To make the best keto chicken tenders, we use crushed pork rinds, a sticky egg-wash batter, and an air fryer to bake to perfection.
These keto chicken tenders have a light, crispy coating with tender, juicy chicken on the the inside. To make the best keto chicken tenders, we use crushed pork rinds, a sticky egg-wash batter, and an air fryer to bake these to tenders to perfection.
We love these tasty air-fryer keto chicken tenders since they're less than 1 net carb per serving and 49 percent of the calories are from protein! Definitely a high-protein dinner or lunch option!
Plus, these tenders come together fast — in about 25 minutes or less — for busy weeknights.
We hope you love these keto chicken strips as much as we do. Give them a try and let us know what you think!
Taste Test Results
We tested many versions of keto chicken tenders before finally getting it right. Here are the results of our taste tests.
- Best "breading" — crushed pork rinds. For a low-carb "breading," we tried parmesan, almond flour, pork rinds and a combination of these ingredients. The parmesan and almond flour versions weren't too bad, but they weren't as crispy the pork rinds. The pork rinds created such a crispy and flavorful exterior (remember pork rinds are flavored too!).
- Best egg wash — combo of mayonnaise, egg, almond flour and seasonings: We also found that we couldn't use a simple egg wash for making the pork rinds "stick" to the tenderloins. We had to use a thicker and stickier type of batter. In doing so, we adapted a tactic from Nagi at RecipeTin Eats, and used a combination of mayonnaise, egg, almond flour and seasoning, which worked quite well.
- Best appliance for heating and crisping — the air fryer! Last, but not least, we tested the tenders in the oven and the air fryer. When baking in the oven, we found it difficult to make the coating crispy while keeping the chicken tender and juicy. We had better results with the air fryer — plus it's much faster. To get the tenders just right, we adapted a tactic from Urvashi at TwoSleevers, which calls for heating the tenderloins at 350 degrees F (in an air fryer) for the majority of the time, then heating at 400 degrees F for the last few minutes to crisp up the exterior. This tactic created a nice, crispy outside with tender, juicy chicken on the inside.
A few notes on key ingredients:
- Organic, air-chilled chicken tenderloins: Chicken tenderloins are narrow pieces of white chicken meat loosely connected to the chicken breast. They're more tender than chicken breast meat, and are the perfect size for bite-size tenders. Whenever you're buying chicken, be sure to buy organic or free-range chicken that is antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Also, look for air-chilled chicken, which means that after slaughtering, it was cooled in the open air as opposed to cold water. Air-chilled chicken retains more flavor than chicken that's been cooled in water.
- Crushed pork rinds: We recommend using 4505 Meats Chili & Salt Pork Rinds, since they're one of the tastiest pork rinds out there. We use chili and salt flavor since it adds a little spice to the coating. But, you can use your favorite brand and flavor of pork rinds in this recipe.
- Cayenne pepper: We use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a little kick in the outside coating. It doesn't make it that spicy, but if you prefer not to use, then you can omit.
HOW TO REMOVE TENDERLOIN TENDONS
Chicken tenderloins have a strong white string running through, which is a tendon. It's connective tissue that can be chewy and a bit tough to eat after cooking.
You don't have to remove it, but we prefer to do so since we don't like the rubbery aspect. Plus, it's so easy to do, especially with a fork and paper towel.
Here's a simple how-to video to view. Basically, you pull on the tendon using one hand and push against the tenderloin with a fork with the other hand. The paper towel is used so you can get a good grasp on the tendon. You'll pull the tendon through the prongs of the fork until it's out of the tenderloin. You'll do this for each tenderloin.
How To Make
STEP 1 — CRUSH PORK RINDS: In a large, gallon-size Ziploc bag, add 60 grams of pork rinds. Partially seal bag and smash rinds with a rolling pin. Continue smashing until rinds are broken down to a fine consistency. The recipe doesn't work as well if there are any larger pieces. After, pour crushed rinds onto a large plate.
STEP 2 — MAKE EGG-WASH BATTER: In a medium-size bowl, combine one egg, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 ½ tablespoons almond flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and black pepper to season. Whisk until well combined.
STEP 3 — PREPARE AIR FRYER: Spray the inside of air fryer basket with avocado or olive oil. At this point, you'll set up your "assembly line" as seen in the below picture. It'll start with the chicken tenders, then the egg wash, the crushed pork rinds and the air-fryer basket.
STEP 4 — COAT IN EGG WASH: With your fingers or tongs, dip the chicken tenderloin in the egg wash batter until fully coated. After, shake a little to remove any excess batter.
STEP 5 — COAT IN PORK RINDS: Next, smother the tenderloin in crushed pork rinds until fully coated.
STEP 6 — FINISH & BAKE: Place the coated tenderloin in air fryer basket. Continue the process until the basket is fully lined with coated tenders. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to bake the tenders in two batches.
Lightly spray the chicken tenders with oil before baking. Bake the tenders at 350 degrees F for about 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken reads 160 degrees F on thermometer. Then, increase temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 2 minutes. Serve immediately with favorite dipping sauce.
Of course you need a good keto dipping sauce for your keto chicken strips! The most common low-carb and keto dipping sauces include:
- Sugar-free barbeque sauce
- Sugar-free ketchup
- Ranch dressing
Are chicken tenders low-carb and keto friendly? Only if you make low-carb or keto versions at home! When you buy chicken tenders from a restaurant or fast-food place, they're typically breaded with all purpose flour, which is high in carbs. To make chicken tenders low-carb and keto friendly, most people replace the all purpose flour with almond flour, parmesan or pork rinds.
What is a chicken tenderloin? According to the USDA, a chicken tenderloin is "the long, innermost muscle of the breast lying along the breastbone. It is the most tender meat on the bird."
How do I store leftovers?
You may store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
If you try this recipe, we would love to hear your feedback! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag @lowcarbsimplified on your photo of this recipe on Instagram or Facebook. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Crispy Air Fryer Keto Chicken Tenders
- 60 grams 4505 Meats Chili & Salt Pork Rinds finely crushed (60 grams of pork rinds is roughly 1 ½ cups before crushing)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on preferred level of spice
- 1 ½ tablespoons almond flour
- ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper to season
- 1 pound chicken tenderloins, tendon removed from each tenderloin (optional; see video for instruction or above instructions)
- Crush pork rinds to fine consistency: In a large, gallon-size Ziploc bag, add pork rinds, partially seal bag, and smash rinds with a rolling pin. Continue smashing until rinds are broken down to a fine consistency. There should not be any larger pieces remaining. After, pour crushed rinds onto a large plate.
- Make egg-wash batter: In a medium-size bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, almond flour, salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Whisk until well combined.
- Coat tenders: Spray the inside of air fryer basket with avocado or olive oil. With tongs or fingers, coat the entire tenderloin in the egg-wash batter. Briefly shake to remove any excess batter. Then, smother in crushed pork rinds until fully coated, and place in air fryer basket. Continue process until basket is fully lined with coated tenders. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to bake the tenders in two batches.
- Bake and serve: Lightly spray the chicken tenders with oil before baking. Bake the tenders at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken reads 160 degrees F on thermometer. Then, increase temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 2 minutes (important for crispy exterior!). Serve immediately with favorite dipping sauce