Easy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders With a Crunchy Walnut Crust (Gluten Free!)

Air Fryer Chicken Tenders with Walnut Crusts on plate with green beans
Jump to Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Walnut-crusted air fryer chicken tenders are easy to make at home and loved by both moms and kids. In twelve quick minutes, you only need three main ingredients to whip up these savory chicken tenders. Serve with our homemade ranch and a side of your favorite veggie for a nutritious, gluten-free, and kid-friendly meal this week!

Here at The Produce Moms, we know that chicken tenders are on your kids’ radar. But you don’t always want to just toss some frozen nuggets into the oven. Especially when it’s summertime, the kids are home, and heating up the oven means heating up your house.

But what if you could keep the kitchen cool and still satisfy those chicken tender cravings with a quick and delicious alternative? 

You only need three main ingredients, and it cooks until golden brown in the air fryer. We tested this nutty twist on a classic air fryer chicken tenders recipe to make sure it delivers on crunch, flavor, and ease. So that you love making it just as much as your kids love eating it! 

air fryer walnut crusted chicken tenders with green beans and ranch

Air fryer walnut-crusted chicken tenders are sponsored by California Walnuts.

We made this recipe with homemade walnut flour for a naturally gluten-free tender. But don’t let that part scare you, it’s so easy to make that your kids can make it themselves.

We decided to use walnuts in the crust because they air fry to crispy golden perfection. In fact, we love them so much we’ve included some of our favorite walnut recipes for you to try.

Come check out how quickly you can whip up these chicken tenders … and don’t forget to serve them with a side of veggies and our homemade ranch dressing!  

Simple Chicken Tender Ingredients

chicken, walnuts, parsley, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, parmesan cheese

These chicken tenders use simple ingredients that you likely already have on hand — you may not even have to make a trip to the store. All you need are …

  • California Walnuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Herbs & spices
  • Avocado spray

Let’s take a quick look inside your pantry before we get started.


These soft and buttery nuts often get overlooked. Walnuts are softer than other nuts so they break down in the food processor quickly. They provide a naturally gluten-free and toasty coating that delivers a classic crunch to air fryer chicken tenders. 

Plus, walnuts have extra protein, so your kids stay full longer. We used California Walnuts because they deliver a plant-based nutritional punch and an unbeatable flavor.

Related: California Walnuts Nutrition, Storage Tips, and Recipes

Chicken Tenders

You can’t have chicken tenders without the chicken! You’ll need about ten tenders for your walnut-crusted chicken tenders. If you can’t find chicken tenders, we like to get a family pack of chicken breasts when they’re on sale. Cut them into tender size strips for a bigger batch that you can reheat during the week. 

Parmesan Cheese

We love adding salty parmesan cheese to any type of breading. The crunchy little bits mixed with the crispy chicken skin and spices effortlessly adds a layer of complex flavor. We love using freshly shredded parmesan cheese for its sharp flavor. But you can also use shredded or grated parmesan if that’s what you have on hand.  

Herbs & Spices

The first thing you will add to the mixture is some chopped parsley. Then, you’ll also add garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to your crust mixture, ensuring your walnut-crusted chicken tenders are extra flavorful. All produce comes to life when it’s generously seasoned, and walnuts are no different. This is a simple step but super important to make sure your kids love these air fryer tenders.  

Avocado Spray

When cooking anything in an air fryer, cooking spray helps prevent your ingredients from sticking to the air fryer basket. We used avocado spray because it has a higher cook point. That means when we air fry the chicken tenders, they brown instead of burn. (We both know how kids feel about burnt food.😉) 

If you don’t have avocado spray, use what you have on hand. But be careful, you may need to cook your tenders for less time and at a lower temperature. 

How to Toast Walnuts in the Air Fryer

Whole walnuts in an air fryer basket

First, you’ll want to toast your walnuts whole before pulsing them into a protein-rich breading for your air fryer chicken tenders. But don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds — promise!

Step 1: Lay the walnuts in a single layer. 

Spread out the walnuts in the air fryer basket so they don’t overlap. If the walnuts are falling through the cracks, use a small oven-safe baking dish, like a cake pan. Put the walnuts in the cake pan and set the pan inside the air fryer basket.

Step 2: Toast the walnuts.

Toast the whole walnuts in a single layer at 425 ℉ for three minutes. Whole walnuts toast evenly and are easier to transfer to the food processor later.

Toasted whole walnuts on a plate.

Step 3: Set aside to cool.

When the walnuts are done toasting, transfer them to a cutting board or plate. If you use a bowl, the hot air gets trapped and continues to cook the walnuts. Just as walnuts cook evenly in a single layer, they also cool quicker in a single layer, too! 

How to Make Walnut-Crusted Air Fryer Chicken Tenders 

Now that you’ve got your toasted walnuts, it’s time to make your chicken tenders in the air fryer. This part is fun so grab your kiddos and let’s head to the kitchen.

Walnuts pulsed in a food processor.

Step 1: Pulse the walnuts into breadcrumbs.

When the walnuts are cooled, add them to the food processor. Hold the pulse button down for about 30 seconds until it breaks down into a breadcrumb-like consistency. 

Be careful not to overpulse your toasted walnuts! You’ll end up with walnut butter, which your kids may also love, but not exactly what we’re shooting for this time. 

Pulsed walnuts and seasonings on a plate.

Step 2: Season the toasted walnut breadcrumbs.

Transfer the walnut breadcrumbs to a mixing bowl. Add the parmesan, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Mix it all together with a fork until the breading mixture is combined. 

Raw chicken tender in walnut breadcrumb mixture.

Step 3: Coat the chicken tenders in walnut breadcrumbs.

Take each chicken tender and lay it in the breadcrumb mixture. Gently press down so the walnut crust sticks to the chicken. Flip the tender onto the other side and gently press down again to make sure the entire chicken tender is coated with a raw walnut crust. 

Raw walnut crusted chicken tenders in an air fryer basket.

Step 4: Air fry the walnut-crusted chicken tenders.

Lay each walnut chicken tender in the air fryer basket in a single layer. It’s best to leave space between the tenders so they cook evenly. 

Spray each tender with avocado oil cooking spray and air fry at 425℉ for twelve minutes, until lightly brown and done. Serve with dunkable homemade ranch dressing and a side of veggies!

Why We Love California Walnuts

California is home to more than 99% of the nation’s walnuts due to optimal weather and soil for orchards to thrive. Over 4,000 multi-generational family farmers take great pride in caring for the land that has been passed down for generations, so they can continue to harvest nutritious walnuts for people to enjoy throughout the year.   

More Tasty Walnut Recipes

No ratings yet

Air Fryer Walnut-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Walnut-crusted air fryer chicken tenders are quick, easy, and gluten-free. Pulse the walnuts, mix with spices, coat the chicken, and cook them in the air fryer! And the best part … they’re mom and kid-approved.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • Air Fryer


  • 2 1/2 cups Walnuts raw
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp parsley chopped
  • 10 Chicken Tenders or 1 ½ lbs chicken cutlets, cut into even-sized strip
  • Avocado Spray Oil


Toasting Walnuts

  • Preheat the air fryer to 325 degrees F.
  • Arrange the walnuts in a single layer in the air fryer basket or baking tray.
  • Insert the air fryer basket and toast the walnuts for three minutes.
  • When the walnuts are toasted, transfer them to a cutting board or plate to cool.
  • Put the toasted and cooled walnuts in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds until you reach a breadcrumb-like consistency.

Walnut-Crusted Chicken Tenders

  • Transfer the walnut breadcrumbs to a mixing bowl. Add the parmesan cheese, dried spices, and salt and mix until combined.
  • Coat each chicken tender with the walnut breading, pressing the mixture into the chicken so it sticks. 
  • Lay the breaded tenders evenly in the air fryer basket and spray with cooking oil. Air fry for 12 minutes at 425℉ until the breading is lightly browned.


Calories: 651kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 35g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 829mg | Potassium: 809mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American, Kid-Friendly
Calories: 651
Keyword: air fryer, kid friendly recipe
Like this? Leave a comment below!
Pinterest Pin Air Fryer chicken Tenders

About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *