Who doesn't love a chicken tender, really? I think tenders are everyone's favorite — especially at a party. These tenders are easy to make; the ingredients and steps are simple enough for novice cooks to successfully follow and do. The tenders also have the flavor and texture we crave in chicken fingers — juicy and moist with a golden brown-crust — but they are baked rather than fried (although people swear otherwise).
A Tip Taken from Biscuits
I use a trusty biscuit-baking method here, preheating the cast iron skillets along with the oven and then dropping the breaded tenders in with a couple tablespoons of oil. This kickstarts the fried-like crunch and helps to create the final golden crust.
To keep the chicken tender and the crust crispy, I take a cue from double-fried Korean wings and dip the tenders twice — first in cornstarch and then in the breading. This seals in the aromatic flavor of the herby buttermilk marinade (especially the dried chive) and holds the seasoning and the crust crumbs together, forming an unforgettably tasty coating.
The sauce is quickly stirred together with ingredients typically found in the fridge and pantry. Grating the fresh ginger on a Microplane makes the sauce blend more smoothly with the honey and ketchup. I like heat with my barbecue sauce, so I tend to add more Sriracha than the recipe calls for. Feel free to add it in increments to suit your own taste. I am extra generous with the black pepper in the end, too; it's the finishing touch to balance the sweet, heat, and tang.
Buttermilk Brine Basics
A heads up: Don't marinate the tenders too long in the buttermilk mixture. After an hour or so, the chicken starts to break down, creating mushy tenders (no fun). It's best to stick to the 20 minutes in the fridge as suggested in the recipe. If you want to save a few steps, make the buttermilk marinade the day before and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Double-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Sriracha-Honey BBQ Sauce
For the BBQ sauce:
2/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken:
1 1/2 tablespoons dried chives, divided
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 to 5 dashes hot sauce, such as Cholula
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenderloins
1 teaspoon garlic powder (no salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
Make the BBQ sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until the tenders are baked and ready to serve.
Make the chicken: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Place a 12-inch or larger cast iron skillet or 2 (10-inch) ovenproof skillets in the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken.
Place the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the chives, garlic, and hot sauce in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the buttermilk mixture and stir to coat the chicken. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the cornflakes, garlic powder, remaining 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse into fine crumbs. Transfer to a long, shallow baking dish to dredge the tenders in and stir in the parsley.
Place the cornstarch on a large plate and set alongside the cornflake mixture. Have a baking sheet ready.
Remove the bowl of tenders from the refrigerator. Dredge the tenders in cornstarch to fully coat, and then dip the tenders back in the buttermilk mixture to fully moisten. To finish, dredge in the cornflake coating to form the crust. Place on the baking sheet.
Carefully remove the skillet(s) from the oven. Place the oil in the skillet(s) and tilt the pan to cover the entire bottom with oil. Arrange the tenders in the skillet(s). Bake until browned on the bottom, 12 minutes. Flip the tenders and bake until golden and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and let the tenders rest in the skillet 5 to 10 minutes so the crust can settle. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with the BBQ sauce.
- Chicken: If you can't find chicken tenderloins, use boneless, skinless chicken breast cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces.
- Gluten-free: If you want to keep this recipe gluten-free, make sure you use gluten-free cornflakes.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Make ahead: The sauce can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead. The cornflake mixture can be made and stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days ahead.
- Food styling by Ryan Reineck