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Dec 21, 2020

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets with Two Dipping Sauces

These air fryer chicken nuggets are made with chicken breasts coated in panko bread crumbs and then air-fried until crispy, juicy, and golden. 

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets on a plate

The best part about making these chicken nuggets, besides the fact that they are juicy and incredibly delicious, is that you assemble them in advance, freeze them, and then air fry them whenever you get a craving. You can make as many or as few as you like. 

Chicken nuggets were my kids' favorite fast food when they were growing up. They still get cravings for them every once in a while. In fact, many of us are craving some of our childhood favorites right about now. 

These chicken nuggets hit all of the right notes for both kids and adults. The kids dipped theirs in ketchup, and the adults loved both the honey Dijon mustard and sweet and sour dipping sauces. These are great for a meal and are also fabulous for a game day appetizer. 

Chicken Nuggets

To make these, first you briefly brine the chicken in a mixture of sugar and water. While the chicken is brining, you mix the breadcrumbs with some extra-virgin olive oil and then microwave them for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the panko turns golden brown. It's pretty miraculous. 

After that, you mix some eggs, flour, granulated onion, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish for dipping the chicken. 

Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture, and then coat with the breadcrumbs. Finally, freeze them on baking sheets, and once they are frozen, place them in a freezer bag ready to be air fried whenever you have a craving. 

Chicken nuggets with sauces

Most air fryer recipes call for placing the ingredients in a single layer and baking/air frying the ingredients in batches. 

What I love about making these air fryer chicken nuggets is that you can actually fill the air fryer basket with up to 18 of the nuggets (this recipe makes 36 good-sized nuggets), enough to feed at least four to six people without having to place them in a single layer. 

The trick is to turn the nuggets out onto a bowl and pour them back into the air fryer basket halfway through cooking. The results are juicy, evenly browned, and crispy chicken nuggets. 

To tell if the nuggets are done after the second half of air frying, be sure to have an instant read thermometer handy to check the temperature of the nuggets before removing them from the air fryer. 

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets with sauces

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer isn't really a fryer. Instead it is essentially a mini high powered convection oven. Food cooked in an air fryer can approach the crispiness of food that is deep fried. You can also use an air fryer to roast and even bake. 

It's also great for reheating fried foods and cooking store-bought frozen snacks such as tater tots. 

My current air fryer is the Phillips Turbostar Avance Digital (mine is an older version that is no longer available). I like it because it doesn't require preheating, it's non-stick, and the basket is pretty roomy. 

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets dipped into a sauce

More great air fryer recipes: 

Summer vegetable tart

Sriracha honey chicken wings

Berry pie

Crispy cod fillets

Korean-style BBQ chicken wings

Crispy Coconut Shrimp

Chicken Nuggets made in an air fryer

For these nuggets, I made two sauces, a honey mustard sauce with Dijon mustard, and a sweet-and-sour sauce made with a delicious citrus herb jelly I received from my dear friend Wendy of the blog, A Day in the Life on the Farm

I casually admired some of the home canned jams, jellies, and pickles she posted made by her son, and the next thing you know, a gorgeous care package showed up on my doorstep. Everything was amazing. Seriously. I'm still craving the bread and butter pickles. 

For the sweet-and-sour sauce for these nuggets, I used Tony's Sweet Eats Citrus Herb jelly. 

Apple citrus jelly

If you are in Michigan, be sure to follow him on Facebook. If you are not local to Michigan, please support your local cottage food producer. These creative entrepreneurs deserve our support. 

While not as unique, in place of Tony's jelly, you can use apple jelly augmented with a tablespoon of lemon or orange marmalade. 

Overhead shot of Chicken Nuggets made in an air fryer

Welcome to this month's Multi-cooker Monday! This month, we have recipes featuring the Instant Pot, the air fryer, the Crockpot, and sous vide cooking. 

Air Fryer Chicken nuggets with delicious dipping sauces

I used 3 super large boneless skinless chicken breasts, each weighing about 12 ounces. I cut them into fairly large chunks, so that each nugget was two to three bites. The size of the nuggets will determine the baking time. 

The recipe also calls for pounding the breasts into a uniform thickness. Don't worry too much about this. You can easily check the smaller and larger nuggets mid bake and remove the ones that are done if necessary. 

If you are making the whole batch at once, heat your oven to 200 degrees F with a baking sheet on the middle rack. Transfer the first batch to the baking sheet while you air fry the second batch. 

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets with Two Dipping Sauces Recipe

Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets with Two Dipping Sauces Recipe
Yield: 12 servings
Author: Karen Kerr
These air fryer chicken nuggets are made with chicken breasts coated in panko bread crumbs and then air-fried until crispy, juicy, and golden.


For the Nuggets
  • 32 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the Sweet-and-Sour Dipping Sauce
  • 3/4 cup apple jelly or Tony's citrus herb jelly
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • Pinch cayenned powder
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
For the Honey Mustard Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


To Make the Chicken Nuggets
  1. Pound the chicken breast to a somewhat uniform thickness. Cut the chicken into 36 pieces.
  2. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar a large bowl or container with the water. Add the chicken pieces and let marinate for 15 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, combine the panko and olive oil into a microwave proof bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes, stopping and stirring every minute, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
  4. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, all purpose flour, granulated onion, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  6. Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and dry with paper towels. Dredge the chicken pieces in the egg mixture, and then the breadcrumb mixture. 
  7. Place the coated chicken pieces onto the parchment lined baking sheets and freeze for at least four hours. Transfer the frozen nuggets to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 30 days. 
  8. To cook the nuggets, place up to 18 nuggets in the air fryer basket. Air fry at 400 degrees F and cook for 6 minutes. Transfer the nuggets to a bowl, toss them to redistribute,  and then pour them back into the air fryer basket. Airfry for another 6 to 10 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. 
For the Dipping Sauces
  1. Mix the ingredients for each dipping sauce and refrigerate for up to four days. 
  2. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Chicken nuggets, air fryer
Main dish
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This recipe was adapted from the book, Air Fryer Perfection from America's Test Kitchen

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Thanks for the tip about browning the panko in the microwave. I am going to try that!

  2. The Angel Face and Teen will love these. Thanks Karen. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  3. Air-fried from frozen!!!! LOVE IT!

    great post, Karen!

    1. I know! I had bags in the freezer and told my son to give me 20 minutes warning to come get some for the boys. It worked like a charm. They loved them.

  4. Crunchy and crispy nuggets, wonderful treat they are!

  5. Aren't air-fryers amazing? LOVED all your tips... browning the panko crumbs in the microwave, prepping the nuggets and freezing for future use, being able to cook a lot of them at once... will definitely be using them next time I make turkey nuggets. (chicken allergy, so I have to use turkey.)

  6. One of the things that has put me off about buying an air fryer was the whole single layer requirement. I don't really have room for a large fryer which would mean multiple batches. I love that you can heap your gorgeous nuggets and they still come out crispy. I could see using the same browned panko method for fish nuggets as well. You have given me food for thought, Karen.

  7. I am featuring these on the blog today.....What a perfect recipe....5 stars for sure...The Angel Face gave them 2 thumbs up.


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