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Cheetos Chicken (Air Fryer + Baking Instructions)

Want to try a totally fun chicken recipe? Make this Cheetos Chicken! This recipe for baked chicken tenders crusted with Cheetos is easy to make and for fun kids and adults to eat. Just a few simple ingredients, and a great way to use up Cheetos that are starting to get just a little stale.

Plate of crispy cheetos chicken with cheetos bag in the background
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Crispy Cheetos chicken tenders

My family's absolute favorite junk food treat is Cheetos. We don't have Cheetos often because, well, they're not the healthiest, but I wanted to make a fun treat for all of us: Cheetos Chicken Tenders.

This Cheetos chicken recipe is baked and comes out so crispy and delicious! You can't go wrong with the Cheetos "breadcrumbs" coating on the chicken.

To make the Cheetos breadcrumbs, you simply pulse the Cheetos in a food processor. It takes less than 30 seconds and you immediately have a flavorful breading for chicken tenders.

This is a similar recipe to make Pretzel Chicken with Mustard Sauce, but even more fun to eat!

And the best part (aside from the crazy orange color and Cheetos flavor, of course) is how tender and juicy the chicken turns out:

Hand showing inside of chicken tender crusted with cheetos

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 2 rounded cups Cheetos (about 4-5 oz)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk (optional)
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and/or 2-3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan (the stuff from the green container is fine, this isn't fine dining!)
  • Oil spray (only if air frying) - I LOVE using these refillable ones, but this spray is also great
Ingredients in bowls for cheetos crusted chicken

You'll also need:

Related recipe: Baked Panko Breaded Pork Chops

Dipping Cheetos crusted chicken into sauce

Ingredient notes and recipe tips

→ Cheetos: I used 2 rounded cups of Cheetos for 1 lb of chicken tenders, which was about 4-5 oz (half or a little more than half of an 8-oz bag). If you don't have enough Cheetos, you can add some seasoned Italian breadcrumbs to the mixture, or crush up some Cheez Its, saltines, other chips, or add some shredded Parmesan cheese (the stuff from the green container is fine for this recipe), just to make enough breading.

Milk: This is optional, but I like a slightly runnier liquid for dipping the chicken tenders.

→ Optional seasonings: This Chitos chicken tastes exactly like what the title says: Cheetos + Chicken. If you want to add a little more complex flavor, you can add about ½ teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (or use dried basil or dried oregano) to the flour. You can also add a few tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese to the Cheetos for a saltier, cheesier flavor.

→ Doubling the recipe: If you want to double this recipe, you only need to double the Cheetos amount. You should have enough flour and enough egg mixture to coat 2 pounds of chicken tenders.

→ Make these into nuggets: You can chop each chicken tender into 3-4 pieces to be about the size of chicken nuggets, and dredge each individual nugget.

→ Use tongs so your hands don't get messy! You can use tongs to dip the chicken tenders into flour, eggs, and to coat them in crushed Cheetos. The only downside is that your hands might get tired squeezing the tongs, but it's a great option if you don't want to get your hands all coated chicken juices and Cheetos crumbs.

→ No food processor? Pulsing the Cheetos in a food processor is by far the fastest way to turn them into crumbs, but you can also place them in a heavy duty large zip lock bag, squeeze all the extra air out of them, and crush them up with a meat hammer or even by pressing down with a large platter or baking dish to crush them.

→ You can air fry these, but it really only saves you about 5 minutes of time, since chicken tenders take about 15 minutes in the air fryer. The downside of air frying is that the Cheeto breading burns a little and gets slightly brown, while it stays bright orange while baking. I'll share the air fryer instructions below.

→ Make other Cheetos crusted food: This Cheetos crusting and breading recipe can be used to make homemade Cheetos crusted fish sticks, on pork chops, and even on tofu!

Related recipe: Sweet Potato Chicken Nuggets

Instructions

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350F (or see air fryer instructions below).

Step 2: Place Cheetos in a food processor and pulse ~20-30 times, or until the Cheetos are the size of breadcrumbs, with a few slightly bigger pieces.

Collage of 2 pictures showing how to pulse cheetos to make cheetos crumbs

Step 3: Set up your dredging stations: In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. If you want to add more flavor to the chicken, add in some garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (or dried oregano or dried basil).

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Place the Cheeto crumbs into a third bowl (add some shredded Parmesan to the Cheetos for a cheesier flavor).

Step 4: Use tongs (or your hands) to dredge the chicken tenders in flour, then in the egg wash, then in the Cheeto crumbs. Press the chicken tender into the Cheeto crumbs so that the crumbs stick to all the surfaces of the chicken tenders.

Collage of 4 pictures showing steps for how to coat chicken tender in cheetos

Step 5: Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F, using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

Baked cheetos coated chicken tenders

Related recipe: Crispy Fried Chicken Hearts

Air fryer Cheetos chicken

To air fry Cheetos chicken, follow steps 1-4 where you dip the chicken tenders in the flour mixture, the egg mixture, and then coat them in Cheetos.

Place the crusted chicken pieces on the air fryer tray and spray the Cheeto-coated chicken thoroughly with olive oil to help prevent burning.

Preheat your air fryer to 350F (if your air fryer requires preheating) and air fry Cheetos crusted chicken at 350F for 12-15 minutes flipping halfway through, or until the chicken is cooked through to 165F. Keep an eye on the chicken tenders to make sure they're not turning brown and burning.

Air fried cheetos crusted chicken

Storage, reheating, and freezing instructions

These Cheetos chicken tenders will keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days. I suggest reheating them by pan-frying in a little bit of oil, or by baking at 350F until heated through to make them crispy again.

To freeze, arrange the cooked chicken on a plate, cutting board, or other flat freezer-safe surface so they're not piled on top of each other. Freeze, then transfer to a freezer-safe storage container later that same day.

So what do you say?? Would you try this fun chicken recipe, or do you think it's an atrocity??

Let me know with a comment and leave a star rating below if you've made this. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Dipping Cheetos crusted chicken into sauce

Cheetos Chicken

Cheetos crusted chicken is fun to make and even more fun to eat. A great way to use up leftover Cheetos that are starting to get a little stale. This recipe has air fryer and baking instructions (though I really recommend baking them!)
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 38 minutes
Servings: 7 pieces
Calories: 199kcal
Author: Kate

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken tenders about 7 pieces
  • 2 cups Cheetos use rounded cups (about 4-5 oz)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour use gluten-free flour if needed
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (or dried basil or oregano)
  • Optional: few tablespoons shredded Parmesan
  • Oil spray for air frying only

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Place Cheetos in a food processor and pulse ~20-30 times, or until the Cheetos are the size of breadcrumbs, with a few slightly bigger pieces.
  • Set up your dredging stations: In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. If you want to add more flavor to the chicken, add in some garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (or dried oregano or dried basil).
    In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.
    Place the Cheeto crumbs into a third bowl (optional: add shredded Parmesan to the Cheetos)
  • Use tongs (or your hands) to dredge the chicken tenders in flour, then in the egg wash, then in the Cheeto crumbs. Press the chicken tender into the Cheeto crumbs so that the crumbs stick to all the surfaces of the chicken tenders.
  • Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F, using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
Air fryer Cheetos chicken
  • Place Cheetos-coated chicken on the air fryer tray and spray with oil spray. Air fry at 350F for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until the chicken is cooked through to 165F. Keep an eye on the Cheetos topping to make sure it's not burning or turning too brown.

Notes

  • If you want to double this recipe, you only need to double the Cheetos amount. You should have enough flour and enough egg mixture to coat 2 pounds of chicken tenders.
  • Make these into nuggets: You can chop each chicken tender into 3-4 pieces to be about the size of chicken nuggets, and dredge each individual nugget.
  • If using whole chicken breasts, cut them into smaller pieces or into nugget-sized bites.
  • You can air fry Cheetos chicken, but I really recommend baking it. Air frying only saves you about 5 minutes of time, but it makes the Cheetos burn a little and turn slightly brown. Spraying the Cheeto crumbs with oil thoroughly helps prevent the browning.
  • Dipping sauce idea: Mix ketchup and mayo in a 1:1 ratio. Add sriracha for a little spice, or some relish for a salty kick.
  • Reheat in an oven or in a skillet to not lose the crisp.

Nutrition

Calories: 199kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 573mg | Potassium: 254mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 41IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating




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