Whether you use a cast iron skillet or a deep-fat fryer, you can’t beat the classic taste of crispy Fried Chicken Tenders! These chicken strips are dipped in buttermilk and dredged in seasoned flour for a family-friendly, easy dinner that’s ready in about 30 minutes.
Odds are good that my kids will order fried chicken fingers whenever we go out to a restaurant. While I sometimes bake chicken fingers or chicken nuggets at home for a healthier option, nothing compares to the original: buttermilk fried chicken tenders! I’ll show you how to make this quick lunch or dinner at home with just a handful of very basic ingredients.
What’s the difference between chicken tenders and chicken strips?
Chicken strips are slices of the whole chicken breast. The chicken tender (pectoralis minor) is the tender muscle located underneath each of the chicken breasts. For this fried chicken tenders recipe, I always purchase a package of boneless, skinless “chicken tenderloins” in the meat section at the grocery store. To make the fried chicken fingers, you just dip the chicken in a buttermilk and egg mixture, dredge in seasoned flour, and fry for about 6 minutes. So simple!
My kids love these chicken tenders even more than regular fried chicken because they don’t have to navigate any bones. Plus, they can eat the chicken with their hands!
How to make Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders from Scratch:
This easy fried chicken recipe only requires a few minutes of prep and a few minutes in the fryer. The instructions work well for either pan fried chicken tenders or for deep fried chicken tenders, so pick your preferred method and let’s get started!
Ingredients for Crispy Fried Chicken Tenders:
- All-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- Chicken tenderloins
- Oil for frying
What does buttermilk do for fried chicken?
I always use buttermilk for my fried chicken because it adds flavor, it tenderizes the meat, and it keeps the chicken juicy. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make your own buttermilk by placing 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and adding enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.
Step 1: Dip Chicken in Egg and Dredge in Flour
First, dip the chicken in a combination of eggs and buttermilk.
Next, dredge the chicken in a combination of flour, salt and pepper.
Place the chicken tenders on a wire rack to rest (and dry a little bit) while you heat the oil.
Step 2: Fry Chicken Tenders
In an electric skillet, cast iron skillet, or deep-fat fryer, heat 2-inches of oil to 375 degrees F. Fry the chicken tenders, a few pieces at a time, for about 3-4 minutes per side. Then transfer the chicken to a paper towel lined plate and season with additional salt, to taste.
How to keep the chicken tenders warm while frying additional batches:
Once the cooked chicken fingers drain on paper towels, transfer them to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in a 200 degree F oven to keep them warm while you continue frying the remaining batches.
What goes with Fried Chicken Tenders?
Here are a few delicious sides that go well with the crispy buttermilk fried chicken tenders to complete your meal:
- Buttermilk Biscuits
- Skin-On Mashed Red Potatoes (shown in these photos)
- Cowboy Baked Beans
- Crock Pot Mac and Cheese or Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Secret Ingredient Jiffy Cornbread, Skillet Cornbread, or Pumpkin Muffins
- Southern Macaroni Salad
- Southern Collard Greens
- Baked Potato Wedges
- Easy Potato Salad
- Arkansas Green Beans with Bacon
- Broccoli Salad
- Fried Apples
- Southern Succotash
Don’t forget a simple side of bread and butter pickles and honey mustard dipping sauce!
When to Season Pan Fried Chicken Tenders:
I prefer to add the seasoning (in this case, the salt and pepper) to the flour in order to season the chicken. Then, once the chicken is fried and still warm, you can season it with a little bit more salt and pepper, if you like.
The Best Oil for a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders Recipe:
Use either peanut oil, vegetable oil or vegetable shortening to fry the chicken. I typically use peanut oil because it’s affordable, it has a high smoke point, and it will not flavor your meat.
So long as you don’t smoke the oil or use it to fry fish, it’s fine to strain the oil and reuse it. Just refrigerate the strained oil and reuse it up to 3 times.
It’s difficult to calculate the exact nutrition facts for homemade fried chicken tenders because the amount of oil absorbed in each piece will vary, and the amount of breading that adheres to each piece will vary. The nutrition provided below is merely an estimate; the numbers assume that about ½ cup of oil is absorbed by the chicken in the cooking process.
Preparation and Storage Tips:
- You don’t need a thermometer to fry the chicken. Instead, when the oil is hot (but not smoking), add a drop of water to the pan – if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough for the chicken. You want to maintain a fairly steady temperature as the chicken cooks, so don’t overcrowd the pan with too many pieces at once (which will bring down the temperature). If the oil is really flying and it seems to be too hot, you can turn down the temperature slightly.
- If you prefer to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil, you want the oil to stay at about 375 degrees F.
- Deep Fried Chicken Tenders Recipe: I love to use the deep fryer for these chicken tenders because it takes out all of the guesswork. Just set the temperature to 375 degrees F, and cook the chicken fingers for about 6 minutes per batch. You do not need to flip the chicken halfway through if it’s in a deep fryer.
- Fried chicken is best when it is fresh and crispy. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days; however, the skin will not be as crispy when reheated.
- To Freeze Chicken Tenders: The cooked chicken tenders can be frozen for up to 3 months. You do not need to defrost them before reheating.
- How to reheat fried chicken tenders: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, place the chicken on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Next, reheat the chicken until the breading feels hot and very crispy, about 10 minutes for room temperature chicken fingers or about 20 minutes for frozen chicken tenders (flip halfway through).
Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:
- Never cover your warm fried chicken tenders with foil. This traps steam and moisture, which will make your chicken soggy.
- If you’re using a meat thermometer to know when the chicken is done, the white meat tenders will be best at 165 degrees F.
- For even more flavor, you can add garlic, herbs, shallots or onion to your buttermilk. The flavors will infuse the meat and add unique taste to your crispy fried chicken.
- How to ensure crispy fried chicken fingers: To avoid soggy fried chicken, it’s important to keep the temperature of your oil at a steady 375 degrees F. That’s why you don’t want to overcrowd the pan by trying to cook too many tenders at once. If the oil is too cool, the chicken will absorb the oil and have a soggy texture when done.
More chicken recipes that you might enjoy:
- Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- “No Work” Baked Chicken
- Roast Chicken
- Honey Mustard Chicken
- Grilled Chicken