gameday snacks: chicken tenders [week 16]

Chicken tenders: my go-to diner order at any hour of the day… or night…  I’ve made many a variation of fried chicken, yet this childhood staple is my absolute favorite.  That said, I have zero interest in getting my chicken tenders from a drive-thru window – and lately, I’d rather cook at home than eat out.  So it was definitely time to get my act together and create an all-grown-up chicken tender recipe that everyone can enjoy.

Chicken Tenders
Chicken Tenders

I prefer thin strips of chicken with a thin layer of breading.  If you find this too dainty for your taste, cut your chicken breasts into 1 inch strips instead of half-inch strips, and give ’em a double dunk in breading.  You’ll need an extra half cup or so of buttermilk to allow for a 3-step breading process: you’ll do the initial flour dredge, then go back to the buttermilk, and finish with a final toss in seasoned flour.  You’ll also need to increase your cooking time to 4-6 minutes per side.  So long as your tenders temp at 160 (assuming you are using chicken breast) before consumption, you’ll be good to go.

Chicken Tenders
Chicken Tenders

I like to serve these like fish and chips… but newspaper ink tends to rub off the paper, so I use parchment instead.  If you want a more classic look, just line the inside of your newspaper cone with some parchment.  I actually set my cones in a tumbler glass and fold the excess paper over the sides because I think the glass is a little easier to hold than the paper cone.  As you can tell from the photos, I also like to include some sliced carrots and celery with my chicken tenders.  It makes me feel less guilty about how much I enjoy making and eating fried foods.  No guilt for you?  Skip the veggies 😉

Chicken Tenders
Chicken Tenders

Even though the recipe calls for spicy ingredients like sriracha and cayenne pepper, the tenders are mild enough for a kid to tolerate.  If you want a little more kick, try doubling the Sriracha and cayenne in the marinade and the breading.

chicken tenders

prep time: 12 hours

cook time: 20 minutes

yield: serves 4


    Chicken & Marinade
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 C buttermilk
  • 2 TBSP yellow mustard
  • 3 TBSP Sriracha
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked)
  • Breading
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Enough vegetable oil (I use canola) to create a 1/4 inch layer in your skillet


  1. Mise en place, and read this recipe all the way through.
  2. Cut your chicken breast into strips about 1/2 inch thick. My chicken breasts were about 5 oz each, and I cut each one into approximately 5 strips. Make sure they are all the same size so they will cook evenly.
  3. Combine buttermilk, mustard, Sriracha, honey, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp paprika in a 1 gallon freezer bag set in a glass bowl or storage container (in case of leaks!).
  4. Add the chicken and squish everything around to make sure that the chicken is fully coated.
  5. Marinate 4-12 hours in the refrigerator (I made mine the night before, right before I went to bed)
  6. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drain in a sieve set over a bowl.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and all subsequent seasonings.
  8. Dredge the chicken in the flour (you'll probably need to do this in batches; tongs will be helpful). Place the dredged chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  9. Add 1/4 inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet and set over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer.
  10. Working in batches, carefully add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides. Each strip should cook 3-4 minutes per side.
  11. Transfer each fully cooked batch to a (clean!) wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels or newspaper. Transfer to a low oven (150-200 degrees) to keep warm while you cook the remaining batches.


Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and perhaps a few vegetables.

Leftovers? Trying to prep for next weekend? Fry up your chicken tenders and allow them to cool completely. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet (single layer, please) and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Transfer again to a freezer bag and store up to 1 month. To reheat, bake at 375 on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 10-15 minutes.

Happy eating!  Let me know how this recipe worked out for you in the comments below!

so, what did you think?


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