This Air Fryer Chicken Sandwich (Chick-fil-A Copycat) recipe is the best homemade meal the whole family will love! The chicken is brined in pickle juice and buttermilk, which produces tender and juicy chicken with a crispy breading. Add in cayenne pepper and fresh veggies for the spicy deluxe!
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How to Brine and Marinate the Chicken
I love to use buttermilk to brine chicken, it also helps produce a nice, thick breading. The restaurant actually uses a combination of eggs and milk, which I have noted below in the substitutions if you prefer to use that.
The brine also includes pickle juice! I have found that most dill pickle juice will work well with this recipe.
There’s always a hint of pickle taste in just the breast alone, if you want more pickle flavor, then allow the chicken to soak in the pickle juice for a couple of hours.
Why is Pickle Juice Used?
Pickle juice has a lot of salt. It has often been used to brine chicken because salt will help carry moisture throughout the chicken to produce juicy chicken breasts. Have you ever wondered how the breast gets so juicy?!
Coupled with an air fried breast, you truly can’t go wrong.
What Type of Oil to Use
I like to use peanut oil because it’s what Chick-fil-A uses and it has a high smoke point, which is essential for air frying. During recipe testing, I also noted that peanut oil does help these sandwiches taste more like Chick-fil-A!
You can also use avocado oil or olive oil.
Oil is essential if you want a crispy, breaded chicken breast. It will help crisp the chicken. You don’t need much!
How to Make Air Fryer Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich
- Drizzle the chicken breasts in buttermilk and pickle juice. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Add paprika, Confectioner’s sweetener, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a bowl large enough to dredge the chicken, along with all-purpose flour.
- Remove the chicken from the liquid and dredge it in the flour and place the chicken breast in the air fryer. (Optional to dredge the chicken in a beaten egg first).
- Air fry.
Air Fryer Temperature
I use 400 degrees.
How Long to Cook/Cook Time
Cook the chicken for 17-22 minutes total, until the chicken has reached your desired level of crisp.
How Many Calories Are in the Sandwich?
The standard chicken sandwich has 440 calories and 19 grams of fat. The deluxe has 500 calories and 23 grams of fat.
How to Substitute Buttermilk
You can use 1 beaten egg along with 1/2 cup of milk instead of buttermilk in this recipe. That’s actually similar to what Chick-fil-A uses, but I find that buttermilk helps produce a thicker crust. Use what you prefer.
If you opt for this method, marinate and brine the chicken in pickle juice only. After 30 minutes, combine the beaten egg and milk. Dredge the chicken in the egg and milk mixture and then into the seasoned flour.
Homemade Chick-fil-A Sauce
To make your own sauce you will need Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, BBQ sauce, honey, and mayo. I often omit the mayo and still love the flavor.
More Air Fryer Chicken Recipes
You may also enjoy my Chick-fil-A Copycat Frosted Lemonade recipe.
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Air Fryer Chicken Sandwich (Chick-fil-A Copycat)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts Mine were 6-8oz each.
- 1 cup pickle juice
- 1/2 cup buttermilk See notes below for how to substitute buttermilk.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt Adjust to taste.
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper Adjust to taste.
- 1 tablespoon Powdered/Confectioner's Sugar or Sweetener
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper Optional for the spicy chicken sandwich
- 1 egg beaten
- cooking oil I used peanut oil
- 2 buns I use brioche.
- 4 slices dill pickle chips
- 2 slices leaf lettuce Optional for deluxe sandwich.
- 4 slices fresh tomatoes Optional for deluxe sandwich.
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons BBQ Sauce hickory smoked
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum See substitution in the notes below.
- You can use a sealable bag or a large bowl to brine the chicken. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl or sealable bag along with the pickle juice and buttermilk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Add the flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sweetener to a large bowl, large enough to dredge the chicken. Stir to combine.
- Add the egg to a bowl large enough to dredge the chicken.
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and dredge both breasts in the beaten egg and then the flour. Place the chicken in the air fryer basket. (The use of the egg is optional and will help keep the breading intact on your sandwich. I often make this without using the egg).
- Spritz the top of the chicken with peanut oil. Spray from a distance.
- Air fry on 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Open the air fryer and flip the chicken. Be careful with tongs. You don't want to lose any of the breading on the chicken. Your chicken may be fully cooked at this point and you may only need a couple of minutes to crisp this side of the chicken. Spritz this side of the chicken.
- Air fry for an additional 5-7 minutes until the chicken is crisp. You should also use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken has reached an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
- Every air fryer model and brand will cook at varying speeds. Monitor your results carefully, and adjust as needed.
- For toasted buns, toast the buns for 3-4 minutes on 400 degrees.
- Remove the chicken from the air fryer and assemble the sandwich.
- Combine the mayo, honey, BBQ sauce, and mustard in a bowl. (I often omit the mayo and still love the flavor. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to fit your taste).
- Add the xanthan gum to a separate bowl along with 2 teaspoons of the sauce. Stir to thicken and add it to the bowl with the sauce.
- Stir to thicken.
- You can substitute buttermilk for 1/2 cup of milk instead of buttermilk in this recipe. If you use milk, you will need to use the beaten egg. That’s actually similar to what Chick-fil-A uses, but I find that buttermilk helps produce a thicker crust. Use what you prefer. Marinate and brine the chicken in pickle juice only. After 30 minutes, combine the beaten egg and milk. Dredge the chicken in the egg and milk mixture and then into the seasoned flour.
- If you have issues with the breading staying intact, be sure to use a beaten egg. Dredge the chicken in the egg prior to the flour.
- Chick-fil-A serves their buns buttered. Feel free to butter that bun.
- You use powdered sweetener as opposed to granular for a softer texture in the breading. With granular, you will be able to taste the grains of the sweetener.
- You can add more sweetener if you wish.
- I use peanut oil because it’s what Chick-fil-A uses. You can also use olive oil or avocado oil.
- I go light on the salt because the pickle juice is salty. Adjust to taste.
- You can easily make these nuggets, by chopping up the chicken breasts into 1-2 inch chunks.
- Instead of xanthan gum you can combine 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of water, stir and add it to the sauce.