Earlier this winter, I was getting ready to make dinner but had no set menu in mind. This was in the middle of the last cold snap, and I did not feel like running to the store for ingredients. So, I rummaged through my freezer and pantry to see what options I had.

Chicken tenders, check. Panko breadcrumbs, check. Parmesan cheese, check. Dried herbs, check. Hmm… maybe I could make a breaded chicken dish, I thought — until I discovered we were out of eggs to make an egg wash. I did have lots of butter on hand, however, and the result was these Crispy Garlic Butter Chicken Tenders, which are now a family favorite.

Versatile and super juicy, chicken tenders are a staple in our freezer. This recipe calls for 1 ½ pounds of chicken tenders, which should be rinsed and patted dry, with any excess fat trimmed off before coating in breadcrumbs. It is important to pat each tender dry to ensure that the breadcrumb coating will adhere.

Once the chicken tenders have been prepped, the next step is to create a dredging station for the breadcrumb coating, which consists of three stages: flour, to help the liquid adhere to the chicken; a liquid to help the breadcrumbs adhere; and finally, a mixture of herb-seasoned breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Normally, I would use an egg wash for the liquid, but since I was out of eggs, I used a combination of melted butter mixed with minced garlic and a splash of olive oil.

A stick of melted butter is combined with two cloves of minced garlic to ensure that every tender is filled with great flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
A stick of melted butter is combined with two cloves of minced garlic to ensure that every tender is filled with great flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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The tenders are first coated in the flour, shaking off any excess, and then dipped in the garlic butter on each side. Next, each tender is dredged in the breadcrumb mixture until coated all around. The breaded tenders can be prepared 24 hours in advance and refrigerated in layers separated by wax paper until ready to bake.

In addition to providing flavor, the garlic butter is used as the binding agent for breadcrumbs to adhere to the chicken tenders. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
In addition to providing flavor, the garlic butter is used as the binding agent for breadcrumbs to adhere to the chicken tenders. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I bake the chicken tenders in the center of the oven at 425 degrees until the bottoms are golden brown, which takes about 15 to 18 minutes. Next, I flip each tender over and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until they are golden brown all over.

The breaded tenders are placed on a foil-lined baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray, and baked in an oven at 425 degrees until golden brown and fully cooked. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The breaded tenders are placed on a foil-lined baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray, and baked in an oven at 425 degrees until golden brown and fully cooked. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Baking the breaded tenders takes more time than pan-frying, but it is a healthier option and frees me up to prepare other dishes as they bake. Frying may be faster and produce juicier results, but it is less healthy and definitely messier than baking. How you cook them is up to you, and I have provided directions for both the oven and the stovetop.

Instead of baking, the breaded chicken tenders can be pan-fried in vegetable oil. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Instead of baking, the breaded chicken tenders can be pan-fried in vegetable oil. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Once the tenders are golden brown and fully cooked (to an internal temperature of 165 degrees), they are ready to eat — and a good dipping sauce is a must. I recommend serving them with your favorite marinara sauce, but they are also great with honey mustard or barbecue sauces.

Easy to make, full of flavor and perfect for dinner or snack time, I hope these Crispy Garlic Butter Chicken Tenders become a favorite in your family, too.

To all my Irish, or wannabe Irish, readers, I wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Erin go bragh!

Serve the Crispy Garlic Butter Chicken Tenders fresh from the oven with warm marinara or your favorite dipping sauce. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Serve the Crispy Garlic Butter Chicken Tenders fresh from the oven with warm marinara or your favorite dipping sauce. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Crispy Garlic Butter Chicken Tenders

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds chicken tenders, rinsed and patted dry, trim any excess fat (about 16 to 18 tenders)

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 stick butter, melted

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Set out three shallow dishes. Fill one with the flour, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. In the next dish, add the melted butter, olive oil and minced garlic and stir to combine. In the third dish, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir until well-combined.

Step 1: Dredge each chicken tender in the flour and shake to remove any excess.

Step 2: Dip each side of the chicken tender in the garlic oil, draining off any excess.

Step 3: Place each tender in the breadcrumb mixture. Pat to ensure the bottom is coated well, then flip the tender and repeat. Place breaded tenders on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake tenders in the center of the oven until bottoms are golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Flip the tenders over and continue baking until they are golden brown on both sides and have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven.

Remove from oven and serve immediately with warm marinara or your favorite dipping sauce.

To pan-fry, line a plate with paper towels and set aside. In a large frying pan, add ¼ cup canola oil and heat over medium-high heat until very hot and nearly smoking. To test, drag the tip of a breaded chicken tender through the hot oil; when ready, the oil will bubble and make a sizzling sound.

Working in batches, fry the breaded tenders, flipping after 3 minutes until golden brown on both sides and fully cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Place the cooked tenders on a paper towel-lined plate to drain for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • Vary the flavor of the breadcrumbs by using a Sicilian herb mix, taco seasoning, or fresh herbs with lemon zest.
  • This recipe has a mellow garlic flavor, and you can adjust the amount of garlic as desired.
  • These chicken tenders would also work well with pesto, honey mustard and barbecue dipping sauces.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.