Copycat Cracker Barrel Chicken Tenders Recipe

The chicken tenders from Cracker Barrel are one of the most popular items on the menu, and we're not going to lie ... our mouths are watering just thinking about them. Instead of breading, the tenders are tossed in a mix of Italian dressing, honey, and lime juice, and trust us when we tell you that they're some of the best tenders that you will ever eat. The recipe is easy, requires few ingredients, and is perfect for any occasion, including a get-together with friends or a simple dinner with the family. What's not to love? 

Angela Latimer of Bake It With Love is the brains behind this fantastic copycat dish that tastes just like the real deal. There's so much to love about it, but Latimer says that this recipe is perfect if you want to avoid dried-out chicken. Because who wants to eat that? "It's a great way to keep your chicken tender rather than drying out," she says. "It's also an amazingly simple recipe that is suited for any level of cook."

Keep scrolling to find out how to make this tasty dish, which is sure to be a hit.

Gather the ingredients

As we mentioned before, this recipe is super simple, and it requires only a few ingredients. If you cook a lot, you may already have most of the required ingredients at home. The first thing you will need is chicken tenderloins, which are the recipe's main ingredient. You will also need Italian dressing. "Reviews argue that Cracker Barrel actually uses T. Marzetti's Creamy Italian dressing. I like a splash of balsamic vinegar and think it takes this recipe to amazingly flavorful rather than just 'pretty darn good,'" Latimer notes.

Last but not least, add honey and lime juice to the list. 

Mix the marinade

For the first step in the process, grab a small bowl to make the marinade. Then, toss in the Italian dressing, honey, and lime juice. Use a whisk to combine the sauce well, and then you can throw in the chicken tenderloin pieces. Give everything a few good stirs to coat each piece of chicken. 

Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge to chill. You want to make sure to let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but don't leave it in for more than eight hours. Then, make sure to take out the chicken around 15 minutes before cooking.

After marinating, heat your skillet

Take out a large skillet or frying pan and put it on your range. "If you're using a skillet or frying pan and you are worried about the chicken sticking, use a light coating of cooking oil or non-stick cooking spray," Latimer shares. "Otherwise, a dry non-stick skillet works wonderfully."

Turn the heat to medium-high and then toss in the marinated chicken. Cook each side for about four to five minutes. If you'd like, you can check the internal temperature for doneness — you want it to be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, cut a piece in half and make sure there is no pink in the thickest part of the chicken.

Remove the chicken and sear

There are a few ways that you can sear the chicken. Here's option number one: Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate and wipe the pan clean. Removing the excess liquid ensures that the chicken can sear. Then, return the chicken to the pan at medium-high heat and sear it until it achieves a golden brown color.

As another option, you can use the oven to sear the tenders. Just set the temperature to somewhere between 375 and 400 degrees and cook for about three to four minutes on each side. This should help them turn a beautiful golden brown color. 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor

Once the chicken is done, take it out and serve immediately. As far as serving suggestions go, there are plenty of options. "Cracker Barrel shows this chicken served with mac and cheese and broccoli, but it can be served with anything that you would normally dish chicken up with," Latimer says. "Rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, your fave veggies, or serve cold over a salad."

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for about three to four days in an airtight container. You can also freeze it. "Freeze with the marinade on (prior to cooking), and the chicken will marinate while thawing in the fridge," Latimer says. 

Now, go and enjoy!

Copycat Cracker Barrel Chicken Tenders Recipe
5 from 46 ratings
The chicken tenders from Cracker Barrel are one of the most popular items on the menu, and our mouths are watering just thinking about them.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Copycat Cracker Barrel Chicken Tenders Recipe on a plate
Total time: 13 minutes
  • ½ cup Italian dressing
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins
  1. In a small bowl, combine the marinade: Italian dressing, honey, and lime juice. Whisk to combine, then add the chicken tenderloin pieces. Stir to coat, cover with cling film, and refrigerate for at least an hour (up to 8 hours).
  2. Remove the marinated chicken tenderloins for about 15 minutes to warm before slightly before cooking.
  3. Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat, then add the marinated chicken. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and is no longer pink in the center.
  4. If desired, remove the chicken to a plate and wipe the pan clean. Return the chicken to the pan at medium-high heat and sear until a light golden color.
  5. Alternatively, you can grill your chicken tenders between 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 minutes (3 to 4 minutes per side).
  6. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Calories per Serving 523
Total Fat 34.9 g
Saturated Fat 6.7 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 88.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 29.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 6.7 g
Sodium 693.8 mg
Protein 22.4 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.
Rate this recipe