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CHICKEN TENDERS – KIDS’ #1 FAVOURITE MEAL
Making these chicken breast fillet strips into CHICKEN TENDERS is an all-time favourite kids’ meal treat. Using chicken breast eliminates any messy bone or ligament battles, plus the lean meat cooks in a flash compared to its bone-in cuts.
Jazz up the dish with steamed vegetables, pieces of corn, potatoes and/or rice, and you are ticking all the boxes for a complete nutritional meal. Best of all, this gluten-free meal will delight any child who has been missing out on a breaded, crunchy chicken treat without worrying about the health consequences.
Another added health bonus, these tenders turn out just as well when baked in the oven or air fried in under 30 minutes.
Some tips for the perfect chicken tenders:
Brining the chicken in the buttermilk:
Soak the chicken breast in buttermilk and seasoning mixture for 30 mins so that this brine tenderises, keeps the chicken juicy, enriches the flavour and allows the breadcrumbs to stick well to the chicken.
Crumbing the chicken correctly:
Don’t skip any of the steps to crumb the chicken. Double-dipping the chicken in the buttermilk gives it that extra crispiness.
Cooking it at the right temperature:
After testing these chicken tenders thoroughly, the suggested temperatures or heat levels for the three different cooking methods guarantee a crisp and well-cooked result. Please read on for more details about the cooking methods.
Keeping the chicken crispy:
Most fried foods are normally drained on paper towels once the frying is complete, but I have learnt that the best way is to drain them directly on a wire mesh with a tray underneath. They really do stay crispy as any excess oil drips away instead of smothering the chicken and making the crust soggy.
Choose one of the three cooking methods:
This method of cooking gives the best results – golden brown, crunchy and super tender chicken. The oil adds more flavour to the tenders making them extra tasty.
Heating the oil to medium-high will cook the chicken tenders quickly for 2 to 3 mins on each side. This is the fastest and in my opinion, the best method to cook the tenders.
Providing the tenders are sprayed or brushed with some oil, oven-baking produces surprisingly crunchy and moist chicken tenders. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and bake for 20 mins, turning the tenders over halfway through.
The appearance is a light golden brown. If you prefer more colour on the coating, grill or broil them for a few minutes keeping an eye on them so that they don’t overcook.
This method is a healthy way of cooking the chicken tenders using very little oil. Heat the air fryer for 5 mins before spraying or brushing the air fryer container with oil and adding the chicken tenders. Do not overcrowd the container as the hot air will not circulate around the chicken and create soggy, undercooked tenders. Cook for 8 to 10 mins at 180°C/350°F.
The appearance is of a dull brown colour, however, the tenders are crisp with a moist, tender interior.
Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders
- Air fryer optional
- Large frying pan to shallow fry
- 4 chicken breasts, whole
- 250-300 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 350 ml buttermilk
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Chicken Tender Crumbing Mixture
- 250 g cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 100 ml sunflower oil
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- 3 tbsp runny honey
- 2 tbsp sour cream or mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp Dijon or yellow sweet mustard
- 1 tap Tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh chives, snipped
- 1 lemon, cut in quarters
- Slice the chicken breast against the grain 2-3 cm thick. The chicken tenders will range from 6 to 8 cm in length.
- Mix the buttermilk with the salt and peppers.
- Add the chicken pieces to the buttermilk mixture and refrigerate for 30 mins.
Chicken Crumbing Mixture
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cornflour with all the crumbing mixture's seasonings. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, add the gluten-free breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Crumbing the Chicken
- Crumbing one chicken piece at a time, remove it from the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess to drip off.
- Dip each chicken piece into the crumbing mixture. Shake off the excess mixture.
- Return the chicken piece back to the buttermilk mixture for an extra dip.
- Finally, dip the chicken piece in the gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Place the completed crumbed chicken tenders on a large clean plate or baking tray, while continuing with the remaining chicken. At this stage, they can be chilled to be fried nearer meal time.
Shallow-frying the Chicken Tenders
- Heat the oil in a wide frying pan to medium-high heat.
- Fry the chicken tenders for 2-3 minutes on each side. Try not to over-crowd the pan, otherwise, fry them in two batches or use another frying pan to fry at the same time.
- Once the chicken tenders have reached a golden, crisp exterior, remove and drain on a wire mesh tray to keep them crispy.
Oven-baking the Chicken Tenders
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
- Place the chicken tenders on an oil-brushed tray and cook for 20 minutes, flipping over halfway through cooking.
Air Frying the Chicken Tenders
- Heat the air fryer for 5 mins before spraying or brushing the air fryer container with oil and adding the chicken tenders. Do not overcrowd the container as the hot air will not circulate around the chicken and create soggy, undercooked tenders.
- Air fry for 8 to 10 mins at 180°C/350°F.
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- Measure all the honey mustard sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Combine thoroughly.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper. Taste and reseason if necessary. Set aside or keep chilled until mealtime.
- Serve the chicken tenders warm with either mashed potatoes, potato salad, coleslaw, steamed vegetables or garden salad together with the honey mustard dipping sauce and lemon wedges.
- Keeps for 3 days chilled
- Suitable to freeze uncooked after crumbing each chicken pieces