Chicken tenders, in all of their many shapes, are one of the most iconic snacks out there, especially when served with honey mustard or another savory-sweet dipping sauce. Salty, crunchy pretzels are also great to nibble on. It’s easy enough to prepare a plate of chicken strips and a bowl of pretzels when guests are over or a snack craving strikes, but what if you could serve a dish that takes all of these tasty factors and combines them?
Presenting: crispy air fryer pretzel chicken fries. This playful, crowd-pleasing recipe by Stephanie Rapone has it all. Strips of tender chicken breast get covered in a mouthwatering mixture of honey and dijon mustard and coated in crunchy crushed pretzels. Then, they’re air-fried until they’re crisp as can be, and they’re served with a sweet, tangy apricot Dijon dipping sauce. Burger King’s chicken fries have nothing on this uniquely delicious chicken!
Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone came up with this dish as a creative way to use up a familiar snack. "I always buy pretzels at the holidays to make different treats, and then I have extras sitting around that nobody will eat (my family doesn’t eat plain pretzels)," she explains. "Turning them into crumbs and coming up with another version of chicken fingers was a great family-friendly way to use them up!"
Gather everything you’ll need for this recipe
Before you do anything else, get your ingredients together. For this recipe, you’ll need about boneless skinless chicken breasts, three cups of pretzels, three tablespoons of Dijon mustard, one tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of olive oil, a quarter cup of apricot preserves or orange marmalade, and some nonstick cooking spray.
Also, take this time to preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone notes that if you have a smaller air fryer and all the pieces of chicken won’t fit in a single layer, you should cook in batches. The best way to prepare for this is to set your oven at a low temperature (she suggests 165 degrees Fahrenheit) and place a small baking sheet in there, which provides a place for the first batch to stay hot while you cook the second. If you’re not sure if your fryer will fit all the chicken in one batch, it’s best to err on the side of caution than be overly optimistic and end up with a crowded pan.
Stir, crush, and make your sauce
Now, let’s get started. Place your pretzels in a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin (or something comparable, like a glass bottle) to crush them. Wondering if you need a specific pretzel shape? "Nope, that’s one reason I love it," Rapone explains. That makes things easier for you! Just keep in mind that you don’t want to completely pulverize your pretzels — a mix of tiny pieces and some bigger chunks is ideal for texture purposes. After your pretzels are adequately broken up, place them in a pie tin or shallow dish.
Then, mix together honey, olive oil, and two tablespoons of your Dijon mustard in a small bowl. This is what you’ll be putting on the chicken. For the dipping sauce, simply combine the rest of the mustard with either apricot preserves or orange marmalade. If you want to use something other than Dijon mustard, Rapone says, "Whole grain would be good, but personally I would steer away from yellow mustard because it tends to have a stronger vinegar flavor that stands out."
Get your chicken ready
After you’ve stirred your sauce and crushed your pretzels, it’s chicken time. Take your chicken breasts and cut them into strips about one half-inch wide. If your chicken breasts are thicker than half an inch, cut them in half lengthwise as well. Rapone notes that you can use chicken thighs to make this dish, but says, "they would be more nugget-shaped instead of fry-shaped."
Place the chicken on a baking sheet, and brush on your mixture of Dijon, honey, and olive oil. Then, roll the strips in the crushed pretzels, taking care to apply pressure so as many pretzel pieces stick to the chicken as possible. Then, spray both sides with a nonstick cooking spray.
Don’t have nonstick spray? "Melted butter drizzled over top would be yummy! The nonstick spray just tends to be healthier," Rapone says.
Time to air-fry your chicken fries
Your pretzel chicken fries are now ready for crisping. Place your chicken in the air fryer at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (make sure it’s in a single layer!), and cook for then minutes, then flip the strips over and air fry for another three to four minutes.
If you’re using chicken thighs, Rapone says, "I would add a total of two to four minutes to the cooking time so they cook for eight to 10 minutes total."
Most standard air fryers have the ability to adjust the temperature, but if yours cooks at a set temperature, you can still make this dish. Using the example of an air fryer toaster oven combo that only air fries at 425 Fahrenheit, Rapone suggests to "cut the time down to three minutes on the first side and two to three minutes on the second side."
Serve and enjoy!
When the air frying is done, you’re ready to dig in! These crunchy, savory pretzel chicken fries are suitable for almost any occasion, but if you need inspiration, we have some suggestions. "It’s a great weeknight recipe for us. With this dipping sauce, we like mac ‘n’ cheese and roasted broccoli," recipe developer Stephanie Rapone says. "Without this dipping sauce, we love it as the protein on a big salad with some honey mustard dressing. Iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped tomato and cucumber, some cheese — so good!"
Of course, if you’re feeling particularly snack-y, you don’t have to serve these pretzel chicken fries with anything. Just dip and enjoy!
- 3 cups pretzels
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup orange marmalade or apricot preserves
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- Non-stick spray
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while you prepare the chicken. If you have a smaller air fryer and cannot fit all the chicken in a single layer, place a baking sheet in the oven and heat it to "keep warm" or 165 degrees.
- Crush the pretzels in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin or something else heavy. You are looking for a good combination texture with some fine, medium, and coarse pieces. Place in a small-medium shallow dish or pie pan.
- Combine 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, honey, and olive oil in a small bowl. Mix well to combine. Set aside.
- Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and apricot preserves/orange marmalade for the dipping sauce, and set aside.
- Cut the chicken in long strips, approximately ½ inch wide. If your chicken breasts are thick (over ½ inch), cut the strips in half length-wise for a more "fry-like" shape. Place on a baking sheet.
- Brush the Dijon, honey, and olive oil mixture over the chicken strips. Then, roll the chicken in the pretzels, pressing the pretzels into the chicken to get them to stick. Spray the pretzel-crusted chicken generously with non-stick spray on both sides.
- Place in a single layer in the air fryer. Cook for 3 minutes, gently turn over, then cook another 3 to 4 minutes
- If you need to cook in batches, place the cooked chicken on the heated baking sheet and hold warm in the oven while you make the rest.
- Serve and enjoy.