Juicy fried chicken tenders are one of those meals that the whole family can really enjoy. Everyone enjoys the fried chicken with the crispy coating. It’s so delicious and everyone can have their own favorite sauce.
However, to make it a little healthier, I had to make some changes to the recipe. Traditional chicken tenders are dredged in egg and then breaded with a combination of breadcrumbs, flour and spices. The tenders are then deep fried in oil until they are golden brown and cooked through.
The first thing that I did was to get rid of the deep fat frying. Baking the tenders was a much better (and much easier!) way to cook them. The pieces of chicken are small enough that they bake fast and without drying out. You end up with delicious chicken without the added fat from the frying.
The downside of oven-baking is that the nice, crispy coating on the chicken tenders doesn’t get as crispy because it’s not fried first. To fix that, I used Panko instead of the traditional breadcrumbs. Because Panko is light and delicate, it gives a similar crunch to deep frying, but is much lighter and healthier. To give it a little more of a nutritional punch, I used whole wheat Panko instead of the traditional Panko.
I also used parmesan cheese to help with the crunch and give the breading a better flavor. The parmesan cheese combined with paprika, parsley and basil makes the coating amazingly delicious. Don’t forget plenty of salt and pepper. In fact, if you think you’ve over salted the breading a little, you’ve probably got about the right amount of salt in it.
I wanted to keep the rich flavor that the deep frying gives the chicken, so I dipped the tenders in a garlic butter sauce before dredging them in the breadcrumbs. This helps to hydrate the breading and gives a little more of the same fried flavor to the tenders.
One of the biggest issues that I run into with chicken tenders is keeping them tender and juicy. There are a couple of easy ways that you can ensure juicy chicken. The chicken breast, because it’s white meat, is slightly drier than the dark meat (thigh and leg). For some recipes this means you can just use the juicier dark meat. However, for other recipes, that just isn’t an option. Not to mention that boneless, skinless chicken breast is fewer points than the thigh or leg.
Using fresh chicken breast will help keep these tenders nice and juicy. Once the chicken has been frozen and defrosted, it will naturally lose some of its moisture and will become drier.
Also, be sure not to overcook the chicken. These tenders aren’t very big pieces of meat, so it doesn’t take long to cook them. Be sure to set a time and check for doneness with a thermometer (165 degrees F) or make a slice one tender open to make sure no pink remains.
These gourmet Garlic Parmesan Chicken Tenders have become a family favorite and are frequently added to my weekly meal plan. Serve these tenders with your favorite dipping sauces and some roasted or steamed veggies on the side.
Garlic Parmesan Chicken Tenders Recipe
- 1 lb chicken breasts - (skinless, boneless)
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 6 tbsp butter - (melted)
- 5 cloves of garlic - (minced)
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slice chicken breasts into strips (about 16 -18 strips). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and mist with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400.
- Fill 3 shallow bowls with the following: one with the flour, salt, and pepper; one with the butter and garlic; one with the Panko, parmesan, paprika, basil, and parsley. Stir each bowl well.
- To coat the chicken tenders, start by dredging in the flour bowl first. Shake off excess flour. Then dip in the butter mixture. Finally, dip into the Panko mixture, making sure to evenly coat each piece.
- Place chicken on asking sheet and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then turn then over, and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.