These delicious baked chicken tenders will change your life! They are breaded (crumbed) oven fried chicken tenders that come out TRULY golden and TRULY crunchy. And minimum mess – no fingers caked with batter and breadcrumbs!
There is no story behind these crunchy Baked Chicken Tenders. Quite simply, these are the reasons why I make my crumbed chicken the way I do.
1. I love deep fried
chicken anything. “Deep fried goodness”, I call it. I need a fried chicken fix quite regularly but my waistline can’t afford the real thing every time.
2. I rarely deep fry. I hate the mess. I feel like it’s a “waste” of oil (unless I make deep fried goodness again shortly thereafter – which is unlikely), plus I am a klutz so I have a fear of deep frying.
3. I adore crumbed (breaded) things. Give me anything crumbed and I’ll scoff it down. It’s the only way I eat sweet breads (that’s the fancy word posh restaurants use for offal).
4. I hate how when I crumb things, my fingers get caked with the egg mixture and breadcrumbs. Irrational as it may be, I hate the sticky mess.
5. When you bake crumbed things, unless you are VERY generous with the oil (in which case, just deep fry it!) or bake the chicken to the point of almost burnt (in which case, the chicken is horrendously overcooked), the crumb coating comes out with bits of breadcrumbs that are still white.
If you make crumbed chicken the usual way by dreading in flour, then egg then breadcrumbs, spray with oil then bake it, there is no way your chicken comes out looking like this (unless you photoshop it!)….
So this is how I make crumbed chicken in the oven. It comes out a beautiful deep golden brown all over. The crumb is extra crunchy and sticks well to the chicken. It has very few ingredients. And you won’t end up with marshmallow-man fingers when crumbing the chicken.
1. Use panko breadcrumbs. They are Japanese breadcrumbs and are bigger than normal breadcrumbs which = more crunch, compensating for not deep frying. You can buy them in large supermarkets in the Asian section for a fraction more than normal breadcrumbs (or go to the Asian store and stock up – super cheap!).
2. TOAST the breadcrumbs lightly in the oven* This makes all the difference!!! Just toast them to a light golden brown so when the chicken is breaded/crumbed then baked, they come out an even deeper golden brown all over AND it makes them extra extra crunchy!
I find that this technique produces a much more even golden brown crumb than just spraying or drizzling with oil. Even when I was very generous / excessive with oil spray, I still found that there were lots of “white” bits of crumb. Also with oil spray, especially if you use a lot, you can end up blowing breadcrumbs off the chicken. What a waste of crumb!
* Updated: This is the new and improved technique! I used to pan fry the breadcrumbs in a skillet with a bit of oil, but baking it is easier, hands off and the breadcrumb browns more easily!
3. Skip dusting with flour then dredging in egg. Just combine the egg, flour, chicken and flavours into the same bowl. As long as you use the right ratios so the batter is thick and sticky enough, it works even better than doing 2 separate steps (i.e. dredge in flour then dredge in egg) – and saves on mess!
4. And my favourite tip – how to avoid “marshmallow man” fingers when crumbing. They say a picture says a thousand words. So here are my Baby Hands in action, showing you how I do it!
Pretty darn clean fingers! Yay!
I served these Crunchy Baked Chicken Tenders with a Ranch Dip because…well, I had some leftover in the fridge! But actually, it doesn’t need a sauce, there’s plenty of flavour coated onto the chicken before crumbing it.
I make these with chicken tenderloins which are a really lean cut of chicken. It’s effectively the same as cutting chicken breast into strips (I’ve provided directions for this). So one of the key tips I have is to cook these in a really hot oven so the crumb becomes a lovely deep golden brown without the chicken overcooking.
Dry chicken is horrid. Hard to swallow. You will definitely need a dipping sauce if you overcook the chicken! 🙂
Cheers to many nights of guilt free “fried” chicken dinners! – Nagi
Save these delicious Baked Chicken Tenders to your CHICKEN Pinterest Board!
- 1¾ cups panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
- Oil spray
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise (I use whole egg)
- 1½ tbsp dijon mustard (or any other mustard of choice)
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 500g/1lb chicken tenderloins (or chicken breast cut into ⅔" / 1.5cm thick slices, lengthwise)
- Oil spray
- Preheat oven to 200C/390F.
- Spread panko on a baking tray, spray with oil (spray vertically to avoid blowing the panko off the tray), then bake for 3 to 5 minutes until light golden. Transfer to bowl.
- Place a rack on a baking tray (not critical but bakes more evenly).
- Place the Batter ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until combined.
- Add the chicken into the Batter and toss to coat.
- Pick up a piece of chicken with your left hand and place it into the panko bowl.
- Use your right hand to sprinkle some breadcrumbs onto one end of the chicken, then pick up that end of the chicken and turn it over. Pat down gently to press the breadcrumbs onto the chicken, then transfer onto baking tray.
- Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Spray lightly with oil. Bake for 10 minutes (if small) - 15 minutes (medium to large).
- Remove from oven and serve immediately, with Ranch Dipping Sauce (Note 2) and sprinkled with fresh parsley, if desired.
It is well worth using because the breadcrumb pieces are bigger so they create a far better "crunch" than standard breadcrumbs.
2. UPDATE: The method to brown the panko has been updated to a newer, better method! I used to brown it in a skillet. Now I bake it on a baking tray. This browns it more evenly and it's hands off time and there's one thing less to wash up. The end result tastes exactly the same!
3. Ranch Dipping Sauce (optional)
1/4 cup each mayonnaise (preferably whole egg) and sour cream
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar (or any other light coloured vinegar)
1/4 tsp each dried parsley or dill, dried dill, dried fresh chives (Note a), garlic powder (Note b)
1/8 tsp salt & black pepper
Place ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
a) All the herbs can be substituted with fresh herbs, finely chopped. Double the quantity - i.e. use ½ tsp.
Don't worry if you don't have all the herbs. If you have at least 1, it will still taste similar to what it should taste like, just use more of the herbs you have (3/4 tsp dried herbs in total).
b) The garlic powder is a key flavour component, fresh garlic is not quite the same. If you want to substitute with fresh garlic, use 1 small clove, mince it then make sure you set the sauce aside for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
4. MAKE AHEAD: Because these are tenderloins i.e. lean, these are best served fresh rather than reheated. These can be crumbed a few hours ahead then refrigerated until cooking. I don't recommend preparing ahead any longer than that or crumbing then freezing (i.e. raw) because when the crumbing will get soggy so it doesn't crisp up as much. It will still be crispy, just not as much (but still crispier than not browning crumbs) so it kind of defeats the purpose of making the effort to brown the breadcrumbs before using. 🙂
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming this serves 3. Dip not included.
Baked Chicken Tenders Nutrition assuming 3 servings for the chicken only, no dipping sauce.
If you enjoyed these Crunchy Baked Chicken Tenders, I think you’ll love the Parmesan version!