Buttermilk Fried Chicken Air Fryer

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This Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe creates a golden brown, juicy, and crispy fried chicken that tastes like it was deep fried.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Air Fryer

I remember when the air-fryer craze was sweeping America, people were ranting and raving about how incredible it was, but I wasn’t jumping on the trend because I did not see a fried chicken recipe in an air fryer that convinced me it was worth the hype.

I even was gifted one and attempted to use one of my fried chicken recipes, which was disappointing. I documented the whole process and shared it with my social media accounts. My first air fryer fried chicken was white; it didn’t have that signature golden brown color that made fried chicken special.

My followers said you must spray cooking spray on it to help it brown. I immediately understood why but I didn’t want to hear that. The air fryer didn’t “fry” my chicken.

Fast forward a few years, I saw a new 8-in-1 Nijia air fryer with a larger air fryer basket, and it reminded me of a toaster oven. I was sold because of one feature, it folded up and didn’t take up counter space.

Don’t judge me, lol.

I’m indeed my father’s child because I told him I had one, and he said, “until I see somebody make fried chicken in it. I won’t believe the hype.” I laughed hard and told him the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But this time, it was different because I had the perfect air fryer buttermilk fried chicken recipe we both were looking for.

This post is the results of how to make an amazing southern-style fried chicken that’s air fried. I will say one thing important thing about it. Since “air fried” is convection heat (hot air circulating), the bottom side will come out less crispy than the top.

Regardless, that bottom side is cooked and makes a juicy chicken, so you won’t even notice.

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Key Ingredients

Before making this delicious air fryer fried chicken, check this list of ingredients to ensure you have everything you need.

Chicken

Chicken thighs are my favorite piece of chicken, so that’s what I’m using in this recipe, but you can use any part of the chicken.

Kosher Salt

Using salt with larger flakes, such as kosher or sea salt, you can reduce the amount of salt you use. 

Black Pepper

Use a butcher ground or coarse black pepper for a better flavor.

Cayenne Pepper

Don’t worry. I reduced the amount so everybody could enjoy the chicken, and cayenne adds a touch of heat and helps to round out the flavors.

Onion Powder

I only use granulated onion powder; it doesn’t leave a cakey aftertaste like powdered onion.

Garlic Powder

I use granulated garlic powder for the same reason as the onion powder. 

Buttermilk

I don’t use an egg mixture whenever I use buttermilk. I do not marinate the chicken in buttermilk for my recipe because the chicken would be too moist for the air-fryer to replicate deep-fried chicken.

Flour

All you need is old faithful all-purpose flour. Unbleached flour is my favorite.

Cooking Spray

I used avocado oil cooking spray. It’s important to use an oil that won’t start smoking above 350°F.

 

How to Make air fryer buttermilk fried chicken recipe?

What I learned about frying chicken in an air fryer is that subtle changes needed to be made. For instance, I do not use a buttermilk marinade; I use buttermilk like you would egg and milk. Next, I dry brine my chicken thighs for a couple of hours. Finally, I used a cooking spray that could handle high temperatures.

Combine the spices in a medium bowl. Reserve 5 teaspoons. Liberally season the chicken on both sides. Place chicken thighs in an airtight container and leave them in the fridge for a minimum of 1-2 hours.

Add half of the seasoning mix to a large bowl and the remaining to a medium bowl. Add flour to the large bowl, and stir to mix in the seasoning. Stir the buttermilk into the medium bowl.

Dip the chicken into the buttermilk mixture. Drain the excess buttermilk off, then toss each piece in the flour mixture. Place on a greased air fryer basket, and spray chicken liberally with cooking spray ensuring there are no white spots. I always say to act like a graffiti artist but don’t go crazy.

Air fry at 400°F for 25 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes, and spray the chicken, coating any white spots. The chicken should be air-fried and golden brown, and the juices should run clear when the chicken is pierced. Serve immediately with hot sauce and cornbread or buttermilk biscuits.

If you’re frying in batches, keep the cooked chicken warm in the oven.

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Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are a few notes I had from making some outstanding buttermilk fried chicken.

  • Every air fryer is different; you may need to preheat your air fryer before adding your chicken to cook.
  • Fried chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. When an instant-read meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the chicken.
  • Squeezing the chicken slightly as you dredge it in flour will produce crags of crispy bits.
  • Pierce the chicken with a fork or small knife to allow the seasoning to penetrate the chicken. This also will help when air-frying it.
  • You can use chicken tenders or boneless chicken instead of whole chicken pieces.
  • This recipe will work for chicken legs, wings, and breasts too.
  • You can make the seasoned flour with gluten-free flour for your gluten-free friends.
  • If you’re looking for the best buttermilk, it’s Bulgarian buttermilk.
  • Mix buttermilk and hot sauce with the spice mix for a spicy air fryer chicken.
  • Only use a liquid measuring cup to measure the buttermilk. Measuring dry ingredients with a liquid measuring cup will be inaccurate.
  • If you cannot find buttermilk, use whatever milk you have in the fridge. Do not add lemon juice or vinegar to the milk for homemade buttermilk. Curled milk is not the same as cultured milk.
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FAQs

Here are the top questions readers have about air fryer buttermilk fried chicken.

Why do you soak the chicken in buttermilk before frying?

You soak the chicken in buttermilk before frying it to help it stay moist and juicy. Buttermilk is an excellent marinade because it contains lactic acid, which helps break down the chicken’s proteins and keep it tender.

Why is my air-fried chicken not crispy?

Your air-fried chicken is not crispy because the coating is not getting a good enough seal on the chicken. Make sure to use a cooking spray with a high smoke point oil, like avocado or canola oil, and shake off any excess flour before spraying and placing it in the air fryer.

Can you air fry wet batter chicken?

No, you cannot air fry wet battered chicken. Wet batter chicken needs hot oil to properly cook the batter and chicken to a golden brown color.

Can you air fry buttermilk chicken?

Yes, you can air-fry buttermilk chicken. You’ll want to dunk your chicken in buttermilk, then cover it with flour before spraying it with an oil with a high smoke point, and this will ensure crispy chicken. For this recipe, try using a higher-temperature air fryer setting.

Should you use buttermilk for fried chicken?

For authentic southern fried chicken, you should always use buttermilk, which helps make the chicken crispy and flavorful. However, using evaporated milk is another southern milk used for frying chicken.

Why did my chicken not brown in an air fryer?

The reason your air fryer fried chicken may not have browned can be for two reasons. First, it’s likely that it needed to be cooked longer at a high temperature. Be sure to cook your chicken for the recommended time to achieve the best results.
 
Secondly, make sure that you generously spray the chicken evenly with canola oil cooking spray. The oil will “fry” the chicken as it cooks, helping the flour to turn golden brown.

When frying chicken, do you dip it in egg or flour first?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Some people prefer to dip their chicken in flour before frying it, while others like to dip it in egg. Ultimately, it’s up to you which method you prefer.

How to store leftover fried chicken?

Fried chicken is best eaten hot but will remain fresh in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
It’ll remain fresh in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3-4 months.
 
Ready to heat up your leftovers? You can reheat cooked fried chicken uncovered in a 350°F oven for 10-12 minutes or reheat it in an air fryer at 300°F for 6 minutes.

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More Air-Fryer Recipes

Here are a few more air fryer recipes to add to your recipe index.

Latest Recipe Video:

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Before You Begin

Here are my steps for getting organized before I start anything.

Step 1: Get all the fried chicken ingredients and tools on the counter.

Step 2: Measure everything out into individual bowls.

Step 3: Start following the recipe and get ready for the juiciest air-fried chicken you’ve ever had.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe for air-fried buttermilk fried chicken. If you did, please leave a comment and star rating below. And don’t forget to share it with your friends and family on social media.

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken Air Fryer

Kenneth Temple
This Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe creates a golden brown, juicy, and crispy fried chicken that tastes like it was deep fried.
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 2 hrs 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 persons
Calories 769 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ¾ cups buttermilk
  • 2-3 lbs. chicken thighs washed
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • avocado or canola oil cooking spray

Instructions
 

  • In a medium bowl, combine salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and onion powder. Reserve 5 teaspoons.
  • Liberally season chicken on both sides with seasoning mix. Place chicken in an airtight container and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Add 3 teaspoons of seasoning mix to a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons to a medium bowl. Stir flour into the large bowl. Stir in buttermilk into a medium bowl.
  • Dip the chicken in the buttermilk. Drain excess buttermilk, then toss each piece in the flour. Place on a greased air fryer basket, and spray chicken liberally with cooking spray ensuring there are no white spots. Air fry chicken at 400°F for 25 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes, and spray chicken with cooking spray. The chicken should be golden brown, and juices should run clear when the chicken is pierced.
  • Serve hot chicken with your favorite dipping sauce.

Notes

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are a few notes I had from making some outstanding buttermilk fried chicken.
  • Every air fryer is different; you may need to preheat your air fryer before adding your chicken to cook.
  • Fried chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. When an instant-read meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the chicken.
  • Squeezing the chicken slightly as you dredge it in flour will produce crags of crispy bits.
  • Pierce the chicken with a fork or small knife to allow the seasoning to penetrate the chicken. This also will help when air-frying it.
  • You can use chicken tenders or boneless chicken instead of whole chicken pieces.
  • This recipe will work for chicken legs, wings, and breasts too.
  • You can make the seasoned flour with gluten-free flour for your gluten-free friends.
  • If you’re looking for the best buttermilk, it’s Bulgarian buttermilk.
  • Mix buttermilk and hot sauce with the spice mix for a spicy air fryer chicken.
  • Only use a liquid measuring cup to measure the buttermilk. Measuring dry ingredients with a liquid measuring cup will be inaccurate.
  • If you cannot find buttermilk, use whatever milk you have in the fridge. Do not add lemon juice or vinegar to the milk for homemade buttermilk. Curled milk is not the same as cultured milk. 
Storage:
Fried chicken is best eaten hot but will remain fresh in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
It’ll remain fresh in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3-4 months. 
Ready to heat up your leftovers? You can reheat cooked fried chicken uncovered in a 350°F oven for 10-12 minutes or reheat it in an air fryer at 300°F for 6 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 769kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 45gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 227mgSodium: 1970mgPotassium: 667mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 677IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 94mgIron: 5mg
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