Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders

Sure, chicken tenders are typically reserved for the kid’s menu at restaurants, but there’s no reason we adults can’t enjoy them as well.

There’s also no reason why you can’t make a perfectly healthy baked version at home.

Chicken breasts are simply sliced into long strips, soaked in buttermilk, and then run through a three-step breading process before being baked to crispy perfection.

Seriously, the hardest aspect of this recipe is finding room in your my overcrowded fridge to store the buttermilk-soaked chicken overnight.

The tiny lightless refrigerator that came with our rented apartment seems to be endlessly packed to the brim.

I blame a nasty little habit called food blogging.

I digress.

When is the last time you bit into a warm piece of succulent chicken enveloped in a crispy crust?

If you can’t remember, then it’s time to make these chicken tenders!

I think the key to fantastic breaded chicken (or pork, or tofu, or fish) is homemade breadcrumbs.

Please tell me you don’t throw away old bread. If you do, let this post be the catalyst that changes your ways. Toss leftover bread (any kind!) into a food processor, pulse until crumbs form, then toast in the oven until crunchy… and voila! Homemade panko breadcrumbs. I’ve fallen into the habit of keeping a stash in the fridge, and you can mark my words that I won’t ever use store-bought breadcrumbs again.

Even if I haven’t compelled you to make your own breadcrumbs, I bet the photo above will convince you make these chicken tenders.

Juicy chicken + a crisp coating + condiment(s) of your choice = a  healthy meal that you don’t have to be six years old to enjoy.

Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders

Printer-Friendly Recipe

inspired by How Sweet It Is

yield: 6-8 chicken tenders; 2-4 servings, depending on size of chicken breasts

Ingredients for Crispy Chicken Tenders:

  • 2 medium/large-sized chicken breasts, (about 1/2 – 3/4 lb total) preferably organic, each cut lengthwise into three or four long pieces
  • 2 cups low fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup  flour (I used whole wheat pastry)
  • 1 cup whole grain flaked cereal, such as Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Heirloom Whole Grains, pulsed in a food processor until crumbs form (alternately, you can place the cereal in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to smash into crumbs)
  • 1 cup homemade whole wheat breadcrumbs, recipe follows* (alternately, you could use 1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray (I used a misto)

Homemade Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Pulse coarsely torn leftover whole wheat bread (I’ve successfully used sandwich bread, baguettes, and burger buns) in a food processor until crumbs form.
  3. Scatter breadcrumbs in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until crumbs begin to turn golden. Stir and rearrange breadcrumbs into an even layer and bake an additional 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly crisp.
  4. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Directions for Crispy Chicken Tenders:

  1. Lay chicken strips in a wide, shallow dish (such as a pie plate or cake pan) and cover with buttermilk. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet. Set aside.
  3. Combine 1 cup homemade breadcrumbs & 1 cup flaked cereal crumbs and mix until homogenous. Lay mixture out in an even layer on a large plate. Place flour on another large plate. Pour whisked egg onto yet another plate.
  4. Remove chicken pieces from the buttermilk, letting the extra milk drip off, and place on a clean large plate. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Dredge each pieces of chicken in flour. Run each piece of chicken through the egg until fully coated. Finally, dredge each piece of chicken in the breadcrumb/cereal mixture and press so that the mixture adheres fully to all sides of the chicken pieces.
  6. Place coated chicken pieces onto the wire rack/baking sheet. Spray the tops of each piece of chicken with olive oil spray. Bake for 8 minutes; flip each piece of chicken over and coat with olive oil spray. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until done.
  7. Serve with barbeque sauce, honey mustard (I like an equal ratio of honey to coarse ground mustard), or ketchup.
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