description

Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders is amazing!! I mean amazing. It's a traditional hot chicken dish, but today I prepared it in the air fryer, and it was simply easy and absolutely delicious—tender, but yet crispy and full and full of flavor.

Ingredients 

Chicken:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons pickle brine
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Nashville Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (unsalted)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, see note
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • In a medium-sized bowl, add the buttermilk, pickle brine, hot sauce, and egg. Whisk until well combined. 
  • Add the chicken tenderloins to the bowl and toss in the marinade. Let marinate for about two hours.
  • Then in another bowl, whisk the flour, cayenne, and salt.
  • Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F, then spray your air fryer basket with olive oil.
  • Coat your chicken with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour, and as you coat them, place them into the air fryer basket. 
  • Spray the tops of the coated chicken tenderloins with olive oil spray, then set the timer for 10 minutes, flipping and spraying the tops of the chicken again.
  • Chicken is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, and the outside is golden brown. 
  • While the tenders are cooking, prepare the sauce, whisk the butter, brown sugar, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  • Once the tenders are fully cooked, brush with the sauce. 
  • Serve the extra sauce on the side for dipping.
  • Plate, serve, and enjoy!
    Air Fryer Nashville Chicken

Equipment

  • Air Fryer
  • Cooking Spray

Notes

Note: The sauce is VERY hot, a true spicy hot chicken. I would start with 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne and then add it slowly, and tasting in between. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 310kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 31gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 1063mgPotassium: 579mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 706IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 2mg

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Air Fryer Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders