Air fryer buffalo chicken nugget bites are the perfect snack, appetizer or just-because meal, with the least amount of fuss. Juicy chicken is marinated in a tangy and spicy marinade, before getting tossed in the perfect, crunchy breading. Crisped in the air fryer in just 9 minutes, you'll forget about drive-thru chicken nuggets! Serve up with an array of homemade dips like homemade ranch, chimichurri aioli, and a side of perfectly seasoned potato wedges to make it a meal!
👩🏽🍳Why This Recipe Works
Air fryer recipe: These chicken bites are made in the air fryer! No taking out and heating up messy oil, and a much lighter alternative.
Easy breading method: No messy breading steps needed. Give the chicken bites a quick marinade, and transfer directly into the breading. No eggs, or flour needed.
Kid-friendly: These chicken nuggets are kid friendly! You can adjust the spice level to as little or as much as you want. The best part, you know exactly what went into them, and there's no mystery meat involved.
Quick cooking: These buffalo chicken bites only take 9 minutes in the air fryer! It does not get quicker than that.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: I strongly suggest using white meat for these chicken bites. Although many people find that white meat can get a little bit dry, the marinade and cooking time ensure that these boneless bites are juicy and moist as ever.
- Whole milk and Lemon: This is my substitution for buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk helps with tenderizing meat, but I don't have enough uses for buttermilk to make a separate purchase for it. Regular milk, with a tablespoon of lemon does the trick, and has the same tenderizing effect as buttermilk does.
- Louisiana Hot Sauce: Everyone has their favourite, but I used Frank's Red Hot sauce. Louisiana hot sauce is unique because it has a good balance between acidity and spice.
- Panko and Seasoned Breadcrumbs: I use a mix of both panko and regular seasoned breadcrumbs. Panko adds a really great crunch to breaded chicken, adding the perfect amount of texture. I find that regular seasoned breadcrumbs brown better in the air fryer, which is why I recommend mixing the two together.
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
- Chicken breasts: You can substitute cubed chicken breasts for chicken tenders, instead. These will make homemade chicken tenders, with the same amount of flavor.
- Whole milk: If you happen to have buttermilk on hand, feel free to use it in place of the whole milk and lemon mixture.
- Breading: You can use all seasoned breadcrumbs, or all panko breadcrumbs, based on your preference or what you have on hand.
- Mexican: Use mexican hot sauce such as Cholula, Valentina or Tapatio instead of Louisiana hot sauce. They have a bit more tang and zip to them, for a flair of flavor.
- Deep fried: If you prefer the crunch of deep frying, you can easily adapt this recipe to deep fry the chicken.
- Tossed: You can toss these chicken bites in a mix of hot sauce and butter if you prefer a sauce-y buffalo chicken bite! I recommend using one stick of butter, and ¼ cup of hot sauce.
⏲️ Step-by-Step Instructions
Prep Work Before Cooking
Collecting all your ingredients - This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
Cube the chicken - Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes.
Mix together the lemon and milk - In a small mixing bowl, mix together the milk and lemon juice. Let the milk sit for 5 minutes.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. The easiest way to do this, is cut the chicken breast in half vertically, and then cut those strips into bite-sized pieces. You can make these chicken bites as big or small as you desire.
In a bowl, add the chicken, milk and lemon mixture, hot sauce, and garlic powder, onion powder and old bay seasoning. Let this sit for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Once the chicken has sat in the marinade, drain off the excess liquid, and toss in the panko/breadcrumb mix.
Spray your air fryer basket with non-stick cooking spray, and arrange the chicken bites. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may need to do this in a couple of batches. Spray the top of the chicken with some more cooking spray, and air fry for 9 minutes at 400 degrees.
Once the chicken bites are done in the air fryer, drizzle with some extra hot sauce.
💭 Expert Tips
Cut the chicken in even sized pieces: For even cooking time and the best result, try and ensure that all of your chicken pieces are around the same size.
Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket: Air fryers make food crispy thanks to the constant flow of air around your food. If the basket is overcrowded, you will not get the same crispy result, so be sure not to overcrowd!
🍽 Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead Instructions
- The chicken can be marinated up to 24 hours in advance. Let the chicken sit in the hot sauce mixture in an airtight container, in the fridge.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, toss into the breading mixture and air fry.
- Store leftover chicken bites in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Leftover chicken bites will stay fresh for 2-3 days.
- Reheat leftover chicken in the air fryer, at 375°F.
⭐ Recipe FAQs
Yes, you can! Tin foil works in air fryers, unlike microwaves. I do recommend being mindful that tin foil may constrict air from flowing through the bottom of the food. I recommend using parchment or silicone air fryer liners instead.
Absolutely, yes. An air fryer can be considered a smaller convection oven. Anything you would cook in a convection oven, can go in the air fryer.
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Buffalo Chicken Bites (In the Air Fryer!)
- Mix the Marinade: In a bowl, add the chicken and all of the marinade ingredients. Let it sit for a minimum of 30 minutes.3 Chicken breasts, 1 cup Whole milk, 1 tablespoon Lemon juice, ¼ cup Louisiana Hot Sauce + extra to drizzle, 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder, 1 teaspoon Onion powder, 1 teaspoon Old bay, Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bread the Chicken: Draining off the excess marinade, toss the chicken pieces in the panko and breadcrumb mixture (with salt and pepper added).¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs, ¾ cup Seasoned breadcrumbs
- Air Fry the Chicken: Spray the air fryer basket with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the chicken in the basket, and spray with cooking spray on top. Air fry for 9 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Drizzle with Hot Sauce: Drizzle with extra hot sauce once done.
- Cut the chicken in even sized pieces: For even cooking time and the best result, try and ensure that all of your chicken pieces are around the same size.
- Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket: Air fryers make food crispy thanks to the constant flow of air around your food. If the basket is overcrowded, you will not get the same crispy result, so be sure not to overcrowd!