3 Frozen Chicken Tenders That Are (Almost) Better than Homemade

published Mar 22, 2024
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Chicken tenders
Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe | Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

Chicken tenders are truly an all-day-long food. You can sandwich one or two between waffles for a shortcut chicken ‘n’ waffles breakfast sandwich, chop a few into a salad come lunch or dinner, or simply eat them right off the sheet pan late-night, dragged in some ketchup. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

I’m well experienced in this world of chicken tenders. During any odd week, I’m sent no less than six chicken tender-related memes from friends (I really do resemble this chicken tender-loving dog). And I have a few hot takes as to which of the many frozen chicken tenders options at the grocery store are, in fact, the very best. 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

I’ve dutifully eaten my way through several bags of them (7 in total!) to suss out which three are the closest to homemade. These are the ones that deserve a permanent place in your freezer.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

1. Foster Farms Classic Crispy Strips

If crunch is your M.O. (I don’t blame you), you’re going to want to take these Foster Farms Classic Crispy Strips at their word. They live up to their name, coated in a crackly seasoned batter that crisps up in the oven and air fryer. These particular chicken strips had me thinking, “Oooh, McDonald’s, you better be scared because these could make it way too easy to re-create those discontinued Snack Wraps at home.” They’re that good. 

Buy: Foster Farms Classic Crispy Chicken Strips, $8.49 for 24 ounces at Target

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

2. Kroger Fully Cooked Chicken Tenders

As you’ve likely noticed, some brands take the term “chicken tenders” (which is technically the tenderloin attached to the underside of the chicken breast) and use it a bit loosely. Kroger takes some liberties, but in the most nostalgic (aka the best) way possible. In this case, it means more of a breaded chicken tender-like patty, making for an XXL juicy nugget situation. No matter what they’re called, these bring me back to after-school TV snack time and need only a bit of honey mustard for dipping. 

Buy: Kroger Fully Cooked Chicken Tenders, $9.99 for 48 ounces at Kroger 

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

3. Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Chicken Breast Tenders

My mom was a server for most of my life, which came with a lot of fringe benefits — namely, all kinds of free food while I waited for her shifts to end. More often than not, this meant freshly fried, free-flowing chicken tenders made by chef (and occasional babysitter) Laura. I thought I’d never be able to recreate the crunchy, craggy breaded crunch of Laura’s chicken tenders, until I stumbled upon the gluten-free breaded chicken tenders made by Applegate Naturals. 

Not only are these restaurant-level juicy, but they have a more homemade-tasting batter than most. These tenders get golden brown and grooved in the oven, and all that surface area is just begging for a generous bit of ranch seasoning, buffalo sauce, or, honestly, why not both?!

Buy: Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Chicken Breast Tenders, $12.32 for 16 ounces at Walmart 

Did your favorite frozen chicken tenders make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.