These Chicken Tenders Are Better Than Fast Food

If there is one food it's all but impossible to get tired of, it's chicken tenders. Think about it: you could eat chicken tenders two or three times a week every week for the rest of your life with zero complaints, couldn't you? And once you have made tenders following this recipe, who knows — you just might.

Chef and food writer Tynia Peay of On Ty's Plate says that her "favorite way to serve chicken tenders is with barbecue or honey mustard sauce and a bunch of fries," but you can also slice them into salad, pop them into a wrap or sandwich, or serve them as apps at a party with a whole host of other dip options. 

And by the way you can probably make these tenders without a trip to the store, as all of the ingredients are staples of many a decently stocked kitchen, especially as Peay says "chicken breast can be cut into strips if easier to find than [tenderloins]."

Now let's get cooking!

Gather your ingredients for chicken tenders

For a classic, essentially irresistible chicken tender, you'll need 2 pounds of chicken tenderloins (or sliced chicken breast), 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons of garlic salt, 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper, 1 and a 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/3 of a cup of water plus 2 tablespoons, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, and plenty of canola oil for frying.

However, says Peay, if you don't like thins spicy, "you can absolutely eliminate the cayenne or replace it with 1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder." And you can skip the hot sauce, too, for an even milder tender.

Season the chicken and prepare the egg dip

Rinse and pat dry your chicken tenders — don't skip this step if you want crispy tenders — and make sure you trim off fatty or gristly parts, and then season the meat by sprinkling it evenly with the garlic salt and black pepper. Next, set the chicken aside and beat together the eggs, 1/3 cup of water, and the hot sauce, stirring them together in a mixing bowl.

If you don't like things spicy, consider choosing a very mild hot sauce instead of eliminating the hot sauce entirely, as it does add a nice little tang.

Prepare the chicken tender breading

This is your make-or-break step, folks. Or rather your make-really-great or make-only-okay step, is more accurate.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk the flour with 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon each paprika, mustard powder, and garlic powder, followed by a 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Drizzle two tablespoons of water into the flour and pinch with your fingertips to make flaky flour bits for the crust. 

The breading is what makes your tenders great, and those little bits are the secret sauce, so to speak.

Begin breading the chicken tenders

Dip the tenders into the egg dip followed by the flour. Place the battered chicken on a sheet pan to rest, and note that Peay says: "The only real mistake that can be made for this recipe is not allowing the batter chicken to rest for at least a few minutes. You really want to give the bits a chance to cling for a crispy crunchy crust."

While you let the chicken chill, start to heat the oil in a relatively high-walled pan. Your target heat is 350º so that the oil is hot and ready to fry as soon as the chicken hits it.

Fry the chicken tenders

Once the oil has reached 350º, it's time to fry those chicken tenders. Place five to six strips carefully down in the oil, and don't overcrowd the pan. Fry the breaded chicken in batches, cooking for eight or nine minutes per batch and turning each piece of chicken about half way through the cooking time. 

Make sure the internal temperature of the meat reads 165º when it has been fully cooked, and then let the tenders cool a bit before you enjoy them, something you may find yourself doing with frequency going forward.

These Chicken Tenders Are Better Than Fast Food
4.9 from 22 ratings
Chicken tenders may not be a refined food, but just about everybody loves them. Grab your favorite dipping sauce and get ready to whip up some crispy tenders.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
18
minutes
Servings
4
servings
chicken tenders
Total time: 33 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 lb chicken tenderloins
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cups water + 2 tbsp
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • canola oil for frying
Directions
  1. Rinse and pat dry your chicken tenders, then season the meat with garlic salt and black pepper and set aside.
  2. Beat together the eggs, ⅓ cup water, and hot sauce in a mixing bowl, and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon each paprika, mustard powder, and garlic powder, followed by ½ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ teaspoon cayenne. Drizzle two tablespoons of water into the flour and pinch with your fingertips to make flaky flour bits for the crust.
  4. Dip the tenders into the egg dip followed by the flour.
  5. Place the battered chicken on a sheet pan to rest and begin to heat the oil in deep skillet.
  6. When oil hits 350º, place 5 to 6 strips in the skillet, and don't overcrowd the pan.
  7. Fry in batches for 8 or 9 minutes turning about half way through cook time, then serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 1,213
Total Fat 84.0 g
Saturated Fat 11.5 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 173.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 72.4 g
Dietary Fiber 4.4 g
Total Sugars 1.2 g
Sodium 1,088.0 mg
Protein 41.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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