Chicken Tenders Recipe
Crispy, juicy, and super flavorful, this homemade Chicken Tenders Recipe leaves fast food chicken tenders in the dust! Best of all, you don’t even need to fry them—just pop them in the oven for an easy weeknight dinner.
Why You’ll Love these Crispy Chicken Tenders
- Family Friendly. Kids LOVE this recipe (my 4 nieces can attest, they eat them every week), but it’s wholesome and elevated enough to be enjoyed by adults.
- Nostalgic. When I was a kid, my default fast food order was chicken tenders with honey for dipping. Now that I’m a respectable adult, I make this chicken tenders recipe at home—and instead of straight-up honey, I whip up a creamy honey mustard dipping sauce.
- Healthy. Unlike heavy drive-through fare, homemade chicken tenders are healthy and something you can feel good enjoying on a regular basis (like these Grilled Chicken Tenders and Air Fryer Chicken Tenders!).
- Freezer-Friendly. Make a big batch in bulk, then pop them into the oven straight from frozen. Who needs the kind in the box?!
5 Star Review
“I made these for probably the 10th time last night. Family favorite.”— Elizabeth —
About This Homemade Chicken Tenders Recipe
Today’s baked chicken tenders recipe combines delightfully crispy chicken with a honey mustard sauce that’s creamy, tangy, and juuuust sweet enough to make things interesting.
Don’t be mistaken, though—there’s more to these chicken tenders than that crispy baked coating. There’s also a sweet and tangy buttermilk honey marinade, along with mustard beaten into the egg that you’ll use for dredging.
The marinade locks in the moisture and gives the chicken tenders a lightly sweet, zippy flavor, while the crunchy Panko bakes into a crispy, golden crust. It’s like a down-sized version of my Baked Fried Chicken!
After you make this baked chicken tenders recipe, you will never want to eat fast food nuggets ever again.
How to Make Chicken Tenders
Lucky for me (and you), making your own baked chicken tenders from scratch is quick and easy.
For the Chicken Tenders:
- Kosher Salt. Kosher salt crystals are larger than table salt, so if you substitute table salt, you’ll need to use about 1/4 less.
- Smoked Paprika. Smoked paprika is one of those magical ingredients that belongs in every kitchen pantry. You can use regular sweet paprika, but it doesn’t have that nice, smoky flavor.
- Onion Powder and Garlic Powder. The classics help season these tenders!
- Honey. Use a runny honey—an everyday kind of honey, not the fancy spreadable stuff.
- Low-Fat Buttermilk. For the marinade of our dreams.
- Chicken Tenderloins or Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts. If you use chicken breasts, cut them into 3/4-inch strips.
- Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs. Regular Panko is fine too if you can’t find whole wheat.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. For our breading.
- Egg Whites. Or simply use one large egg.
- Dijon Mustard. Whisked together with the eggs for the dredging.
For the Creamy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
- Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt. Gives us that tang!
- Dijon Mustard and Honey. Making sauce is creamy, tangy, and perfectly sweet.
No buttermilk? Whisk 1 cup of dairy milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Let the mixture sit 5 minutes to thicken and curdle.
- Marinade. The chicken tenders should sit in the buttermilk marinade for 30 minutes.
- Make the Breading. Do this in a wide, shallow dish.
- Make the Wet “Dip”. This will help the breadcrumbs stick.
- Get Ready for Dredging. This process is easier if everything is in a line.
- Dredge. Dip each chicken tender into the egg mixture, followed by the breadcrumbs, then place the chicken tender on a wire rack set on a baking sheet.
- Bake. 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken tenders golden brown and the juices run clear.
- Make the Dipping Sauce. Serve the baked chicken tenders with the sauce and ENJOY!
Unlike a lot of other tender recipes, there’s no all-purpose flour in these baked chicken tenders, so making it gluten-free is easy! Just swap the Panko breadcrumbs for gluten-free Panko.
- Cajun Baked Chicken Tenders. Skip the smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder and use Cajun seasoning instead. You’ll also want to skip the mustard in the egg whites.
- Herbed Chicken Tenders. Use Italian-style panko breadcrumbs, or add Italian seasoning to the breadcrumb mixture instead of paprika. You can also add Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs if you’d like. (Skip the mustard in the egg whites here, too.)
- Spicy Chicken Tenders. Instead of mustard, whisk your favorite hot sauce into the egg white mixture, then add cayenne pepper to the breading. Pair your fiery chicken tenders with cool ranch dressing.
- Crispy Asian Chicken Tenders. Perfect for pairing with sweet-and-sour sauce!
- To Store. Refrigerate baked chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the air fryer. In a pinch, you can use the microwave, but the exterior won’t be as crispy.
- To Freeze. Arrange the chicken tenders in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze just until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat directly from frozen.
Give your work lunch salad a protein boost by adding leftover baked chicken tenders! They’re great with Spinach Strawberry Salad and Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad. Or, add them to Cobb Salad or Chicken Caesar Wrap for a fun variation.
What to Serve With This Chicken Tenders Recipe
- Salad. This Arugula Salad would be a tasty, fresh side dish, or do a deli-style salad like Healthy Potato Salad.
- Vegetables. Roasted Frozen Broccoli is a healthy side for these tenders and it will add some fiber to your dinner!
- Fries. For a crowd-pleasing side, serve your tenders with Crispy Baked Fries or go low-carb with Zucchini Fries.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Tongs. While you can use your hands (or a single hand, as described below) for this chicken tenders recipe, tongs will keep your fingers from getting coated in panko.
- Stainless Steel Breading Set. This ingenious little set has connected shallow dishes to minimize the mess when you’re breading chicken and veggies.
- Wire Baking Rack. For crispy chicken tenders in the oven, a wire rack is key. Like an air fryer basket, it allows the hot air to circulate all around the tenders so the bottoms don’t steam and get soggy.
Chicken Tenders Recipe
For the Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders:
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1/2 teaspoon, divided
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika divided
- 1 teaspoon onion powder divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder divided
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup low fat buttermilk*
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenderloins or boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4-inch strips (about 12 strips total)
- 2 cups whole wheat Panko bread crumbs if you can’t find whole wheat, swap regular Panko*
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten or 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
For the Creamy Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
- 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey plus 1 teaspoon, plus additional to taste
- Pinch salt
For the Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders: In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and honey and whisk until well combined. Add the chicken tenders, toss to coat, then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Do not allow to sit longer, or the chicken will become too salty.)
In a large, shallow dish (a 9×13-inch pan works well), combine the Panko breadcrumbs and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Drizzle the oil over the top, then toss to moisten.
In a second shallow dish, whisk together the egg whites and mustard.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then place an ovenproof wire rack on top of it. Coat the rack with cooking spray.
Arrange the bowls in a line from left to right as follows: egg white dish; Panko breadcrumbs; baking sheet. Working with a few pieces of chicken at a time, with your left hand, remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess (this is the “wet” hand). Still with your left hand, dip the chicken into egg mixture, turning to coat all sides, then place in breadcrumb mixture. With your right hand (the “dry” hand), pat the chicken on all sides with the breadcrumbs, pressing them on lightly so that the chicken is well coated. Still with your dry hand, place the chicken on the baking sheet, leaving a little space between each. Repeat for remaining tenders.
Bake the chicken until golden brown and the juices run clear, 15-20 minutes.
While the chicken bakes, stir the dip ingredients together in a small bowl: Greek yogurt, Dijon, honey, and salt. Taste and add additional honey as desired. Serve chicken hot or at room temperature with the dip.
- No buttermilk? Stir 1 cup regular milk (1% or 2% is preferable) together with 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice and let sit 5 minutes. Stir once more then use in the recipe as directed.
- You can also use regular, unseasoned breadcrumbs in place of Panko, but the chicken tenders will not be as crispy.
- Nutritional information for this recipe is a rough estimate, because much of the marinade is discarded. Use this information as a guide only. You can also calculate it yourself and tweak ingredient amounts at myfitnesspal.com
- TO STORE: Refrigerate baked chicken tenders in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the air fryer. In a pinch, you can use the microwave, but the exterior won’t be as crispy.
- TO FREEZE: Arrange the chicken tenders in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze just until solid, then transfer the frozen tenders to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat directly from frozen.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chicken strips and chicken tenders—not to mention chicken fingers—are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same. Chicken strips and fingers are made by slicing chicken breasts into strips; chicken tenders are an actual cut of chicken called the tenderloin or inner filet.
There are a few tips for making sure the breading sticks to chicken tenders. First, shake off the excess marinade; let the excess egg drip off too, then press the chicken into the breadcrumb mixture.
If your fingers start to get gunky (yes, that’s a technical term), wipe them off—I’ve found that breadcrumbs from the chicken are more likely to come off on my fingers if I already have a layer of breadcrumbs and egg on them.
Finally, be sure to thoroughly coat the wire rack with cooking spray to keep the breadcrumbs from sticking to the rack and pulling off when the chicken is done baking.
For best results, chicken tenders should be cooked for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The exact cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of the pieces, but a good way to check if the tenders are cooked is to pierce them with a fork or knife—if the juices run clear, then they’re ready.
Yes, chicken tenders are real chicken. They’re made from the tenderloin, which is a small strip of muscle located on either side of the breastbone.
One of the best ways to keep chicken moist and juicy is by using a marinade; this chicken tenders recipe uses a simple buttermilk marinade for perfect, succulent chicken. It’s also important not to overcook your chicken—check for doneness after 15 minutes or check the internal temperature of the chicken and remove it from the oven when it reaches 165 degrees F.
A chicken dinner is always a winner! Here are some of my favorites:
Chicken Tenders Recipe
Smoked Chicken Breast