These air fryer chicken nuggets are simply the best! Made Chick-Fil-A style, they’re quickly marinated in pickle juice for extra juicy nuggets, then cooked in the air fryer for nuggets that are easy to make and not fried in oil. Served with a copycat Chick-Fil-A sauce, these are my kids’ favorite nuggets!
Interested in other Chick-Fil-A Copycat recipes? Try our Chick-fil-A Tofu Nuggets with Vegan “Honey” Mustard Sauce or our Whole30 Chicken Nuggets Recipe (Paleo, Chick-Fil-A Method), and don’t forget the healthy Frozen Lemonade!
What Makes These Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets So Good
- These babies taste JUST LIKE those delicious chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A, but they’re healthier, cheaper, and always available on Sundays.
- Since they’re cooked in the air fryer, these chicken nuggets are tender and crispy like their deep-fried counterparts, but without the actual deep-frying! These won’t turn out as golden as if you deep-fried them, but they’re SO good you won’t even mind.
- I kept things simple with kosher salt and fresh pepper, but you can add your favorite spices to the breading mixture! Try paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, or even cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning for a spicy take.
- Why stop at air fryer chicken nuggets? This cooking method and breading recipe will work for chicken strips and whole chicken breasts, too! Use our Air Fryer Frozen French Fries method to fry up some tasty waffle fries and you’ll never need to visit Chick-Fil-A again!
Key Ingredients for Chick-Fil-A Style Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
Chicken Breasts – No ground-meat chicken nuggets here! Use whole chicken breasts cut into nuggets for the best taste and texture.
Pickle Juice – Controversial, maybe, but a MUST for these air fryer chicken nuggets. There’s some debate about whether Chick-Fil-A’s nuggets are marinated/brined in pickle juice, but I’ve heard reports from a few employees that they don’t actually do that. It’s no secret, though, that they do include pickles on their sandwiches, so this lightly mimics that flavor. Whether the juice is part of their official brine or not, we’re using it because the pickle juice helps to tenderize the chicken meat, making it moist and juicy inside the crisp breading.
Powdered Sugar – Just a hint, to recreate that slight sweetness you find in Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Of course, you can always lower the sugar content (but keep the flavor) by using Swerve Confectioners’ instead. And if all if you have is granulated (sugar or Swerve) just run it through a food processor to get that powdery-smooth consistency.
- Don’t overcook your air fryer chicken nuggets! When you cut them into chunks, do your best to make sure they’re all roughly the same size. If they’re different sizes, they’ll cook at different rates. Since they’re small, though, they won’t take long to cook at all, and if you overcook them, they’ll be tough and dry.
- As always, work in as many batches as you need to avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket. The air has to be able to circulate in order to cook the food evenly. If the chicken nuggets overlap or touch, the air won’t reach those spots, and they won’t be cooked well.
- Use a cooking spray that’s safe for your air fryer! Aerosol cooking sprays contain ingredients that can damage the non-stick coating on your air fryer basket. Instead, use an oil sprayer with your favorite neutral oil (I like olive oil for this one, though Chick-Fil-A uses peanut oil) and spritz the basket and nuggets as needed.
- 30 minutes is the minimum amount of time you should marinate the air fryer chicken nuggets, but you can totally leave them in the pickle-milk mixture for longer. I just don’t recommend going longer than 8 hours max, or the flavor and texture of the meat will be way off.
Be Sure to Try These Air Fryer Recipes, Too!
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings in Buffalo Sauce
- Air Fryer Chicken Breast
- Pizza Rolls in the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin
- Air Fryer Scallops
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Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets (Chick-Fil-A Style)
- Small bowl
- Whisks (2)
- Large bowls (2)
- Gallon-size Ziploc bag (or another large bowl)
- Air fryer
- Air-fryer-safe cooking spray
For the "Chick-Fil-A Sauce"
For the Chicken Nuggets
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup dill pickle juice
- 1 ½ cups milk divided, see Notes
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar or Swerve Confectioners'
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the "Chick-Fil-A Sauce"
- In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Let sauce chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
For the Chicken Nuggets
- In one large bowl, combine chicken breast pieces, pickle juice, and ½ cup milk. Let chicken marinate in pickle juice mixture for at least 30 minutes. After marinating time is up, drain chicken well.
- In separate large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup milk and 1 large egg to create egg wash. Add marinated chicken pieces to egg wash and stir to combine, then drain excess milk mixture from bowl.
- Preheat air fryer to 400° Fahrenheit. In gallon-sized Ziploc bag (or third large bowl), combine flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, and pepper. Add chicken to bag and seal well. Toss and shake bag to thoroughly coat chicken pieces in flour mixture.
- Spray air fryer basket with appropriate cooking spray. Place chicken nuggets in basket in one even layer, being careful not to overcrowd basket. Work in batches as needed. Lightly spray nuggets with cooking spray.
- Place basket in air fryer and cook chicken nuggets 7 to 8 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165° Fahrenheit. Transfer cooked chicken nuggets to separate container and repeat steps 4 and 5 until all chicken nuggets have been air fried. Serve warm with sauce.
- Milk: Any type of milk will work.
- Make it Gluten Free: Use a gluten-free all-purpose flour.
- Make it Dairy Free: Use an unsweetened, non-dairy milk.
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Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.