These crispy, golden brown panko chicken tenders are oven baked for a healthier take on a family favorite.
Why This Recipe Works
Chicken tenders also known as "chicken fingers" or "chicken strips" are a favorite of kids and adults alike. They're made from the tenderloin section of the chicken that is between the breast and the ribs.
You can find chicken tenderloins in most supermarkets, or you can use chicken breasts and slice them into 1 ½-2 inch thick strips.
The deep-fried version is on just about every restaurant menu, but I prefer to skip the deep frying in favor of healthier, oven baked chicken tenders that are just as crispy and delicious.
They're easy to make and can be on the table in around 30 minutes, so they're perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
What are Panko Breadcrumbs?
The key ingredient for this recipe is Panko bread crumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are Japanese-style breadcrumbs made from white bread without crust.
The crumbs are much more coarse and flaky than traditional bread crumbs.
Panko bread crumbs give food a lighter, crunchier breading and they absorb less oil than regular bread crumbs.
See the recipe card towards the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients and measurements.
- Chicken - I like to use tenderloins for this recipe because the meat is so tender and there is no extra wok to prepare them. They are a little more expensive though and chicken breasts cut into strips will work great too.
- Panko bread crumbs - These are the key to the crispiest tenders. Regular bread crumbs will work but will not have the same crunch.
- Cooking spray - A light coating of cooking spray before baking helps the tenders crisp up and brown.
How to Bread Chicken Tenders
This recipe uses a three step breading process. You'll start by setting up a breading station using one small plate for the flour, a bowl with the beaten eggs, and another plate with a mixture of the panko bread crumbs and some Italian seasoning.
- Season the tenders with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then take one and dredge in the flour.
- Next dip the chicken tender in the egg mixture.
- Finally, press the chicken into the panko mixture and roll them over to coat all sides.
Set on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
If you have trouble with the breading falling off of your panko chicken fingers, try refrigerating them for 15-20 minutes before cooking. Chilling them will allow the breading to solidify a little and stick better to the chicken.
Also, be sure your chicken tenders are dry before starting the breading process by blotting them with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
How to Cook Homemade Chicken Tenders
- Preheat your oven to 425ºF. While the oven heats, give the breaded chicken strips a light spray of cooking spray on all sides.
- Cook for around 20 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through. Serve them hot with your favorite dipping sauces.
Alternative Cooking Methods
You can also deep fry or air fry your panko chicken tenders if you prefer. Here's how:
To deep fry: Heat around 3 inches of oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven to around 350ºF and fry the tenders for around 8 minutes until cooked through.
To air-fry: Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF. Spray with cooking spray then cook in a single layer for around 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 5-6 minutes, until cooked through.
For either of these methods you will likely need to work in batches, depending on the size of your pot or air fryer.
Tips and FAQs
Store leftover cooked chicken tenders in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, or until warmed through.
You can use regular breadcrumbs in this recipe as well. Plain or seasoned will both work. If using seasoned, leave out the garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
The chicken tenders will not be as crispy using regular breadcrumbs, but they'll still be yummy!
Yes! you can freeze these homemade chicken fingers uncooked after breading them, or after cooking them. For cooked tenders allow them to cool before freezing.
For either method I reccomend freezing them first in a single layer on a sheet pan or plate. Then transferring to a freezer bag or container for up to 3 months.
When ready to cook, bake from frozen at 400°F. For uncooked tenders, cook for around 25 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. For cooked tenders, bake for around 18 minutes, or until warmed through.
More Quick and Easy Chicken Recipes
You can never have too many chicken recipes in your arsenal. Here are a few of my other favorites:
- Creamy Chicken Marsala
- Enchiladas with Green Sauce
- Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken
- Creamy Tuscan Chicken Pasta
- Cast Iron Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
Baked Panko Chicken Tenders
- 1½ pounds chicken tenderloins, or chicken breasts cut into strips
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Set up a breading station with the flour on one plate, the beaten eggs in a bowl, and mix the panko bread crumbs and Italian seasoning on another plate.
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder then dredge in the flour, dip in the eggs, then coat with the panko crumbs and set on the lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken. After they're all done spray them lightly with cooking spray.
- Bake for around 20 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.
* All nutrition information we provide are estimates based on third party calculators. We encourage you to calculate these on your own for accurate results.