Panko Chicken Tenders Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
Crispy, savory and simple: What's not to like about panko chicken tenders? Here's a step-by-step guide to making them from scratch.

Updated: Mar. 19, 2024

Our favorite foods to cook are back pocket recipes. You know the ones—the quick pasta dish you eat once (or twice) a week, the omelet you could cook with your eyes closed. These panko chicken tenders deserve to join the club. They’re super simple. Kids and adults love them. And they’re so versatile; serve them alongside french fries or a salad.

What makes bread crumbs stick to chicken?

Crispy chicken is often relegated to restaurant fare for one reason: It can be tricky to keep those bread crumbs on, and thus getting the full crunch experience. The trick to breading chicken at home? First, start with dry chicken; pat the cutlets dry with paper towels if necessary. Then, coat the chicken with eggs before dredging with the crumbs. This protein-rich coating forms a kind of gel that helps the crumbs adhere.

Panko Chicken Tenders Ingredients

  • Panko: Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs made from steamed, crustless bread. Panko are flaky and fluffy. They absorb less oil than classic bread crumbs, resulting in lighter, crispier fried foods.
  • Egg: As explained above, coating the chicken with egg encourages the bread crumbs to stick to (and stay on) the chicken during cooking.
  • Chicken tenders: Chicken tenders (also known as chicken cutlets) are pre-sliced boneless chicken breasts. The thinness of the cut is key; you want the chicken to cook through in the time it takes for the breadcrumbs to crisp and brown. Too-thick chicken cuts (like whole breasts) will be raw inside when the crumbs are done. If you can’t find tenders at the store, slice boneless chicken breasts yourself.

Directions

Step 1: Toast the panko crumbs

In a small skillet, heat the panko over medium heat. Stir consistently, so no crumbs scorch. Toast until the panko is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool completely.

Step 2: Stir together the egg binder

Preheat the oven to 400°F, and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and mustard. You’ll be dipping the chicken into this bowl, so choose one that’s wide enough to fit the biggest pieces.

Step 3: Season the panko

In another shallow bowl, toss the toasted and cooled panko with seasonings.

Test Kitchen Tip: Using warm panko crumbs will spoil the adhesion of the crumbs to the chicken, yielding less-crispy tenders.

Step 4: Dredge the chicken

Set up your dipping station: first the chicken, then the egg bowl and finally the panko bowl. One tender at a time, dip the chicken in the egg mixture, flipping it over to coat. Then dredge through the crumb mix. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining chicken strips, being careful not to crowd the chicken strips on the pan. If the chicken pieces are touching, the crumb coating will not brown and crisp! Use a second baking sheet if necessary.

Step 5: Bake

Bake the chicken until the crust is golden brown and the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 to 13 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: If the crumbs are getting too dark before the chicken cooks, tent the pan with foil. Remove for the final moments of cooking to allow the crumbs to crisp back up.

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Panko Chicken Tenders Variations

  • Seasoned panko chicken: Add your favorite spices and dried herbs to the bread crumbs. Slant toward Indian flavorings with curry powder or garam masala. Make it Middle Eastern with ras el hanout. For Italian-style, try an herb mix. You truly can’t go wrong!
  • Air-fryer chicken: Panko chicken is deliciously crisp in the air fryer. Follow the recipe through Step 4, then cook in an air fryer at 400°F for 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Gluten-free breaded chicken: While gluten-free panko may be available in some specialty stores, they’re not essential. Swap standard gluten-free bread crumbs, store-bought or homemade.

How to Store Panko Chicken Tenders

Store chicken tenders in an airtight container in the fridge for three or four days. The real trick is how to reheat them so the panko crust becomes crisp again. We suggest heating in the toaster oven or on a hot cast iron pan—the dry heat will refresh the breading.

How to Freeze Panko Chicken Tenders

Panko chicken tenders freeze well! Lay the tenders on a sheet pan and freeze until solid, then pop them into a resealable freezer bag. When ready to eat, remove as many as needed and thaw gently in the fridge.

You may also freeze uncooked tenders using the same method. Follow the recipe through Step 4, and then freeze the tenders on a sheet pan before transferring to a freezer bag; you’ll likely lose a few crumbs, but that’s OK. Thaw completely before baking.

Chicken tenders will keep up to six months in the freezer.

Panko Chicken Tenders Tips

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What do you serve with panko chicken tenders?

With panko chicken tenders, the sky is the limit! Serve the crispy chicken with potatoes and your favorite vegetable side dish. Serve as a crunchy protein on a big salad. Serve with fries and ketchup for a cafeteria throwback recipe. Serve with green beans and corn in the summer, and with polenta and braised broccoli rabe in winter. Eat hot chicken tenders on a hoagie roll with some tomato sauce and peppery arugula, or serve cold with ranch dressing and plenty of crispy iceberg.

How can you make sure the chicken tenders are crispy?

First, make sure to start with dry chicken before proceeding through the egg and bread crumb steps (3 and 4, above). Don’t skimp on the egg coating, and pat the bread crumbs on if needed to help them adhere. Use a large enough baking sheet (or two) that the tenders won’t be crowded together during cooking (which can cause steam, the enemy of crisp!). Finally, be sure to let the oven completely preheat before baking.

What if I don’t have panko?

When it comes to chicken tenders, you want to aim for a good crisp coating. You can use regular bread crumbs to achieve this, though they may be denser.

Panko Chicken Tenders

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 10 min
Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins

Directions

  1. In a small skillet, heat panko over medium heat. Stir consistently, until panko is toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°. In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and mustard. In another shallow bowl, toss toasted panko with seasonings. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then coat with crumb mixture.
  3. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown and chicken is no longer pink, 10-13 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

3 ounces cooked chicken: 159 calories, 2g fat (0 saturated fat), 83mg cholesterol, 495mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1/2 starch.