Simple Ways to Make Delicious Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders aren’t just for kids anymore. These ubiquitous pieces of breaded poultry are one of the most popular items in American restaurants, according to market research firm Mintel, while pre-cooked and breaded frozen fingers fly off grocery store shelves. But there’s no reason to reach for the premade variety when you have a craving for chicken. You can make your own tenders at home in dozens of flavorful varieties. Here are seven versions that are perfect for snacks, party appetizers, or a light meal.

1. Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders

Chicken fingers, breaded chicken, tenders, fried

Buttermilk fried chicken tenders | iStock.com

The beauty of these homemade fried chicken tenders is their simplicity. A seasoned buttermilk marinade keeps the meat flavorful and moist and a generous breading makes for a perfectly crispy outside. If you’re craving the chicken fingers of your childhood, this recipe from Once Upon a Chef is the one to try.

Ingredients:

For the marinade

  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

For the breading

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk

For cooking

  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil

Directions: Mix together all the marinade ingredients and then combine with the chicken tenders in a large, resealable bag. Make sure meat is evenly coated with the marinade, then place the bag in bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and baking powder in a large bowl to make the breading. Whisk until combined, then add the buttermilk and stir until the mixture forms even clumps.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Take a few chicken tenders from the bag, and toss in the breading mixture. Press firmly so that clumps of the flour and buttermilk mixture stick to the chicken. Place breaded tenders on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the tenders are breaded.

Line another baking sheet or tray with paper towels. Add about ¾ of an inch oil to a large, high-sided skillet or pot. Turn heat to high, and heat until oil shimmers. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to the pan (don’t crowd the pan). Cook until the bottom turns golden brown in color, then flip and continue cooking. Remove from pan with tongs, and lay on the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the other chicken tenders.

Serve hot with your choice of dipping sauce.

2. Sriracha Chicken Strips

sriracha hot sauce

Sriracha | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Spicy sriracha-flavored chicken strips are sure to satisfy your craving for a meaty snack. They’re baked, not fried, which cuts down on the fat but doesn’t make them any less delicious. Recipe from Budget Bytes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds)
  • ⅓ cup sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 inch peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Directions: Combine the sriracha, rice vinegar, minced garlic, and grated ginger in a resealable container. Slice each chicken breast into six strips, and coat in the marinade. Cover the container, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill one bowl with the all-purpose flour, and another with the bread crumbs. In a third bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Set out a plate or tray to hold the breaded chicken strips.

Remove one chicken strip from the marinade, wipe off any excess sauce, and dip in the flour to coat. Then, dip the chicken in the egg wash followed by the bread crumbs. Lay the chicken on the plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Place the breaded chicken strips on a foil-lined baking sheet, and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the oven to the broil setting and broil the strips for about 5 minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown in color. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, then serve.

3. Baked Honey Chicken Tenders

raw chicken tenders

Chicken | iStock.com

These baked chicken tenders are the perfect mix of sweet and savory. And unlike many recipes for make-at-home tenders, these don’t have any breading, so they’re the perfect option if you’re watching carbs. Recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced

Directions: Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Lay tenders in a single layer in the pan.

Mix the honey, soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic, and dried minced onion in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Turn the chicken once, about halfway through the marinating time.

Preheat the over to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove pan from refrigerator, uncover, and place chicken in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken tenders over, and top with sliced green onion. Return to oven, and let bake for another 10 or 15 minutes. Serve.

4. Baked Asiago-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Baked Asiago-Crusted Chicken Tenders

Baked asiago-crusted chicken tenders | iStock.com

Making your own crispy chicken fingers doesn’t have to be hard, as this recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny proves. You need just five ingredients to make this delicious and filling snack. The cooked tenders can be frozen and reheated later, so we suggest making a big batch to have on hand whenever you get hungry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of chicken breasts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup shredded Asiago cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pound out chicken breasts slightly, and cut each into 3 or 4 strips. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese. Dip each chicken strip in the egg wash, then dip in the breadcrumb mixture. Lay the coated strips on a baking sheet.

Cook chicken strips in the oven for 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce. Or, place cooked chicken on a plate and freeze for two hours. Transfer frozen chicken to a resealable bag or container, and store in the freezer. Reheat in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes before serving.

5. Asian Lemon Chicken Tenders

chicken tenders

Asian lemon chicken tenders | iStock.com

A glaze made from lemon, honey, and soy sauce adds a sophisticated and tasty touch to these Asian-inspired chicken tenders. The result is a snack that grown-ups won’t be embarrassed to eat but that kids will still enjoy. Recipe from Damn Delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the lemon glaze

  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Directions: Combine the honey, soy sauce, pineapple juice, brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and garlic powder in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until slightly thickened.

Season chicken strips with salt and pepper. Pour the flour into a bowl and the buttermilk into another bowl. Dredge each chicken strip in flour, dip in buttermilk, then dredge again in flour.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add 3 or 4 chicken strips to the skillet and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, and let drain on paper towels. Repeat the process with remaining chicken strips.

Transfer cooked chicken strips to a plate, drizzle with glaze, and serve.

6. Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Tenders

chicken tenders

Bacon-wrapped chicken tenders | iStock.com

You won’t miss the crispy breading on these chicken tenders, which are wrapped in bacon instead of being coated in breadcrumbs. Just wrap a strip of cured pork around the chicken, season, pop in the oven, and you’re good to go. Recipe from Divas Can Cook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken tenders (about 10)
  • 10 strips bacon, sliced in half length-wise
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder in a small bowl.

Sprinkle spice mixture evenly over the chicken tenders. You want each piece to be completed covered with the seasoning. Wrap 2 half-slices of bacon around each tender, tucking in the loose ends to secure.

Combine the brown sugar and the chili powder. Sprinkle over the bacon-wrapped chicken tenders, then turn and coat the other side. Press the sugar into the chicken and bacon.

Grease a grill pan, and place the chicken on it. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crisp. (Turn oven to broil for the last few minutes of cooking if the bacon is not as crispy as you would like.) Remove from oven, and serve immediately.

7. Chicken Fingers with Honey Dill Dipping Sauce

chicken fingers

Chicken fingers | iStock.com

A light breading makes for crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside tenders, but the real reason you’ll want to try this recipe is for the sauce. The honey-dill dip is the creation of the owner of Mitzi’s Restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada, who wanted a tastier alternative to the freezer-aisle chicken strips his kids loved. Recipe via Saveur.

Ingredients:

For the chicken fingers

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3-by-1-inch wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups finely ground fresh breadcrumbs or panko
  • Canola oil, for frying

For the honey-dill dipping sauce

  • ½ cups mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons of thoroughly chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons dry mustard powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: To make the dipping sauce, whisk together the mayonnaise with the honey, dill, mustard powder, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and stir together until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together chicken, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and mustard; set aside. Place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes; set aside. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a 6-quart Dutch oven; heat over medium-high heat until deep-fry thermometer reads 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working in batches, coat chicken in flour, shake off excess, and dip in eggs; coat in breadcrumbs. Fry chicken until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining chicken. Serve with dipping sauce.

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