Crispy Coated Chicken Tenders from Scratch with Creamy Feta Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

NOTE: This recipe requires an overnight or at least a full-day buttermilk soak, so make sure to plan ahead.

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I get inquiries about this recipe more often than any other one, and it’s always from my friends with kids who are scrambling to make dinner before the household hits critical mass. It’s an easy, inexpensive and much healthier way to to have chicken tenders without buying frozen nuggets that display a paragraph of ingredients (only a few of which I recognize). You can serve them along side your favorite dipping sauce, or give the Feta Buttermilk dipping sauce a try.

Before I get started, let me say that there’s no great way to photograph a pile of raw chicken soaking in buttermilk, drenched in hot sauce. So please know the image is not intended to make your mouth water – rather to demonstrate how easy it is to throw everything in one bowl and be on your way.

Note: I’m experimenting with some other coatings (such as oats and nuts) that crisp up nicely without having to pan fry, but for the sake of posting this recipe sooner rather than later, I’m using Panko.

RECIPE: Crispy Coated Chicken Tenders

  • 1 lb chicken (breast cut up into thick strips or chicken tenderloins – which are more affordable and less work)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • buttermilk
  • hot sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • dried basil (or italian seasoning)
  • 1/2 box or bag of Panko breadcrumbs (I prefer whole wheat, but either works great)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (grated, not shredded – and NOT the stuff in the green can)

DIRECTIONS:
chickenbuttermilkSpray a sheet pan liberally with non-stick spray and drizzle a little olive oil over that. (I’m a fan of the organic spray when I have to use it, but whatever you have is okay.) Add chicken to a large bowl or container with a lid. Cover completely with buttermilk. Add as much hot sauce as you like, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss and marinate all day (at least 8 hours) or overnight is best. (I like to do it the day before I bake them.) In a wide, shallow bowl or glass baking dish, add the panko, parmesan cheese, sprinkle of salt, pepper and just enough dried basil so you can see the flecks evenly distributed throughout (close to a teaspoon).

chickenpanTake the chicken (a few pieces at a time), drip off the excess buttermilk and place directly in the panko. Toss gently to coat completely and press the panko into the chicken so it sticks. Place chicken on the pan fairly close together, but not touching. When the pan is full of chicken tenders, drizzle liberally with olive oil. Bake at 500 degrees for 16-18 minutes, flipping halfway through.

RECIPE: Creamy Buttermilk Feta Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (or blue cheese, if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 scallion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Add all ingredients to the blender and whiz on high until smooth. Add a little more buttermilk to get to the consistency you prefer for dipping, and adjust seasonings according to taste. Enjoy!

chickensauceNote: Everyone’s ovens vary, so it might take a time or two to get this recipe just right. Adjust the amount of nonstick spray and olive oil drizzle to get the result you want. I prefer mine a little light and dry, but others like a little more glisten. To each his own.

PS: Because the chicken is being cooked at such a high temperature, the stray breadcrumbs may get dark on the bottom of the pan and smoke a bit. I use my fan, just in case. But don’t worry. You shouldn’t be burning anything.

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