Spicy, crispy, tender

Homemade chicken tenders are worth a messy kitchen.


When I was a kid and we went out to dinner as a family, I would always order the chicken tender basket, regardless of the caliber of the restaurant. As an adult in my mid-30s, I admit I consume more chicken tenders than an average 10-year-old. Oddly, because it’s one of my favorite foods, one thing I have never done is make my own chicken tenders. Possibly it’s because of time constraints, fear of not cooking them all the way through and biting into a raw piece of chicken, or because it seems like it’s making more work for myself, when they come perfectly breaded and ready to heat up and eat, right at the grocery store.

The day came, and I decided I was going to make homemade chicken tenders for dinner. I made sure the kitchen was clean for a nice, organized workspace, put on some James Taylor, and set my phone aside so all distractions were at bay. I bought the chicken tenders from the meat section at the grocery store, and had a pretty stocked pantry, so I’d be able to come up with a crispy breading on my own without a recipe.

The breading flavor (which is listed in the recipe) was unique, and the chicken was tender. They are more like a meal than a snack, which I appreciate. I am proud to have crossed this off my cooking bucket list, and I did learn a few things while I was at it. I was disappointed the tenders didn’t look as perfect as the Tyson frozen chicken strips I usually make, but they did indeed taste better. Also, clean the kitchen after, rather than before — it’s a messy project. I had egg, chip breading, and oil just about everywhere by the time I was done.

Well worth the mess, I hope you try making these crispy tender strips sometime. 

Chicken Tenders

2 eggs 

¼ cup milk 

4 chicken breast tenderloins (about half a standard package) 

1 cup crushed Kettle Brand Krinkle Habanero Lime chips

¼ cup complete pancake mix

2 tsp. habanero salt (or sea salt) 

½ cup oil (vegetable or canola)

Ken’s Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, or your favorite brand of ranch, for dipping

Whisk eggs and milk together in a mixing bowl. Cut the raw chicken strips in half the long way. Cut the tendon out — that little white piece that runs down the middle — and put the strips into the egg mixture, and set aside. 

Take ¾ of the chips off the top of the bag; you won’t be using these, so set them aside for yourself for another time. You’ll be left with the crumbs and some whole chips in the bottom of the bag, and you’ll want to smash them up really small, leaving them in the bag. 

I used a sturdy glass to do this, but I am sure a meat tenderizer would have worked better if you have one.  

In a shallow bowl mix together with a fork the chip crumbs (about 1 cup), complete pancake mix, and habanero salt. 

Cover the bottom of a nonstick skillet with oil, and heat on medium; if you see the oil start to brown, reduce heat to low. You want to avoid burning the oil, and might need to replace it with fresh if you’re making more tenders than this recipe calls for. 

Take each chicken strip out of the egg mixture, and immediately roll/cover the meat in the breading. Carefully place them into the hot skillet and let sizzle for about 2 to 3 minutes, then flip. Set aside to cool, and then enjoy, dipped in your favorite brand of ranch dressing. 


  1. Wouldn’t it be easier to take 1/4 of the chips out of the bag and crush them in a small paper or zip-loc bag then to take 3/4 out and “set them aside”? I do like the idea of using spicy chips though…

    • You’re forgetting “the crumbs ……….. in the bottom of the bag.” Instead, the first step should be to open the bag of chips to snack on while you whisk, etc. Stop snacking when you’re 3/4 of the way through. Keep a 2nd bag on hand in case you get carried away.

  2. I looked forward to trying this recipe. Unfortunately the coating didn’t stick to the chicken and came off in the cooking. Tasted good but didn’t look much like breaded tenders.
    Richard when it doesn’t look like picture.

  3. ***Thoroughly pat dry the chicken pieces before putting in the egg mixture.*** Then, after you put the chicken pieces into the crumbs to coat well, pat each piece with your hands, gently pushing the crumb mix into the meat so it will stick. This usually works to prevent the coating falling off in the oil during cooking. You can probably also oven bake the coated pieces on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or on parchment paper. I’d spray the pieces with oil before baking. This is from muscle memory because I don’t eat this way anymore!

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