A coating of spices and breadcrumbs keeps these Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders flavorful and with a great crunchy crust. Serve with a drizzle of homemade Hot Honey for a sweet and spicy finish.
After making a big batch of Hot Honey Drizzle for Monday’s post, I immediately wanted to add it to all of my favorite weeknight dinners. Starting with crispy, tender baked chicken strips. There’s a reason that Crunchy, Spicy Nashville Hot Chicken has such a following (BTW, if you’ve ever wanted to make it yourself, try the homemade version Jocelyn created over at Grandbaby Cakes).
Baked crispy chicken is a favorite around our house. Though the under seven set around here is heavily sold on *ahem* crispy fried chicken for the masses, they’ll happily enjoy my healthier homemade version. Cornflakes are always a favorite crispy coating, but the panko used here gives the chicken a more even, fine coating. Be sure to check out my tips below for getting a great, even coating on this baked “fried” chicken.
- Chicken Tenderloins - Buy pre-sliced chicken tenderloins to save time or slice chicken breasts yourself into even strips. I sliced the chicken in the photos throughout this post myself and love the irregularity of the pieces for dipping.
- Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice - These two ingredients work together to tenderize the chicken in just a short amount of time. Mayonnaise always works a certain kind of magic when it comes to tender, juicy chicken.
- Spices - You can use any combination of spices you like, but smoked paprika, dried thyme, and garlic powder combine to make a classic, super flavorful chicken. The paprika gives the finished chicken a bit of a red color which I especially love when it’s served with hot honey drizzled over top.
- Panko Breadcrumbs - For a more even coating, I used store-bought panko breadcrumbs. These Japanese-style breadcrumbs are more crunchy than Italian-style breadcrumbs, and make great breading for chicken. Crushed cornflakes are also great and make a gluten-free version (as in this recipe).
- Salt and Black Pepper - Don’t forget these! Add them both to the mayonnaise marinade / coating. Some flaky sea salt and black pepper sprinkled over the baked chicken is optional, but adds extra flavor and texture.
Tips for Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders
- High Heat - Be sure to bake your chicken at high heat. Since the chicken tenders are fairly thin, high heat is the key to getting the coating golden brown and crisp before the chicken overcooks.
- Creamy Marinade - A marinade of spices gives the chicken flavor, but the key to tender chicken is a creamy coating. Buttermilk is the classic marinade for chicken, but mayonnaise doesn’t have to be rinsed off before coating and really helps the coating to stick.
- Press Coating on Top - To get an even, consistent coating on the chicken, be sure to add it in two steps. First gently stir the chicken into the breading. Then, once the chicken is on the pan, use your hands to firmly press any remaining coating into the tops.
- Oil Pan - Even though these are baked, they’ll still need a bit of oil to help get them crisp and golden. Add a thin but even layer of oil to the sheet pan, tipping it around to fully coat before you add the chicken.
- Turn During Baking - Flip the chicken pieces over about halfway through cooking. This will help them to brown on both sides.
Variations on Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders
- Make it Gluten-Free - Use crushed cornflakes for the breading or look for gluten-free panko.
- Mix up Spices - Want to add other flavors to the breading? Add in any of your favorite spice blends - Ranch Seasoning or Tex Mex Seasoning would be great.
- Other Dipping Sauce - Try these with easy, homemade Dijon Mustard Sauce, Ranch dressing, ketchup, or BBQ sauce for dipping. Or set out a few options - can’t ever have too many dipping sauces!
More Weeknight-Friendly Chicken Recipes
- 20 Minute Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles
- Honey Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
- Instant Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken
- Slow Cooker Green Salsa Chicken
- Instant Pot Honey Adobo Chicken
- Simple Chicken Noodle Soup with Miso
- Sheet Pan Honey Dijon Chicken
- BBQ Pulled Chicken
- 20-Minute Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry
Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders with Hot Honey
- Mixing Bowl
- Half Sheet Pans
- 1 ½ lbs Chicken Tenderloins (sub boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips)
- ⅓ cup Mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoon Lemon Juice (sub apple cider vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika (sub regular paprika)
- ½ teaspoon Dried Thyme
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder (not garlic salt)
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 ½ cups Panko Breadcrumbs (sub crushed cornflakes or gluten-free panko for a gluten-free option)
- 2 tablespoon Cooking Oil, plus more for drizzling (I like grapeseed or avocado oil; vegetable oil will work too)
- Flaky Sea Salt and / or Black Pepper for topping (optional)
- Hot Honey, for drizzling (store-bought or homemade)
- Preheat oven to 450°F / 232°C.
- While oven is heating in a large mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, paprika, dried thyme, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add chicken tenders and stir gently to coat.
- Add panko breadcrumbs to the bowl and stir gently until panko completely coats chicken. (Some breadcrumbs will remain at the bottom of the bowl.) Set aside.
- Drizzle oil over a large rimmed sheet pan and tip the pan until there is a thin layer of oil covering the entire surface.
- Transfer chicken tenders to pan. (As you remove each piece of chicken from the pan, firmly press extra breadcrumbs into it on both sides. This is the key to a crunchy crust. Press as many breadcrumbs into each piece of chicken as you can.) Once all of the chicken is on the pan, press any extra breadcrumbs firmly into the tops of the chicken.
- Drizzle the tops of the chicken lightly with some more cooking oil.
- Bake chicken for 10 minutes and then carefully remove pan and flip chicken over.
- Return to oven and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Top chicken with flaky sea salt and / or more black pepper. Drizzle with hot honey. Enjoy!
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