Air Fryer BBQ Chicken

by Erin @ Food Doodles on July 11, 2021

This air fryer BBQ chicken is amazingly easy, juicy and tender on the inside, and sweet and crispy on the outside. And it’s ready in only 20 minutes. It makes quick weeknight dinners a breeze.

The chicken is lightly seasoned with garlic powder and paprika and slathered with your favorite BBQ sauce. If you like it a little spicy, you can add red pepper flakes to make it just right for your family meal.

It’s hot out there and cooking with the air fryer is the perfect way to have a delish BBQ chicken dinner without heating your house or standing over a hot grill. Really, it’s that simple.

sliced air fryer bbq chicken



  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts (2-3 breasts)
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes, optional
  • BBQ sauce

ingredients to make air fryer bbq chicken

How to make air fryer chicken:

It’s super easy and only takes 20 minutes to cook!

  1. Spray the AF basket with a little oil so the chicken doesn’t stick.
  2. Mix the spices and rub on the chicken.raw chicken breast in air fryer basket
  3. Put the chicken in the basket and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Flip the chicken and cook for another 8 minutes.cooked chicken breast in air fryer basket
  5. Brush on the BBQ sauce and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Serve with your favorite sides!chicken breast in air fryer basket with bbq sauce rubbed over it


  • I love boneless skinless chicken breasts but chicken thighs also work.
  • Spices help enhance the flavor of the BBQ sauce. If you have a BBQ seasoning that you love, feel free to use 1 1/2 teaspoons of that in place of the spices used in this recipe.
  • I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce but you can of course use any type that you like.
  • You want to make sure to spray the air fryer so that the chicken doesn’t stick.
  • There’s no need to preheat the air fryer.
  • Make sure your chicken is uniformly thick in order for it to cook evenly. I pound my chicken breasts to about 3/4” thick.

Why use an air fryer for BBQ chicken?

For one, it’s hot out there and standing in the hot sun, grilling chicken breast might be just too much heat.

Using the air fryer won’t heat your house as a regular oven would, and you get the same great taste from using the air fryer. So, why not?

Do I need to use BBQ sauce?

If you don’t like BBQ sauce, never fear! You can just omit it. I’ve tried it this way and it’s delicious.

I was actually pretty shocked because it’s just paprika, garlic powder and salt. I didn’t even add the red pepper flakes. 

I used smoked sea salt which added a great smoky taste. If you use regular salt, it probably won’t have that great BBQ flavor.

Can you put sauce in the air fryer?

In most cases, yes, but in the air fryer, you only want to add sauces to meat in the last 10 minutes of cooking. BBQ sauce cooks quickly so you really don’t want to add it until the last two minutes of cooking.

Store-bought sauces or ones you make at home are fully cooked, so you just need to reheat to flavor the chicken. If you add the BBQ sauce from the start, it can char the meat and you’ll have a bad version of blackened chicken.

For this recipe, just add the sauce in the last 2 minutes of cooking time, and you’ll have the best BBQ chicken for dinner.

Can you put aluminum foil in the air fryer?

First you need to check your instruction booklet that came with your air fryer (or just google it!) as foil should not be used in some brands of air fryers.

If foil is allowed in your air fryer, then the short answer is yes. But for the reasons listed below, for this BBQ chicken recipe, I think using a little elbow grease to clean the basket will be better than using foil. Besides, if you lightly spray the basket, you shouldn’t have a huge problem cleaning it.

Typically, anything you can use in the oven, you can use in the air fryer. So if you’re looking for easy cleanup, it makes sense to ask if you can use foil. But there are some things you should know.

If you are using foil, only put it in the basket of the air fryer. You do not want to place it in the bottom of the drawer, it could damage the heating element, overheat, and could start a fire, so please don’t do that.

air fryer bbq chicken on plate

Don’t preheat an air fryer with a foil-lined basket. Make sure that the food is weighing down the foil. You don’t have to worry about chicken but if you toasting nuts, for example, this could be a real problem.

You shouldn’t use foil with acidic foods like tomatoes, fruit, peppers, or marinades with vinegar or lemon juice. The aluminum will react and break down the foil causing you to have aluminum in your food. So definitely don’t do that.

Overall, use foil sparingly or replace it with parchment paper which in my opinion, is a better option. They even sell circular parchment paper for the air fryer now, but if you don’t want to splurge on that, just take out some scissors and do it yourself.

Can I use frozen chicken breast in the air fryer?

Not a problem! If you have frozen chicken breasts, then certainly use them. You don’t even have to thaw them. Just preheat the air fryer according to the directions, season and place them in the air fryer. Just follow the same directions and serve!

plate with broccoli and air fryer bbq chicken

Can I make this paleo/gluten-free/dairy-free?

Yes, and it’s super easy! Just use a paleo-friendly BBQ sauce. I haven’t tried it but this Homemade Paleo BBQ Sauce looks great!

And as long as your BBQ sauce is free of dairy and gluten, which most are, you should be good to do. 

How to store:

If you have leftovers or want to do two batches for an extra delicious lunch during the week, you can store the BBQ chicken in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. The chicken should last 3 or 4 days.

Always make sure any food has completely cooled before you tighten the lid and put it in the fridge.

What to serve with BBQ chicken:

  • This Sunflower Seed Salad is an obvious choice for an amazing meal. It’s easy and light and is great with BBQ chicken.
  • This Italian Tomato Salad is cool, fresh and super easy. It tastes terrific, and it’s one you’ll be making again and again.
  • Keep it cool with this Polish Cucumber Salad. It can be made ahead and is light and refreshing.
  • You can make these Air Fryer Carrot Fries ahead of time, while the chicken is resting, just pop them in the air fryer and reheat in minutes. Or do the same with these Air Fryer Garlic Fries.
  • And to surprise them all, you can have this Cheesecake Mousse sitting in the fridge just waiting to be served!

Other Air Fryer Main Meals:

If you like the sound of this Air Fryer BBQ Chicken, then you’re going to love these other air fryer recipes.

  • Air Fryer Turkey Burgers are moist, flavorful and healthier than your average burger. The patties freeze great, so they’re quick and easy when you need a quick meal.
  • Air Fryer Fish Tacos will surely mix up your weeknight dinners. They’re easy and paired with this Mango Habanero Salsa, everyone will be happy!
  • Air Fryer Ham calls for a fully baked ham and 5-ingredients. Perfect to cook on the weekends and have leftovers throughout the week.
  • Air Fryer Sesame Chicken is perfect to shake up your family meals. It’s easy, and in less than 30-minutes, you can be sitting down to eat!

If you try this air fryer BBQ sauce or any recipe you find on the site, I would love to see pics and hear about your experience. Just tag 📸 and follow #fooddoodlesrecipes so that I can find them easily. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest so you can get daily recipes easily. Enjoy!


Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: air fryer, bbq chicken
Servings: 4 people
  • 1 pound (453 grams) boneless skinless chicken breasts 2-3 breasts
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (use GF/paleo sauce, if desired)
  1. Spray the air fryer basket with olive oil and set it aside. This prevents the chicken from sticking.

  2. Make sure your chicken is uniformly thick in order for it to cook evenly. I pound my chicken breasts to about 3/4” thick. Use a paper towel to pat the chicken dry.

  3. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, salt, and if using, the red pepper flakes.
  4. Rub the spice mix over the chicken, ensuring that each piece is evenly coated.
  5. Place the chicken in the air fryer basket in a single layer.
  6. Cook at 375 °F (190 °C) for 10 minutes.

  7. Flip chicken and cook for another 8 minutes.

  8. Once the chicken reaches 165 °F (74 °C) on a meat thermometer, brush the chicken with BBQ sauce and cook for another 2 minutes at 375 °F (190 °C).

  9. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.

Recipe Notes
  • I love boneless skinless chicken breasts but chicken thighs also work.
  • Spices help enhance the flavor of the BBQ sauce. If you have a BBQ seasoning that you love, feel free to use 1 1/2 teaspoons of that in place of the spices used in this recipe.
  • I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce but you can of course use any type that you like.


Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Liz July 19, 2021 at 16:19

I’ve been loving finding so many ways to use my air fryer, especially when I don’t want to heat up the oven in the summer! So perfect!


2 Tammy July 18, 2021 at 21:10

What a delicious recipe for the summer! The air fryer is such a Godsend during the summer months…cannot wait to make this for the family!


3 Veronika July 18, 2021 at 17:08

This chicken looks so delicious and the recipe is super simple! I think it’s time for me to buy an air fryer!


4 Aditi Bahl July 17, 2021 at 12:06

These are awesome. Made these for a few friends and family and everyone was all praise. The flavors were just perfect. Saved this for future makes too.


5 Kathryn July 16, 2021 at 23:59

This bbq chicken sounds incredible and so easy! Adding this to my dinner list next week- I can’t wait!


6 Amanda Dixon July 15, 2021 at 23:53

This was such a great way to cook chicken! I loved how the air fryer gave it the perfect crisp texture on the outside, but the inside was still nice and juicy.


7 Jenny July 15, 2021 at 18:19

I had tried making similar, but your BBQ chicken recipe is fantastic! Thanks so much for the recipe. I will make it again for sure!


8 Amy July 15, 2021 at 01:28

I love this recipe! The perfect way to get that barbecue chicken fix without firing up the grill!


9 Marta July 13, 2021 at 01:39

I’m a fan of quick weekday meals and we always have chicken breast on hand. This looks amazing, so the air fryer will be put to work soon!


10 Bernice July 12, 2021 at 22:41

Gotta love a simple, yet tasty weeknight chicken dinner. Air fryers make it so easy!


Previous post:

Next post: