I’ve been obsessing over these flavorful, crispy baked chicken tenders for years, and so have our kids. They’re easy to make, reasonably good for ya, and equally at home as a party appetizer or weeknight dinner.
Why this recipe works
Three elements of this recipe work together to make these the best baked chicken tenders out there:
- The magic tip for removing the tough tendon from the chicken tenders
- The quick marinade, which adds tons of flavor, tenderizes the chicken in just a few minutes, and helps the breading stick to the chicken. Winner winner...you know the drill.
- The browning method that we use for the breadcrumbs
The key to the crispy coating is browning the panko (mixed with a little melted butter and parmesan) on its own before using it to coat the chicken. Panko is hilarious, because on its own it burns to a crisp in like seven minutes, but slapped on a piece of chicken it stays pale to the death. There’s a sweet spot in between, and that’s where this recipe lives.
This chicken is:
- Truly crispy
- Equally adult- and kid-friendly
- Pretty good for ya
- Nice and easy to make
What you'll need
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Chicken tenders are the thin strips of white meat located on either side of the breast bone, under the breast meat. If your tenders come with a tough white tendon still included (and many do), it's best to remove it. The tendon is edible but not very pleasant. Scroll down to the FAQ section to learn how! Alternatively, you can cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips about ¼-inch thick.
- Panko breadcrumbs make a fabulous, crisp breading. You can mix the panko with matzoh meal if you like, without, any further changes.
Our favorite sources for meat
For years, I've been sourcing our meat from ButcherBox. We love this curated meat delivery service, which provides grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and more from small farms direct to the customer. You can learn more in my extensive Butcher Box review and unboxing.
How to make it
Here's what you'll do to make this recipe. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.
- First, mix up the marinade in a large bowl.
- Then add the chicken and stir gently but thoroughly to coat. Let the chicken marinate while you make the breadcrumbs.
- Toss together the panko, melted butter, and grated cheese and spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet. Put it in the oven and watch it carefully. It will look like nothing is happing for the first five minutes or so, but then it will start to brown. The progression from barely brown to burned can happen quickly, so paying attention is key. A weird but consistent fact is that the breadcrumbs won't continue browning once you put them on the chicken, so go ahead and brown them to your liking now.
- Bake the chicken on a rack for about 15 minutes, until just cooked through.
Expert tips and FAQs
You could slide a chef's knife along the tendon like an actual pro. OR you could embrace the viral tip shared by a woman on TikTok, which really works.
Slip the tendon between two tines of a fork. Using a paper towel, grab the tip of the tendon firmly with the other hand. Push down with the fork, and the tendon will strip away from the tender in one piece.
Chicken breast is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (73.8° C).
Because chicken tenders are quite thin, and because the oven temperature in this recipe is high, your chicken tenders will cook quickly. They’ll only need about 15 minutes in the oven.
The marinade will help these baked chicken fingers stay tender, but it’s still a good idea to pull them out of the oven as soon as they’re cooked through for maximum deliciousness.
Here's an informative if slightly disconcerting article on the history of "chicken fingers," a.k.a. chicken tenders.
How to serve them
For what amounts to almost a caricature of a kid-friendly meal (but one that adults will love, too), serve these with mac and cheese (Instant Pot or baked) and broccoli. Or add them to any game-day buffet.
Make it a sandwich
Peep the recipe card below for details on how to turn this recipe into fabulous chicken tender sandwiches.
Love recipes that are baked, not fried?
Chicken tenders are one of those foods where the baked version is really, truly, pinkie-swear just as good as the fried version. Often even better. Plus, they're so much less of a pain, and better for ya, that it's almost a no-brainer.
If you're into that sort of thing, you'll also love:
- Classic (or vegetarian) potato skins
- French onion potato skins
- Crispy buffalo wings
- Jalapeño poppers
- Crispy chicken tenders
- Turkey meatballs (& subs)
- Asian-inspired pork meatballs
- Salt & vinegar potatoes
For the chicken tenders
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- A few good grinds black pepper
- ¼ cup grated parmesan, divided
- 1 ½ pounds chicken tenders (about 12)
- 1 ½ cups panko
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
To make sandwiches
- 4 good rolls
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 full-sour pickle, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- A few good grinds black pepper
- Shredded Romaine lettuce
- Hot sauce such as Frank's Red Hot, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F with a rack in the center.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together mayo, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, salt, some pepper and two tablespoons of the parmesan.
- Dry chicken well with paper towels. Remove tough tendons. (See note.)
- Add chicken and stir to coat well. Set aside.
- On a rimmed baking sheet, mix together the panko, remaining two tablespoons parmesan and the butter with your hands. Spread out in a single layer and bake for about 4 minutes, depending on your oven, watching very carefully to prevent burning, until just about browned to your liking.
- Pour browned panko onto a large plate or into a wide, shallow bowl. Place wire rack onto baking sheet.
- Use tongs to remove each chicken tender from the bowl and dredge in panko until well coated, then lay on wire rack with a little bit of space between tenders.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through. There's no need to flip them.
- Serve right away with ketchup or dipping sauce of your choice (if you like — the chicken is nice and flavorful on its own).
If you'd like to make sandwiches
- Split each roll lengthwise, leaving attached at the bottom.
- In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, minced pickle, lemon juice and black pepper.
- Spread sauce over inside bun faces.
- Place three warm baked chicken tenders in each roll and top with lettuce and hot sauce.
- Serve right away.
- To remove the tough tendons from tenders: Slip the tendon between two tines of a fork. Using a paper towel, grab the tip of the tendon firmly with the other hand. Push down with the fork, and the tendon will strip away from the tender in one piece.
- The breadcrumbs won’t brown much more at all once they're on the chicken, so brown them to your liking in the first stage.
- You can make these up to a few hours in advance and serve at room temperature if you like.
- Store any leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to three days. Recrisp in a low oven or toaster oven before serving if you like.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 458Total Fat: 26.3gCarbohydrates: 10.8gFiber: 0.7gProtein: 42g