No matter how old you are, chicken tenders are the ultimate comfort food. Golden, crunchy and ideal for dipping, they’re a great choice for dinner, especially if you have picky eaters. While stopping at the drive-thru or frozen section of the grocery store is convenient, homemade chicken tenders are tastier, better for you and are easier than you might think.
Keep reading to learn how to make our super easy chicken tenders recipe, plus tips and tricks.
Psst: Take a look at these other fast food copycat recipes.
Before You Start: How to Choose the Best Chicken
This recipe uses chicken tenderloins, a cut of meat that’s taken from the bottom of a chicken breast. This cut is usually sold on its own at a slightly higher price than other cuts of chicken. Alternatively, you can also cut a chicken breast lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips.
When you’re at the store, look for chicken tenderloins that have a pink hue and no signs of greying meat. Double-check that the sell-by date is a day or two out and the package is leak-free.
Before You Start: Essential Tools
- Look for wide, shallow bowls like these ceramic bowls from Le Tauci ($30 for 4) to dredge your chicken. The flat bottom makes it easy to fit and flip the tenderloins while the sides prevent the egg wash and bread crumbs from ending up on your counter.
- When it comes to breading chicken, tongs are an absolute must. These tongs from Tovolo ($8) are coated with silicone to grip the chicken and be comfortable in your hand. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe!
- Keep your chicken tenders from sticking to the baking sheet with some good ol’ Pam cooking spray ($4). The neutral oil won’t add any flavor to your tenders and helps them crisp up.
Easy Chicken Tenders Recipe
- 1 large egg (or 1/3 cup egg substitute)
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound chicken tenderloins
- 2 plates or pans for dredging
- Baking sheet
- Wire cooling rack
Step 1: Prep the breading
First, preheat your oven to 400°F.
Then, in a shallow bowl or pan, combine the egg, mustard and minced garlic with a whisk. In another shallow bowl or pan, mix the bread crumbs, basil, paprika, salt and pepper.
Test Kitchen Tip: Feel free to use panko bread crumbs instead of regular dry bread crumbs. Panko crumbs are larger and more coarse, giving the tenders more of a crunch.
Step 2: Dredge the chicken
Give your chicken tenders a good pat with some paper towels. Drying the tenders will help the breading stick and prevent it from getting soggy, so make sure you get the tenders as dry as you can.
Next, use a pair of tongs to dip a chicken tender fully in the egg mixture, shake off excess and coat in the bread crumbs. While the tender is in the bread crumbs, use the tongs to gently press the crumbs into the chicken. This will again help the breading stick and ensure it’s even over the whole tender.
Transfer the tender to a cooking spray-coated baking sheet and repeat with the other pieces of chicken.
Test Kitchen Tip: To up the crunchiness of your tenders, give them a quick spritz of cooking spray on each side before they go in the oven.
Step 3: Bake the tenders
After all of the chicken tenders have been breaded, bake them in your preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and has reached 165°F.
Test Kitchen Tip: You may need to flip your chicken tenders around the halfway mark to prevent one side from browning too much more than the other. If you check and notice deep browning, gently flip each tender, trying not to move to squeeze it too much.
Step 4: Cool and eat
When your tenders are done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes either on the baking sheet or on a wire cooling rack.
Once they’ve cooled enough to touch, serve your easy chicken tenders with your favorite sauces and sides.
3 ounces cooked chicken: 194 calories, 2g fat (0 saturated fat), 56mg cholesterol, 518mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 1g fiber), 31g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch.
How to Make This Easy Chicken Tenders Recipe Your Own
Since this is a basic chicken tenders recipe, it’s easy to customize to your own tastes. Here are some ideas to get you started:
If you want more spices:
- Add a dash of parsley, oregano and grated parmesan to the breading mixture for an Italian upgrade.
- Go southwest by omitting the basil and sprinkling a teaspoon each of chili powder and cumin to the bread crumbs.
- Try something new by substituting the basil for curry powder in your crumb mixture.
If you want to add heat:
- Squeeze a bit of hot sauce in the egg mixture. Cholula is our go-to, but you can use any brand that’s your favorite.
- Add chili flakes or ground cayenne to the dry breading. But be careful, a little bit will go a long way!
If you want more texture:
- Instead of dry bread crumbs, crush pretzels in a food processor or in a plastic bag for a coarser crumb with added saltiness.
- Crumbled cornflakes also make a great breading for chicken tenders, them a crisp texture.
Check out even more alternatives to dry bread crumbs.
What to Serve with Chicken Tenders
We have to be honest, chicken tenders go well with pretty much everything! That said, these are the items we tend to serve our tenders with:
- A green vegetable: Whether it’s a simple side salad or veggie medley, something green is always a good idea. These peas will be palatable even to picky eaters.
- A starchy side: From ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese to crispy French fries, layer on the carbs.
- Lots of condiments: Load your plate up with honey, spicy ketchup, hot sauce, honey mustard, BBQ…
Did you know making your own condiments is super simple? Try your hand at them with these homemade condiment recipes.
How to Store Leftover Chicken Tenders
If you happen to have leftover chicken tenders (kudos to your self-control) simply store them in an air-tight food container for up to four days.
To reheat leftover tenders, bake them in a 350°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Can Homemade Chicken Tenders Be Frozen?
Yes, whether you’re meal prepping or have leftover chicken tenders, these homemade chicken tenders can be frozen. You can do this by placing the chicken tenders in a freezer storage bag or air-tight container and keeping them in the freezer for up to four months.
To use frozen chicken tenders, transfer them to the refrigerator to defrost overnight. Then, carefully transfer the tenders to a baking sheet and bake them in a 350°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Now that you know how to make this easy chicken tenders recipe, learn how to make the best French fries at home.