Buttermilk Chicken Tenders might remind you of your grandma's fried chicken recipe, but these chicken tenders are oven-baked, not fried, to crunchy perfection. This recipe includes a combination of spices and seasonings that rival our favorite takeout chicken. Serve with Cold Green Bean Salad for a great flavor combination. Move over KFC and Chick-fil-A, this chicken is seriously delicious!
Why You'll Love this Recipe
If you enjoy the tender, savory flavor of chicken found in recipes like Chicken Spaghetti with Rotel and Velveeta, Easy, Creamy Chicken Stroganoff or my tasty and easy Dutch Oven Chicken recipe, then I know you'll become a fan of Buttermilk Chicken Tenders.
This recipe for oven-baked chicken combine spices and ingredients you are likely to have on hand in your kitchen spice cabinet.
And in case you don't have each and every spice listed in the recipe, be assured, this recipe is very forgiving and substitutions work fine. Scroll down for those details.
The secret to any great-tasting fried chicken is always in the preparation and the breading, in fact, KFC has famously touted "11 herbs and spices" as the reason behind their distinctive and delicious chicken.
As for Chick-fil-A, there are copycat recipes and urban legends that claim - perhaps incorrectly - that their chicken is first brined using pickle juice.
The Internet is full of recipes that claim to be the ultimate copycats of both of those.
My recipe for Buttermilk Chicken Tenders is inspired by both KFC and Chick-fil-A.
I don't claim to be a copycat, but I think you'll taste the similarities to both of those famous brands.
Chicken tenders truly live up to their name when they get a chance to marinate or soak in buttermilk in the refrigerator for a few hours.
It does mean you need to plan ahead, but it is so worth it to take the extra time and let the raw chicken stips soak in buttermilk first for at least an hour.
This is a trick that's been used for generations to help ensure the end result is chicken that's tender and juicy.
Prepare the Breading
I recommend using arrowroot flour in the breading for these chicken strips. It's often referred to as arrowroot starch or powder and most grocery stores carry it. It's usually in the baking section or near the spices. I've also found it in the bulk food area of some stores.
Arrowroot flour is flavorless and it's often used as a thickening agent in place of cornstarch - it's gluten-free. But it also is very effective at creating structure in baked goods, which is why I use it for the chicken strips breading.
If you don't have each and every spice listed, don't worry. There are plenty of options to achieve a tasty breading for your chicken tenders:
Smoked Paprika: Regular paprika can be used in place of smoked paprika. The flavor is slightly milder but still delicious.
Everything Bagel Seasoning: This is a combination of quite a few items in the spice cabinet. But to come fairly close to the texture and taste combine 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds, 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon of onion flakes. Or, just leave out the Everything Bagel Seasoning.
Old Bay Seasoning: Such a distinctive flavor combination is found in Old Bay Seasoning, it's hard to beat. But as an option use your favorite seasoning salt instead, Cajun seasoning or combine 1 ½ teaspoons of paprika with 1 ½ teaspoons of celery salt.
Top Tips and FAQ
No need to rinse it and no need to pat the chicken strips dry. But you will want to drain the buttermilk off the chicken. A strainer works great for that. Each piece of chicken should be lightly coated with buttermilk.
Yes, but I've found that all-purpose flour doesn't bind the breading ingredients together as well as arrowroot flour does.
Accent (Monosodium Glutamate, MSG) adds a big boost of flavor to the seasoning so I do recommend using it. MSG is a flavor enhancer that's been used for decades and is commonly used by chefs and famous food brands as a "secret ingredient." But if you're sensitive to MSG, it makes sense to leave it out and yes, the chicken will still be delicious!
Oven Baked Chicken Tenders
I love old-fashioned fried chicken as much as anyone and KFC chicken strips are among my favorites. But these chicken strips bake quickly in a hot oven, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Clean-up is a breeze. No oil splatters from pan-frying yet the end result might remind you of a favorite fried chicken recipe.
But options abound! Scroll down for details on how you can fry chicken tenders in a skillet on the stove.
Brush each chicken tender with melted butter before baking. As an option, you can also spray it with Pam or a similar product.
But the butter does add flavor.
It's a good idea to check how the chicken tenders are baking at about halfway through the cooking time. That's a good point to either flip them over or assess whether they might need cooking time beyond what's left on the timer.
How to Oven Bake
Bake the chicken tenders at 425° F for 15 minutes. As an option, you can flip them over halfway through that time.
After 15 minutes, check the chicken strips to see if they are done.
If the breaded coating is dark, and golden brown and the juices are clear when you pierce the chicken with a fork, they are done.
If you see any sign of pink meat, that means the chicken is not fully cooked. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for an additional 5 - 8 minutes.
Fried Chicken Option
You can also opt for the old-fashioned way to prepare fried chicken tenders - like our grandma used to - and fry each one in hot oil in a cast iron skillet. Here's how:
- Heat about ¾ cup of vegetable oil in the skillet (I recommend cast iron) over medium-high heat, until the oil starts to shimmer.
- Place each breaded chicken tender in the hot oil and cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until fully cooked and the juices from the chicken are clear.
- Drain on paper towels and serve.
Whether oven-baked or fried in the cast iron skillet, each chicken tender is fully coated in a spicy seasoned breading. It replaces the chicken skin we normally have on fried chicken and just might remind you of KFC chicken strips.
How to Store Leftovers
Store any leftover Buttermilk Chicken Tenders in a covered container in the refrigerator and enjoy them within 3-4 days.
Leftovers are delicious served cold or slice the chicken tenders and place on crunchy salad greens for a tasty salad.
To warm up leftover chicken tenders, either microwave on low power until hot or place on a baking sheet and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes at 300° F or until the tenders reach a warm serving temperature. I prefer to oven-bake the chicken tenders for re-heating to replicate the crispy breading on the chicken.
To freeze leftovers, place the chicken tenders in a sealed container or zip-top freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. To reheat, place the frozen chicken strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 425° F for 15 - 20 minutes or until hot.
More Dinner Recipes
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to keep our kitchens and the food we serve safe:
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
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