Air Fryer Parmesan Crusted Chicken is the perfect balance of flavor and crunch and it's easy to make! What I love most about this recipe is that I can make up several chicken breasts ahead of time and freeze them for a quick weeknight dinner that looks and tastes like I took hours making it and that the whole family will love!
Using a combination of nuts and parmesan cheese you end up with crispy chicken for an easy dinner that is low carb and gluten free. However, you can certainly use a combination of fine bread crumbs and/or panko bread crumbs along with the parmesan cheese if you want a more traditional coating.
It's also become one of my husband's favorite things to take to work for lunch or dinner. He can heat it from frozen in the oven and it's delicious. The air fryer definitely does a better job of crisping up that coating, but he says the oven works just fine. The other great thing about this recipe is it is gluten free and low carb. If you love
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely. I recommend using a combination of fine bread crumbs and panko for the best texture and the ratios would be ¾ cups bread crumbs and ½ cup panko bread crumbs mixed with 3 ounces of finely shredded parmesan (about 2 cups). You will also want to increase the temperature to 375℉/190℃ and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165℉/74℃ and the breading is nicely browned.
For the best results, I recommend cooking them at the time of serving. Reheating chicken, even when it is breaded can cause it to dry out. So, if you have leftovers and you want to reheat using your air fryer, I would drop the heat down to 300°F and heat for about 7-10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165℉/74℃.
What to Serve with Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Personally, I like to serve it with steamed asparagus and roasted potatoes, but there are tons of different side dishes that pair well with it. This chicken also makes a great topping for a salad or to serve on a lightly toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and some mayo.
Here are some favorite side dishes that will go perfectly with the parmesan chicken.
- Candied Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Hasselback Potatoes
- Ninja Foodi Mashed Potatoes
- Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot Cauliflower Mash
- Lemon Garlic Pasta with Vegetables ~ Ninja Foodi or Pressure Cooker Recipe
- Easy Ratatouille in the Ninja Foodi
- Ninja Foodi Green Bean Casserole w/ Air Fried Onions
- Healthy Spaghetti Sauce ~ Pressure Cooker Recipe
You can also use this chicken to make an Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan dish by air frying it and then baking in a dish with homemade marinara sauce and a combination of mozzarella cheese and parmesan served over a bed of pasta. Or, try making parmesan chicken tenders for the kids! Simply cut the boneless skinless chicken breast into strips and then dip into the egg mixture and the parmesan coating. Keep in mind that you will need more of the liquid and dry breading because you will be covering more surface area. They will also cook a little faster, so I would increase the temp to 375℉/190℃, so the coating gets nice and crispy. Such an easy chicken recipe that the kids will love! You can also make these up in advance for busy weeknights!
Ingredients & Substitutions
I used boneless skinless chicken breasts in this recipe, but boneless skinless thighs would work as well. The thighs will take longer to cook, and don't worry about cutting them, just pound them out a little bit and dredge in the wet and dry batters. While you can make this recipe with thicker chicken breasts, they will take longer to cook. Make sure you manage your temperature so that you don't end up burning the coating. I suggest dropping the temperature to about 325℉/160℃ if you don't cut the chicken or pound it thin.
You can also use other types of protein like thin pork chops, or even a tender cut of steak. Fish is another great choice and this breading would be wonderful on haddock fillets or your favorite white fish. When using filet of fish, I would bread and freeze the fish before cooking so you can avoid overcooking the fish. Cook the fish on 375℉/190℃ for about 10 minutes. No matter what protein you choose, make sure to preheat your air fryer first.
Parmesan Cheese that is in a block and freshly grated is what I use and think it turns out perfectly, however you can use pre-shredded, bagged parmesan cheese or even try different cheeses if you aren't a fan of parmesan. Cheddar cheese can be a bit oily, but used in small amounts or in combination with the parmesan should work just fine. Also keep in mind that you don't want the cheese to burn, so, when using a different cheese, you may want to lower the heat by 25 degrees or watch it closely the first time and turn down the heat if it starts browning too soon.
I used almonds for this recipe, but you can use any kind of nut or combination of nuts you like. Just make sure the nuts pair with the cheese you choose. You can also skip the cheese and do a combination of nuts and herbs like I did in this recipe for a low carb chicken marsala. You can also use almond flour instead of chopped almonds, but I really like the crunch of the almonds when you put them in the food processor.
Macadamia nuts or even pistachio nuts would be great substitutions for the almonds. You will need a total of 1¼ cups of crushed/chopped nuts.
I only used salt and black pepper in this recipe, but you can use other seasonings like Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder or a pinch of cayenne for a spicy kick. The most important thing when seasoning is to season the chicken with a very small amount of salt, and then also season the dry coating lightly. The parmesan cheese is salty, so you don't need a lot, but if you were using a different cheese like Monterey Jack, you may find you need more seasonings.
How to Make Air Fryer Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Prepare the Chicken Breasts
The first thing to do is prepare and season the chicken. I use large chicken breasts, about 9 ounces each, and then trim them up so they are about 8 ounces each. You can either cut each piece of chicken in half horizontally through the middle like I do or you can cut each piece in half vertically and then pound out each side. I think it's quicker and easier to cut it horizontally and I use a kitchen tool from Pampered Chef to make this pretty easy. It's called a Close & Cut and makes cutting chicken a breeze, here is the link if you are interested: Pampered Chef Close & Cut.
If you don't have something like that, here is a quick video showing you how to cut the chicken with a knife.
Once the chicken is cut into 4 equal pieces, lightly salt them and set them aside.
If you are going to make the chicken within the hour, leave the chicken breasts at room temperature. If you are doing your prep ahead of time, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and refrigerate until about 30 minutes before you plan on coating and cooking them.
Set up the Dredging Stations
You will need two coating trays or a shallow bowl and a plate will also work. In one of the trays or in the bowl, whisk together the large egg and cream just until the egg is incorporated. Don't get too carried away here or you might whip the cream and it will become too thick.
Measure out 1 cup of almonds and, using a food processor or high speed blender, pulse grind them a few times. The texture should be varied, with some of the almonds being fine and others being chunkier.
Finely shred the parmesan cheese. I actually use a zester for this so the shreds are very fine. I use a total of 4 ounces of parmesan cheese which comes to about 2 cups when finely shredded. If your parmesan is in a bag already shredded, you will need a total of 2 cups. Combine the cheese and almonds in a coating tray or put half onto a plate and keep half in a bowl.
Preheat the Air Fryer
I cannot stress this enough, preheat, preheat, preheat! Whenever you are making something in your air fryer that has a breading or that needs to start searing/cooking right away, preheat it on the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes at least. Also make sure your cooking surface is inside the air fryer when preheating. You can preheat longer, but 10 minutes is the minimum that I do. Do this while you are dredging and coating the chicken and it won't delay the total time of the recipe.
Coating the Chicken
Dip each piece of chicken into the egg and cream mixture and coat both sides. Then place the chicken into the dry coating and using a spoon or fork, cover the top of the chicken with the almonds/parmesan coating and kind of press down so it adheres to the chicken. Make sure the sides of the chicken breasts are also coated. You don't want to be able to see any chicken through the coating. If you are using a plate instead of a coating tray, make sure to have a good layer of the dry coating on the plate so it adheres to the bottom of the chicken. Once you have covered and pressed in the coating to the top of the chicken, flip the chicken breast over and make sure the other side is completely covered with the almond/parmesan mixture. Place the coated chicken on a parchment lined tray and repeat the process for the remaining chicken.
Once you coat all of the chicken, you want to spritz it with oil on both sides. While this is optional, especially if you are cooking it right away, the light coating of oil does help prevent freezer burn if you are planning on freezing the chicken.
Air Frying the Chicken
Once the air fryer has preheated, spritz with oil. I use either avocado oil or an olive oil spray, but you can use any oil you like. I don't recommend using strong flavored oils like sesame or it will alter the taste. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer into your air fryer basket or whatever cooking surface you use in your air fryer. Select the air fry function and set the temperature to 350°F. Let the chicken air fry for about 7 minutes before flipping. This will give the coating enough time to set on the bottom. If you meet resistance when trying to flip the chicken, let it cook a few more minutes before flipping. Once the chicken is flipped, take an internal temperature with a meat thermometer. You want the chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165°F. The total cooking time will depend on your air fryer and the thickness of the chicken pieces. Usually it is about 12-15 minutes.
I've tested this recipe in the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper and the Ninja Speedi using the air fry function and it took 15 minutes in the Ninja Foodi and 12 minutes in the NInja Speedi. Once the coating is golden brown and the chicken has cooked through, remove the chicken and set it on a cooling rack. This will prevent steam from softening the underside of the coated chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes and serve.
Serve & Enjoy!
Freezing Parmesan Chicken & Cooking from Frozen
If you want to make up a bunch of chicken breasts for later, you will follow the same instructions as detailed above for coating the chicken. Once all the chicken pieces are coated and placed on a parchment lined tray, put the tray in the freezer for at least 4 hours. I usually leave them overnight. Once they are frozen completely, transfer them to an airtight container or a freezer bag. This is a great way to prep dinner ahead of time and the chicken tastes as good cooked from frozen as it does cooked from fresh.
When you want to cook the chicken, take as many as you want to make out of the bag or freezer container. You can cook directly from frozen or allow the chicken breasts to thaw in the fridge. Either way works fine. Preheat the air fryer on the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes. If you let the chicken thaw, it will take less time to cook and you can follow the cooking instructions detailed above, they are the same as if you cooked them directly after coating.
To cook from frozen, you will still want to preheat your air fryer and spritz the basket or cooking surface with oil. Place the frozen chicken in a single layer into the air fryer and air fry chicken on 325°F for 15-20 minutes, flipping the chicken after the first 10 minutes. When the chicken is golden brown and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, it is done. Remove from the air fryer and let rest on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts
- Air Fryer
- 2 8 ounces chicken breasts
- ¼ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon avocado or olive oil for spritzing
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese finely shredded is about 2 cups
- ¼ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Trim and cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally through the middle so you have 2 chicken cutlets per chicken breast. Lightly salt each side and set aside.
- Whisk together the cream & large egg just until combined. Pour into shallow bowl or coating tray.
- Finely shred the parmesan cheese. I use a zester for this or the fine side of a cheese grater. You should have 2 cups.
- Place 1 cup of raw almonds into a food processor or high speed blender and process using pulse until the almonds are chopped fine. Some will be very fine and others a little chunkier and that is great for the texture.
- Mix the parmesan cheese, chopped almonds, salt and pepper together and place into a coating tray or shallow bowl.
- Preheat the Air Fryer on its hottest setting for full 10 minutes. Line a tray with parchment paper.
- Dip each piece of chicken into the cream/egg mixture and coat both sides. Place the coated chicken into the almond/cheese mixture and spoon over the mixture to cover the top. Lightly press down to make sure the coating sticks. Flip and make sure the other side is completely coated. Place the coated chicken breast on the parchment lined tray and repeat the process for each piece of chicken.
- Spritz each side of the coated chicken with oil of choice.
- When the air fryer has preheated, lightly sprtiz the cooking surface with oil and place the coated chicken in a single layer. The number of breasts you can cook at once will depend on the size of your air fryer.
- Select the air fry setting and set the temperature to 350°F/175°C and the time to 15 minutes. After about 7-8 minutes, flip the chicken and take an internal temperature to gage how much longer it will need to cook. Continue air frying for another 3-5 minutes or until the internal temperature has reached 165°F/74°C.
- Remove the chicken and let rest on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes. Serve & Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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